The NC Dinos defeated the Doosan Bears 14-9 in the wild card game of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) postseason Thursday, with unlikely offensive stars delivering memorable performances at home.
No. 7 hitter Seo Ho-cheol smoked a grand slam as part of his six RBIs at Changwon NC Park in the southeastern town of Changwon, sending the Dinos into the next round in their first postseason appearance in three years. Seo batted 3-for-4 and fell a triple shy of a cycle.
Kim Hyung-jun, out of the No. 8 spot, belted two home runs and drove in four runs — after recording just 13 RBIs in 26 regular season games this year.
Seo’s grand slam, which highlighted a five-run fourth inning that erased a 3-0 deficit, was the first in wild card history, dating back to 2015. Seo’s six RBIs were also a record in a wild card game.
As the No. 4 seed, the Dinos only needed a tie to move on to the next phase, while the fifth-seeded Bears had to win two straight games to advance.
The Bears had the early control with a run in each of the first three innings but failed to make the lead stand.
No fifth seed has ever made it out of the wild card round.
Up next for the Dinos will be the defending champions SSG Landers, the third-best regular season team. Their best-of-five series begins Sunday at Incheon SSG Landers Field in the western city of Incheon.
The Bears got to Dinos starter Tanner Tully early and often.
After a single and a double with one out in the first inning, Yang Eui-ji brought in the game’s first run with a fielder’s choice groundout.
In the top of the second, Kim In-tae’s double to right field cashed in Kang Seung-ho, who’d opened the inning with a single.
Jose Rojas’ solo home run gave the Bears a 3-0 lead in the third. Rojas fouled the seventh pitch of that at-bat off his right foot and writhed in obvious pain. But after taking a few moments to gather himself, Rojas jumped all over the very next pitch, a middle-middle slider, for his first career postseason home run in the KBO.
Bears starter Gwak Been cruised along and retired 10 straight batters in one stretch.
But just as Gwak appeared well on his way to his first career postseason victory, things unraveled quickly in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Gwak walked a batter with one out, and got the second out before giving up a single and a walk to load the bases.
Seo Ho-cheol then stepped in and turned the game upside down with a grand slam, putting the Dinos up 4-3.
Kim Hyung-jun followed up with a solo homer off the shell-shocked Gwak, the first back-to-back home runs in wild card history.
The Bears, though, tied things up in the top of the fifth, with Yang’s single and Kang’s groundout.
The Bears then loaded the bases by drawing two straight walks against reliever Kim Young-kyu, who escaped the jam by striking out pinch hitter Park Jun-young.
After that wasted opportunity, Kang went from hero to zero for the Bears in the bottom fifth, when the second baseman’s defensive miscue allowed the Dinos to reclaim their lead.
Facing new pitcher Lee Young-ha, Jason Martin hit what appeared to be a routine fly to shallow right field. Bears right fielder Kim Tae-keun got under it, but Kang sprinted all the way out to the outfield grass for some reason and tried to make the grab himself. Kang, who did not hear Kim calling for the ball, ended up running into the right fielder. Martin took second base on the error.
Martin advanced to third on a flyout and then scored the go-ahead run on Lee’s wild pitch.
The Dinos extended their lead in the bottom seventh, as Seo once again came up big with the bases loaded.
With two runners on, Kim Ju-won hit a hard single to right field, and the lead runner, Park Kun-woo, pulled up after the making the turn at third base, though he could have scored after right fielder Kim Tae-keun bobbled the ball momentarily.
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Dinos, as Seo smoked a double to left field to plate two insurance runs for an 8-5 lead.
The Bears got a run back in the top eighth on Kim Jae-hwan’s double, with center fielder Martin’s misplay allowing Kim Jae-ho to come home from first base.
But then the Dinos landed a devastating knockout punch in the bottom eighth, scoring six times to put the finishing touch on the convincing win.
Martin atoned for his error with an RBI groundout for a 9-6 lead. Two batters later, Kim Ju-won’s bloop single off the glove of shortstop Kim Jae-ho brought home two more runners for an 11-6 advantage.
After Seo singled for his third hit of the game, Kim Hyung-jun smacked a three-run shot to open up a 14-6 lead.
The Bears tried to make things more interesting with three runs in the top ninth, but it wasn’t nearly enough against the Dinos’ onslaught.
The Bears threw seven relievers at their opponents after Gwak was pulled, but they served up nine runs on eight hits and four walks.
Source: Yonhap News Agency