We’ll be keeping an eye on the World Baseball Classic up to the championship game. Today the tournament continued in Japan with South Korea facing Taiwan.
What happened: In what proved to be a 9-0 loss to South Korea, young Taiwanese team was blown out before they had two outs in the first inning. Taiwan’s starter Chen Chang Lee walked three, hit a batter, gave up a two-run single to Tae Kyun Lee before being knocked out of the game by Jin Young Lee’s mammoth grand slam. Chen-Chang Lee threw only 27 pitches, giving up six runs while recording one out. Keun-Woo Jeong added a two-run home run in the sixth. Taiwan picked up only three hits against four South Korean pitchers. If there was any doubt that South Korea and Japan are the favorites in Pool A, Taiwan’s poor performance cleared up that question on Friday.
The Stars: Jin Young Lee’s grand slam was the game’s big blow, but eight of the nine South Korean starters had at least one hit. South Korean starter Hyun Jin Ryu, the pitcher who beat Cuba in the Olympics, allowed only one hit in three innings, and he started two double plays himself. Ryu was pulled after facing one batter in the fourth to ensure that he threw less than 50 pitches. If he had topped 50 pitches, Ryu would not have been allowed to pitch again in Pool A play, but now he’ll be able to face Japan if needed later in the first round.
Prospect Watch: Red Sox prospect Che-Hsuan Lin led off for Taiwan and went 1-for-2 with a walk, he also threw out a runner trying to stretch a single into a double. Ryu doesn’t throw as hard as he used to, but the 22-year-old lefty showed off his 90-mph fastball as well as an excellent changeup and a decent curveball. South Korea’s 3-4-5 hitters of Hyun-Soo Kim (2-for-3, two runs scored), Tae-Kyun Kim (1-for-2, 2 RBIs) and Dae-Ho Lee (2-for-4, RBI) are big, physical hitters with power to go with good hand-eye coordination.
Coming Up: Taiwan and China will face in the first elimination game tonight at 10:30 p.m. A couple of years ago, Taiwan would have been an overwhelming favorite, but China has made big strides, which they showed by shocking the more established Taiwanese team 8-7 at the Olympics last fall. Japan, likely led by ace Daisuke Matsuzaka, will face South Korea in the winner’s bracket at 5 a.m. ET on Saturday, while the rest of the tournament will get underway on Saturday as the U.S. faces Canada (2 p.m. ET) and Italy plays Venezuela (8 p.m. ET) in Toronto while the Netherlands faces the Dominican Republic (11 a.m.) and Panama faces Puerto Rico (5 p.m. ET) in Puerto Rico.
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