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No-frills offense carries the day for baseball champions

All Headlines 23:23 October 30, 2017

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 30 (Yonhap) -- There was nothing fancy about how the Kia Tigers scored their runs against the Doosan Bears en route to taking the 2017 Korean Series.

The Tigers beat the Bears 7-6 to capture the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) title in five games at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul.

And in clinching the win, they just did they'd been doing all series -- keeping the line moving and cashing in on scoring opportunities when they had to.

Sure, the Tigers got the huge grand slam from Lee Bum-ho on Monday, but it was only one of three home runs they hit all series. They didn't need long balls to score because the hitters just slapped the ball all over the field with men in scoring position without swinging for the fences all the time.

And the Tigers finished the series with a .318 (14-for-44) batting average and 22 runs scored in that situation.

Roger Bernadina of the Kia Tigers celebrates his RBI single 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)

With a man at second with one out in the third, No. 3 hitter Roger Bernadina hit a hard single up the middle to bring home the first run.

Then the heart of the order kept the line moving. Cleanup Choi Hyoung-woo poked a single to left and Bernadina took third base on the play. Na Ji-wan got hit by a pitch, and that set the stage for Lee Bum-ho's grand slam.

The Tigers added two runs in the sixth with even more timely hitting. After a one-out double, Kim Sun-bin, the regular season batting champion who batted .370, bounced a single to left to make it 6-0. Leadoff man Lee Myung-ki also found a hole on the left for another RBI single that put the Tigers ahead 7-0.

The Bears, in contrast, hit just .156 (7-for-45) and scored 11 runs with men in scoring position. They also struck out 11 times in those situations. Six of those seven hits were singles.

In Sunday's Game 4, the Bears had a base runner in eight of their nine innings, and only scored once to lose 5-1.

It was much the same story early in Game 5. They couldn't score when they had men at second and third with one out in the bottom second. The Bears also failed to bring anyone home after a single and a walk with two outs in the fifth.

They enjoyed a sudden outburst in the seventh inning, when they batted around to put up a six-spot on the board.

But that was the extent of their offense in the deciding game, as they wasted more chances in the eighth and the ninth.

The Bears opened the eighth with a single but two strikeouts and a flyout ended that rally quickly.

The Bears left the bases loaded in the ninth inning to bow out of the series. The Tigers sent ace Yang Hyeon-jong to lock down the victory in the ninth inning, but he walked the first batter he faced.

Lee Bum-ho of the Kia Tigers hits a 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)

An error and another walk loaded the bases with just one out, but Park Sei-hyeok lined out weakly to shortstop for the second out.

Then slumping Kim Jae-ho, who was benched at the start and only entered the game as a defensive replacement, swung on the first pitch and popped out to catcher, as the Tigers celebrated their first title since 2009.

The Bears were also swinging early in the counts all series, and the Tigers pitchers exploited their aggressiveness.

Through four games, the Bears hit .188 (6-for-32) on first pitches, all of them singles. On Monday, No. 3 hitter Park Kun-woo flied out twice with runners on base when he swung on the first pitch in the first and fifth innings.

The Tigers were much better in the same situation. They batted .368 (7-for-19) when swinging on first pitches.

The Bears got very little from two of their postseason veterans. Catcher Yang Eui-ji, MVP in last year's Korean Series, ended up going 2-for-16 with five strikeouts.

Yang Eui-ji carried a career .283 postseason batting average in 43 games with three home runs and 19 RBIs.

Kim Jae-ho, who made the final out, as 0-for-10. Kim had played in 56 postseason games before the Korean Series and batted .254.

Kim battled some shoulder problems during the regular season and missed some action during the postseason, too. And his struggles at the plate likely have carried over into the field, where the usually sure-handed shortstop has committed two errors in the series.

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)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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