(ATTN: ADDS details, photo)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Nov. 10 (Yonhap) -- The Samsung Lions walked off on the Nexen Heroes 2-1 on Monday to move to the brink of the 2014 South Korean pro baseball championship on Monday.
Cleanup hitter Choi Hyoung-woo delivered a go-ahead, two-run double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul, as the Lions took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Korean Series, the championship final in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).
With men at the corners but one strike away from defeat in the bottom of the ninth, Choi, the Lions' captain, lined a double down the right field line off Nexen closer Son Seung-lak.
Yamaico Navarro trotted home from third to tie the game. Then Kim Hun-gon, a pinch runner standing at first, sprinted toward home and his slide beat the relay throw for the winning run.
The Lions can now finish off the Heroes and capture their fourth consecutive championship Tuesday at Jamsil.
The two contestants had split the first four games before Samsung inched closer to the title Monday. In the past 31 Korean Series, teams have been knotted at two wins apiece on nine occasions. Of those, the club that won Game 5 went on to capture the series seven times.
If necessary, Game 7 will also be played at Jamsil on Wednesday.
Under the KBO rules, when neither club in the Korean Series plays in a stadium with at least 25,000 seats, the final three games are to take place at Jamsil, which has 25,500 seats.
The Lions are based at the 10,000-seat Daegu Stadium, while the Heroes use the 10,600-seat Mokdong Stadium as their home.
With two flamethrowers on the mound -- Rick van den Hurk for Samsung and Henry Sosa for Nexen -- both teams had trouble generating much offense early.
Van den Hurk retired 15 of the first 16 batters he faced, including 10 in a row in one stretch. Sosa was a bit wilder, allowing a base runner in four of the first five innings, but managed to work around three walks with timely strikeouts and some great defense behind him.
After getting stifled early, the Heroes finally solved van den Hurk in the top of the sixth.
Park Hun-do led off the inning with a single. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and Seo Geon-chang, the regular season batting champ who had gone 2-for-17 in the Korean Series up to that point, delivered a single to right to bring home Park.
The Lions missed some early opportunities. In the bottom of the first, a walk and a single put men at the corners for Lee Seung-yuop, who flew out to left for the inning's final out.
In the second, the Lions had men on first and second with two outs, but right fielder Yoo Han-joon made a great running catch at the right-center field wall, robbing Navarro of an extra-base hit and at least one RBI.
Yoo made a spectacular diving grab in the bottom of the third, this time hauling in a sinking liner off the bat of Choi Hyoung-woo with a man on first.
Buoyed by the two fine plays, Sosa quickly settled down and retired 11 of the next 13 batters before handing things over to the bullpen with one out in the seventh.
In relief of Sosa, right-hander Cho Sang-woo escaped a jam in the seventh, retiring Park Han-yi on a shallow fly to left with two men on board.
Cho, however, fell apart in the bottom of the eighth. He gave up a single to Chae Tae-in to start off and walked the next batter, Choi Hyoung-woo, on four pitches.
Cho then hit Lee Seung-yuop in the leg to load the bases, with nobody out.
Son Seung-lak stepped up and took care of the rest.
He got Park Sok-min to pop out to shortstop. Park Hae-min, the next batter, hit a chopper to first baseman Park Byung-ho, who threw home for an easy force.
Lee Heung-ryun, the Lions' backup catcher in his first Korean Series at-bat, then grounded out to second for the inning's final out.
Son returned to start the ninth and got Kim Sang-su to ground out to short for the inning's first out.
Just when the Heroes seemed headed for the narrow win, trouble ensued.
Shortstop Kang Jung-ho bobbled a grounder hit right at him by Navarro. Son struck out Park Han-yi for the second out, but gave up a single to Chae Tae-in as the Lions kept their hopes alive.
Navarro moved to third on Chae's single, and speedy Kim came on to pinch run, setting up the stage for Choi's heroics.
With the count at 2-2, Choi hit a screamer past first base and toward the deep right field corner for the walk-off hit.
The Heroes wasted a strong start by Sosa, who tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings, with seven strikeouts and three walks.
An Ji-man got the victory for Samsung, thanks to two shutout innings in relief.
Son was one strike away from getting the save, but instead walked away with the loss.
Right-hander Yun Sung-hwan will try to clinch the title for Samsung on Tuesday. In Game 2, he pitched seven strong innings, giving up just a run in the Lions' 7-1 victory.
Left-hander Oh Jae-young will be tasked with keeping the Heroes alive in his second start this series. In Game 3, Oh tossed five shutout innings but got a no-decision as the Lions rallied in the top of the ninth for a 3-1 victory.
As much as pitching, the Heroes will need their big bats to wake up Tuesday. Their two leading sluggers, Park Byung-ho and Kang Jung-ho, went 0-for-7 on Monday. So far in the series, Park, who hit 52 regular season home runs, has gone 3-for-17 with one homer.
Kang hit a home run in Game 1 but has gone hitless since. He is batting 1-for-16 in the series.
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