By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Oct. 30 (Yonhap) -- After battling through another mediocre regular season, Doosan Bears' right-hander Noh Kyung-eun delivered the postseason game of his life on Friday, shutting down the Samsung Lions in relief for the 4-3 victory in Game 4 of the Korean Series.
The Bears put a stranglehold on the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) championship final by taking a 3-1 series lead, and they can clinch their first title in 14 years on Saturday at home, Jamsil Stadium in Seoul.
Noh entered the game with two outs in the second inning, with the Bears trailing 3-2. He then went on to twirl 5 2/3 shutout innings, keeping his team in the game and giving the offense a chance to stage a rally.
In the second inning, Koo Ja-wook, who'd hit a go-ahead two-run single, was caught stealing second for the final out. Noh then got to work starting in the third, retiring the side in order over the next three innings.
He got into his first jam in the sixth, when Bae Young-seop led off with an infield single that bounced along the third base line and hit the bag. Noh then walked Yamaico Navarro to bring the heart of the Lions' order to the plate.
Cleanup Choi Hyoung-woo, slumping at the plate all series, hit a towering fly ball to second for the first out. Then Park Sok-min grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Noh again put a runner in scoring position in the seventh, only to wiggle his way out of it unscathed. A single and a steal with nobody out appeared to jolt the Lions back to life, but Noh sat down the next three batters in order, two of them by strikeouts.
Noh survived a scare in the eighth. With a man at first, Navarro launched one to deep left field and the ball traveled just wide of the foul pole.
Noh took off his cap and breathed a sigh of relief. It was his last pitch of the evening.
For the night, the 31-year-old made 92 pitches, 57 of them for strikes. He reached deep into his arsenal and mixed in four pitches, mostly relying on a four-seam fastball and a slider.
The relief win was a measure of redemption for Noh, a former national team member who has fallen on hard times of late.
In 2012, Noh won a career-high 12 games and finished second in the league with a 2.53 ERA. The following year, Noh won 10 games and ranked sixth in the KBO in innings pitched with 180 1/3.
Noh's numbers nose-dived in 2014. His ERA was an unsightly 9.03 and he led the league with 15 losses. His struggles continued in 2015, and he had a stint in the minors after posting a 9.00 ERA in June.
He didn't get off to a great start this postseason, getting tagged for four earned runs in four innings against the Nexen Heroes in the first round. Noh has steadily improved, holding the NC Dinos to a single run over four innings in the second round.
So far in the Korean Series, Noh hasn't given up a run in six innings with five strikeouts.
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