Korea Upsets Japan To Win Pool A

TOKYO-Asian home run king Lee Seung Yeop belted a come-from-behind,
two-run home run off Hirotoshi Ishii to give Korea a dramatic 3-2 win
over a shocked Japan in the Sunday finale of the 2006 World Baseball
Classic Pool A round robin at Tokyo Dome.

Five Korean
pitchers scattered seven hits and held the powerful Japanese team to a
run each in the first two innings, then kept Japan scoreless through
the ninth. The visitors put a run on the board with a sacrifice fly in
the fifth, and Lee turned the tables with his eighth-inning shot into
the right-field bleachers.

Japan had a two-out, bases loaded
situation in the bottom of the fourth, but Korea’s rightfielder Lee Jin
Young made a spectacular diving catch of a line drive headed for the
corner hit by Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Had he missed it, at least three runs
would have scored and, with his speed, Nishioka might have gotten an
inside-the-park grand slam. Instead, the inning ended scoreless.

Mets lefthander Koo Dae Sung worked the seventh and eighth innings and
got the win, while Padres righty Park Chan Ho came on in the ninth for
the save, retiring Mariners all-star Ichiro Suzuki for the final out.

the game, Japan manager Sadaharu Oh said, “The Korean pitchers were
superb tonight, and that right fielder’s catch saved the game for them.
We will be looking for revenge when we face Korea again next week in

Both Korea and Japan clinched spots in Round 2 of
the WBC, to be played inn southern California, by winning games on
Friday and Saturday.

Manager Kim In Sik of Korea agreed with
Oh, saying, “Our pitchers were the key tonight. They were able to shut
down the Japanese batters during the second half of the game.”

also mentioned his team was inspired by a small but boisterous group of
Korean fans in the left-field stands who had traveled to Tokyo from
Seoul. “I hope they can afford to go to California too and cheer for
us,” he said.

Lee Seung Yeop said he had great timing on the home run, his third in two games. He hit two homers against China on Saturday.

Sunday’s game drew 40,353 fans, and also in attendance were Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako.

as Pool A winner, and Japan as Pool A runner-up, will now join the top
two teams in Pool B to form Pool 1 which plays in Anaheim, California,
March 12-16. Pool B is made up of Canada, Mexico, South Africa and the
United States who will engage in round-robin play March 7-10 in Phoenix
and Scottsdale, Arizona.

In a game played earlier on Sunday
in Tokyo, Taiwan beat rival China 12-3 to take third place in the WBC
Asian Round. Third baseman and leadoff man Chen Yung-Chi (Mariners)
provided the firepower for C.T. with a grand slam home run, three
doubles and five RBIs.

Righthander Pan Wei-Lun pitched four
shutout innings to get the victory in the game attended by 4,577 fans.
Following the game, hitting star Chen proclaimed it was his best
offensive performance in international play and one of the best of his
professional career.

“We beat China, so it was a very
meaningful game, and I hit the first grand slam ever in my life. This
will be a long-lasting memory,” he said.

China team manager
Jim Lefebvre admitted, “Our team was nervous because it was a big game
for us, but that’s part of being a professional player, and they have
to learn how to handle that.

“We didn’t play very well, but
I want to thank the WBC organizers for inviting us. This was a great
experience for our kids, playing against major leaguers and, next time,
we’ll be better prepared.”