SAN DIEGO – So much for the so-called pitcher’s park.
South Korea flexed its muscles with three solo home runs and reliever Jong Hyun Wook kept his team in the game early as the Koreans routed Mexico 8-2 in the second round of the World Baseball Classic on Sunday at PETCO Park.
“We are happy to win today’s game,” South Korea manager Kim In Sik said. “I was worried about our (starting) pitcher, but it worked out pretty well after all. We had some lucky home runs and won.”
Lee Bum Ho started things for South Korea’s solo artists in the second with a 111-km shot to left and Kim Tae Kyun and Ko Young Min each added homers off major leaguer Oliver Perez later in the game.
“Today’s game was really tough for us,” Perez said. “When they hit those balls, I was missing my location and I was behind in the count and that’s why they hit those pitches.”
The San Diego Padres’ stadium yielded a meager 1.68 home runs per game in 2008 and is one of the toughest venues to homer in.
“They play tremendous baseball,” Perez said. “They make good contact. We also have to understand, some of those pitches were good but they are professional players and those were the results.
“That’s why they played better ball than we did and that’s why they won.”
Kim Tae Kyun added to his RBI haul with a two-run single in the seventh moments after South Korea executed a double steal to put runners on second and third.
The South Korean slugger finished 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs.
South Korea’s win sets up a third game against Japan on Tuesday, with the winner advancing to the semifinals. Japan won the first meeting 14-2, while South Korea won the second 1-0 during the first round at Tokyo Dome.
“Of course in Tokyo we lost once and we won once,” Kim In Sik said. “We feel Japan has the strongest players so we want to face them. I feel we have to do our best the rest of the way.”
Mexico seemed poised to break the game open in the fifth after loading the bases with one out and the score tied 2-2.
Jong responded to the threat by striking out Scott Hairston and retiring Jorge Vazquez to end the inning. Jong threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out two to earn the win.
Perez, who pitches for the New York Mets, was charged with the loss after giving up four runs, three earned, in 4 2/3 innings.
The loss sends Mexico into an elimination game against Cuba on Monday. The two teams last met on March 12 in the Pool B final which Cuba won 16-4.
The Mexicans scored first, taking the lead on Augie Ojeda’s two-run single in the second.
Lee Bum Ho’s homer pulled South Korea within a run in the bottom half of the inning and Lee Yong Kyu scored on a throwing error by second baseman Edgar Gonzalez to tie the game.
Kim Tae Kyun and Ko went deep in the fourth and fifth, respectively, to stretch the lead to 4-2.
Kim Tae Kyun’s single extended the lead to four runs in the seventh and South Korea added two more runs to make the score 8-2.