- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

SAN DIEGO (AP) - South Korea surprised even itself with a power display that would make the San Diego Padres envious.

The South Koreans hit three home runs off Oliver Perez at spacious Petco Park to beat Mexico 8-2 in the World Baseball Classic on Sunday night. Lee Bum-ho, Kim Tae-kyun and Ko Young-min hit solo homers. Kim finished with three RBIs.

“We are very happy we won the game,” South Korea manager Kim In-sik said. “I was very concerned … We had lucky homers.”

The South Koreans had only four home runs in four games coming in. Mexico, which is loaded with major leaguers, including three members of the Padres, had a WBC-high 12 long balls coming in but failed to clear the faraway fences on Sunday night.

Mexico has given up 11 homers in five games. Perez, who signed a $36 million, three-year contract in February to remain with the New York Mets, has allowed five homers in 6 2-3 innings over two starts.

Since Petco Park opened in 2004, the Padres have often complained about the outfield dimensions.

“I thought the game was going to be difficult,” Kim Tae-kyun said.

Instead, South Korea easily advanced to play defending WBC champion Japan on Tuesday night for a spot in the semifinals next weekend in Los Angeles. The teams split two games during Pool A play in Tokyo, with Japan winning 14-2 in seven innings and South Korea winning 1-0 to finish first in the pool after both teams had already clinched spots in the second round.

Mexico will play Cuba in an elimination game on Monday night.

Japan beat Cuba 6-0 earlier Sunday.

Perez (0-1) allowed three earned runs and six hits in 4 2-3 innings. He struck out three and walked two.

Mexico jumped ahead 2-0 on Augie Ojeda’s two-out, two-run single to left off Ryu Hyun-jin in the second inning.

South Korea tied it in the bottom of the inning. Lee homered to left with one out in the bottom of the second and the South Koreans added an unearned run with two outs when second baseman Edgar Gonzalez’s throw pulled younger brother Adrian off first base. Both play for the Padres.

Kim homered to left-center leading off the fourth and Ko also homered to left-center with two outs in the fifth to make it 4-2.

“I was missing my location and I was behind in the count,” Perez said. “Today’s game was very tough for us. I think that all of us are a little upset. We don’t like to be in this position.”

Kim hit a two-run single in South Korea’s four-run seventh.

Trailing 3-2, Mexico loaded the bases with one out in the fifth on a single, a walk and a throwing error by Lee, the third baseman. But Jong Hyun-wook struck out Scott Hairston of the Padres and got Jorge Vazquez to ground out.

Jong (1-0) allowed one hit in 2 2-3 scoreless innings.

Petco Park was barely half full with an announced crowd of 22,337.

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