Lion King! Samsung wins 4th straight KBO title

November 11, 2014
The Samsung Lions' players cheer after winning the 2014 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) Series at Jamsil Stadium in southern Seoul, Tuesday. The Lions routed the Nexen Heroes 11-1 in game 6 of the series to become the champions for the fourth straight year. (Yonhap)

The Samsung Lions’ players cheer after winning the 2014 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) Series at Jamsil Stadium in southern Seoul, Tuesday. The Lions routed the Nexen Heroes 11-1 in game 6 of the series to become the champions for the fourth straight year. (Yonhap)

By Nam Hyun-woo

November has been all about the Samsung Lions.

The Lions thrashed the Nexen Heroes 11-1 in game 6 at Jamsil Stadium Tuesday, wrapping up the best-of-seven  Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) series 4-2.

With the victory, the Lions hoisted the trophy for the fourth straight season, the second such feat in the 32-year-long history of the KBO.

Dominican table setter Yamaico Navarro raised his side, recording five RBIs with three timely hits in five at-bats. On the mound, starter Yun Sung-hwan overwhelmed Heroes batters during his impressive six innings.

With the crowd on its feet in the top of the ninth inning, Lions veteran closer Lim Chang-yong retired Park Byung-ho on a fly ball and the stadium was filled with crowds shouting with the joy of glory.

As Lim celebrated the victory with the team’s trademark finger-pointing ceremony to the sky, other Lions’ men followed him to enjoy their four-peat.

For the Heroes, who sought to clinch the first-ever title, their painful 2-1 defeat a day earlier came as the biggest regret.

The watershed of the game came earlier than expected.

From the top of the first inning, the two sides’ starters retired each others’ batters. While Lions starter Yun Sung-hwan tossed 12 pitches, Heroes starter Oh Jae-young had to throw 23.

And that caused a problem for him and he was replaced in the third inning.

With only one out in the top third of the inning, the Lions fully loaded the bases, after Oh walked Park Han-yi, allowed a single to Lee Ji-young and a fielding error to Kim Sang-soo.

Batter Chae Tae-in singled to the right fielder on Oh’s first pitch, bringing in Lee Ji-young and Kim Sang-soo and forcing the pitcher to be replaced by Moon Sung-hyun.

After Choi Hyung-woo doubled to allow the remaining two runners to score, the title began to inch closer to the Lions. During a relay, Choi advanced to third base.

The duo, who led their side to late-time win a day earlier, shone again to give Yun breathing room from early on.

While the Heroes suffered in the third inning, Yun held his number of pitches to 38 and retired all the Heroes batters with his sharp control of the ball.

For the Heroes shortstop Kang Jung-ho, who is seeking a move to Major League Baseball, the series could have been a nightmare. Following a fielding error a day earlier, which was critical to his side’s dramatic loss in Game 5, he again bobbled what seemed to be an easy ball in the top of the fourth inning, allowing Lee Ji-young onto first base. Thanks to Navarro’s fly ball, Kang staved off the worst situation, but errors continued to haunt his side throughout the game.

While the Heroes used three pitchers during the first six innings, Yun was solid, striking out four and allowing only three hits. Though his fast ball hovered around just 140 kilometers, he tossed a sharply controlled 89 pitches to hold the explosive Heroes batters to one run until Sim Chang-min stepped up.

The Heroes had to wrap up their Korean Series outing with a single run they earned in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Seo Geon-chang led off with a single to right field and veteran Lee Taek-keun doubled between the second baseman and shortstop to allow Seo, who made an early start, to trot home from second.

This could have been a huge chance for the Heroes, but first baseman Chae Tae-in hustled to catch Yoo Han-joon’s line drive. The following batters were the Heroes’ explosive clean-up duo, Kang Jung-ho and Park Byung-ho, who scored a combined 92 homers during the regular season. However, Yun successfully overcame the crisis, striking out KBO home run leader Park and retiring Kang with a fly ball.

The Lions then exploited a number of chances to extend their lead.

In the sixth inning, Cho Sang-woo hit Lee Ji-young and allowed Kim Sang-soo through a fielding error by the first baseman to load the bases.

Navarro then launched a 125-meter homer to extend the lead to 7-1.

The Lions were also explosive in the seventh inning.

After reliever Kim Dae-woo walked two straight batters, pinch-hitter Woo Dong-gyun launched a two-run single over the Heroes infielders who were advancing inward.

Woo then sprinted toward home on Navarro’s single to solidify his side’s dominance.

In the top of the ninth inning, Navarro again singled to bring in Jin Kab-yong to solidify the victory.