Korea shuts out Chinese Taipei

Korea shuts out Chinese Taipei in opener

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TOKYO -- A game Korea knew it probably had to win to advance past the first round of the inaugural World Baseball Classic, fell into place Thursday night in a classic opener at Tokyo Dome.

It seemed fitting that a terrific defensive play would end a superbly played game that had historical significance -- it's the first time active Major League players have participated in an event like this.

The final out in Korea's 2-0 victory over Chinese Taipei before 5,193 came when shortstop Jin Man Park dove to his left to stab a grounder hit up the middle, turning it into a forceout at second base instead of it being a run-scoring single to center field.

There were good defensive plays from both teams, a little surprising considering how little time the teams have been preparing for this inaugural tournament.

With so much riding on the Classic opener, Korea manager In Sik Kim rode the arms of four of his Major League pitchers to get the three-week tournament off to a successful start.

Right-hander Jae Weong Seo (Dodgers), Byung Hyun Kim (Rockies) Dae Sung Koo (Mets) and Chan Ho Park (Padres) combined on the shutout, holding Chinese Taipei on four singles and a double.

Park picked up the save, thanks in large part to the Park that could be seen over Chan Ho's right shoulder.

"This was a significant game for us so I was going to use them against Taipei," Kim said of four of his horses from the big leagues. "The plan I had coming in was to pitch two or three Major Leaguers in each game."

The opener was huge for both teams because it probably will take two wins to advance to the second round. With Japan considered a shoo-in, Korea conceivably can virtually clinch a trip to Anaheim next week with a victory Friday over heavy-underdog China.

But to get that second win, Korea might have to do it without third baseman Dong Joo Kim.

Dong Joo, a .302 hitter last season for the Doosan Bears, injured his left shoulder while diving into first base with an infield single in the sixth inning, left the game and went to a local hospital for X-rays. There was no immediate report on the seriousness of the injury.

"He is one of the most important players on the team," Kim said. "He's in the heart of our batting order (cleanup). He is so motivated that he slid into first base headfirst. We hope it is not serious.

"If we have to play without him, it would be a big loss for us."

One of the most talked-about rules being used in the 16-team tournament came to the forefront early.

Pitchers are limited to 65 pitches in the first round and Chinese Taipei right-hander En-Yu Lin had a shutout in the works after 64 pitches.

But his final delivery resulted in the game's first run being scored.

It came with two outs in the fourth inning. With a runner on second base and a 2-and-2 count, catcher Sung Heon Hong pulled a grounder past third base for a double, scoring Seung Yeop Lee from second base.

En-Yu could kick himself for surrendering a final-pitch hit, but it was his leadoff walk to Seung Yeop that hurt just as much.

He said the 65-pitch limit didn't really enter his mind.

"I was trying to get the (final) out," he said.

An infield out advanced Seung Yeop to second base and, one out later, he became a footnote in history -- the first player to score a run in the World Baseball Classic.

Korea tacked on its second run in the fifth inning on a leadoff single by Jin Man Park, sacrifice bunt and center fielder Jong Beom Lee's double off the wall in left field with two outs.

Sensing the important of the Classic opener, Korea played for a run in the first inning as soon as leadoff hitter Byung Kyu Lee reached on second baseman Sen Yang's error -- the only miscue in the well-played game.

Jong Beom sacrificed Byung Kyu to second. But the run Korea wanted never materialized as En-Yu struck out Seung Yeop Lee and Dong Joo back-to-back.

Chinese Taipei threatened in the second inning, putting runners on first and second with one out on a single to left field by Tai-Shan Chang and walk to Chio-Hsien Hsieh. An infield out moved both runners into scoring position before Seo induced Chun-Chang Yeh to ground out to second base.

"We didn't have many hits today, but we had chances to score," manager Hua Wei Lin said. "Their Major League pitchers are very good."

Both teams return to action Friday with Korea facing China in the first game and Chinese Taipei playing Japan in the nightcap.

It could be difficult for either Korea or Chinese Taipei to match the defensive work in their Classic opener.

Before getting hurt, Dong Joo Kim made a sparking snag to rob Chien-Ming Chang of a hit in the first inning; Korea right fielder Jin Young Lee ended the Chinese Taipei third inning with a stellar catch in foul territory; Chinese Taipei third baseman Yung Chi Chen stole a hit from Sung Heon Hong in the ninth inning.

Jim Street is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.