TOKYO (AP) — Two-time defending champion Japan hit a record-tying six home runs on Sunday to overpower the Netherlands 16-4 and advance to the championship round of the World Baseball Classic.
Hayato Sakamoto hit a grand slam in the seventh inning at Tokyo Dome to make it 16-4 and the game was called under the 10-run mercy rule when the Netherlands failed to close the gap in the bottom of the inning.
Takashi Toritani, who hit only eight homers last season for the Hanshin Tigers, led off the game with a solo homer to right for Japan's first home run of the tournament.
Nobuhiro Matsuda widened the lead to 3-0 with a two-run homer and Seiichi Uchikawa made it 6-0 with a three-run blast that knocked Netherlands starter Rob Cordemans out of the game in the second inning.
"We've achieved our first goal of advancing to the final round," Japan manager Koji Yamamoto said. "The hitters swung the bats today and getting some early runs was a huge boost for us."
Japan struggled to score runs in its first four games of the tournament and wasn't expected to rely on the long ball. Yamamoto's team is attempting to win a third straight WBC title without its top players from Major League Baseball.
Atsunori Inaba connected for a solo homer in the third to make it 7-0 and Yoshio Itoi put the game beyond reach with a three-run shot in the fourth.
As impressive as Japan's hitters were, the pitching was equal to the task. Starter Kenta Maeda silenced the opposition's batters, giving up one hit while striking out nine over five scoreless innings.
"My fastball and off-speed pitches were working well today," Maeda said. "I knew it was a big game so just tried to stay calm and pitch in my usual way. We're happy to be going to the United States."
The Netherlands will face Cuba on Monday with the winner joining Japan in the March 17-19 final round in San Francisco.
The Netherlands scored four runs in the sixth on a bases-clearing double by Wladimir Balentine and an RBI single by Andruw Jones.
Cuba hit six homers in the 2009 tournament against South Africa.