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Japan, Korea in dominant form

WORLD Baseball Classic champion Japan and pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka continued their mastery over Cuba with a 6-0 second-round win on Sunday while the United States avoided elimination by beating the Netherlands 9-3.

It was the fifth successive WBC victory, including a win over Cuba in the championship game of the 2006 tournament, for the Boston Red Sox pitcher, who held the Cubans scoreless through six innings, striking out eight and scattering five singles.

"I knew Cuba was a good team, but particularly there was nothing I was too worried about," Matsuzaka said at a news conference.

Third baseman Shuichi Murata drove in two runs with a single and a sacrifice fly for Japan while catcher Kenji Johjima and infielder Akinori Iwamura both had two hits.

Frederich Cepeda had two singles and a double for an otherwise listless Cuba, which went through most of its bullpen but could not stop Japan from pounding out 12 hits in San Diego, California.

Japan jumped out to an early lead, scoring three runs in the third on five singles and a wild pitch, driving hard-throwing Cuban starter Aroldis Chapman from the game.

Japan now meets Asian rival South Korea, which defeated Mexico 8-2 in the other pool game on Sunday with Lee Bum-ho, Kim Tae-kyun and Ko Young-min all homering.

The South Koreans had only four home runs in four games coming in. Mexico, which is loaded with major leaguers, including three members of the San Diego Padres, had a WBC-high 12 coming in but failed to clear the faraway fences.

Mexico has given up 11 homers in five games. Oliver Perez, who signed a US$36 million, three-year contract in February with the New York Mets, has allowed five homers in 6 2/3 innings over two starts.

The winner of the Korea-Japan game can advance to the final round with another victory. Cuba will next meet Mexico in the round with a double elimination format.

The top two teams advance to the semifinals.

In Miami, Jimmy Rollins homered and drove in four runs, Adam Dunn also homered and Brian Roberts had three hits to pace the US to a 9-3 win over the Dutch.

Still one loss from elimination after a humiliating 1-11 thrashing by Puerto Rico on Saturday, the US will play tomorrow against the loser of today's game between Puerto Rico and Venezuela.


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