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KBO champions defeat Seibu

by Jason Coskrey

The SK Wyverns came to this year’s Asia Series to take care of some unfinished business.

The Korean Baseball Organization champions got off to a good start, holding off the Seibu Lions 4-3 on Thursday night at Tokyo Dome.

Lee Jae Won and Park Jae Hong homered and three relievers kept the Lions off the scoreboard over the final four innings for SK, which is looking for a return trip to the Asia Series final.

The Wyverns upset the Chunichi Dragons in their first game of last season’s tournament before falling to the eventual Asian champions 6-5 in a final-round rematch.

Their win over the Lions is only the second time in the history of the tournament, which is in its fourth year, a Japanese team has lost.

“It was a good game,” Seibu manager Hisanobu Watanabe said. “From tomorrow we’ll do our best to win.”

The Lions played without shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima and catcher Toru Hosokawa, after both suffered injuries during the Japan Series. Seibu was also missing second baseman Yasuyuki Kataoka, who was sidelined due to illness.

“Kataoka has a cold and a fever,” Watanabe said. “He wasn’t able to play. He should be able to go from tomorrow.”

Korean sensation Kim Kwang Hyun got the start for the Wyverns and was almost as good as advertised for the first three innings.

The 187-cm pitcher was the KBO MVP and nearly won a pitching Triple Crown, leading the league with 16 wins (four losses) and 150 strikeouts. He finished second with a 2.39 ERA.

The 20-year-old Kim also made three appearances (two starts) for Korea in the Beijing Olympics, going 1-0 with a 1.26 ERA in 14 1/3 innings for the gold medal-winning squad.

He fell apart in the top of the fifth against Seibu, allowing a pair of runs, throwing a wild pitch and making a throwing error during the inning.

“He’s the ace,” Watanabe said. “He wasn’t in really good condition today but he still threw good balls. He really is a good pitcher.”

Kim was relieved by Yun Kil Hyoun, who got the team out of the inning.

Lions starter Kazuyuki Hoashi got off to a fast start but withered as the game wore on. Hoashi was pulled after giving up three runs in the fourth and took the loss after allowing four runs on five hits with six strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings.

“My pitching was a little too simple,” Hoashi said after being lifted. “From now I’ll cheer for the team to win.”

SK hurler Lee Seung Ho earned the victory after striking out four in three scoreless innings of relief.

Seibu’s Shogo Akada led off the game with a double and advanced to third on Takumi Kuriyama’s ground out. Japan Series hero Hiroshi Hirao followed with an RBI single to put the Lions ahead 1-0.

The Wyverns pulled even on a disputed home run by right fielder Park Jae Hong in the second.

Park took Hoashi deep to left but the ball appeared to land to the left of the foul pole. Park rounded the bases as the umpires conferred before ruling the play a home run.

SK took a two-run lead on designated hitter Lee Jae Won’s two-run shot to left in the fourth. Kim Kang Min added a one-out single later in the inning before Park Jae Sang drove in a run with an RBI single to left.

Seibu mounted a rally in the fifth behind a two-out RBI double by Kuriyama and Hirao’s run-scoring single, which made the score 4-3.

Earlier in the day, Taiwan’s Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions opened the tournament with a 7-4 victory over the Tianjin Lions of the Chinese Baseball Association.

Center fielder Pan Wu-Hsiung hit a three-run “sayonara” home run off reliever Li Jia-Qiang to lift the Chinese Professional Baseball League champions to the win.

Leading 4-3 in the ninth, Tianjin was three outs away from earning China’s first Asia Series victory.

Uni-President began the inning with a single by Liu Fu-Hao, who later scored the tying run on Kuo Chun-Yu’s two-out pinch-hit RBI single.

Li then hit Huang Kan-Lin before giving up the game-winning homer to left.

Tianjin will play the Wyverns at noon on Friday, while Uni-President will meet Seibu in the second day’s night game.

Nomo gives pointers AP Former major league pitcher Hideo Nomo made a guest appearance as a pitching coach in Japan on Wednesday, giving young players some help with their forkballs.

The 40-year-old Nomo, who won 201 games in Japan and the majors, attended the fall camp of the Orix Buffaloes and gave pitcher Daisuke Kato a few pointers.

“He gave some advice on my forkball,” Kato said. “I feel it helped. It got close to what I’ve been looking for.”

Nomo is spending three days at the Orix camp at the invitation of former teammate Daijiro Oishi, who is now the manager of the Buffaloes. Nomo and Oishi played for the Kintetsu Buffaloes in the early 1990s.

Nomo announced his retirement in July, bringing an end to an illustrious major league career that began in 1995. He finished with a 123-109 record and a 4.24 ERA in the majors.