(ATTN: UPDATES with final results in paras 5, 9-13)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Oct. 6 (Yonhap) -- Choi Ji-man hits Gerrit Cole like few others in Major League Baseball (MLB).
Choi, the South Korean first baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays, blasted a two-run homer off the New York Yankees' ace in Game 1 of their American League Division Series (ALDS) at Petco Park in San Diego on Monday (local time).
It was Choi's fourth career home run and 10th hit in 19 career at-bats against Cole, including postseasons. Choi also has 10 RBIs against the right-handed fireballer.
The ball left Choi's bat at 108.9 miles per hour and traveled 429 feet over left center. These teams will play their entire best-of-five series in San Diego as the neutral venue, with no traveling during the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite Choi's heroics, the Rays dropped the opening game 9-3. The Yankees torched the Rays' pitching for four home runs, including a grand slam by Giancarlo Stanton in the ninth.
During this past regular season, Choi had only three home runs, but two of them came against Cole. With the history of his success against one of MLB's top pitchers, Choi got the start in the cleanup spot in the first game.
Cole won the early battle, as Choi popped out to third baseman Gio Urshela to end the first inning.
But in the fourth inning with the Rays trailing 2-1, Choi drilled a 95.8 mph fastball on the outer part of the plate for a go-ahead, two-run shot.
The Rays' 3-2 lead was short-lived, however, as the Yankees responded with two solo homers in the top of the fifth against starter Blake Snell to take a 4-3 lead, and they put up a five-spot in the top of the ninth to win 9-3.
Choi came up in a big spot in the bottom of the fifth, with two outs and runners at the corners. Cole fell behind 2-0 and then, instead of dealing with Choi, intentionally walked him to load the bases and set up a force play at every base.
The decision paid off for Cole, as he struck out Manuel Margot to end the threat.
In his final plate appearance in the eighth, Choi grounded out to second against left-handed reliever Zach Britton. Choi finished the day 1-for-3 with that two-run home run and a walk.
Game 2 will be at Petco Park at 5:10 p.m. Tuesday (local time), or 9:10 a.m. Wednesday in South Korea.
New BTS song 'Film Out' tops Japan's Oricon weekly chart
Red Velvet's Wendy sings from the heart in tranquil debut album
'Fake Love' becomes 4th BTS video to top 900 mln views
Woman indicted over death of daughter, disappearance of granddaughter
(News Focus) BTS company Hybe looks onward, upward with Ithaca merger
(Yonhap Feature) How young voters, once solid supporters of liberal causes, turned against Moon's party in by-elections
Moon takes election rout as 'reprimand' from the public, Cheong Wa Dae says
Boy band TXT to perform on Ellen DeGeneres show in latest global push
SHINee's weekend online concert draws fans from 120 countries
(News Focus) With mobile biz left behind, LG Electronics now sets sights on vehicle parts, AI
Man sentenced to 6 years in prison for trafficking marijuana
(LEAD) New virus cases in 600s for 3rd day amid extended social distancing scheme
S. Korea, U.S. authorities assess N.K. has completed building new 3,000-ton submarine: sources
S. Korean PM departs for Iran amid tension over seized Tehran funds
Jeju stuck in dilemma over tourism recovery and spread of COVID-19