Olympic champion South Korea going for WBC gold
Rides 5-run first inning to 10-2 rout of Venezuela at Dodger Stadium
Venezuela has a roster full of big leaguers, South Korea just one.
Nevertheless, the reigning Olympic champions reached the finals of the second World Baseball Classic with ease Saturday night in Los Angeles.
Cleveland Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo hit a three-run homer to cap a five-run first, Yoon Suk-Min allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings, and South Korea beat mistake-prone Venezuela 10-2 at Dodger Stadium before an enthusiastic crowd of 43,378 that included Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
Kim Tae-Kyun added a two-run homer off loser Carlos Silva in the second for South Korea, which meets the winner of Sunday's semifinal matchup at 5 p.m. PT, between defending WBC champion Japan and the United States, for the title Monday night.
Roy Oswalt is scheduled to pitch for the Americans against Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Oswalt, a member of the Olympic gold medal-winning team in the 2000 Olympics, is 1-0 in two WBC starts, allowing 11 hits and three runs in 7 2/3 innings.
Former MVP set to pitch
Matsuzaka, who pitched six shutout innings against Cuba last Sunday, is 2-0, having allowed nine hits and two runs in 10 innings.
He was 3-0 and selected tournament MVP in leading Japan to the inaugural WBC championship in 2006. The 28-year-old right-hander joined the Boston Red Sox two years ago.
The Japan-U.S. contest is a rematch of the bronze-medal game at last summer's Beijing Olympics, which the Americans won 8-4. Japan hasn't defeated the United States since the 2005 World Cup in the Netherlands.
The Americans were eliminated 2-1 by Mexico in the second round of the first Classic after beating Japan 4-3 during pool play in Anaheim.
Yoon (2-0), a 22-year-old right-hander who went 14-5 with a 2.33 earned-run average for South Korea's KIA Tigers last year, scattered seven hits while walking one and striking out four. He allowed 13 hits and two runs in 16 innings with one walk and 13 strikeouts in four WBC outings.
Led by Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Bobby Abreu, Jose Lopez, Carlos Guillen, Melvin Mora and Ramon Hernandez, the Venezuelans had 12 homers and 36 extra-base hits in their first seven games and outscored the opposition 30-11 while winning their previous five, including two over Team USA.
That meant nothing against Yoon and the South Koreans, who put them away in the opening inning.
Silva (1-1) entered the semifinals having allowed just one run on 10 hits with one walk and six strikeouts in 11 innings over two WBC outings. But he didn't last long against the South Koreans, being chased after giving up six hits and seven runs, six earned, in 1 1/3 innings.
Lee Yongkyu walked to begin the game and Jeong Keunwoo reached base when right fielder Abreu dropped his fly fall for an error, one of five committed by Venezuela after it made five in seven previous games, six of them wins.
Kim Hyun-Soo followed with a run-scoring single and Kim Tae-Kyun singled to load the bases. After Lee Dae-Ho drove in a run with an RBI groundout, Choo hit an 0-1 pitch over the centre-field fence for a three-run homer — just his second hit in 11 WBC at-bats. Choo hit .309 with 14 homers and 66 RBIs in 94 games with the Indians last season.
Kim Hyun-Soo hit a one-out double in the second and Kim Tae-Kyum followed with his third homer of the Classic, making it 7-0 and chasing Silva, who went 5-14 with a 6.46 ERA for the Seattle Mariners last year.
Yoon stayed in control
Venezuela got a run in the third on one-out singles by Marco Scutaro, Endy Chavez and Mora before Yoon retired Abreu on a grounder and Cabrera on a liner to left to end the inning.
South Korea made it 8-1 with an unearned run off Enrique Gonzalez in the fourth when first baseman Cabrera was unable to handle a pickoff throw from catcher Hernandez for an error, allowing Ko Young Min to score from second. Gonzalez allowed one hit and the unearned run in 3 2/3 innings.
South Korea shortstop Park Ki-Hyuk robbed Hernandez leading off the fifth, diving to snare his grounder up the middle before scrambling to his feet and throwing to first just in time.
South Korea extended its lead to 10-1 off Victor Zambrano in the sixth on an RBI single by Lee Dae-Ho and a sacrifice fly by Choi Jeong. Kim Hyun-Soo went 3-for-3 with a walk before coming out for a pinch runner in the inning.
Guillen opened the seventh by hitting a 0-2 pitch from Yoon into the right-centre field pavilion for his third WBC homer to complete the scoring. Guillen, Abreu and Hernandez had two hits each for Venezuela, who had a total of nine off five pitchers.
South Korea had 10 hits off six pitchers.