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(LEAD) Bears' Flexen dominant in 2nd straight KBO postseason start

All News 23:03 November 09, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS comments throughout, photo)
By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 9 (Yonhap) -- Twice he has pitched in the South Korean baseball postseason. And twice opposing hitters could barely touch him.

Chris Flexen of the Doosan Bears fired 7 1/3 dominant innings, striking out 11 while allowing four singles and two walks in the Bears' 3-2 victory over the KT Wiz that opened the best-of-five second round in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) postseason.

Chris Flexen of the Doosan Bears pitches against the KT Wiz in the bottom of the first inning of Game 1 of the Korea Baseball Organization second-round postseason series at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Nov. 9, 2020. (Yonhap)

Flexen was charged with two earned runs, when closer Lee Young-ha allowed two inherited runners to score in the eighth inning. The blown save spoiled a record-setting night for Flexen, who became the first KBO pitcher ever to record 10 or more strikeouts in consecutive postseason starts. He had struck out 11 batters in six shutout innings against the LG Twins during the first-round game last Wednesday.

Flexen said he got into "a great groove" with his catcher Park Sei-hyok.

"We were able to mix it up and execute (pitches) when we need to," he said. "There were times when we got groundouts and a couple of double plays when we needed them the most."

This was a pitching duel for the first seven innings, with the Wiz's rookie starter So Hyeong-jun firing 6 2/3 scoreless innings himself.

Flexen was even more dominant and efficient than So.

Flexen had five strikeouts through first three innings. After a clean third inning, Flexen worked around a one-out error by shortstop Kim Jae-ho in the fourth by getting Park Kyung-su to hit into a 5-4-3 double play.

Flexen then struck out the bottom third of the lineup in order in the fifth inning -- all of them by swinging.

Another three-up, three-down inning followed in the sixth. Flexen issued his first walk with two outs in the seventh but struck out Cho Yong-ho to end that inning.

After making 95 pitches through seven innings, Flexen came back out for the bottom eighth -- after the Bears broke the scoreless tie with two runs in the top half of that inning.

Chris Flexen of the Doosan Bears hoists the sign showing him as the Player of the Game for Game 1 of the Korea Baseball Organization second-round playoff series against the KT Wiz at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Nov. 9, 2020. (Yonhap)

Flexen walked Bae Jung-dae to begin the eighth, and after one out, gave up a double to Hwang Jae-gyun that put runners at second and third.

The trusted closer Lee Young-ha came on for a potential five-out save, but he ended up giving up a game-tying, two-out single to Yoo Han-joon.

Lee had Yoo in a 0-2 hole but hung a breaking ball over the middle of the plate. Flexen came within a strike of walking away with 7 1/3 scoreless innings and qualifying for a win.

Though Flexen didn't get a decision, he got the last laugh. The Bears scored in the top ninth, and Lee held his ground to lock down a 3-2 victory.

"We battled and the offense did a great job putting up the runs when we needed to," Flexen said. "It was a tough pitching duel early on and we came out on top."

Flexen has been on form since October. He was 4-0 in five October starts, closing out the regular season with a 0.85 ERA.

He has now allowed just two earned runs in 13 1/3 innings with 21 strikeouts.

"I honestly can't recall being this efficient for this kind of period of time," he said. "The way Park Sei-hyok (catcher) and I have been able to get into the groove is definitely one of my best."

Chris Flexen of the Doosan Bears pitches against the KT Wiz in the bottom of the first inning of Game 1 of the Korea Baseball Organization second-round postseason series at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Nov. 9, 2020. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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