North Americans shine for S. Korean club in baseball championship series

November 7, 2018

INCHEON, Nov. 7 (Yonhap) — There was a distinct North American flavor for the winning club in a South Korean baseball championship game on Wednesday.

The SK Wyverns got past the Doosan Bears 7-2 at home, SK Happy Dream Park in the west coast city of Incheon, in Game 3 of the Korean Series, behind a strong start by American right-hander Merrill Kelly and a two-homer day by Canadian slugger Jamie Romak.

Kelly tossed seven strong innings, allowing only two unearned runs on four hits, all of them singles. He struck out five and walked two.

Romak launched two long balls, a three-run shot in the first and a solo blast in the seventh, to drive in four of the team’s five runs.

Jamie Romak of the SK Wyverns hits a solo home run against the Doosan Bears in the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 3 of the Korean Series at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on Nov. 7, 2018. (Yonhap)

Jamie Romak of the SK Wyverns hits a solo home run against the Doosan Bears in the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 3 of the Korean Series at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on Nov. 7, 2018. (Yonhap)

The Wyverns now lead the best-of-seven series 2-1.

Romak, batting cleanup, set the tone of the game in his first at-bat in the bottom of the first. With two aboard with one out following a single and a walk, Romak launched a towering shot to deep left-center field off Doosan starter Lee Yong-chan for his first Korean Series home run.

The ball went so far into the seats that center fielder Jung Soo-bin and left fielder Jung Jin-ho barely moved from their spots.

Romak went deep again leading off the eighth inning, pouncing on a first-pitch fastball from reliever Kim Seung-hye to give the Wyverns a 5-2 lead. He became the 12th player with a multi-homer game in the Korean Series.

Romak also had a strong defensive game at first base. In the top first, he stretched out to dig out a low throw by shortstop Kim Sung-hyun. In the third, Kim bounced a throw to Romak after fielding a ball deep in the hole to his left, and the first baseman once again made the catch to complete the out.

Romak, who has hit three of his four home runs at home, said he was able to feed off the support of SK fans once again.

“I feel comfrotable playing in front of our home fans. This is one of the coolest stadiums I’ve ever played in,” he said. “The atmosphere here in the playoffs is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. So I am just trying to enjoy it. I guess I am just fortunate I hit a couple of home runs tonight.”

On the mound, Kelly no-hit the Bears through 4 1/3 innings and survived a couple of errors by his infielders.

The first miscue, by the usually reliable shortstop Kim Sung-hyun in the fifth with the Wyverns up 4-0, cost Kelly two runs. Following the mishap, the Bears got RBI singles from Kim Jae-ho and Oh Jae-won to cut the deficit to 4-2.

An error by second baseman Kang Seung-ho, coupled with a single and a walk, loaded the bases for the Bears with one out in the sixth. But Kelly took care of business and escaped the jam unscathed.

Kelly got a soft comebacker off the bat of Oh Jae-il, who went 5-for-11 against the right-hander during the regular season, and threw home to get the force.

Merrill Kelly of the SK Wyverns lets out a scream after getting out of a bases-loaded jam against the Doosan Bears in the top of the sixth inning of Game 3 of the Korean Series at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on Nov. 7, 2018. (Yonhap)

Merrill Kelly of the SK Wyverns lets out a scream after getting out of a bases-loaded jam against the Doosan Bears in the top of the sixth inning of Game 3 of the Korean Series at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on Nov. 7, 2018. (Yonhap)

Kelly then retired Kim Jae-ho on a shallow fly to left and kept the Wyverns ahead 4-2.

Kelly threw 65 out of his 104 pitches for strikes. He relied on his four-seam fastball and curve to get his five strikeouts. For the game, Kelly showed the Bears six different pitches.

This was Kelly’s first postseason victory in his fifth try. In his previous outing, a relief appearance against the Nexen Heroes in Game 5 of the previous series, Kelly gave up five runs — two unearned — in 2 2/3 innings.

Kelly said he put that performance out of his mind and focused on trying to win Wednesday.

“I just wanted to come out and be aggressive and tried to win the first game at home and set us up for the rest of the series,” Kelly said. “Whatever I had done in that game (against Nexen), I stopped thinking about it. It was in the past.”

Kelly’s postseason debut came in the wild card game in 2015, when he pitched six innings in relief in an SK loss.

“It’s kind of sad it took me four seasons to get the first win,” Kelly said. “But I am definitely excited. If I had other wins in wild card or in other series, I don’t think that would have been as meaningful as this was tonight for us.”

Kelly outpitched his counterpart, right-hander Lee Yong-chan, who allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out seven.

Lee walked the first batter of the game and Romak touched him for a three-run bomb. Lee allowed three singles in the second inning, the last being an RBI infield hit by Han Dong-min.

Lee settled down after the second inning and held the opponents to only two singles over his final 4 2/3 innings.

Lee managed to pitch into the seventh inning despite running up his pitch count early. Lee ended up making 106 pitches, 64 for strikes.

Lee threw 36 fastballs but his secondary pitches were also effective. He got three of his seven strikeouts with forkball.

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