By Yoo Jee-ho
CHANGWON, South Korea, Nov. 1 (Yonhap) -- Doosan Bears' cleanup Kim Jae-hwan is playing in his first Korean Series this year, though you wouldn't know it given the way he's been swinging the bat.
The 28-year-old slugger homered in the Bears' 6-0 win over the NC Dinos in Game 3 of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) championship series at Masan Stadium in Changwon, some 400 kilometers Southeast of Seoul. Kim has now homered in a second straight game after hitting a solo shot in Game 2 last Saturday.
Kim is batting 4-for-12 with two home runs and two RBIs this series. No other Bear has gone deep so far.
Kim led the Bears with 37 home runs and 124 RBIs in the regular season. He had never before hit more than seven home runs or driven in more than 22 runs in any of his five previous seasons.
After the breakout season, Kim knew opposing pitchers wouldn't give him much to hit in the playoffs. Kim said before the Korean Series he would remain patient and stick to his game plan.
And three games in, Kim has mostly lived up to his words.
On Tuesday, Kim hammered a letter-high fastball that tailed a bit outside. He had the strength to pull it over the left field wall for his second home run in as many games.
It was also the Bears' first hit off NC starter Choi Keum-kang, who was perfect through the first four innings. And Kim's home run was just the spark the Bears needed.
Choi retired the next two batters, but gave up two straight doubles to let in another run. The second of the doubles, by Hur Kyoung-min, spelled the end of Choi's evening.
Kim said afterward his preparations for the Korean Series have paid big dividends.
"I knew the pitchers would come ready to face me, and I had to get ready to face them," he said. "I studied these pitchers closely, and fortunately, I was able to pounce on their mistakes and put the barrel on them."
The soft-spoken one said he will keep his pedal to the metal.
"This series is not over yet," he said. "I am happy that we won, but we'll have to play hard again tomorrow."
Kim's manager, Kim Tae-hyung, also sang the praises of his cleanup hitter, saying the slugger has exceeded his expectations.
"I was worried that he would press at the plate because he doesn't have experience at this stage," the manager said. "But he's stuck to his normal swinging and he's playing with a lot of confidence. He's been the perfect cleanup hitter."
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