(ATTN: ADDS details in paras 4, 19-21)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Oct. 6 (Yonhap) -- Former Minnesota Twins slugger Park Byung-ho came through with a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, as the Kiwoom Heroes defeated the LG Twins 1-0 to open the first round playoff series in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) on Sunday.
Park jumped on the first pitch thrown by LG reliever Go Woo-suk and drove it over the center field wall at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, ending a string of zeroes with an exclamation point.
Park led the regular season with 33 home runs in his second season back with the Heroes, after spending two years in the Minnesota Twins organization.
Game 2 of this series is 6:30 p.m. Monday, back at Gocheok Sky Dome. In the past 12 first-round series in a best-of-five format, teams that won Game 1 advanced to the next round eight times.
The Heroes had a hit in each of the first six innings but failed to capitalize on those chances, letting LG starter Tyler Wilson off the hook each time.
The Heroes had men on the corners with one out in the second inning but the bottom of their order couldn't come through, as No. 8 hitter Kim Kyu-min struck out looking and No. 9 hitter Kim Hye-seong grounded out to second.
A leadoff single by Seo Geon-chang in the bottom third was erased by a double play ball off Kim Ha-seong's bat. In the fourth, a single and a double put men at second and third with one out. Lee Ji-young's hard grounder to third wasn't enough to bring in a run. And Kim Kyu-min struck out swinging for the second straight at-bat.
In the fifth, Kim Ha-seong reached with a two-out single but was caught stealing second on a pitchout.
Jerry Sands hit a two-out single in the sixth, but was stranded on a fielder's choice grounder by Kim Woong-bin.
LG pinch hitter Park Yong-taik broke Kiwoom starter Jake Brigham's no-hit bid with a leadoff single in the seventh. He was lifted for pinch runner Shin Min-jae, who was promptly picked off at first base.
But the Twins kept the inning alive, as Lee Hyung-jong drew a walk and, after two outs, Chae Eun-seong hit a single to chase Brigham from the game.
It was the Twins' first opportunity with a man in scoring position, and they failed to cash in, as Carlos Peguero struck out swinging against new Kiwoom pitcher, Cho Sang-woo.
The top of the eighth inning opened with some promise for the Twins, as Kim Min-sung drew a leadoff walk. But Yoo Kang-nam bunted into a double play to kill the mini-rally.
Yoo popped the ball just in front of home plate. Kim hesitated at first and only took off for second base once the ball hit the ground. Catcher Lee Ji-young picked it up and gunned down Kim by a mile, and Yoo, a slow runner, was thrown out at first for the double play.
For the Heroes, Kim Ha-seong walked with one out in the bottom eighth but but was picked off at first base.
The Twins couldn't bring home Lee Hyung-jong with two outs in the top ninth after Lee was hit by pitch.
That set the stage for Park's heroics, which didn't take long, as he hammered the first pitch he saw from Go.
Go, a 21-year-old closer who had 35 regular season saves, suffered a loss in his second career postseason outing. He survived a nervy ninth inning against the NC Dinos in the wild card game last Thursday.
The Heroes will send left-hander Eric Jokisch to the mound for Monday's Game 2. He was 13-9 with a complete-game shutout, while posting a 3.13 ERA in 30 starts in the regular season.
Jokisch went 1-1 in two starts versus the Twins with a 5.06 ERA.
The Twins will counter with left-hander Cha Woo-chan, who went 13-8 with a 4.12 ERA in the regular season. He lost his one start against the Heroes in the regular season after allowing four runs in seven innings.
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