Seven hits and three walks. And two errors. The NC Dinos pounded the KT Wiz mound nonstop for four innings.
NC scored a total of eight runs in the first through fourth innings to take a commanding 8-1 lead at the end of the fifth inning in the first round of the 2023 KBO League Postseason (PS) Playoffs (PO) at KT Wiz Park in Suwon on Tuesday.
The eight runs weren’t the result of multiple home runs. There was one home run, but it was a solo shot. Instead, it was a combination of quick feet that didn’t miss, gap power that sent balls all over the outfield, and a cannon that broke the opposition’s momentum. It was total baseball in NC this fall.
Initially, the game was expected to be a pitcher’s duel. The NC starter was Eric Peddy. With a 20-6 record, 2.00 ERA, and 209 strikeouts, he was the best pitcher of the year, leading the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. Not far behind was KT starter William Cuevas. After returning to KT as a substitute outfielder, he went 12-0 with a 2.60 ERA in 18 games, earning him the win percentage honor for the season.
It was expected to be a pitching battle between the two aces, but the result was quite the opposite. Unlike Pedi, who continued his strong start as expected, Cuevas was shaky from the first inning. Although Cuevas’ pitches were a bit shaky, the hot start of the NC bats was the decisive factor. After winning the Wild Card (WC) decider against the Doosan Bears, NC advanced to the PO with a three-game series sweep against SSG Randutch in the semi-PO. In addition to the top line of Son Ah-seob, Park Min-woo, and Park Gun-woo, which had been a strength in the regular season, the presence of foreign hitter Jason Martin and the contact-happy Seo Ho-cheol and one-hit wonder Kim Hyung-jun in the bottom of the order stood out.
Despite taking four days off after the Semi-Po victory, the batting didn’t cool down a bit. NC came to Suwon with the same fire in their bats. Facing Cuevas in the top of the first inning, NC had a chance to take the lead when Son As-seop singled and Park Min-woo doubled, followed by Martin’s sacrifice fly. However, they were unable to capitalize on a bases-loaded walk and a single.
But the mood didn’t cool down after that. NC continued its momentum in the top of the second inning with a leadoff single by Oh Young-soo. After a six-pitch battle with Cuevas, he took advantage of a 149-kilometer/high fastball on a full count and connected with a solo shot to left-center field.
The onslaught continued in every inning. It didn’t have the same impact as the come-from-behind win in the WC, but it steadily chipped away at Cuevas. KT took advantage of an error in the third inning. Leadoff hitter Park Min-woo hit an infield single, but third baseman Hwang Jae-gyun missed it. The next batter, Park Gun-woo, pulled a 143 km/h fastball that Cuevas threw for a strike, and the ball was again aimed at third baseman Hwang Jae-gyun. It hit the glove and landed on the left-field line for a timely double that scored Park. Kwon Hee-dong singled off a shaky Cuevas to score another run.굿모닝토토 도메인
Facing a 4-1 deficit, KT’s momentum was broken in the fourth inning. After a seven-pitch at-bat, leadoff hitter Kim Hyung-jun picked the last high fastball and drew a walk. An opponent’s error presented another opportunity. Kim laid down a sacrifice bunt in front of the pitcher. Cuevas threw it to second base for what looked like the game-winning run, but Song beat the shortstop to the outfield.
The opportunity that Cuevas dedicated to NC eventually turned into a big inning. The next batter, Son As-seob, singled to bring in Kim Hyung-jun, who should have been stranded. KT made a late change to Uhm Sang-baek on the mound, but it wasn’t enough to stop NC’s momentum. Park Min-woo drew a walk against Uhm to load the bases, and Park Gun-woo’s sacrifice fly brought in another run.
Kwon Hee-dong had a big inning. Coming to bat with the bases loaded, he harassed KT’s Lee Sang-dong with 11 pitches. After cutting four more pitches in a full count, he finally got a hit on the 11th pitch. The middle infielders gave chase, but the ball hit the glove and dropped into the outfield, turning the ball into a triple on the fly. The scoring streak from the first inning finally came to an end in the fifth inning when the score was finally zeroed.