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We Should Be Talking About Korea

Somewhere, obscured by the madness inducing run of the Netherlands and the U.S.'s inspiring ninth-inning rally to stave off elimination, an Asian baseball team was taking the World Baseball Classic by storm. Sure, it's just the incredibly efficient Japanese again, right?

Nope, not this time. Instead, South Korea is suddenly a beast. They've beaten their Asian rivals, the Japanese, twice already at this World Baseball Classic (they did lose the first meeting against the Japanese, when Daisuke Matsuzaka was on the mound). Perhaps more significantly, they beat the nearly untouchable Yu Darvish in the process, cracking the seemingly impenetrable armor of the 22-year-old's major league ready arsenal.

How good was Korea in the wee hours of Wednesday morning? They scored three runs off Darvish in the first inning, and then they played spotless defense against a Japanese lineup that has three major leaguers -- Kosuke Fukudome, Kenji Jojima and Akinori Iwamura -- in the 7-8-9 slots.

That, folks, is impressive. So are the 10 2/3 innings pitched against Japan by Wednesday morning's winner, Jung Keun Bong, who has given up only one run to the Japanese. So is Tae Kyun Kim, hitting .421 in the WBC with a whopping 9 RBI and 6 runs.

The Koreans hit for average with a flair for power in the middle of the lineup. They pitch without the flash of the Japanese but with more efficiency. And most importantly, they just keep winning.

Maybe that will stop. The Koreans face another game to determine seeding for the semifinals, and then two more games if they're to win the title. That may be a big ask for a team with only one major leaguer -- Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo -- on its entire roster.

Then again, maybe it isn't asking too much at all. After all, a roster nearly identical to this one took the gold medal in Beijing. There's no reason to believe they can't do it again. Dave could probably attest to that better than most.

By Cameron Smith  |  March 19, 2009; 12:22 PM ET
 
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