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Doosan on verge of dethroning Samsung dynasty in KBO championship

October 30, 2015
Min Byung-hun of the Doosan Bears celebrates his go-ahead double in the fifth inning of Game 4 of the Korean Series against the Samsung Lions in Seoul on Oct. 30, 2015. (Yonhap)

Min Byung-hun of the Doosan Bears celebrates his go-ahead double in the fifth inning of Game 4 of the Korean Series against the Samsung Lions in Seoul on Oct. 30, 2015. (Yonhap)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — The Doosan Bears squeezed past the Samsung Lions 4-3 at home on Friday to reach the verge of their first South Korean professional baseball championship in 14 years.

Right-hander Non Kyung-eun pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings for the victory out of the bullpen at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul, and the offense eked out just enough runs for the Bears to claim a commanding 3-1 series lead in the best-of-seven Korean Series.

For the second straight night, the Lions couldn’t score with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, and their quest for an unprecedented fifth straight championship is in jeopardy.

Game 5 will be back at Jamsil at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Bears can clinch their first Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) title since 2001. The 2013 Lions remain the only KBO club to overcome a 3-1 Korean Series deficit to win the championship. They did so against the Bears.

The Lions, which had managed just two runs in the last two games, looked to be in for another long night, when they failed to score after putting the first two men on in the top first.

After a single and a walk, No. 3 Yamaico Navarro grounded into a 5-3 double play. Cleanup Choi Hyoung-woo, batting only 2-for-13 in the first three games of the series, grounded out to third for the inning’s final out.

The Bears also put their first two men on base in the bottom first, and both runners came home on an error. Back-to-back singles followed by a sacrifice bunt had men at second and third for cleanup Kim Hyun-soo, who hit a screamer down the first base line.

Koo Ja-wook made a spectacular diving grab and touched the bag for the first out, but made a wild throw home that allowed both runners to score for a 2-0 Bears lead.

Koo atoned for his miscue at the plate by delivering a go-ahead hit in the top of the second. A wild pitch by Doosan starter Lee Hyun-ho gave the Lions their first run. Then with men at second and third later in the inning, Koo lined a two-run single to right center to put the Lions ahead 3-2.

Lee made one more pitch to the next batter before leaving the game for right-hander Noh Kyung-eun. In his first Korean Series start, Lee was charged with three earned runs in 1 2/3 innings on four hits and two walks.

Koo was caught stealing second to end the second inning, and opened the door for the Bears to tie the score in the bottom fourth on Yang Eui-ji’s double play ball with men at the corners.

The Bears then went back up by one in the bottom fifth. After two outs, Jung Soo-bin and Hur Kyoung-min hit two straight singles to chase Samsung starter Alfredo Figaro from the game. Then facing reliever Cha Woo-chan, Min Byung-hun hit a hard liner that went off the glove of third baseman Park Sok-min and skipped into shallow left field, as Jung came home to make it 4-3 Doosan.

After being held without a hit for the first three innings against Noh, the Lions finally put him in a spot in the sixth. Bae Young-seop led off with a lucky single, a chopper that bounced along the third base line and touched the bag to stay fair. Navarro then walked to put a man in scoring position for the first time against Noh.

The Lions’ heart of the order, however, made life easy for the Doosan reliever. Slumping cleanup Choi Hyoung-woo popped out to second and Park Sok-min grounded into a rally-killing 6-4-3 double play.

In the seventh, the Lions again put a runner in scoring position on with nobody out and came away empty-handed. Lee Seung-yuop led off with a single and pinch runner Park Hae-min promptly stole second.

Noh calmly retired the next three batters in order, striking out Kim Sang-soo to punctuate another scoreless inning.

Bae Young-seop drew a one-out walk from Noh in the eighth. Then Navarro drilled a 1-0 pitch deep to left field, just wide of the foul pole.

The Bears immediately called their closer Lee Hyun-seung to the mound. Lee retired Navarro on a fly ball to right and got out of the inning when Choi Hyoung-woo grounded out to second.

Lee retired the first batter he faced in the ninth but then gave up three straight hits to load the bases.

Kim Sang-su hit a chopper to third, and Hur Kyoung-min threw home to get the force at the plate. And for the second straight night, Koo Ja-wook came to the plate with two outs and the bases full.

And for the second straight night, Koo grounded out to end the game for the Lions.

Noh earned his second career Korean Series win, giving up just two hits and two walks while punching out five. Lee Hyun-seung survived another ninth inning adventure to pick up the save.

Both starters struggled with Lee Hyun-ho unable to get out of the second inning for Doosan and Samsung’s Alfredo Figaro leaving after 4 2/3 innings, with seven hits, one walk and four runs — one unearned — to his line.

For the Lions, Choi Hyoung-woo and Park Sok-min were 1-for-8, but 0-for-4 with men in scoring position.

The top of the Bears’ order stayed hot. Jung Soo-bin, Hur Kyoung-min and Min Byung-hun were a combined 7-for-11 with an RBI and four runs scored.

With two hits, Hur set a league record for most hits in a single postseason with 23. He is batting .460 (23-for-50) this fall.

The Lions will send left-hander Jang Won-sam on three days’ rest Saturday to keep their season alive. Jang was the losing pitcher in Game 2 on Tuesday after giving up four earned runs on seven hits in six innings.

The Bears will counter with left-hander Yoo Hee-kwan, who got a no-decision in Game 1 after allowing five runs on eight hits in six innings. He will be pitching on four days’ rest.

The Bears’ manager Kim Tae-hyung said Dustin Nippert, their No. 1 starter working on 24 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings this postseason, could be available to pitch out of the bullpen if needed in Game 5.

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