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American right-hander gives Dinos another strong postseason start

All Headlines 17:09 October 22, 2016

By Yoo Jee-ho

CHANGWON, South Korea, Oct. 22 (Yonhap) -- NC Dinos' right-hander Zach Stewart gave his club another strong playoff start on Saturday, putting his club in the driver's seat in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) postseason.

Stewart held the LG Twins to just two hits over 7 1/3 scoreless innings on Saturday, as the Dinos prevailed 2-0 to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five second round series at Masan Stadium in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province.

Stewart earned his second postseason victory in his third start, with Park Sok-min providing the offensive support with a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh.

Zach Stewart of the NC Dinos high-fives third baseman Park Sok-min after the end of the second inning of their Korea Baseball Organization postseason game against the LG Twins at Masan Stadium in Changwon, South Korea, on Oct. 22, 2016. (Yonhap)

Stewart's outstanding start came on the heels of a fine outing by fellow American Eric Hacker on Friday. Though Hacker didn't get a decision after giving up two runs in seven innings, he kept the Dinos in the game long enough for them to rally with three runs in the bottom of the ninth.

Stewart one-upped his teammate on the mound. He struck out four of the first five batters he faced to set the tone from the get-go and didn't give up a hit until one out in the fifth.

It was a double off the bat of Chae Eun-seong, who sent one into the right-center gap and advanced to third when right fielder Na Sung-bum bobbled the ball.

Stewart, though, was the picture of calm, as he got a strikeout and a groundout to escape his only jam of the day.

The Twins got a single to start the sixth against Stewart and moved the runner to second on a sacrifice bunt. Stewart remained undaunted, getting a fly out and a strikeout to put up another zero on the board.

The Dinos' dormant offense, which was kept quiet by LG starter David Huff for the first six innings, finally broke through in the seventh. With a runner on first, Park belted a 1-2 fastball over the left field fence and put the Dinos up 2-0.

Stewart said afterward it was "fun" to be locked in a pitching duel against Huff, and the importance of his start wasn't lost on him.

"I knew I had to pitch a great game. I knew I had to keep us in it and wait for our offense to come through," Stewart said. "Sok-min came through big. It was me and (catcher Kim) Tae-gun locking up and doing what we can do to keep them off balance."

The 30-year-old didn't overpower anyone but threw six different pitches at the helpless Twins' hitters, mostly changeups and two-seam fastballs.

"I was trying to stay in the zone and mix it up," he said. "And it worked. And I kind of rolled with it."

Stewart returned to the mound for the eighth and was lifted after retiring the first batter of the frame. He made 97 pitches, 64 of them for strikes.

Last October, Stewart enjoyed a complete game victory against the Doosan Bears on 122 pitches. Asked if he felt he could go deeper on Saturday, Stewart said it wasn't his call.

"Manager Kim (Kyung-moon) felt like that was time to make the change," he said. "I felt like I wanted to go with what he thinks and it worked out."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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