Nexen Heroes squeeze past Hanwha Eagles in baseball postseason

October 19, 2018

DAEJEON, Oct. 19 (Yonhap) — The Nexen Heroes edged out the Hanwha Eagles 3-2 to open the first round postseason series in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) on Friday.

Cleanup Park Byung-ho launched a two-run home run in the fourth inning, and the Heroes’ much-maligned bullpen survived some nervy late moments to steal a game on the road at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul.

Game 2 is back at the same park at 2 p.m. Saturday.

In the past 11 first-round series in a best-of-five format, teams that won Game 1 advanced to the next round seven times.

The Eagles wasted a pair of bases-loaded chances and committed some costly base running gaffes.

They out-hit the Heroes 12-9 in the loss.

Nexen starter Eric Hacker got the win after holding the Eagles to a run on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out seven and walked two.

Hacker’s counterpart, David Hale, took the loss for the Eagles, his only blemish being the homer by Park. He also fanned seven in six innings of work.

Park Byung-ho of the Nexen Heroes blasts a two-run home run against the Hanwha Eagles in the top of the fourth inning during Game 1 of the Korea Baseball Organization postseason's first round series at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, on Oct. 19, 2018. (Yonhap)

Park Byung-ho of the Nexen Heroes blasts a two-run home run against the Hanwha Eagles in the top of the fourth inning during Game 1 of the Korea Baseball Organization postseason’s first round series at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, on Oct. 19, 2018. (Yonhap)

The Eagles failed to score after putting the first two men on against Hacker in the bottom third.

Nos. 8 and 9 hitters, Choi Jae-hoon and Jung Eun-won, reached with a single and a walk. But Jeong Keun-woo struck out swinging on a changeup and Lee Yong-kyu flied out to left. Then Jared Hoying, one of the Eagles’ most dangerous hitters, struck out looking at a 0-2 fastball on the outside corner.

And this would be the recurring theme for the Eagle’s offense the rest of the game.

The Heroes made the Eagles pay in the top of the fourth, with Park’s two-run jack off Hale.

Jerry Sands led off the inning with a ringing double to left-center. Park then stepped up and turned on an inside two-seam fastball, sending it over the left field for a 2-0 lead.

The Eagles had men at the corners after consecutive two-out singles in the bottom fourth, and pinch-runner at first, Kim Min-ha, stole second.

But Choi Jae-hoon went down swinging on a 2-2 slider, as Hacker wiggled his way out of another jam.

The Eagles stranded the bases loaded in the fifth. An error, a single and a walk put three men aboard with one out, but the heart of the order failed to deliver.

Cleanup Lee Sung-yul hit a weak comebacker to Hacker, who tossed it back to home plate to keep the Eagles off the board.

Then Kim Tae-kyun, a veteran slugger coming off one of his least productive regular seasons, stepped in as the pinch hitter but struck out on three pitches to end the inning.

 

 

Kim Sang-su (R) and Kim Jae-hyun of the Nexen Heroes celebrate their 3-2 victory over the Hanwha Eagles in Game 1 of the Korea Baseball Organization postseason's first round series at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, on Oct. 19, 2018. (Yonhap)

Kim Sang-su (R) and Kim Jae-hyun of the Nexen Heroes celebrate their 3-2 victory over the Hanwha Eagles in Game 1 of the Korea Baseball Organization postseason’s first round series at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, on Oct. 19, 2018. (Yonhap)

Hacker, who rolled his left ankle on landing after making a pitch in the fifth inning, stayed on the mound to start the sixth, and the Eagles finally solved him.

Ha Ju-suk reached on an error to cue the rally, and then stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Choi Jae-hoon drove him home with a double to center field to cut the deficit to 2-1, chasing Hacker from the game as well.

Choi moved to third on a passed ball, but the new pitcher, Lee Bo-geun, retired the next two batters to prevent further damage.

The Heroes gave themselves more breathing room in the top seventh, with Song Sung-mun delivering a pinch-hit, RBI single for a 3-1 lead.

The Eagles got to within one again in the bottom seventh, when Lee Sung-yul smacked a double to right to bring home Hoying, who’d opened the inning with a triple.

But a couple of baser running blunders ultimately proved fatal for the Eagles.

When Yang Sung-woo hit s a grounder right at shortstop Kim Ha-seong, Lee, not exactly fleet of foot, took off for third. He was thrown out easily.

With Ha Ju-suk at the plate, Yang swiped second to put himself in the scoring position. Ha then hit a chopper to third baseman Kim Min-sung, whose wide throw pulled first baseman Park Byung-ho off the bag.

Park managed to hold on to the ball, but Yang still sprinted toward home and got caught in a rundown. He was tagged out before touching the plate.

Yang Sung-woo of the Hanwha Eagles (L) is tagged out by Kim Ha-seong of the Nexen Heroes near the home plate in the bottom of the seventh inning during Game 1 of the Korea Baseball Organization postseason's first round series at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, on Oct. 19, 2018. (Yonhap)

Yang Sung-woo of the Hanwha Eagles (L) is tagged out by Kim Ha-seong of the Nexen Heroes near the home plate in the bottom of the seventh inning during Game 1 of the Korea Baseball Organization postseason’s first round series at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, on Oct. 19, 2018. (Yonhap)

The Eagles then wasted their second bases-loaded opportunity of the game in the eighth inning.

After a leadoff single and a one-out walk, Jeong Keun-woo grounded one deep into the hole between second and third for what looked to be a game-tying single. But shortstop Kim made a fine diving grab to keep the ball in the infield, though a wide throw to second prevented him from getting the lead runner out.

With the bases juiced, Lee Yong-kyu swung on the first pitch from Kim Sang-su and popped out to third base. Hoying then grounded out weakly to first base.

The Eagles had a base running in each of the first eight innings. The bottom ninth was the only cleaning inning for the Heroes, as reliever Kim Sang-su slammed the door shut with two strikeouts.

This was the first postseason game by the Eagles since 2007, but the sellout crowd of 12,400 went home disappointed and will have to wait another day for a long-awaited playoff win.

The Eagles will send right-hander Keyvius Sampson to start Game 2. He was 13-8 with a 4.68 ERA in the regular season, but struggled against the Heroes, to the tune of a 0-2 record and an 11.12 ERA.

The Heroes will counter with sidearmer Han Hyun-hee. He went 11-7 and had a 4.79 ERA in his first season as a full-time starter. He didn’t have a win-loss record in two starts versus the Eagles but posted a 2.63 ERA in 13 2/3 innings.

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