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(LEAD) NC Dinos upend Doosan Bears to open baseball postseason series

All Headlines 23:08 October 17, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS comments, details throughout)
By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 17 (Yonhap) -- The NC Dinos upended two-time defending champions Doosan Bears 13-5 to open their second round postseason series in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) on Tuesday.

Cleanup Xavier Scruggs hit a go-ahead grand slam and drove in five runs, and the Dinos' lineup exploded for seven runs in the top eighth at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul to turn a close contest into a blowout in a hurry.

Xavier Scruggs of the NC Dinos celebrates his grand slam against the Doosan Bears in the top of the fifth inning of the clubs' Korea Baseball Organization postseason game at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Oct. 17, 2017. (Yonhap)

The winner of this best-of-five series will advance to the Korean Series, the KBO's championship final. And the team that took the opening game of the second round has advanced to the Korean Series 24 out of 29 times through last year.

This victory also snapped the Dino's six-game postseason losing streak against the Bears, dating back to 2015.

Game 2 is back at Jamsil Stadium at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The Bears scored the first run in the bottom of the second with Yang Eui-ji's solo blast.

NC starter Jang Hyun-sik, after giving up a leadoff single, struck out the next four batters in a row before facing Yang. The Doosan catcher stepped up and jumped on the first-pitch fastball for a home run over the left-center fence.

The Dinos responded with two runs in the top third, as Park Min-woo delivered a two-out hit.

Save for Yang's long ball, Jang, a 22-year-old making only his fourth postseason appearance, was mostly on his game through the first three innings. He struck out six and only needed 39 pitches.

But the right-hander suddenly became wild in the fourth inning and the Bears took full advantage.

A double sandwiched by two walks loaded the bases with nobody out, and Yang rolled a single to right to tie the score at 2-2, picking up his second RBI of the night.

NC Dinos players celebrate their seventh run in a 13-5 victory over the Doosan Bears in the top of the eighth inning of the clubs' Korea Baseball Organization postseason game at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Oct. 17, 2017. (Yonhap)

Two batters later, the Bears broke the tie on a fielder's choice. Hur Kyoung-min hit a high chopper to shortstop Son Si-hyun, who only had time to get the force at second base, and Kim Jae-hwan scored from third for a 3-2 lead.

Then No. 9 hitter Ryu Ji-hyuk sent a single to right to put the Bears up 4-2, chasing Jang from the game in the process.

Only a spectacular defensive play by NC center fielder Kim Jun-wan kept the game close. Facing new pitcher Jeff Manship, Min Byung-hun drove one into the left-center gap, but Kim lunged for a game-saving diving grab at the track to rob Min at least of a double.

And the Dinos made that play count. A walk, a single and an error loaded the bases for Scruggs, who turned on a 1-1 slider and sent it over the left-field wall to give his club a 6-4 lead.

It was Scruggs' first postseason grand slam.

The Bears refused to go away, as Oh Jae-il drove in a run with a two-out single in the bottom fifth to cut the deficit to 6-5.

Then it was the bullpen game. The Dinos had men at the corners with one out in the top sixth, but new pitcher Ham Deok-ju killed the rally with a strikeout and a flyout.

In the home half of the frame, new NC pitcher Lee Min-ho worked around a leadoff single to keep the Bears off the board.

The complexion of the game changed abruptly in the top eighth, though, as the Dinos put up a seven-spot to blow open the game.

All seven runs were scored with two outs. First, it was Ji Seok-hun's RBI single. Scruggs followed up with an RBI hit for his fifth RBI of the game, staking the Dinos to an 8-5 lead.

Kwon Hee-dong and No Jin-hyuk next launched back-to-back two-run doubles for a 12-5 lead. Then No. 8 hitter Son Si-hyun just piled on with an RBI single to make it 13-5.

The Dinos sent 11 batters to the plate in that decisive frame, while the Bears needed four pitchers to get through the mess.

Jeff Manship, normally a starter, got the win in relief after allowing a run in 1 1/3 innings. Nippert took the loss after allowing six runs -- one unearned -- on eight hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings.

The Dinos used four relievers but saved two key right-handers, setup man Won Jong-hyun and closer Lim Chang-min.

NC manager Kim Kyung-moon, who once managed the Bears to three Korean Series appearances without winning a title, said he wanted nothing more than to end that postseason skid against his former team.

"We'd lost so often to Doosan before," he said. "Fortunately, our players came through in the first game to end that slide."

Though Scruggs was named Player of the Game, Kim said Kim Jun-wan, the center fielder who made the highlight-reel catch in the fourth, was the unsung hero.

"Even though we were still trailing at the time, that catch really turned the momentum in our favor," the manager said. "And we were able to go ahead with the grand slam after it."

Both starters looked sharp early before the bottom fell out quickly.

Jang's promising night turned ugly in that three-run fourth inning. He left after giving up four earned runs on six hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings. He did strike out seven.

Nippert lost two different leads in an uncharacteristically shaky outing. Scruggs' grand slam was the big blow, and Nippert saw his postseaseon record for consecutive scoreless innings end at 36 1/3.

The Dinos will try to take a stranglehold with right-hander Lee Jae-hak on the mound in Game 2. It will be his first postseason start since 2014.

Lee struggled to a 5-7 record and a 5.67 ERA in 28 appearances in the regular season.

He was 1-0 against the Bears in three regular season appearances with a 4.85 ERA.

The Bears will counter with left-hander Chang Won-jun. In the regular season, the veteran was 14-9 with a 3.14 in the regular season, and had a 1-1 record with a 3.78 ERA.

Lee Min-ho of the NC Dinos throws a pitch against the Doosan Bears in the bottom of the sixth inning of the clubs' Korea Baseball Organization postseason game at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Oct. 17, 2017. (Yonhap)


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