South Korea didn’t have to work too hard to notch its first win of the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Taiwan’s starting pitcher took care of a lot of the heavy lifting himself.
South Korea had twice as many runs as hits in the first inning, including Lee Jin Young’s towering grand slam, as it cruised to a 9-0 rout of Taiwan on Friday night in front of 12,704 fans Tokyo Dome.
“The reason for the victory is the Taiwan pitchers gave us a lot of opportunities and our hitters turned those into runs,” South Korea manager Kim In Sik said.
The Koreans also turned a WBC-record five double plays in the victory. The previous high was three by Cuba against the Dominican Republic in the 2006 tournament.
“We had too many double plays,” Taiwan manager Yeh Chih-Hsien said. “Too many double plays killed our offense.”
Scoring six runs on three hits in the bottom of the first, the Koreans cruised the rest of the way to set up a meeting with rival Japan. The two Asian powers will meet Saturday night with a spot in the second round at stake for the winner.
The loss means Taiwan faced China in the early game on Saturday. The loser will be eliminated while the winner will face the Japan-South Korean loser with a trip to the second round at stake.
“I don’t have any special emotions,” Kim said about facing Japan. “We play as we always play. We will try to do our best. That’s our strategy. We have no special plan.”
The Koreans looked far more impressive in their opener than Japan did in its pedestrian 4-0 victory over China Thursday.
“As expected, Korea is well balanced, (a) great team,” Japan manager Tatsunori Hara said.
South Korea starter Ryu Hyun Jin picked up the win, striking out three and allowing one hit in three scoreless innings.
Ryu, who pitched for South Korea in the gold medal game in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, threw 43 pitches, making him available to pitch again in the first round if needed.
Meanwhile Taiwan starter Lee Chen-Chang got off to a nightmarish start.
The Koreans loaded the bases without recording a hit on a pair of walks and a hit batter in the first. Kim Tae Kyun followed with a two-run single into right field to give South Korea the lead.
Choo Shin Soo, who plays for the Cleveland Indians, drew a walk to load the bases again later in the inning before Lee’s grand slam made the score 6-0.
Lee Chen Chang didn’t make it through the first, giving up six runs on three hits with three walks and a hit batter in a third of an inning.
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