Korea, Japan battle for WBC supremacy
Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - Japan goes for a second consecutive World Baseball Classic title this evening when it plays rival Korea for the fifth time this tournament in the championship game at Dodger Stadium.
Both teams have gone 6-2 at this event with each of the team's two losses coming to one another, as the Asian combatants split their two meetings in both Pool A and Pool 1 play.
Overall, Korea holds a 4-3 advantage in the two Classics against Japan. However, Japan knocked off Korea in a single-elimination semifinal game three years ago on its way to the title.
Japan, which defeated Cuba to claim the crown at the inaugural Classic in 2006, advanced to this year's championship game on Sunday, as Daisuke Matsuzaka continued his stellar play in the WBC, leading his team past the United States, 9-4.
Matsuzaka, the reigning WBC MVP, lasted 4 2/3 innings and gave up just two runs on five hits and three walks, and struck out four.
Hiroyuki Nakajima had two doubles and drove in two runs for Japan. Kenji Johjima also knocked in a pair of runs in the win. Akinori Iwamura scored a run and stroked an RBI triple, while Munenori Kawasaki and Ichiro Suzuki each drove in a run.
In eight games of the 2009 WBC, Japan has more than tripled the offensive output of its opposition, outscoring opponents 45-13.
Heading to the hill tonight for Japan will be right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, who is 1-1 with a 0.73 ERA in 12 1/3 innings in three Classic games this year.
Korea, meanwhile, got by Venezuela on Saturday to reach the title game. Shin- Soo Choo's first-inning three-run homer was all Korea needed in a 10-2 thrashing.
Hyun-Soo Kim went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI for Korea in the win, while Tae Kyun Kim homered as part of a 2-for-4 effort, scoring three times and driving in two runs. Suk-Min Yoon allowed only two runs on seven hits and a walk, with four strikeouts, in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory.
Korea's 50 runs scored in this tournament are tied for the most among the 16 teams. The U.S. also tallied 50.
Getting the call for Korea tonight will be lefty Jung Keun Bong, who is 2-0, while pitching to a brilliant 0.63 ERA in his three WBC appearances. Both of his wins have come against Japan and another tonight would most certainly land him MVP honors for the tournament.
Korea, of course, is the reigning Olympic gold medal winner from the Beijing Summer Games.
03/23 10:57:04 ET