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(WRAPUP) Night of milestones in S. Korean baseball as ex-big leaguers toss no-hitter, hit for cycle

All Headlines 22:59 April 09, 2015

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, April 9 (Yonhap) -- It was a night of milestones in the top South Korean baseball league on Thursday, as a pair of former Major League Baseball (MLB) players marched into the record books.

Yunesky Maya of the Doosan Bears tossed the 12th no-hitter in the 33-year history of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), as he blanked the Nexen Heroes 1-0 at home, Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. The 33-year-old Cuban, in his second KBO season, faced 30 batters, just three over the minimum, while throwing his KBO career-high 136 pitches. He issued three walks and struck out eight.

Maya is only the second foreign pitcher to accomplish the feat, after Charlie Shirek of the NC Dinos last year.

Moments later, Eric Thames, second-year infielder for the NC Dinos, became the 17th KBO player to hit for the cycle. He went 5-for-5 with a single, two doubles, a triple and a home run, raising his average to the league-leading .483 after eight games.

Thames, who has played for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners, is the second foreign player to hit for the cycle in the KBO, after Manny Martinez of the Samsung Lions in 2001.

This was the first time in the KBO history that a pitcher threw a no-hitter and a batter hit for the cycle on the same day.

Maya joined the Bears last July as a replacement for a struggling right-hander, Chris Volstad, who had been 5-7 with a 6.21 ERA after 17 starts. Maya, who has a career big league record of 1-5 in 16 appearances for the Washington Nationals, didn't do much better himself, with a 2-4 record in 11 starts with a 4.86 ERA for the Bears.

The Bears brought him back for another season and Maya has so far lived up to the team's expectations. After Thursday's no-hitter, Maya is 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA. He has struck out 23 in 22 innings, and the opponents were batting only .178 against him.

Maya worked around a pair of walks earlier in the game. Then in the ninth, he walked the pinch hitter Lim Byeong-wuk to start the inning, but Lim was forced out at second on a grounder by Seo Geon-chang.

Maya threw three straight balls to Lee Taek-keun, but Lee grounded out to short on the fifth pitch of the at-bat.

Maya then struck out Yoo Han-joon, the Heroes' No. 3 hitter, on three pitches to cap off the historic evening.

For the Bears, Min Byung-hun drove in the eventual winning run with a single in the bottom of the third.

"I don't know where I got my strength from in the last inning, but I gave everything I had," Maya said after the game. "I am thankful for this opportunity."

While Maya was mowing down the Heroes, Thames, on the road in Gwangju, some 330 kilometers south of Seoul, gave the Tigers' pitchers fits in the Dinos' 4-2 victory.

Thames lined a double to right in the first inning. Next time up, he hit his second double of the night to left-center gap.

In the fifth, Thames went deep off Kia starter Yang Hyeon-jong for his KBO-leading sixth home run of the season.

Thames was far from done, getting a single in the seventh. Then in his final at-bat in the ninth, Thames slapped one past the first base and sprinted all the way to third to complete the cycle.

Thames had a strong season in 2014 with a .343 batting average, 37 home runs, 121 RBIs and 95 runs scored, all team-highs.

During spring training, Thames had told Yonhap News Agency that he was aiming for the league MVP award in 2015. Though the season is still young, Thames appears on course for a monumental season. After eight games, he leads the KBO with a .483 average, six home runs, 12 runs scored, a .578 on-base percentage and the on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) of 1.276. He ranks second with 16 RBIs and 14 hits.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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