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Updated: October 9, 2013
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Copyright © 1997-2013
Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2013 by Marco Stoovelaar

Nexen Heroes take 2-0 lead in Korean Play-Offs
SEOUL (South Korea) - Nexen Heroes has taken a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five First Round of the Play-Offs in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) by winning 3-2 in 10 innings vs. Doosan Bears on Wednesday. The Heroes, which are participating in their first ever Play-Off, began the Series on Tuesday with a 4-3 victory. Game 3 will be played on Friday.

In this first round, the number 3 (Heroes) and number 4 (Bears) teams of the regular season meet each other. The winner of this round meets LG Twins (number 2) in the next round. The winner of that series then qualifies for the Korean Series, meeting Samsung Lions, which finished the regular season in first place to automatically advance to the finale.

The Dutch National Baseball Team played three exhibition games against Nexen Heroes in recent years. In 2009, as part of the preparations for the second World Baseball Classic, the first meeting between the two teams ended in a 3-3 tie in nine innings. In 2011, during an international tournament in St. Petersburg (Florida), the Dutch Team lost twice against the Korean squad, 6-1 and 2-1.

Game One
In the opener on Tuesday (October 8), played at Mokdong Stadium in western Seoul, the Heroes opened the score with two runs in the first inning off of American starter Dustin Nippert. The 32-year old Nippert, who pitched in 119 Major League-games for Arizona Diamondbacks (2005-2007) and Texas Rangers (2008-2010), gave up a lead-off single to Geon-chang Seo. He then stole second base and advanced on a throwing error by the catcher, then scored the first run on a sacrifice fly by Dong-wook Seo. With two outs, the Heroes lifted the lead to 2-0 on a homerun by Byung-ho Park, who led the league with 37 homeruns.

In the top of the second inning, the Bears immediately came alongside off of starting pitcher Brandon Knight, who briefly pitched in the Major League for New York Yankees (2001-2002) and New York Mets (2008) for a total of 15 games. The 38-year old American gave up four consecutive basehits, including singles by Su-bin Jeong and Eui-ji Yang that made is 2-2.

The Heroes re-took the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. Baserunner Byung-ho Park then scored from second base on a single by Seong-yol Lee.

Defensively, the Heroes then made a nice double play in the top of the seventh inning. Su-bin Jeong was the runner on first base for the Bears when pinch-hitter Jae-il Oh lined the ball into centerfield. There, centerfielder Taek-geun Lee made a sliding catch and was able to double up Jeong on first base, as he had left on the line drive by Oh.

With a 3-2 lead, closer Seung-lak Son took over the pitching for the Heroes with two outs in the top of the eighth inning. He finished the at bat, then got two quick outs in the top of the ninth. But then Won-seok Lee singled and scored the tying run when Su-bin Jeong followed with a double.

In the home of the ninth, pinch-hitter Han-joon Yoo led off for the Heroes with a walk and advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Do-hwan Hur. Next batter Geon-chang Seo was then walked intentionally, but the two runners moved on a grounder by Ki-young Jang. With runners now on second and third base, Taek-geun Lee (who made the double play in the seventh inning) hit a 2-out, walk-off single to give the Heroes a 4-3 victory.

Game Two
Game Two of the Play-Offs, which lasted more than four hours, was played on Wednesday-afternoon (October 9) at Mokdong Stadium. Wednesday was a national holiday, as it was Hangeul Day to celebrate the creation of the Korean alphabet.

For seven innings, the starting pitchers held each other in balance, as the game remained scoreless. Hui-kwan Yu gave up only three hits and struckout five batters in 7 1/3 innings as starter for the Bears. Lefthander Andy Van Hekken also threw 7 1/3 innings and gave up four basehits, while striking out six batters. The 34-year old American starter for the Heroes pitched in five Major League-games for Detroit Tigers during the 2002 season.

The Bears broke the scoreless tie in the top of the eighth inning. With runners on first and third base, pinch-hitter Jae-il Oh hit a force play-grounder, but when a throwing error followed trying to complete a double play, the first run was scored.

The Heroes came alongside in the home of the eighth. Reliever Sang-sam Hong issued a lead-off walk to Geon-chang Seo, who then advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt. With two outs, it was decided to walk powerhitter Byung-ho Park intentionally, but that went wrong. Hong threw the first pitch high over catcher Eui-ji Yang, which brought Seo to third base. The next pitch was then thrown in the dirt for another wild pitch, that enabled Seo to score the tying run.

But the Bears immediately re-took the lead in the top of the ninth inning. With Jong-wook Lee as runner on second base, reliever Seung-lak Son fielded a sacrifice bunt by Su-bin Jeong, but threw the ball on his back, resulting in a run.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Heroes tied the score again. With the bases loaded, Sun-woo Kim, the fourth pitcher in this inning, walked Geon-chang Seo to bring in the tying run. But with the bases still loaded, a strikeout and groundout ended the at bat to force extra innings.

In the top of the 10th, the Bears got two runners on base with two outs, but both were left behind. The Heroes then again registered a walk-off victory in the home of the tenth inning. Lead-off hitter Byung-ho Park was hit by a pitch from reliever Hyun-taek Oh, then moved to third base when Park made a throwing error in a failed pick-off at first base. Moments later, Ji-soo Kim (who entered the game in the 9th as new third baseman) delivered a single to bring in Park and give the Heroes a victory.

It is the first time in history that a team registers two back-to-back, walk-off victories in a Play-Off.

(October 9)

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