03/23/09 7:53 AM ET
Japan and Korea familiar foes at Classic
Championship game will be fifth matchup between nations in tournament
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
Japan 14, Korea 2
There was no indication going in that this would be the most lopsided game in the series history since the Sydney Olympics, much less that it would end on a mercy rule. Japan had begun the tournament with a 4-0 victory over China that wasn't exactly stirring, and Korea dispatched Chinese Taipei, 9-0. But Japan jumped all over Korea starter Kwang-Hyun Kim to the tune of eight runs in 1 1/3 innings. Japan's five extra-base hits accounted for a good chunk of the 16 total Japan has thus far in the tournament, compared to 77 singles. That included a homer from slugger Shuichi Murata, now out of the tournament with a hamstring injury.
March 9 in Tokyo
Korea 1, Japan 0
Korea turned the tables and earned the top seed out of Pool A with a masterpiece by Bong, who pitched 5 1/3 shutout innings on three hits, and the Korean bullpen took it the rest of the way on just three hits. Tae Kyun Kim's RBI double in the fourth accounted for all the offense.
Korea 4, Japan 1
Bong did it again, allowing just three hits in 5 1/3 innings, but giving up a run this time. Korea got to 22-year-old phenom Yu Darvish early, though he settled down to allow three runs -- all in the first -- on five hits in five innings, striking out seven. March 19 in San Diego
Japan 6, Korea 2
This was perhaps the most intense game, despite the score, and came on the heels of Japan eliminating Cuba. A seesaw battle until a three-run eighth for Japan, this victory sent Japan to Los Angeles as the top seed out of Pool 1 in San Diego. The Koreans used six pitchers and the Japanese seven, and Japan's 15-hit attack proved too much. When the rubber match takes place at Dodger Stadium -- which no doubt will have its fair share of thunder sticks, orange for Japan and light blue for Korea -- the two teams will come in with much in common. "Korean players and Japanese players are excellent," said Korean outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who plays for the Indians. "There is little difference between the two." On Monday night, there will be one big difference: Only one will go home a Classic champion.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.