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(2nd LD) Kia Tigers roar to S. Korean baseball title

All Headlines 23:28 October 30, 2017

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

SEOUL, Oct. 30 (Yonhap) -- The Kia Tigers are the champions of South Korean baseball in 2017.

The Tigers defeated the Doosan Bears 7-6 on Monday to take the Korean Series in five games, collecting their first Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) championship since 2009 and their 11th overall.

The Tigers, based in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, are now undefeated in 11 Korean Series appearances.

The Tigers lost the opening game of this best-of-seven series last Wednesday, but reeled off four consecutive victories, including the last three on the road at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul, to knock out the two-time defending champions.

Third baseman Lee Bum-ho blasted a grand slam off Doosan starter Dustin Nippert to key the five-run third inning, and the Tigers tacked on two more runs in the sixth before fending off a furious late charge by the Bears for the nail-biting win.

Left-hander Yang Hyeon-jong, who tossed a complete game shutout in Game 2, pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth to record the save. He was voted the series MVP thanks to 10 scoreless innings in the series. He picked up 48 of 74 votes cast by the media, 24 more than outfielder Roger Bernadina.

Lee Bum-ho of the Kia Tigers celebrates his grand slam against the Doosan Bears in the top of the third inning in Game 5 of the Korean Series at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Oct. 30, 2017. (Yonhap)

The Bears entered the game batting 3-for-32 (.094) with runners in scoring position in the series, and remained unproductive with men on board early on Monday.

They opened the bottom second with a double and a walk. A sacrifice bunt put two runners in scoring position, but the next two batters, Yang Eui-ji and Ryu Ji-hyuk, both popped out to kill the rally.

And the Tigers made the Bears pay in the top of the third.

Lee Myung-ki led off with an infield single and was sacrificed over to second. Then Roger Bernadina, who had team highs of eight hits and six RBIs in the series prior to Monday, knocked in the Tigers' first run with a single up the middle.

A single and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases for the Tigers. Nippert struck out An Chi-hong to breathe a bit easier, but the feeling didn't last very long.

Lee Bum-ho, mired in a 1-for-13 slump in the series, jumped on a first-pitch slider and drove it over the left field wall for a grand slam.

It was the fourth grand slam in the Korean Series history.

Kia Tigers players celebrate clinching the Korean Series with a 7-6 victory over the Doosan Bears in Game 5 at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Oct. 30, 2017. (Yonhap)

Nothing went right for the Bears. Yang Eui-ji led off the bottom fifth with a single -- his first hit in 15 Korean Series at-bats -- but he was erased by a 3-6 double play ball off the bat of Ryu Ji-hyuk.

With two outs, Noesi gave up a single and a walk, but got out of jam by getting Park Kun-woo to pop out to second.

Once again, the missed opportunities came back to bite the Bears. Kim Min-sik hit a one-out double in the sixth, and Kim Sun-bin brought him home for a 6-0 lead with a single through the hole on the left.

The hit chased Nippert from the game. New pitcher Ham Deok-ju threw a wild pitch to allow Kim to take second base, and Lee Myung-ki slapped a single to left field to make it 7-0 Tigers.

But just when it seemed the Tigers would cruise to an easy victory, the Bears' bats came alive in the bottom seventh, when they rallied with six runs on six hits to cut the deficit to 7-6.

They got four straight hits off Noesi to score two quick runs, and the right-hander was pulled after hitting Park Kun-woo with a 2-2 pitch to load the bases.

New pitcher Sim Dong-sub struck out Kim Jae-hwan, but the next batter, Oh Jae-il, bounced a two-run single to right to cut the deficit to 7-4.

The Tigers summoned closer Kim Se-hyun, who'd recorded consecutive four-out saves over the weekend. Nick Evans greeted him with an RBI single to right, as the Bears got to within 7-5.

Choi Joo-hwan's groundout brought plated another run to make this a one-run contest. But Kim struck out Park Sei-hyeok to limit further damage.

The Bears refused to go away quietly, but then the Tigers' bullpen stood its ground.

Yang Hyeon-jong of the Kia Tigers celebrates his team's Korean Series championship over the Doosan Bears at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Oct. 30, 2017. (Yonhap)

Kim Se-hyun gave up a single to start the bottom eighth, and new reliever Kim Yun-dong took over on the mound. The right-hander promptly struck out the first two batters he faced, and got Park Kun-woo to fly out to right to keep the Tigers ahead by a run.

Yang Hyeong-jong, who threw a complete game shutout for the Tigers in Game 2, came on in the ninth to lock down the win, and he and the rest of the Tigers didn't make it easy on themselves.

Yang walked the first batter he faced. Then when the next batter, Jo Soo-haeng, laid down the bunt, third baseman Kim Ju-hyung made a wide throw to first, putting men at second and third.

Yang intentionally walked Hur Kyoung-min to put the force in play, as the sell-out crowd of 25,000 held on tight.

The finish, though, was almost anti-climactic. Park Sei-hyeok only managed a soft line drive to shortstop for the second out. And then Kim Jae-ho, a struggling shortstop who was benched to start this game, swung on the first pitch and popped out to the catcher to end the four-plus-hour marathon.

Members of the Kia Tigers throw their manager Kim Ki-tai in the air in celebration of their Korean Series championship over the Doosan Bears at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Oct. 30, 2017. (Yonhap)


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