The NC Dinos rode hot bats from the bottom of their lineup to eliminate the Doosan Bears from the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) postseason Thursday night, but winning manager Kang In-kwon praised team effort in their 14-9 victory in the wild card game.
No. 7 hitter Seo Ho-cheol blasted a grand slam, and No. 8 hitter and light-hitting catcher Kim Hyung-jun launched two homers at Changwon NC Park in the southeastern town of Changwon. Kang said the win wasn’t only thanks to those two offensive heroes.
“I had some concerns about how we were going to play this game, but the players all did their job really well,” Kang said. “Things didn’t look great after we gave up some early runs, but the guys were really determined to get this win. I think their focus made the difference in this game.”
The Dinos were down 3-0 after three innings, but Seo’s grand slam in the fourth turned the tide. The Bears fought back to tie the game at 5-5 in the top fifth, but the Dinos responded with a run in the bottom half of the same inning. They then tacked on two runs in the seventh and six more in the eighth.
“Seo Ho-cheol swung the momentum in our favor with some big hits,” Kang said. “Kim Hyung-jun played so much better than we’d expected. He obviously swung the bat well and called a great game from behind the plate.”
One lingering source of concern for Kang is the performance of closer Lee Yong-chan. He stumbled into the postseason after allowing eight runs in six innings in October and was charged with three runs on three hits in 1 1/3 innings Thursday night.
Setup man Ryu Jin-wook fared much better, pumping fastballs and mixing in forkballs to induce soft contact.
Asked if he might consider switching the pitchers’ roles and turning Ryu into the closer, Kang said he will have to think long and hard about any possible change.
“Lee Yong-chan has been our closer the entire year, and I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do to remove him from that role,” Kang said. “I think it’s important to show him our faith. He has good stuff, but opposing hitters may be sitting on his fastballs. He needs to expand his repertoire a little more.”
With one rookie manager moving on to the next round, the other first-year skipper, Lee Seung-yuop of the Bears, has been sent packing after one postseason game.
“We made it this far because of the players. My primary goal was to make the postseason, and it’s really disappointing to have it end after just one game,” Lee said. “We fought back after giving up the grand slam, but we didn’t have enough in the end.”
Lee, widely considered the greatest slugger in KBO history with an all-time leading total of 467 home runs, said he enjoyed the ride through his first season, the crushing loss Thursday night notwithstanding.
“I’ve had such a great time with these players,” Lee said. “This job was really hard, but I had fun with the guys. I’ve now gained confidence that I can take this team even higher next year.”
Source: Yonhap News Agency