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Korea to Face Japan for 3rd Time in WBC

Posted March. 18, 2009 04:29,   


Korea plays Japan today in their third game of the World Baseball Classic for a semifinals berth.

Japan battered Korea in the first meeting 14-2 while Korea won the second 1-0.

Today’s game will be broadcast live at noon Korean Standard Time by Korea’s three major networks KBS, MBC and SBS.

○ ‘Layman’ Kim vs. ‘nobleman’ Hara

Few baseball fans remember the playing days of Korean team manager Kim In-shik (62, Hanwha Eagles). He won fame as a pitcher at Baemoon High School in Seoul and won top rookie honors for Hanil Bank, Korea’s leading amateur team.

A shoulder injury forced him to retire in 1972 at the early age of 25. He is nicknamed “rehabilitation factory manager” due to the painful memories of his injury.

Kim went on to coach the baseball teams of Baemoon and Sangmoon High School before taking over at Dongguk University in 1982. He later joined the pro team Haitai Tigers as assistant coach in 1986 and became manager of the chronic underdog Ssangbangwool Raiders in 1990.

In contrast, Japanese manager Tatsunori Hara (51, Yomiuri Giants) has been a “nobleman” since high school. Touted as the next Shigeo Nagashima, a Japanese baseball icon, at Tokai University, Hara played cleanup hitter after joining Yomiuri in 1981.

He has been a high flyer throughout his baseball career. In 15 seasons as a player, he hit .279 and 382 homers.

Hara began his coaching career as batting coach for Yomiuri in 1996, and became manager in 2002.

While Kim is considered an everyman, Hara is an elite sportsman.

The Korean team rested yesterday, while Japan’s conducted heavy training for 90 minutes from 10 a.m. This illustrates the contrasting styles of Kim, who has served as national team manager many times, and Hara, who is leading Japan for the first time.

○ ‘Patriot’ Bong vs. Yu Darvish

Korea will start on the mound today Bong Jung-keun (29, LG Twins), who shut out Japan over five and a third of innings in Korea’s 1-0 win Monday last week. He allowed just three hits in helping to avenge Korea’s humiliating 14-2 loss to Japan two days earlier.

Korean Web users have nicknamed the pitcher “patriot” after Ahn Jung-keun who fought for Korea’s independence under Japanese colonial rule. Attention is drawn to how Japan, which is known for playing “microscopic baseball,” will handle Bong’s pitching.

Darvish (23, Nippon Ham) became the Japanese national team’s ace pitcher after Daisuke Matsuzaka moved to the Boston Red Sox. Darvish has a fastball measured at 93 miles per hour and clever sliders using his 6-feet-5 frame (196 centimeters).

He won the Sawamura Award given to the top pitcher in 2007. Last season, he went 16-4 with an ERA of 1.88.

The half-Iranian, half-Japanese ace started the tournament opener against China and claimed victory. In the second game against Korea, he pitched in relief and struck out three and gave up just one hit in an inning.

Darvish told Japanese media, “I’ve been watching the Korean team since the Beijing Olympics, and I know the team very well and will have no problem.”

○ Slugger Kim Tae-kyun vs. icon Ichiro

Among batters, attention has centered on Korean cleanup hitter Kim Tae-kyun (27, Hanwha Eagles), who has filled in ably for Lee Seung-yeop, and Japanese icon Ichiro Suzuki (36, Seattle Mariners).

Japan’s cleanup hitter Shuichi Murata is hitting .267 with three runs and seven RBIs, including two homers. He is not as influential, however, as the team’s leader Ichiro.

Kim is hitting .412 with six runs and nine RBIs in the tournament. He also hit two homers in Korea’s first game versus Japan at Tokyo Dome.

In comparison, Ichiro has failed to live up to his big name. He is hitting just .211 with four runs and one RBI, and went 0-3 against pitcher Bong in the 1-0 loss to Korea last week.