By Yoo Jee-ho
CHANGWON, South Korea, Nov. 2 (Yonhap) -- The NC Dinos came up well short in their first appearance in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) championship series, as their bats never found their groove while getting swept by the Doosan Bears.
The Dinos lost the deciding Game 4 by 8-1 on Wednesday and were outscored 20-2 in the series. They set the new Korean Series futility record while managing just two extra-base hits.
This was only the Dinos' fourth year of existence in the KBO, and they've been to each of the past three postseasons.
After finishing second in the regular season, the Dinos advanced straight to the second round, where they dispatched the LG Twins in four games.
But the lack of depth in starting rotation and the offense that suddenly stopped producing in the postseason were the Dinos' great undoing in the Korean Series.
Behind right-handers Eric Hacker and Zach Stewart, the Dinos didn't have a viable starting option. Their supposed No. 3 starter, Jang Hyun-sik, lasted just one inning in a start in the previous series and set the record for most walks given up in a single postseason winning with five.
Then in the Korean Series, right-hander Choi Keum-kang took the mound to start Game 3 after Stewart and Hacker. He was perfect through four innings but was chased before completing the fifth inning, after giving up two quick runs on a home run and two doubles.
Stewart did his part, holding the Bears to a run in five innings, but the bullpen coughed up seven runs over the next four innings in the rout.
The offense did next to nothing to help out the pitchers. Their vaunted middle of the lineup, Na Sung-bum, Eric Thames, Lee Ho-jun and Park Sok-min, combined for 115 of the team's 169 home runs and knocked in 425 runs.
In the Korean Series, though, they were a combined 5-for-52 with one RBI.
They were 0-for-12 in Game 3 when the Dinos managed just three singles and lost 6-0. In Game 4, they were 1-for-11, the one hit being Thames' solo home run in the top ninth with the game already out of reach. Lee didn't start the game and came off the bench with two outs in the ninth.
Perhaps it was fitting he hit into the final out of the Dions' season, the play serving as a painful microcosm of the club's offensive struggles.
NC manager Kim Kyung-moon, whose contract expires with the conclusion of the season, has now finished second in the Korean Series for the fourth time in his managing career.
He said before Wednesday's game that if the Dinos could pull out just one win, the momentum could shift in their favor.
It never happened.
"I think losing the first two games in tough fashion put so much pressure on our players," Kim added. "We never capitalized on our chances in Game 1, and we collapsed late in Game 2."
The teams were scoreless in the series opener, before the Bears won in the bottom of the 11th inning with a sacrifice fly. The Dinos wasted scoring chances in the ninth and 10th innings.
In the second game, they tied the game at 1-1 in the top eighth, but promptly gave up four in the bottom half to fall apart.
Kim gave credit where it was due.
"I felt Doosan was just that much stronger than our team," he said. "This is a painful experience, but I think it will make us stronger in the future. The players and the coaches did everything they could to prepare for this, and I think this loss really falls on me. We'll try to return to this stage."
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