The second game played in the 2009 World Baseball Classic had more runs scored than the first game, but with only a bit more excitement. Here are my impressions.
The team from Taiwan did not look much more experienced than the one from China. Neither team has played in Major League Baseball, only six players have played in the minor leagues in North America, and just nine of the 28 played in the 2006 WBC.
Korea, although themselves only boasting one major leaguer, Shin-Soo Choo of the Cleveland Indians, and one former big leaguer, pitcher Jung Bong, have a much more experienced squad. The Koreans handled Taiwan easily, defeating them 9-0.
The Koreans possess a strong lineup offensively, with considerable power for an Asian team. In this game, they belted two home runs, one a grand slam by outfielder Jin-Young Lee with a sweet left-handed swing.
Another homer and two more shots off the wall meant that the outfielders for Taiwan were kept busy. Conversely, the defense for Korea was never really tested by Taiwan.
The most impressive of the Korean pitchers was the starter, Hyun-Jin Ryu. His smooth motion reminded me of the great Mexican lefty of the past, Fernando Valenzuela. In three quick innings, Ryu limited the opposition to one hit and two walks, while striking out three.
He pitched to one batter in the fourth inning, and was pulled by the Korean manager before reaching a 50-pitch limit that would have prevented Ryu from pitching again in this round.
Lefty Jung Bong, who formerly pitched for the Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds, was also impressive, pitching three innings and allowing two hits and no walks.
Taiwan managed just five hits, all of them singles. They never really threatened to score.
One interesting base hit was a bleeder to right-center field off the bat of Che-Hsuan Lin, an intriguing prospect for the Boston Red Sox. Failing to call timeout at the plate, he quickly stepped back in the box and slapped the ball into the outfield.
Lin also played well in center field, and in the second inning, took a one-hop bounce off the fence and unleashed a strong throw to second base, preventing would should have been a double.
The next two games in this round should be more interesting. The two losing teams, China and Taiwan, are more evenly matched. The one who loses goes home.
The two winners, Korea and Japan, are both talented and deep. The strong rivalry between the two intensified in the first WBC. Korea bested Japan twice in the preliminary round last time in Tokyo before losing to Japan in the semifinals.
Daisuke Matsuzaka will most likely start for Japan and will surely be tested by Korea.