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China surprises world

by Jim Allen (Mar 10, 2009)

Having played tough against Japan and stunned Taiwan, China met its match on Sunday in a 14-0, seven-inning mauling at the hands of South Korea.

Needing a win to stay alive, the Koreans exploited poor pitching and poor fielding in a game that was ended by the mercy rule. The rules end any game in which one team leads by 15 runs after five innings or 10 runs after seven.

"We didn't play very well tonight," said China manager Terry Collins. "When you don't pitch, the game can get ugly."

Everyone had been expecting China to lose ugly, but Collins' kids defied expectations.

After a 4-0 loss to Japan in Thursday's opener, Collins was thrilled by his players' attitudes.

"You'd have thought we'd won," he said. "I go in the locker room and they were high-fiving one another and smiling and laughing.

"I said, 'This is great, this is it. It's actually a win for them.' They were excited they didn't get 18-2. If they televised that Thursday game in China and saw the reaction of [manager Tatsunori] Hara's guys playing in front of that crowd, there should be a lot of people who want to play baseball.

"I think that's part of my job, to get these people to want to play more."

Although Collins had mentioned using former Chunichi Dragons farmhand Lu Jiangang against Japan, he held the right-hander back for his second game and the strategy paid off.

"I said, '...I want to play three games here at least. Because if you play three games, you've got a chance to play four.'

"But if you blow your pitching out the first night, use all your good pitching against the Japanese...our chances probably weren't that good anyway.

"So we said, let's save our best pitching for Game 2, and if we can win Game 2, anything can happen in Game 3."

Lu came through against Taiwan in a game that shortstop Ray Chang said was televised live, at least in Beijing and Shanghai.

"I heard it was crazy," said the Kansas City-born infielder, who has played as high as Triple-A.

"I still have family in China and my father gets Chinese TV at home in Kansas City."

A 1-2 record was an impressive feat for a team that hadn't played since last summer and arrived in Florida late, out of shape and understrength.

"We were told 16 pitchers were coming, but 10 showed up," said pitching coach Brent Strom. "It made it easy for us because we didn't have to make any cuts. If you got on the plane, you made the team."


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