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(2nd LD) Nexen Heroes push Hanwha Eagles to brink in baseball postseason

All Headlines 20:19 October 20, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS details on injury, Game 3 starters at bottom)

DAEJEON, Oct. 20 (Yonhap) -- The Nexen Heroes defeated the Hanwha Eagles 7-5 on Saturday for their second straight win in the first round postseason series in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), pushing their opponents to the brink in the best-of-five showdown.

Lim Byeong-wuk belted a pair of three-run home runs, and rookie right-hander An Woo-jin tossed 3 1/3 shutout innings in relief for the win at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul. The Heroes stole both games on the road and will have a chance to close out the Eagles at home, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, on Monday.

Lim Byeong-wuk of the Nexen Heroes celebrates as he rounds the bases after hitting a three-run homer against the Hanwha Eagles in the top of the fifth inning of Game 2 of the first round series in the Korea Baseball Organization postseason at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, on Oct. 20, 2018. (Yonhap)

The Eagles scored the game's first run in the bottom second, when Lee Yong-kyu drew a bases-loaded walk against starter Han Hyun-hee.

Han, a right-hander with a sidearm delivery, gave up a couple of singles put the men at the corners and then hit Jeong Keun-woo to load the bases.

Han threw three straight balls on Lee, who watched a called strike and then fouled off two pitches before getting the walk on the seventh pitch.

But the lead didn't last long. In the top of the fourth, No. 6 hitter Lim Byeong-wuk blasted a three-run homer to left to put the Heroes ahead 3-1.

The home run came off Hanwha starter Keyvius Sampson, who set a KBO postseason record by striking out the first five batters he faced. The previous record was three.

The Eagles erased that deficit in the home half of the fourth by scoring three runs.

Han again struggled with his control. He walked two straight batters on eight pitches and hit another batter to load the bases.

Han was pulled in favor of left-hander Oh Ju-won, who promptly allowed a two-run single to Lee Yong-kyu.

Jeong Keun-woo moved from first to third on that hit, and he came home to score the go-ahead run with some heads-up base running.

An Woo-jin of the Nexen Heroes throws a pitch against the Hanwha Eagles in the bottom of the fourth inning of Game 2 of the first round series in the Korea Baseball Organization postseason at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, on Oct. 20, 2018. (Yonhap)

As Lee Sung-yul struck out swinging at the plate, Lee Yong-kyu took off for second on a steal attempt but was caught in a rundown. But when first baseman Park Byung-ho threw the ball over the head of shortstop Kim Ha-seong, Jeong slid home safely for a 4-3 Eagles lead.

In the top fifth, Lim once again put the Heroes ahead with one swing of the bat.

Park Byung-ho drew a one-out walk from Sampson and chased the starter from the game. Hanwha's new pitcher, An Young-myung, walked the first batter he faced, and he was lifted right away for Park Sang-won.

Lim worked the count to 2-2 against Park before driving one over the right-center field for his second three-run bomb of the game, and the Heroes now led 6-4.

After two outs in the seventh, the Eagles pulled Song Eun-beom for a new reliever, Lee Tae-yang. Then the Heroes greeted Lee with three straight singles, capped off by No. 9 hitter Kim Jae-hyun's RBI hit to left that increased their lead to 7-4.

On a day when neither starter went deep, the Heroes won the battle of the bullpens -- this against the best relief corps from the regular season.

Rookie right-hander An Woo-jin, the Heroes' third pitcher, dominated the Eagles over 3 1/3 shutout innings, striking out five and giving up just two hits. The Heroes used four pitchers out of the pen.

Sampson ran his pitch count to 96 when he was taken out with one out in the fifth. He was followed by a parade of eight relievers.

The Heroes' win may have come at a hefty price, as star left fielder Lee Jung-hoo left the game with a shoulder injury after making a diving catch for the second out in the ninth inning. He was transferred to a local hospital for tests.

Lee missed a month of action in June with a torn labrum in his left shoulder while sliding into a base. Nexen manager Jang Jung-suk said Lee appeared to be in better shape than in June but he would have to wait for further diagnosis.

The Heroes will try to complete the sweep with American right-hander Jake Brigham on the mound to start Game 3.

In his second KBO season, Brigham went 11-7 with a 3.84 ERA, and he had a win in two regular season starts versus the Eagles while posting a 4.50 ERA.

To stay alive in the postseason, the Eagles will turn to right-hander Jang Min-je, who began the season in the bullpen and made three starts in September.

He was 6-2 with a 4.68 ERA for the season, including a 1-1 mark and a 4.02 ERA in those three starts.

He made five relief appearances against the Heroes during the regular season and had an ugly 11.12 ERA.

Players of the Nexen Heroes celebrate their 7-5 victory over the Hanwha Eagles in Game 2 of the first round series in the Korea Baseball Organization postseason at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, on Oct. 20, 2018. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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