LOS ANGELES—We're all familiar with the term "winning ugly." Tonight, Venezuela mastered the art of losing ugly.
Venezuela dug itself a massive early hole that it could not crawl up out of, almost overshadowing another well-played game by South Korea. It cruised to a 10-2 win and will play in the World Baseball Classic Championship game Monday night against the winner of Sunday's Japan-USA contest.
Venezuela endured a comedy of errors in the first inning that put them in a 5-0 hole before it ever came to bat. Starter Carlos Silva walked leadoff man Yong Kyu Lee, then right fielder Bobby Abreu dropped a lazy fly ball off the bat of Keun Woo Jeong. Adding insult to injury, Abreu's throw in to second base was booted by shortstop Marco Scutaro, as Lee advanced in safely. The three-hole batter, Hyun Soo Kim, made them pay with an RBI bloop single into left, and cleanup man Tae Kyun Kim advanced the remaining runners and filled the bases with another bloop single into center.
Next, Dae Ho Lee's comebacker to Silva proved too hot to field cleanly, and Venezuela settled for the 1-3 putout instead of a double play as Lee collected an RBI on the play. Indians outfielder Shin Soo Choo, the lone big leaguer on the Korean squad, then delivered the most punishing blow, smashing a towering three-run homer to straightaway center before Silva could escape the inning.
Venezuela was quickly dispatched in its half of the first, and things didn't get much better for them in the second. Hyun Soo Kim blistered a double into center, and cleanup man Tae Kyun Kim lifted a home run into the left field stands, right down the line. Silva was chased after 40 pitches in 1 1/3 innings, yielding seven runs, six of them earned.
The diverse crowd of 43,378 at Dodger Stadium seemed to have slightly more Korean partisans than Venezuelan fans, and by the end of the end of the second inning, the Venezuelans were drowned out by the omnipresent Korean thunder sticks. Korea starter Suk Min Yoon, who came in with a 0.00 ERA in 9.2 IP in the WBC, was able to cruise. He went 6 1/3 innings, giving up two earned runs on a Melvin Mora single in the third inning and a Carlos Guillen solo home run in the seventh.
Korea pushed across a run in the fourth inning and two more in the sixth to run their total to 10, but after two innings, the outcome was never in doubt.. Korea has been the recent darling of international competition, as it stands as defending Olympic champions, and ran up an impressive 6-1 record in 2006's WBC. Now, the Koreans get the chance to play for another championship on Monday night.
"It does not matter who you face, the U.S. or Japan," Korea manager In Sik Kim said. "We came all the way here, we want to win."
Venezuela committed five errors in the sloppy game, and the official scorer may have been generous. Many in the press box would have charged Venezuela with as many as seven.
Tae Kyun Kim's hot hitting continued. His second-inning homer was his third of the WBC, tying him for the tournament lead. Kim how has 11 RBI, tops in the tourney. He went 2-4 with a walk on the night to run his WBC average to .417.
So having seen Korea's run—the impressive 2006 WBC showing, 2008 Olympic gold, and now a championship berth in 2009's WBC—the question on everyone's lips is, "Why aren't there more Koreans in the major leagues?"
"There will be from now on," said Venezuela manager Luis Sojo. "What you saw today was very special. We need to give special credit to Korea's pitchers. They were amazing. Really."
The only big leaguer on the Korean team, Shin Soo Choo, thinks more Koreans are on the doorstep. "In terms of skill level, I believe there's no major difference between major leaguers and our Korean players," he said.
But there was a difference Saturday between South Korea and Venezuela.