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03/22/09 2:21 AM ET
K-pop: Korea powers its way to final
Classic championship game on deck after country topples Venezuela
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Korea proved yet again that the country is a burgeoning baseball power, advancing to the World Baseball Classic final with a
10-2 rout against Venezuela in the semifinals in front of 43,378 on Saturday at Dodger Stadium.
Now Korea, which also won the gold in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, will test its mettle against baseball superpower the United States or heated rival Japan in the finals at 9 p.m. ET on Monday.
Korea won behind right-hander Suk-Min Yoon, who pitched 6 1/3 strong innings, with the offense being paced by Shin-Soo Choo and Tae Kyun Kim, who both homered.
Korea jumped all over Venezuela starter Carlos Silva early, scoring five runs in the first inning, including three on a home run to center by Choo
. The first four batters reached base for Korea and Venezuela made two errors in the frame, including a dropped fly ball
by Bobby Abreu in right field.
"We won today, and we did not expect to win," Korea manager In-Sik Kim said. "But, of course, our win was aided by that error by the other team that played a critical part in our win."
Silva needed 36 pitches to get out of the inning, but the biggest blow came on a three-run homer by Choo, who had faced Silva six times in the Majors as a member of the Indians.
Choo helped his teammates by giving them a scouting report on Silva, who pitched for the Mariners last season.
"Shin-Soo knew about the pitcher, and we talked about it a lot," said Kim, who hit a two-run homer in the second inning
. "We believed a lot of sinkers were going to be thrown, and I was aware of it. And that's how we were able to hit."
Silva exited after Kim's backbreaking home run and allowed seven runs (six earned) on six hits in just 1 1/3 innings.
Venezuela finally got on the board in the third inning against Yoon on an RBI single by Melvin Mora, but it was already 7-1.
Yoon, who finished fifth in the MVP voting in the Korean Baseball Organization, was too much for the Venezuela offense that averaged more than six runs per game heading into the semifinals. The right-hander allowed just two runs on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings while striking out four and walking one.
"I felt great as a starting pitcher," Yoon said. "And I was proud and I was confident as a starting pitcher. Rather than being nervous, I had confidence, even though they are Major League hitters. And I did not know who they were, so I was confident against those hitters."
Korea added one run in the fourth on a botched pickoff play with runners on first and second. First baseman Miguel Cabrera missed pitcher Enrique Gonzalez's throw, allowing a run to score on Venezuela's fourth error of the game. Venezuela, which had five errors in the entire tournament, made five errors on Saturday.
Korea tallied two more runs in the sixth on an RBI single by Dae Ho Lee and a sacrifice fly by Jeong Choi.
Venezuela scored its second run with the game well in hand on a solo home run by Carlos Guillen in the seventh inning.
But Korea did its job and eliminated Venezuela, and now will face the winner of Sunday's semifinal game between the United States and Japan. Kim said his team is ready to face either country.
"It does not matter who we face, either U.S. or Japan," Kim said. "Either team is fine. We came all the way here, and this is what we hope -- that we play the best team out of the two teams."