Roki Sasaki struck out eight in 3-2/3 innings and Masataka Yoshida continued his hot hitting with three RBIs as Japan beat the Czech Republic 10-2 in Pool B at the World Baseball Classic on Saturday.
Samurai Japan took a big step toward the quarterfinals by improving to a 3-0 record in the five-team, round-robin group at Tokyo Dome. The Czech Republic fell to 1-1.
Japan will play Australia (2-0) on Sunday, while the Czech Republic takes on South Korea (0-2). The top two teams from each pool advance to the last eight.
Sasaki allowed one unearned run in the first inning but settled down and left with a 3-1 lead on the 12th anniversary of the earthquake-tsunami disaster that took the lives of his father and grandparents.
Samurai Japan players held a minute's silence for the March 2011 victims before they began practice for the game.
Sasaki held the Czechs to two hits and walked two, with his fastball reaching as high as 164 kilometers (102 miles) per hour.
"I just tried to do what I could today," said the 21-year-old pitching sensation from Iwate Prefecture, one of the areas hit hardest by the disaster.
"My pitch count went up, so I had to leave the mound in the middle of an inning. But I'm glad I managed to keep the damage to a minimum. I used my splitter effectively."
Asked to comment on a Czech lineup comprised largely of part-timers, featuring just one player with MLB experience, Sasaki said, "They hit my fastball easily. It was a dangerous lineup."
The Czech Republic got on the scoreboard in the first inning when Marek Chlup, who laced a two-out double, scored after shortstop Takumu Nakano's throw to first got away for an error.
Japan rallied for a 3-1 lead in the third thanks to a two-run double from Yoshida and an RBI single from Tetsuto Yamada, both off Czech starter Ondrej Satoria.
New Boston Red Sox acquisition Yoshida also hit a sacrifice fly in a four-run fourth, scoring two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who smacked an RBI double to right earlier in the inning.
"We kept fans waiting for our comeback," Yoshida said. "I'm relieved I got a hit in that clutch situation my teammates created."
Shugo Maki, pinch-hitting for Ohtani to lead off the eighth, hit his second home run in three games.
Struggling Central League Triple Crown winner Munetaka Murakami followed Maki with a single for his first hit of the tournament.
Lars Nootbaar, who has quickly established himself as a fan favorite, went 1-for-3 with an RBI, and Japan racked up 11 hits against the Czech Republic's four.
Hiroya Miyagi, Japan's third pitcher of the night, worked five innings, limiting the Czechs to one run on two hits and striking out seven.
Australia trounced China 12-2 in seven innings in Saturday's other Pool B game, which was called under the tournament's mercy rule. China has lost three in a row.