Tue Mar 24 03:35am EDT
A classic Classic: Japan 5, Korea 3 (10 inn.) WBC championship game
Rest easy, Bud Selig! After a long three-week period that featured both peaks (the Netherlands as Cinderella) and valleys (Davey Johnson dropping the f-word), the World Baseball Classic ended on a better note than you could have ever hoped for. With Dodger Stadium packed with more than 54,000 frenzied fans, Ichiro and his Japanamaniacs rebounded from a late Korean comeback to make sure it remains the only champion your tournament has ever known. Though there are so many nits to pick with your WBC, Bud, we can't argue with the results of the final game. May your future tournaments be packed with such theater from beginning to end, because that was as captivating as it gets.
Play of the Game: There's Michael Jordan holding the ball at the top of the key with the score tied and the clock running down. There's John Elway with the ball on his own 20 and less than two minutes on the clock.
And then there's Ichiro working a count with two on and two outs, dealing with what the pitcher gives him and turning a single into one of baseball's most exciting plays.
Such was the case in the top of the 10th inning, as Ichiro faced off against Korean reliever Chang-Yong Lim and drove a single up the middle to score two runs for the final margin. How good was Ichiro's at-bat? He fouled off a pitch that BOUNCED IN THE DIRT before connecting on a hit they'll be talking about until the 2013 WBC and beyond ...
And to think the Japanese media was fretting before the tournament that Ichiro wouldn't be able to come through in the clutch.
The Second Guess: Easy. With first base open, why not put Ichiro on with a walk?
Korean Komeback: Los Angeles' Korean population came out in force, outdrawing Japanese fans by an unscientifically estimated 3 to 1. The fanbase buzzed and bubbled the entire game, erupting when Shin-Soo Choo hit a game-tying homer in the fifth inning and then completely losing it when Bum Ho Lee again tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a single to left off pitching phenom Yu Darvish. Still, for the second WBC in a row, the Koreans suffered elimination at the hands of Japan, a fact that won't rest well back home.