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March 7, 2017

Ayuma Ishikawa

Hiroki Kokubo

Nobuhiro Matsuda

Tokyo, Japan

Japan - 11, Cuba - 6

Q. You mentioned the first game is the most important, what is in your mind right now?
HIROKI KOBUKO: The first inning is such a unique inning, the atmosphere is different. But then Kikuchi made the double play. That's a huge play for us.

Q. What does Aoki mean to you? How big is Aoki in the roster?
HIROKI KOBUKO: Yes, in the first inning, we score after two outs. Also he hit a sacrifice fly and he caught a very tough fly ball straight back to the center field.

Like I said before the game started, Cuba's speed is like 20 percent faster than the exhibition games, but overall, we played defense well.

Q. Last night, you mentioned that the most difficult thing, the third baseman, you would take Matsuda out of the starting lineup but he had four base hits.
HIROKI KOBUKO: Yes, that was a tough decision but overall, I didn't have to think that much.

Q. On one hand you score 11, but the other hand, you gave up six runs, and especially the reliever looked a little bit struggling. How do you feel about it?
HIROKI KOBUKO: Yes, there was a big lead, but Cuba's offense level gave up. Later, two innings, we gave up five runs. So that was something we have to fix it. But overall, Cuba's bat speed is so fast, and some of the players never played a WBC real tournament.

So I guess some of them, the players get nervous. But overall, we have another game for tomorrow, so let's change the momentum.

Q. Your starting probable pitcher for tomorrow, if you can mention, please.
HIROKI KOBUKO: Sugano will be our starting pitcher for tomorrow.

Q. You played against Australia and if you defeat -- if you win tomorrow's game, that's going to be a huge step to clinch the first round. What do you expect for Sugano for tomorrow?
HIROKI KOBUKO: Like today's game, Australia's offense is fast, and they are going to swing a little bit sharper than the exhibition games. So we put the No. 1 Japanese pitcher on to the mound, and I expect Sugano to throw closely to 65 pitches. No matter how we play, we will try to win, no matter how.

Q. Mr. Ishikawa, as a starter, that was a very important game for the first tournament game. How do you feel about today's game?
AYUMA ISHIKAWA: Yes, by myself, the location was tough. I had a tough time to locate a couple pitches, but thanks to all the players behind me, I just gave up only one run.

Q. What did you learn from today's pitching? What did you want to fix from today's game?
AYUMA ISHIKAWA: My fastball worked well I think. The location and breaking ball is not as sharp as I was expecting. So these are the two things I want to fix.

Q. Do you have any comments for the next game start?
AYUMA ISHIKAWA: Yes, for next games, if I have a chance, I'd like to locate and let the hitters hit the ball.

Q. A while ago, the skipper mentioned that -- how do you feel that your name is on the starting lineup as a third baseman?
NOBUHIRO MATSUDA: Yes, during the exhibition games, I didn't hit that well and my condition is not as good. But the coach put me in the lineup, so I was very concentrated from the first pitch and first at-bat. That gives me a good result. I was so focused.

Q. The first inning, you made an error on defense. Was the first error something special? Issue?
NOBUHIRO MATSUDA: Yes, that was a ground ball, and I feel bad for Ishikawa, so I try to do some pay back for my offense. So I was pleased that I could get some base hits.

Q. Tomorrow you have another game. Do you have any comment for tomorrow's contest?
NOBUHIRO MATSUDA: Yes, the atmosphere of the WBC is very unique, very rare. And whenever I have an at-bat, I like to go contribute more than usual to Team Japan winning.

Q. In the fifth inning, Nakata got the stolen base. How did you evaluate the steal? Is it something you deserved for the offense?
HIROKI KOBUKO: Yes, whenever I don't want my players to run, I have a red light. Otherwise, I'm always giving them, my player, a green light -- inaudible.

Q. Looks like your play is a very calm and your player played well. Overall, how do you evaluate your players?
HIROKI KOBUKO: To be honest with you, I got so much pressure, so much pressure, that like you just mentioned, all my players played well as they are usually. Also, Tsutsugoh's RBI single in the first inning was very big, and also Tsutsugoh's two-run jack in the seventh inning is good, big, because Cuba scored. Right after Cuba scored, that's why.

Q. You played in 2012, and you played. This was your first WBC win. Was it something special for you?
AYUMA ISHIKAWA: Yes, to be honest with you, I never felt so much pressure. I guess I am the most pressure person and I didn't get calm until maybe the fifth inning.

Q. I thought you had Akiyoshi a little bit ahead and you had Makita in the ninth inning. What was your game plan?
HIROKI KOBUKO: I have a reason for today. That was our game plan, so I had no reason to get Akiyoshi during the middle, but Makita at the ninth inning.

Q. You mentioned earlier in your remarks that your condition was not as good as you wanted to be. During the warmups, what kind of adjustments did you make, and before today's game, what particular adjustment was there do you think that helped you have such a good game today?
NOBUHIRO MATSUDA: Today is a new start, that's how I felt. So that's only thing in my mind when I have an at-bat.

Q. Also for Matsuda. I think you had thought awhile back about going to play in MLB and you ended up staying here. How much do you think this tournament has a chance to show the whole world what you can do? And my second question is, Aoki coming here, with your team, and what he did tonight, how big an impact has he had on your team?
NOBUHIRO MATSUDA: Yes, today's contest, I was so focused what I could be and what I can do, I was very pleased what I did for tonight.

Talking about Aoki, not only the behavior, not only the at-bat, not only the play, but everything he did show us is so big. His age and my age so close, he's very key and he's such a big player for Team Japan.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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