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(2nd LD) Lotte Giants, Lamigo Monkeys victorious on first day of Asia Series Baseball

All Headlines 21:34 November 08, 2012

(ATTN: CORRECTS right fielder in para 10; ADDS comments)
By Yoo Jee-ho

BUSAN, Nov. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Lotte Giants defeated the Perth Heat of Australia 6-1 in their first match of the Asia Series baseball tournament here Friday.

At Sajik Stadium in this southeastern metropolitan city, starter Song Seung-jun threw seven effective innings for the Giants, who also got some timely hits to win their opening Group B contest.

Earlier Thursday, the Lamigo Monkeys of Taiwan blew out the China Stars 14-1 in their Group A meeting. That match ended in seven innings under the "mercy rule." A game is called after seven innings if one team is ahead by at least 10 runs.

South Korea is hosting the Asia Series for the first time. It has brought together six clubs from professional leagues in South Korea, Australia, Japan, Taiwan and China, with 500 million won (US$460,500) in prize money for the winner up for grabs.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) is represented by the 2012 champions Samsung Lions and the Busan-based Giants. The Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) has the current champions Yomiuri Giants in action. The Heat are the reigning Australian Baseball League (ABL) champions.

The Monkeys are the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) champs, and the Stars are an All-Star team from the China Baseball League (CBL).

Holding on to a 3-1 lead against the Heat, the Giants opened up the game with a three-run sixth. Moon Gyun-hyun hit an RBI double and Jeon Jun-woo and Hwang Sung-yong followed with run-scoring singles to chase starter Virgil Vasquez from the game.

The Giants, playing as a visiting team, scored in the top of the first thanks to Hong Sung-heon's double. Cho Sung-hwan made it 3-0 for Lotte with a two-run single in the fourth.

The Heat got one back in the bottom fifth, though they could have gotten even closer. They loaded the bases with two singles and a walk, and Steven Bumbry lined a single to right to drive in a run.

Carter Bell trotted home from third, but Lotte's right fielder Hwang Sung-yong threw out Josh McGee coming home from second to end the inning.

The right-hander Song retired the first 13 batters he faced and gave up only three singles and struck out eight in seven innings for the win.

Vasquez, who has played for the Detroit Tigers and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the majors, pitched 5 2/3 and gave up 10 hits and six runs, four of them unearned, in the loss.

Kwon Doo-jo, interim manager for the Giants, said Song's performance made things easy for his team.

"Song didn't pitch particualarly well in the bullpen (before the game), but he really bore down on the mound," Kwon said. "Perth hitters were aggressive and they were fooled on Song's breaking pitches."

Steve Fish, manager for the Heat, lamented his team's mistakes but still gave credit where credit is due.

"We just didn't make plays tonight and our defense let us down (with three errors)," Fish said. "Song had command of all of his pitches tonight and he made quality pitches early. Our top four guys (in the lineup) didn't reach base."

The Heat's South Korean relief pitcher, Koo Dae-sung, didn't enter the game, with the Australian club unable to take a lead at any point in the game. Koo, under contract with another Australian team, Sydney Blue Sox, traveled with the Heat for the Asia Series under a special arrangement. Koo retired from the KBO in 2010 and resumed his playing career Down Under later the same year.

Fish said Koo will enter the Heat's next game, against Yomiuri on Friday, regardless of the situation. That would be Koo's first appearance on home soil in two years.

In the opening contest, the Monkeys hit 15 hits, including three home runs, in their rout of the Stars. Cleanup Lin Chih-sheng went 2-for-2 with two RBIs, four runs scored and three walks. Chen Chin-feng drove in five runs on three hits.

With plenty of run support, Lamigo's starter Tseng Chao-hao held the Stars to six hits and a run over seven innings.

The six teams have been paired into two groups for the round-robin stage. The Lions, the Stars and the Monkeys are in Group A. The Lotte Giants, the Yomiuri Giants and the Heat are in Group B.

They will play intra-group games from Thursday to Saturday, and the top teams from the groups will meet in the final at 2 p.m. Sunday.

The Heat will take on Yomiuri at 2 p.m. Friday. The Lions will face the Monkeys at 6 p.m. Friday to begin their Asia Series title defense.

The Asia Series began in 2005, pitting champions from South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, and either an All-Star team or the league champion from China against each other. Konami, a Japanese game company, sponsored the tournament from 2005 to 2008, but pulled out after 2008, citing declining interest in the event.

In 2009, the KBO and the NPB held a single club championship match in Japan and the KBO, NPB and CPBL champions met in Taiwan the following year. These events were not called the Asia Series.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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