Facing elimination, South Korea wanted to prove it was still a force to be reckoned with in the World Baseball Classic.
Now the Koreans will try to prove it to Japan.
The Olympic champions flexed their offensive muscle and Yoon Suk Min was dominant on the mound as South Korea bounced back from an ugly loss with a 14-0 rout of China on Sunday at Tokyo Dome. The game was ended after the top of the seventh due to the WBC mercy rule.
“I’m very happy to go to the next round,” South Korea manager Kim In Sik said. “Baseball is like this. It fluctuates. Yesterday we lost to Japan in a called game and today we beat the Chinese team in a called game.”
The win sends South Korea into the second round of the WBC and sets up a rematch with Japan on Monday to determine the Pool A winner.
Japan’s hitters had a big day against the Koreans on Saturday, jumping out to a big lead and ultimately winning 14-2 when the mercy rule ended the game after the seventh inning.
“Although we lost by a lot of runs, a loss is a loss,” Kim said. “Whether it’s 1-0, 2-0 or a called game. So I told the players to focus on today’s game. Now we have another opportunity and I told them to go for it.”
After watching ace Kim Kwang Hyun, fall apart in the loss to Japan, South Korea relied on Yoon’s steady arm against China.
“Today’s starter pitched well,” Kim In Sik said. “But the biggest difference is the level between China and Japan. Kim (Kwang Hyun) pitched his best but Japan overcame him.”
China managed to get just two runners on base against Yoon, who led the Korean Baseball Organization with a 2.33 ERA in 2008, with neither making it past second.
“You have to give Yoon some credit,” China manager Terry Collins said. “He pitched very, very well. I thought his breaking ball was outstanding and he located his fastball very well tonight.”
The Kia Tigers star threw six scoreless innings, allowing a pair of hits and striking out four to pick up the win.
“Reaching the second round depended on this game,” Yoon said. “So there was some pressure. But we were able to score two runs in the first inning and that relieved some of the pressure.”
Yoon’s performance gives his team a chance to head into the second round on a wave of momentum, if it can slow down a Japanese offense that has outscored its opponents 18-2 in two games.
“They might have a weakness with inside pitches and breaking balls,” Yoon said, referring to Japan. “The combination of inside pitches and breaking balls might be the key.”
Early mistakes had China playing from behind almost from the start. Starter Sun Guoqiang began the game by walking Lee Jong Wook and Jeong Keun Woo, putting runners on first and second with none out.