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(LEAD) Premier slugger lives up to billing in breakout performance

All Headlines 23:15 October 18, 2017

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By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 18 (Yonhap) -- One of South Korean baseball's premier sluggers lived up to his billing in a breakout postseason performance on Wednesday.

Kim Jae-hwan of the Doosan Bears crushed a pair of three-run bombs, helping his club to a 17-7 victory over the NC Dinos in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) postseason.

Their best-of-five second round series is now knotted at one game apiece, with Game 3 scheduled for this Friday.

The clubs combined for eight home runs to set a new postseason record for long balls in a game. And Kim, who hit 35 homers to rank third in the league this season, was responsible for two of the most impressive blasts.

His first three-run shot came in the third inning, a game-tying blast off NC starter Lee Jae-hak. The Bears had blown an early 1-0 lead and were down 4-1, with the memories of a 13-5 defeat from Tuesday still fresh in the minds of nervous fans in the stands at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul.

After two men got on against Lee, Kim drove one over the right field wall to bring the Bears right into the game.

The Dinos went ahead 6-4, before the Bears exploded for eight runs in the sixth and put the game out of reach in a hurry. Choi Joo-hwan hit a go-ahead grand slam earlier in that inning, but it was Kim's second three-run homer that made it 12-6 for the Bears and essentially sealed the deal.

Kim Jae-hwan of the Doosan Bears watches his three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning against the NC Dinos in Game 2 of their Korea Baseball Organization postseason series at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Oct. 18, 2017. (Yonhap)

Kim also had a sacrifice fly later in the game for a seven-RBI night.

Kim had been the Bears' captain during the regular season, but manager Kim Tae-hyung asked him to return captaincy before the start of the series in order to lift the pressure off the 29-year-old outfielder.

Kim gladly took that "C" off his jersey, and with that weight off his shoulders, he showed off some serious power.

Kim tied the record for most RBIs in a postseason game, but said he is only focused on the series.

"The postseason isn't over yet, and I'll prepare hard for the next one," Kim said. "Even though I bat cleanup, I don't feel a lot of pressure on my shoulders. All my teammates are capable hitters and I have faith in them."

In the eyes of detractors, Kim, a former catcher, will always be associated with performance enhancing drugs. He failed a doping test before the Baseball World Cup in 2011 and was suspended for 10 games in the 2012 KBO season.

But on this night, Kim did enough to impress even the most skeptical of baseball observers.

Kim Jae-hwan of the Doosan Bears connects for a three-run home run in the bottom of the third inning against the NC Dinos in Game 2 of their Korea Baseball Organization postseason series at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Oct. 18, 2017. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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