(ATTN: ADDS photo, Game 2 starters at bottom)
DAEGU, Nov. 4 (Yonhap) -- The Nexen Heroes defeated the Samsung Lions 4-2 on the road to take an early upper hand in the Korean Series on Tuesday.
Shortstop Kang Jung-ho blasted a tie-breaking two-run homer in the eighth inning and drove in three of the team's four runs at Daegu Stadium, as the Heroes claimed the ever-important first game of the best-of-seven final series in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).
The winner of the opening game has claimed 24 of the 31 previous Korean Series.
The teams will be back at Daegu Stadium, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, for Game 2 on Wednesday. The Lions are aiming to win their fourth consecutive Korean Series, while the Heroes, founded in 2008, are trying to win their first. Last season, the Lions lost the opening game to the Doosan Bears and trailed 3-1 in the series before capturing the title in seven games.
With the teams locked in a pitching duel and the score tied at 2-2, Kang drove a 3-1 offering from lefty reliever Cha Woo-chan over the left center field wall for the go-ahead two-run homer. The Heroes' bullpen then kept the door shut over the final three innings to preserve the win.
<YNAPHOTO path='C:/YNA/YNACLI~1/Down/Article/AEN20141104008551315_01_i.jpg' id='' title='' caption='Kang Jung-ho of the Nexen Heroes celebrates as he rounds the bases after hitting a go-ahead, two-run home run in the eighth inning against the Samsung Lions in Game 1 of the Korean Series on Nov. 4, 2014, in Daegu. (Yonhap)'/>
Kang, who hit 40 home runs to set a KBO record for a shortstop in the regular season, has now homered in three consecutive playoff games, one shy of the all-time record.
The Heroes drew first blood, finally capitalizing on their chance in the top of the third after stranding men in scoring position in each of the first two frames.
Seo Geon-chang led off with a stand-up triple to right-center off starter Rick van den Hurk. The next batter, Vinny Rottino, jumped on the first pitch he saw for a double over the center fielder Park Hae-min to drive in the game's first run.
Two batters later, Kang doubled the Heroes' lead with a sacrifice fly to bring home Rottino.
The Lions promptly erased the deficit in the bottom of the third, as Yamaico Navarro launched a two-run shot over the center field wall off starter Andy Van Hekken.
Navarro became the first foreign hitter in eight years to leave the yard in the Korean Series.
The game quickly turned into a pitchers' duel. After Navarro's homer, Van Hekken sat down 12 batters in order before handing things over to the pen in the seventh. He got a no-decision after allowing two runs on three hits in six innings. He fanned six and walked one.
Cho Sang-woo, who relieved Van Hekken to start the seventh, picked up his first career postseason victory thanks to two perfect innings. Son Seung-lak earned his first-ever postseason save with a scoreless ninth.
Cha Woo-chan was tagged with the loss after serving up Kang's home run.
After the Heroes' two-run third, van den Hurk tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up just one hit and striking out four in that stretch. For the night, he also didn't get a decision, despite holding the Heroes to two runs on five hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He recorded seven strikeouts.
With van den Hurk out of the game, Kang put the Heroes up for good with one swing of the bat.
The hard-hitting shortstop also made a fine defensive play in the top of the third, robbing Chae Tae-in of a base hit with a diving grab to his right on a sinking liner.
Chae Tae-in hit a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth to keep the Lions' hopes alive, but Choi Hyoung-woo flied out to left and Park Sok-min popped out to the catcher for the final two outs.
After Navarro's home run with no outs in the third, 19 straight Samsung batters were retired in order before Chae's single.
The Heroes will try to take a 2-0 series lead Wednesday with right-hander Henry Sosa on the mound. The Lions will seek to even the series as right-hander Yun Sung-hwan gets the starting nod.
Yun, who started the Korean Series openers in 2012 and 2013, was 12-7 with a 4.39 ERA in the regular season, and 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA against the Heroes. The 33-year-old relies mostly on his 12-to-6 curveballs and sliders to keep hitters at bay.
Sosa was 10-2 this season with a 4.61 ERA. He made three appearances against the Lions but had no win-loss record, with a 6.00 ERA. Sosa reaches over 155 kilometers per hour (96 miles per hour) with his fastballs, and hit 159 kilometers per hour during Game 4 of the previous postseason series against the LG Twins.
(LEAD) Gov't to expand support for small merchants ahead of holiday
More ways to savor BTS: books, games, movies
Gov't to announce blueprint on nuke plant decommissioning in March
Wanna One's Kang Daniel preparing for solo debut in April
(3rd LD) S. Korea's military condemns Japanese warplane's 'provocative' close-range flight
More ways to savor BTS: books, games, movies
(4th LD) S. Korea's military condemns Japanese warplane's 'provocative' close-range flight
BTS album on Billboard chart for 21st consecutive week
Lee So-ra's new song featuring BTS' Suga takes music charts by storm
(2nd LD) Kim expresses 'great satisfaction' after receiving letter from Trump: KCNA