(LEAD) Bears walk off on Giants on KBO Opening Day
(ATTN: ADDS comments in para 27)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- First-year import Jose Rojas blasted a three-run walkoff home run in the bottom of the 11th inning, as the Doosan Bears defeated the Lotte Giants 12-10 on Saturday in a wild affair to start the 2023 South Korean baseball season.
The Bears blew a 3-0 lead, and then clawed back from an 8-3 deficit. The Giants forced extra innings with a run in the top ninth and took a lead in the top 11th, before Rojas put an exclamation point on the Opening Day drama with his home run.
The Bears' first-year manager Lee Seung-yuop won in his much-anticipated debut.
The two teams combined for 26 hits and handed out 15 walks in the marathon of a game that lasted well over four hours.
The Bears put up a three-spot in the bottom of the first against shaky Giants starter Dan Straily, who had trouble locating his pitches.
After a single and a four-pitch walk, Straily threw a wild pitch to let both runners advance. Then Jose Rojas' groundout to second cashed in one run.
Straily walked another batter to put runners at the corners, and Yang Eui-ji's single to left scored two more runs.
Lead runner Heo Kyoung-min scored easily from third, and Kim Jae-hwan came home from first on a throw to second. Yang was thrown out at second and was only credited with one RBI on his hit.
This was Yang's first regular season game in his second stint with the Bears after spending the past four years with the NC Dinos. Yang first played for the Bears from 2007 to 2018.
The Giants got a run back in the next half inning, with Jeon Jun-woo's solo home run off Bears starter Raul Alcantara.
The Giants then scored three times in the top fourth to take a 4-3 lead.
With the bases loaded following a single and two walks, An Gweon-su dumped a two-run single to left field to knot the game at 3-3. An Chi-hong followed up with a go-ahead single to right field.
With Alcantara out of the game to start the fifth, the Giants tacked on three more runs.
New pitcher Kim Myeong-sin loaded the bases with one out on two singles and a walk. After striking out An Gweon-su, Kim handed the reins to Lee Hyeong-beom, who walked in a run for a 5-3 Giants lead.
Zach Reks extended the lead to 7-3 with a two-run single, his third hit of the game.
The lead grew to 8-3 in the top sixth, when Go Seung-min slid home under the tag on No Jin-hyuk's bunt toward first.
Just when the Giants thought they were on their way to an easy victory, the Bears turned the game upside down with a five-run explosion in the bottom seventh.
Lee Yu-chan's sacrifice fly cut the deficit to 8-4. Then with two aboard later in the inning, Jose Rojas knocked in a run with a single to right.
Cleanup Kim Jae-hwan then greeted reliever Koo Seung-min with a three-run blast over the right field wall, knotting the score at 8-8.
The Giants used four helpless pitchers just to complete that disastrous inning.
The Bears went ahead in the bottom eighth, thanks to some small ball.
With a runner at third, first baseman Go Seung-min fielded a well-placed bunt by Lee Yu-chan, and flipped the ball home with his glove. But speedy pinch runner Jo Soo-haeng scored easily to put the Bears up 9-8.
The Giants were down but not out, tying things up at 9-9 in the top ninth.
Bears closer Hong Geon-hui issued a leadoff walk and then threw a wild pitch. A sacrifice bunt moved the runner to third, and An Gweon-su delivered a game-tying triple to right-center field, picking up his third RBI of the game.
Reks gave the Giants a 10-9 lead with a single in the top 11th, but it was Rojas who scripted the final chapter.
The Bears greeted new pitcher Moon Kyeong-chan with two straight singles. Rojas then jumped on the first-pitch fastball and drove it into the right field seats for the thrilling win.
"I was just trying to hit a sacrifice fly to bring in the tying run, but luckily, I got a mistake pitch to hit and it ended up being a home run," Rojas said afterward. "We had a great vibe in the dugout from start to finish. We never once thought we would lose this game."
Neither starter had an "A" game at Jamsil. Straily was in position to earn the win after giving up three runs on four hits and three walks in five innings in his third career Opening Day start, before the bullpen imploded.
Alcantara, reunited with the Bears after winning a KBO-best 20 games for them in 2020, couldn't make the early 3-0 lead stand. He allowed four runs on six hits and four walks in four innings. He needed 91 pitches to get his 12 outs.
Elsewhere in the KBO, the defending champions SSG Landers defeated the Kia Tigers 4-1 at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, some 30 kilometers west of Seoul.
Landers designated hitter Choo Shin-soo, the oldest position player in the league this season at 40, hit the first home run by anyone this season in the bottom first. Landers starter Kim Kwang-hyun became the fastest pitcher to reach career win No. 150, doing so in his 327th game.
The KT Wiz beat the LG Twins 11-6 at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, 35 kilometers south of the capital. Kang Baek-ho and Anthony Alford, batting second and third for the Wiz, combined to go 7-for-9 with two home runs and six RBIs. Wiz starter Wes Benjamin gave up a run -- unearned -- on two hits in six innings.
At Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, the Kiwoom Heroes walked off on the Hanwha Eagles 3-2, as Lee Hyung-jong came through with the game-winning single with two outs in the bottom 10th.
Heroes starter An Woo-jin set an Opening Day record with 12 strikeouts.
The NC Dinos blanked the Samsung Lions 8-0 on the road at Daegu Samsung Lions Park in Daegu, 290 kilometers southeast of Seoul. No. 9 hitter Kim Ju-won hit a three-run home run in the victory.
President Yoon Suk Yeol threw out the ceremonial first pitch before that game.
All five games sold out on Saturday, the first time the KBO has enjoyed a complete Opening Day sellout since it expanded to 10 clubs in 2015.
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