TOKYO, With his team’s back against the wall at the ongoing World Baseball Classic (WBC), South Korean manager Lee Kang-chul decided to make several lineup changes Sunday.
South Korea will take on the Czech Republic at noon Sunday at Tokyo Dome in Pool B. Lee’s team must win this game to stay alive in its quest to reach the quarterfinals.
Having dropped the first two games by a combined 21-11, Lee will drop Tommy Edman from the leadoff spot to the No. 9 hole. Edman has batted 1-for-8 in the tournament.
Right fielder Park Kun-woo, one of the few bright spots for South Korea, will bat leadoff instead.
First baseman Park Byung-ho will be the designated hitter, while his backup, Kang Baek-ho, will get the starting assignment at the position after serving as DH in the previous game, a 13-4 loss to Japan Friday night.
Three hitters following Park Kun-woo will stay in the same spots for the third straight game: shortstop Kim Ha-seong, center fielder Lee Jung-hoo and DH Park Byung-ho. Kang will bat fifth, and catcher Yang Eui-ji, who has two home runs in two games, will move up from eighth to sixth. Third baseman Choi Jeong will bat seventh, and left fielder Kim Hyun-soo drops from fifth to eighth, ahead of Edman.
“The tournament is not over yet,” Lee said at his pregame press conference. “We will try to score as many runs as possible and allow as few runs as possible.”
South Korea opened the competition with an 8-7 defeat to Australia on Thursday before getting drubbed by Japan. With the top two teams from Pool B advancing to the quarterfinals, South Korea doesn’t control its own destiny.
It must beat the Czech Republic on Sunday and then China on Monday, and then hope that Australia loses its two remaining games.
In that case, South Korea, Australia and the Czech Republic will finish tied at 2-2. They will go to a tiebreaker using a formula based on runs allowed. Only stats from the games between the tied teams will count, and simply put, giving up as little as possible is the way to go.
The Czechs have been a darling of the tournament in this bracket. They rallied to beat China 8-5 in their WBC debut and even held a 1-0 lead over Japan before losing 10-2 Saturday night.
“They have some players with impressive physical tools, and they have proven they can handle fastballs,” Lee said. “I think they might have some difficulties against breaking balls, but this is a stronger team than we’d thought.”
Lee’s bullpen has been roughed up the past two games, and Lee said Ko Young-pyo is available after throwing 45 pitches against Australia in Thursday’s opener. Under WBC rules, pitchers who toss more than 50 pitches must sit for a minimum four days.
Lee said he has about a half-dozen pitchers ready to take the mound against the Czechs following starter Park Se-woong.
South Korea has been getting little production from the top of the order, and Park, a career .327 hitter with a lifetime .390 on-base percentage in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), will try to change that for the better.
“I don’t think it really matters where I hit,” Park said at his pregame presser. “I am an aggressive hitter. I will just do what I’ve been doing all along, instead of trying to see pitches.”
Source: Yonhap News Agency