Lotte’s Jeon sparks offense to win

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Lotte’s Jeon sparks offense to win

Lotte Giants outfielder Jeon Joon-woo’s solo home run in the top of the ninth inning against Doosan sparked the Giants’ offense to a 10-5 win in the opening game of the first round, best-of-five playoff series between the two teams on Wednesday night.

The opening game of the 2010 KBO postseason between the league’s top two offenses - Lotte hit 185 home runs as a team during the regular season and Doosan hit 149 - lived up to its billing, as fans were provided with plenty of action, with the lead exchanging four times. The game was deadlocked at five runs apiece heading into the ninth inning and Jeon, making the first playoff appearance of his career, blasted a leadoff solo homer in the top of the ninth inning off Doosan’s Jeong Jae-hoon to initiate a late offensive onslaught.

“Jeong did not have a great breaking ball tonight so I was planning on delaying the timing of my swing a bit but got a fastball,” said Jeon in a post-game interview. “I merely made contact on the pitch but it ended up being a home run. I have a tendency to chase after pitches early in the count but this is an important game. I wanted to remain patient.”

Lotte, which boasted the best offense in the league during the regular season and is known for its home-run hitting, was held to one walk and nine hits, including just one double, through eight innings.

But all that changed with Jeon’s home run.

Jeon, who was named the game’s most valuable player, had hit 19 home runs with a .289 batting average in the regular season. Though he is coming off his third season in the KBO, this is the first year the outfielder secured a spot in the starting nine.

In the history of the KBO, winning the opening game in the first round almost guarantees a series win. Only one team - Lotte - has failed to advance to the second round after winning the opening game of the best-of-five series. The Giants won the opener last year before losing three straight to Doosan.

On Wednesday night, Doosan showed a lot of grit coming back on four different occasions. Lotte opened the scoring with two runs in the top of the second inning, but Doosan answered with four runs in the bottom of the fourth to make the game 4-2. Lotte tied the game in the top of the fifth with two runs but Doosan came back with two runs of their own in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 5-4 lead. Lotte scored a run in the top of the seventh to tie the game at five.

The game seemed to be headed to a tight finish. However, Doosan - in particular, its bullpen - caved under pressure in the ninth inning. Doosan had one of the league’s top closers in Lee Yong-chan before he was booked earlier this month for drunken driving and hit-and-run charges. Lee won rookie of the year honors last year after notching 26 saves and was leading the league with 25 saves at the time of his arrest. Starter Lim Tae-hoon was converted into a closer to replace Lee. Lim entered the game on Wednesday night with his team trailing 6-5 and walked three batters and gave up three runs.

“We played well until the eighth inning but we played horribly in the ninth inning,” said Doosan manager Kim Kyung-moon.

Game two took place last night with Ryan Sadowski taking the mound for Lotte and Kim Sun-woo starting for Doosan. The two teams take today off before the series shifts to Sajik Stadium in Busan for games three and four on Saturday and Sunday.

By Jason Kim []
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