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Korean Baseball Team to Open Asian Games vs. Taiwan

Posted November. 13, 2010 15:41,   


Taiwan is usually considered a level below Korea in baseball but has frequently posed hurdles to Korea in crisis situations.

Korea plays Taiwan Saturday in the opening game for both teams at the Guangzhou Asian Games in China.

Korea has played 19 games against Taiwan since the Bangkok Asiad in 1998, when professional baseballers were allowed to participate in the games. Korea leads the all-time series 11-8 but played six of the eight losses with second-string players.

The remaining defeats were two of the most painful for Korean baseball this century, however. Korea suffered a humiliating loss at the 2003 Asian Championships in Sapporo, Japan, which entailed a berth for the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, and another at the 2006 Doha Asian Games in Qatar.

Apart from the national team, the perennial Korean pro league powers SK Wyverns lost to Taiwan’s Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions, 10-4, in the 2008 Asian Series in Japan. SK, which won the Korean Series this year, also went 1-1 against Taiwanese champions Brother Elephants in their exhibition series this year.

Among its 11 victories versus Taiwan, Korea had easy wins but struggled in a few of them. In the final qualifier for the Beijing Olympic Games in Taiwan in March 2008, Korea barely edged the host, 4-3. Korea also led Taiwan, 7-1, in the Beijing Olympics but had to hold off a furious rally to survive, 9-8.

In March last year, Korea also blew out Taiwan, 9-0, in the first game of the first round of the World Baseball Classic in Tokyo. Korea relieved the pressure on its bullpen and batting order thanks to ace pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin of the Hanwha Eagles.

Though under heavy pressure as Korea’s No. 1 pitcher at the time, Ryu allowed only one hit in three innings in shutting down Taiwan’s batters. He was replaced before finishing the fifth inning due to the limit in the number of pitches allowed, but got the win.

Ryu will start again against Taiwan Saturday. Due to a late season slump in the Korean league, he just missed out in claiming the Triple Crown of pitching but is known as a “monster pitcher” with quality starts of six innings or more and an ERA of under 3.00.

He lost his form for a time after joining the national team last month, but recovered his confidence after arriving in Guangzhou. He also regained his trademark smile, joking with national team captain Bong Jung-keun of the LG Twins.

Ryu has won both of his career starts against Taiwan and hopes to keep his streak going Saturday.