Korea Uses Another Late Rally to Thump Japanese Bullpen, Gets Set for Gold Medal Match-up
In a game that looked oddly similar to last Saturday’s, Korea fell behind Japan early, but then crawled back and exploded in the late innings once the game was tied.
Lee Seung-yeop, in what might be called an act of poetic justice given the year he’s had in Japan, hit a two run HR off Hitoki Iwase (who has been absolutely terrible these Olympics) to put Korea up 4-2. Then, a drop by Takahiko Sato on a fairly routine flyball off the bat of Ko Yeong-min scored Kim Dong-ju to make it 5-2. Kang Min-ho followed with a double to deep center (over the head of a very shallow Norichika Aoki) to put the lead at four runs (box).
It’s an understatement to call this a big win for Korean baseball. To come back and beat Japan twice is a feat for this team and gets what was starting to manifest itself as a pretty big monkey. This is without question the biggest win in the history of Korean baseball.
However, the dramatics of Lee’s HR aside, Kim Kwang-hyun was outstanding and is clearly the team’s money pitcher. Only one of Japan’s runs was earned and Kim struck out six and walked two over eight innings. Yoon Suk-min, normally a starter, has become the team’s closer and retired the side in order in the 9th.
Japan jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead with Tsuyoshi Nishioka scoring after singling and advancing to second on an Lee Seung-yeop error. Nishioka came around again in the 3rd on a Norichika Aoki single. Korea countered in the 4th when Lee Seung-yeop grounded into a double play , which scored Lee Yong-kyu. In the 7th Lee Dae-ho drew a walk and was replaced by pinch runner Jeong Keun-woo. As I said before, I hate this kind of overmanaging, but it paid off for Korea as Jeong ended up scoring on an Lee Jin-yeong single. Dae-ho most definitely wouldn’t have scored on the play.
For Japan the entire Olympic tournament has been a disappointment. Expected to challenge for the gold, the Japanese have been exactly a .500 team. The bullpen, thought to be a strength, has been porus and people have to be questioning the logic in manager Hoshino bringing the bullpen he did when there are several good young arms having solid seasons in the NPB.
Korea will face a tough challenge in Cuba. Cuba will be tough no matter what. But for the moment the team can revel in the fact that it beat its arch rival. The media is going crazy, announcers are openly gushing and two channels are showing highlights on end to end repeat.