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(LEAD) Hitting with men on board difference maker in Korean Series

All Headlines 18:15 October 28, 2017

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By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 28 (Yonhap) -- For all the advanced metrics and complex statistical analysis, baseball can be summed into a fairly simple formula.

You try to put runners on base, and you try to bring them home the best you can.

And the Kia Tigers did a much better job at that than the Doosan Bears on Saturday at Seoul's Jamsil Stadium, as they prevailed 6-3 in Game 3 of the Korean Series, the championship final in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).

Roger Bernadina of the Kia Tigers hits an RBI single against the Doosan Bears in the top of the fifth inning in Game 3 of the Korean Series at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

For once, long balls didn't dominate the narrative -- though one homer did come at a crucial time. Instead, it was some well-placed hits with men in scoring position on the Tigers' part that got the offense going.

Their first run came with two outs in the third. Lee Myung-ki stepped to the plate with a man at second, and he went the opposite field for an RBI double.

Lee didn't try to do too much with an offspeed pitch by Doosan starter Michael Bowden, and instead just sliced it past left fielder Kim Jae-hwan, who was playing fairly shallow and didn't get a good read off the bat.

The Tigers were once again opportunistic in the fourth, when they added two runs on the board.

After one out, they drew two straight walks against Bowden. The right-hander then committed a balk -- he tried to throw to first base to hold the runner, but with his first baseman Oh Jae-il well off the bag, Bowden stopped in mid-motion -- to allow the runners to each move up a base.

With both men in scoring position, An Chi-hong at the plate made sure Bowden would pay the price. And like Lee before him, An didn't try to force the issue and simply chopped one through the gaping hole on the right side of a drawn-in infield for a 3-0 lead.

Lee Myung-ki of the Kia Tigers celebrates his RBI double against the Doosan Bears in the top of the third inning in Game 3 of the Korean Series at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

The Bears got a run back on a sacrifice fly off Kia starter Pat Dean in the bottom fourth, and the Tigers responded right away with a run in the top fifth.

This time, it was No. 3 hitter Roger Bernadina rising to the occasion. With a man at third following a double and a sacrifice bunt, Bernadina pulled a sharp single to right -- the infielders were playing in again -- to restore a three-run lead for the Tigers.

In contrast, the Bears wasted some early opportunities to strike first. Min Byung-hun led off the game with a single but was stranded there. In the third, back-to-back singles with two outs placed men at the corners, but Park Kun-woo, one of the Bears' hottest hitters this postseason, popped out to second.

And they only eked out one run in the fourth after Kim Jae-hwan led off with a ringing double.

Nick Evans, a slumping slugger without a hit in the series, tried to spark the offense with a solo home run in the seventh.

But the Bears only managed one more run in this game, on Kim Jae-hwan's RBI single in the eighth.

After Kim's single made it 4-3, Oh Jae-il, the postseason leader with six home runs, came to the plate with men at the corners. He couldn't deliver the goods this time, as he popped out to catcher for the second out.

Yang Eui-ji then swung on the first pitch he saw from new pitcher, closer Kim Se-hyun, and flied out to right field to kill the rally.

And Yang's at-bat was an apt microcosm of the Bears' day on offense. The hitters frequently swung early in the count to help Dean, who only needed 53 pitches through five innings and 88 pitches through seven.

The Tigers put a man in scoring position again in the top ninth, and unlike the Bears, they made the most of it once again.

An Chi-hong led off with a single and Kim Sun-bin sacrificed him over to second. Then with two outs, Na Ji-wan came off the bench and blasted a two-run home run to left-center for a 6-3 lead.

And that also encapsulated the Tigers' offense for the day: when batters reached, they often came home.

Na was benched at the start after going hitless in his first seven at-bats in the series. And he said not getting into the starting lineup was the fuel that he might have needed.

"Before the game, manager (Kim Ki-tai) told me I'd get a chance to hit with men on board," Na said. "I was trying to be prepared for it."

Na jumped on a fastball from reliever Kim Kang-ryul, and he said he was sitting dead red, believing the pitcher wouldn't throw him a breaking pitch with a man at third and risk bouncing one in the dirt.

"I knew he could throw hard and I just tried to make good contact," he said. "Luckily, I was able to put the barrel on it and drive it out of the park."

Na Ji-wan of the Kia Tigers rounds the bases after a two-run home run against the Doosan Bears in the top of the ninth inning in Game 3 of the Korean Series at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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