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Korea routs Venezuela to reach the WBC finals

‘The game was over when we gave up five runs in the first inning.’  PLAY AUDIO

Mar 23,2009
Choo Shin-soo blasts a three run home run at the top of the first inning off Carlos Silva in yesterday’s game to put Korea up 5-0. Korea went on to win the game, 10-2. [AP]
Korea accelerated into the 2009 World Baseball Classic finals by thrashing Venezuela 10-2.

Anyone doubting Korea could mingle with the big boys on the international stage need only look to Korea’s batters to be convinced.

The Korean baseball team celebrates its 10-2 victory over Venezuela in their semifinal game at the World Baseball Classic yesterday at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles. The team will face the winner of the U.S.-Japan game tomorrow. [AP]
They answered their critics with a barrage of runs in the first two innings.

Korea will face the winner of the U.S.?Japan game on Tuesday, setting up the possibility of a Korea?Japan final.

In yesterday’s game at the Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, Korea had to score early to have any chance against a Venezuelan team that boasts a powerful lineup plus closer Francisco Rodriguez who pitched a record 62 saves in the Major League last season.

The Venezuelan starting pitcher, Carlos Silva, was tagged early on. Lead-off batter Lee Yong-kyu was walked to start the game and the next batter, Jeong Keun-woo, reached first base on a fielding error by outfielder Bobby Abreu of the L.A. Angels.

Then Kim Hyun-soo’s single to left fielder Magglio Ordonez drove in Lee Yong-kyu. Clean-up hitter Kim Tea-kyun singled to move Jeong Keun-woo to third and Kim Hyun-soo to second, setting up the stage for Choo Shin-soo.

Choo, who had been struggling throughout the tournament, hit a three-run home run to put Korea up 5-0.

“Korea came out aggressive early on. The game was over when we gave up five runs in the first inning,” said Luis Sojo, the Venezuelan manager.

“After we walked the leadoff batter, Lee Young-kyu, we made an error. After that error, everything went wrong. It’s how we lost that’s disappointing,
“We’ve been playing well and played as we prepared but we were hit with five runs in the first inning,” added Sojo, a former Yankee and Blue Jay in the Majors.

In the following inning, Kim Hyun-soo hit a sharp line drive double to center field and Kim Tae-kyun followed with a home run to register two more runs for Korea, putting them up 7-0 and in turn, deflating the Venezuelan team.

The heart of the batting order, which produced 10 runs on 10 hits, consisted of Kim Hyun-soo batting third, Kim Tae-kyun hitting cleanup, Lee Dae-ho batting fifth followed by Choo Shin-soo.

The story of the game was Choo, who was inserted into the starting lineup as a right fielder. As the lone Major Leaguer on a young team, much was expected of the 26-year-old outfielder who had batted .309 with 14 home runs and 66 RBI in the previous MLB season.

Choo was expected to play a crucial role on the Korean offense at the heart of the batting order but having suffered pain in his left elbow early in the tournament, he had been a disappointment with one hit in 10 at bats.

Kim In-sik, the manager, placed his faith in his struggling player and was rewarded.

“After Choo joined, the Cleveland Indians made a lot of pointers on how we should use him in our lineup down to how many swings he should take in batting practice. Of course I understand their concerns,” said Korea’s manager, Kim In-sik.

“We got the go ahead from the Indians to use Choo in the outfield today. Some players struggle when they are limited to the designated hitter’s role. With Choo playing right field today, I had a hunch he would have a good day at the plate,” added Kim.

Choo, who had been a teammate of Carlos Silva at the Seattle Mariners early in his MLB career, jumped on the second pitch, a high fastball and sent it over the center field fence.

The starting pitcher, Yoon Suk-min, had a solid outing by pitching seven innings, giving up two earned runs on seven hits, one home run and four strikeouts against the likes of Bobby Abreu, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez.

Going on a 100 pitch count, Yoon pitched a total of 96 pitches for 60 strikes. The 22-year-old who pitches for the Kia Tigers had 14 wins and five losses with 2.33 ERA last season. He was the leader in ERA last season and second in wins.

Lee Bum-ho, the team’s third baseman, who had provided power at the plate and strong defense, missed the game due to a cold. Choi Jeong replaced him in the starting lineup.

The Venezuelans never recovered from the early shellacking and only managed to drive in two runs on nine hits and committed five errors, a WBC single game record. So far in WBC 2009, Korea has six wins and two losses, with the losses against Japan, and has outscored opponents 50 to 26.



By Jason Kim Staff Reporter[jason@joongang.co.kr]



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