Japan ousts U.S. from WBC

America’s national pastime took a major hit Sunday night. On home turf, no less.

Daisuke Matsuzaka remained undefeated in the World Baseball Classic and defending champion Japan beat the United States 9-4 in the semifinals at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Japan advanced to tonight’s title game against South Korea, a 10-2 winner over Venezuela in Saturday’s semifinal. Japan won the inaugural tournament in 2006, defeating Cuba in the final.

Akinori Iwamura’s RBI triple was the key hit in a five-run fourth inning against starter Roy Oswalt, and the U.S. was handed its first loss to Japan in major international play since the 2005 World Cup. The Americans had won four in a row, including an 8-4 victory in the bronze medal game at the Beijing Olympics.

Matsuzaka allowed two runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings. The Boston Red Sox ace struck out four and walked three before being pulled when he reached 98 pitches, two shy of the 100-pitch limit.

Matsuzaka, who pitched six shutout innings against Cuba on March 15, is 3-0 in this year’s WBC, having allowed 14 hits and four runs in 14 2/3 innings. He went 3-0 and was selected tournament MVP three years ago.

Oswalt got tagged, giving up six runs and six hits in 3 2/3 innings. He walked four and struck out one. The Houston Astros right-hander was 1-1 in three WBC starts, allowing nine runs, seven earned, in 11 1/3 innings.

The United States took a 2-1 lead after three innings on Brian Roberts’ leadoff homer in the first and David Wright’s RBI double in the third.

Japan broke loose in the fourth, with the help of an error by Roberts at second base that made two of the runs unearned.

Sharp Zambrano beats Mariners

Carlos Zambrano allowed one run and four hits over six innings in the Chicago Cubs’ 5-3 win over the Seattle Mariners in Mesa, Ariz.

Zambrano, who beat the Mariners’ Erik Bedard, will get two more starts before the opener at Houston on April 6.

“I felt good today,” Zambrano said. “I was able to use all my pitches today, and all my pitches were good.”

Bedard, whose season ended early last year because of surgery to remove a cyst from his left shoulder, has been bothered by sore buttocks. He pitched on March 5, but not again until March 16, when he threw one inning. Bedard threw 47 pitches in 2 2/3 innings Sunday.

“Just trying to get ready; just trying to get my arm strength back,” he said. “As long as I feel fine, I’ll be fine for the season.”

Seattle’s run off Zambrano came in the third, when Chris Woodward led off with his fourth homer of spring training.

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