I don't know what I can say that can add to the experience of tonight's/this morning's game. Japan and Korea played a tremendous ten-inning game that was a thrilling and fitting conclusion to the vastly improved second World Baseball Classic.
In the end, the game turned on Korean manager In-Sik Kim's decision to pitch to a suddenly hot Ichiro Suzuki with a base open and two men on with two outs and the game tied in the top of the tenth inning. Kim had righty side-armer Chang Yong Lim on the mound against the lefty-hitting Ichiro with righty-swinging Hiroyuki Nakajima on deck. Nakajima was 2-for-3 with a walk and a sacrifice and had been one of Japan's best hitters throughout the tournament, but Ichiro was 3-for-5 with a double in his last at-bat and had a significant platoon advantage against the side-arming Lim. He's also Ichiro.
Suzuki singled in both runners and Japan won 5-3, and that was that. The nine innings that preceeded that turn of events deserved a bit better than to be decided by a poor managing decision, but that doesn't erase them.
Hisashi Iwakuma was perfect for 3 2/3 innings and excellent for seven, though he wound up pitching 7 2/3. Jung Keun Bong was never excellent, but nonetheless left the game after four innings plus having yielded just one run, thus allowing just two runs to Japan in 14 2/3 innings in the tournament. Both sides made some spectacular defensive plays that kept the tight, low-scoring game from being broken open at any point. Though Korea never held a lead, Japan never led by more than two runs and Korea twice rallied to tie the game, once on a home run by Shin-Soo Choo in the fifth, and then again with a two-out RBI single by Bum Ho Lee in the bottom of the ninth.
At the end, Yu Darvish struck out five men in two innings while walking three others, first blowing the save in the ninth, then nailing it down in the tenth.
Japan now stands as the dominant team in the WBC's brief history, which will give everyone else someone to gun for in 2013. I'm just saddened by the fact that we'll have to wait four whole years to do this all again.
Thanks to everyone who followed along with these liveblogs over the past several weeks. Catch me back over on the SI.com baseball page during the regular season.