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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Korea Beats Japan

In a close game, Korea beats Japan 3-2. Over 40,000 were in attendance at the Tokyo Dome in what ESPN called, an highly charged atmosphere. What do you expect when Ichiro:

had urged his teammates to hammer their opponents "in such a fashion that they won't think they can beat Japan for 30 years."
The Japanese team seemed extremely cocky with ESPN having this to say:

After neither of Japan's first two opponents could go nine innings, the only question in Tokyo seemed to be whether or not the hosts would win a nail-biter or something more impressive.
You know, giving such bulletin board fodder to the Korean team probably wasn't the smartest thing in the world to do. The Korean team was psyched up and ready for this game.

In a pre-tournament press conference Chan Ho Park, perhaps bridling at Suzuki's remarks, said his plan was to focus and concentrate on the very first batter. The San Diego Padres pitcher explained after repeated questioning that he was referring not specifically to Suzuki but to each lead-off hitter.

That may be, but the tension could not have been thicker when Park strode to the mound in the ninth inning and recorded a 1-2-3 inning with Suzuki as his final victim.

The winning pitcher was New York Mets lefty Koo Dae Sung, who played four years in Japan, after an international career in which he earned the nickname "Japan killer."

Koo, who threw two perfect innings of relief said he used his experience here to cross up the hitters.

"I was most nervous about the batters who I knew, because I knew they knew me as well," Koo said. "I tried to pitch the opposite of what they expected and it worked.

"I have a lot of international experience against them and I have never allowed more than three runs. So I always have confidence against them. I don't think their hitters can hit my pitches."

Koo's pitching in the 2000 Sydney Olympics -- when he eliminated Japan from medal contention -- led to a contract in Japan.

Right fielder Jin Young Lee saved the game for Korea in the fourth with an unbelievable catch. With the bases loaded and the runners going on two outs, Lee dove to catch a line drive headed for the corner, tumbled and came up with the ball to defy Japan, which had a 2-0 lead already.

In the eighth, Seung Yeop Lee, who set Korea's single-season home run record with 56 for the Samsung Lions in 2003 used his two years of experience in Japan's Pacific League to torment his hosts.

"From my experience in Japan, I thought a Japanese pitcher would come with a breaking ball," Lee said. "So that worked out for me."

Although it was his third homer in two days, he had struggled in his first three at-bats against a pair of recent teammates, Japan starter Shunsuke Watanabe and reliever Soichi Fujita. Faced with a reliever he had never seen from the Central League, where he will be playing this season and in the home park of his new club, the Yomiuri Giants, Lee went downtown and turned out the lights.
Kudos to the Korean team, I hope they go far in the tournament. It should be interesting when they meet again, I hope it is televised here in the US.

The best part of this matchup is that this was only Round 1. The two teams, whose pitchers combined for five hit batsmen, including Suzuki, who was hit by a fastball, will play again on March 15, with the game likely involving a semifinal berth. If anyone thinks this one was wild, wait till they get to Anaheim.

"On the 15th, I want revenge on them," Japan manager Sadarahu Oh said.
That will DEFINITELY be the game to watch!