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Manager credits 2 key players for 'easy' playoff win

All Headlines 20:54 October 20, 2018

DAEJEON, Oct. 20 (Yonhap) -- Though the Nexen Heroes only ended up beating the Hanwha Eagles by 7-5 in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) postseason on Saturday, winning manager Jang Jung-suk felt the game was far easier for his club than the score indicated.

And Jang had two key players to thank for that peace of mind: outfielder Lim Byeong-wuk and right-handed reliever An Woo-jin.

Lim Byeong-wuk of the Nexen Heroes (C) high-fives teammate Kim Min-sung (R) 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)

Lim smacked a pair of three-run home runs and An tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen to help the Heroes takes a 2-0 series stranglehold on the road in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul.

The Heroes can finish off the Eagles on Monday at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul.

"In the postseason, all we need is for a couple of guys to go crazy and play out of their minds," Jang said. "And today, An Woo-jin and Lim Byeong-wuk made life easy for us."

Lim's first three-run shot came in the top of the fourth inning, after the Eagles had scored first in the bottom second.

That home run off starter Keyvius Sampson put the Heroes up by 3-1. But the Eagles came right back with three runs in the bottom third to take a 4-3 lead.

Then it was Lim's turn to shine again, this time belting a three-run shot off Park Sang-won, the Eagles' third pitcher of the game.

Both of the home runs came off four-seam fastballs, and Lim said he guessed correctly on both occasions.

"I sensed that I was going to get a fastball, and I just tried to keep my swing simple and put the barrel on the ball," he said. "I trusted myself to do some damage."

On the mound, starter Han Hyun-hee issued four walks and hit two batters in three wild innings. After Oh Ju-won got two outs in relief, An took over and kept the Eagles off the board over the next 3 1/3.

An Woo-jin of the Nexen Heroes prepares to 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)

The 19-year-old faced 12 batters and struck out five of them while allowing just two hits.

Jang admitted that he should have pulled Han earlier, but An saved his day with the strong outing.

An, a highly-touted hurler out of high school, was a controversial figure at the start of his pro career. The Heroes belatedly learned of An's assault of younger teammates in high school and suspended him for 50 games. He didn't make his pro debut until May, and after being held out of spring training as part of his punishment, An had a rough start to his season.

He was 2-4 in 20 appearances with a 7.19 ERA, not nearly the kind of numbers that the Heroes envisioned from the young fireballer.

But in his postseason debut, An said he tried not to let the moment get to him.

"It felt different than a regular season game, but my pitching coach (Brandon Knight) told me to enjoy this," An said. "I was able to relax after that, and I was having fun out there."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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