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South Korea Upends Japan 3-2 at WBC

March 5, 2006

TOKYO (AP) _ South Korea upset Japan 3-2 Sunday to win Group A in the first round of the inaugural World Baseball Classic, with Lee Seung-yeop hitting a go-ahead, two-run homer in the eighth inning of a game that mattered little because both nations were assured of advancement.

Dae-Sung Koo, whose contract was sold last week by New York Mets to a South Korean club, pitched two scoreless innings of relief to get the victory for South Korea, which overcame a two-run deficit, and Chan Ho Park of the San Diego Padres retired the side in the ninth for the save. After Park retired Ichiro Suzuki on a game-ending flyout, South Korean players ran on to the field and mobbed the pitcher.

South Korea (3-0) and Japan (2-1) will travel to Arizona for exhibition games against major league teams, then go to Anaheim, Calif., for the second round, to be played from March 12-16. Their second-round opponents will include the top two teams from Group B, which has the United States, Canada, Mexico and South Africa.

Lee, who holds the Asian record of 56 homers in a season, signed with the Yomiuri Giants in the offseason after spending the last two seasons with the Pacific League’s Chiba Lotte Marines. The game was played before a crowd of 40,353 in the Tokyo Dome, his new home ballpark.

``I was just trying to stay focused,″ Lee said. ``Japan is a very strong team and, hopefully, we’ll be able beat them again in the United States.″

Lee, who led the Marines with 30 homers last season, hit a pair of homers in South Korea’s 10-1 win over China on Saturday.

Japan went ahead in the first when Tsuyoshi Nishioka scored from third on an infield grounder by Nobuhiko Matsunaka, and Munenori Kawasaki’s second-inning homer made it 2-0. Lee Byung-kyu hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

With the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth, South Korean right fielder Lee Jin-young made a fully extended diving catch to grab Nishioka’s sinking liner. South Korean fans in left field gave him a standing ovation, and Japanese fans gave him polite applause.

There were boos in the bottom of the seventh when South Korea’s Bae Young-soo drilled Suzuki in the back. Suzuki was 1-for-3 Sunday and had only three hits in the three games.

In Sunday’s first game, Chen Yung-Chi’s fourth-inning grand slam helped Taiwan beat China 12-3. Chen, a minor league prospect for the Seattle Mariners, was 4-for-6 with four runs scored, three doubles and five RBIs.

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