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Korea, Venezuela battle for a spot in WBC championship

Sat 21st, March 2009

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - Korea hopes to follow up its Olympic Gold Medal with a berth in the World Baseball Classic final, as it plays a semifinal matchup with Venezuela at Dodger Stadium.

Korea has been as good as anyone in this tournament, going 5-2 with both of its losses coming to defending champion Japan, including a 6-2 setback in the Pool 1 finale on Thursday. Korea had swept its way through pool play at the inaugural Classic, but fell to Cuba in the semis.

Righty Suk Min Yoon, who has yet to allow a run in 9 2/3 innings of this tournament, will get the call for manager In Sik Kim's club on Saturday, as he tries to slow down the potent Venezuelan offense.

Yoon finished fifth in the MVP voting last season in the Korean Baseball Organization after going 14-5 with a 2.33 ERA for the Kia Tigers.

Korea, which finished 7-0 at the Beijing Olympics and is 11-3 in the two Classics, is hitting just .251 as a team and is fourth in the tournament in runs scored, with 40. Third baseman Bum Ho Lee has carried the load, batting .375 with three home runs and six RBI.

Venezuela, meanwhile, swept its way through Pool 2 play and has lost only one game this tournament. Since its lone loss to the United States, Venezuela has reeled off five straight wins, while outscoring its opponents 30-11.

The Venezuelan offense, powered by major leaguers Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, and Bobby Abreu, is batting .309 overall as a team, with 43 runs scored and 11 home runs in seven games.

Carlos Silva is expected to toe the rubber for Luis Sojo's club on Saturday. Silva, who was chosen over Felix Hernandez, has been surprisingly effective in posting a 1-0 mark with a 0.83 ERA.

Silva was 4-14 with 6.46 ERA last season for the Seattle Mariners

Hernandez, a teammate of Silva's in Seattle, is 2-0 and has yet to give up a run in 8 2/3 innings of this tournament. He will go in the final should Venezuela get past Korea.

Korea last played Venezuela in the 2007 World Cup and won, 9-2, but Venezuela's roster was made up of amateurs.

Japan and the United States will meet in the other semifinal on Sunday. The championship game is slated for Monday at Chavez Ravine.

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