TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Masahiro Tanaka is impressed with Japan's performance in the World Baseball Classic.
"They've won a couple of the tournaments but I think it's the first time that they've won every single game coming up to this point," the New York Yankees ace said Wednesday through a translator, "So, looking at that, I think they're in good shape."
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo sparked a five-run sixth inning with a solo home run to lead Japan over Israel 8-3 Wednesday and into the championship round. Japan (6-0) advanced along with the Netherlands, which beat Cuba 14-1 at Tokyo.
Tanaka pitched for Japan to help win the nation's second straight title in 2009 and again in 2013, when it lost to Puerto Rico in the semifinals. He doesn't regret his decision not to participate this year.
"The decision that I made was not to play for the Japan team for this WBC and concentrate on the work here," he said.
The 28-year-old right-hander doesn't rule out playing for Japan in the future.
"But you've got keep your level of baseball at a high level," Tanaka said. "If I don't do that, then they won't want me on the team."
Tanaka went 14-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 31 starts last year and is 39-16 with a 3.12 ERA over 75 starts in three seasons with the Yankees. He was limited to 44 starts over his first two seasons due to injuries.