Designated-hitter Kim Jae Hyun smacked a pair of doubles and scored three runs Thursday and Kim Kwang Hyun pitched 6 2/3 effective innings as SK Wyverns topped the Chunichi Dragons 6-3 on Day 1 of the Konami Cup Asia Series at Tokyo Dome.
With the victory, the South Korean champions were able to do what no other club has accomplished in the three-year history of the four-team event--namely, beat the Japanese representative.
Earlier, in the tournament's opening game, designated-hitter Chen Lien-hung homered twice and drove in six runs as Taiwanese league champs the Uni-President Lions humbled the China Stars 9-5.
In the nightcap, SK Wyverns broke a 0-0 deadlock in the top of the fourth when Kim Jae Hyun scored from second on a slow roller to second that was barehanded by Masahiro Araki, only to have his throw bobbled by first-baseman Ryota Arai.
The Koreans got two runs in the sixth courtesy of an RBI double off the wall by Kim and a run-scoring single up the middle off the bat of Lee Jin Young.
In the seventh, they added three more. A comebacker by pinch-hitter Lee Jae Won caromed off the legs of reliever Akifumi Takahashi and by the time the ball went from third to first to home, Jeong Keun Woo was able to motor home from second, just beating the tag.
Lee Ho Joon singled in a run and the Wyverns' sixth run of the night crossed the plate on a pitch that got past catcher Motonobu Tanishige.
Nineteen-year-old rookie Kim Kwang Hyun gave up three hits over 6 2/3 innings in getting the win for Wyverns. He left the game with a 6-0 lead, two out and a man on in the seventh before reliever Cho Woong Chun came in and promptly gave up a two-run homer to veteran pinch-hitter Kazuki Inoue.
Araki tripled off Cho in the eighth and then scored on Hirokazu Ibata's sacrifice fly to center to narrow the margin to 6-3, but that was as close as the Japan Series champions would get.
Chunichi starter Kenichi Nakata went six innings, allowing three runs (one earned) on four hits. He walked three and struck out eight.
SK Wyverns out-hit the Dragons 8-6 on the night and Chunichi made a pair of errors.
In the opener, the Stars, also known as China's national team, jumped out to a 4-1 lead after five innings, only to have the wheels fall off in a six-run Lions' seventh.
The big blow was a grand slam to left by Chen off China reliever Xu Zheng. Yang Sen followed up with a solo shot to right to make it 7-4, and that was all for Xu. His line on the night: a third of an inning pitched, six runs on four hits (including two homers) allowed, a pair of walks and no strikeouts--ouch!
Chen, whose brother Chen Chin-feng had a stint in the Los Angeles Dodgers system, later connected on a two-run shot in the top of the ninth.
"We were behind but fortunately we broke through on that grand slam by Chen in the seventh and that gave us a lot of momentum," said a relieved Lions manager Lu Wen-sheng. "We'd never lost to China's national team before and we didn't want to start today."
American right-hander Nelson Figueroa Jr. picked up the win, despite giving up four runs on a dozen hits through seven innings.
Xu, one of six Stars pitchers used by manager Jim Lefebvre on the day, took the loss.
"Obviously we're very disappointed," said Lefebvre, a former player, manager and coach in the major leagues who also played and coached in Japan with the Lotte Orions. "We had a lead going into the seventh and one bad inning cost us the game. We made some bad pitches today. We tried to go down and away and get a ground ball and it ended up being a grand slam. A few bad pitches really hurt us today--we just didn't locate our pitches well."
Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Bruce Hurst is the pitching coach and Barry Larkin, a former All-Star shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds, is helping coach the team as China prepares to host the 2008 Summer Olympics.
The Konami Cup features the league champions from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, as well as China's national team.
(IHT/Asahi: November 9,2007)