Bottom of the lineup carrying offense for Lotte
They may not quite be the “fearsome foursome,” but the bottom three hitters in Lotte Giants’ lineup have done enough damage to instill fear into pitchers of their playoff opponent, the Doosan Bears.
The Giants hold a 2-0 series lead over the Bears in their best-of-five first round playoff series in the Korea Baseball Organization. They beat the Bears 8-5 in 10 innings on Monday and squeezed past the Seoul-based club 2-1 on Tuesday.
As the series moves to the Giants’ home of Busan, some 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, Thursday, the team will look to the three guys at the bottom of their order to keep carrying the offense.
In Tuesday’s victory, Yong Deok-han, the backup catcher batting eighth, hit a go-ahead, solo home run in the top ninth. Moon Kyu-hyun, the shortstop who batted just .205 in the regular season, went 3-for-4 with an RBI that tied the score at 1-1 in the seventh.
Shortstop Hwang Jae-gyun, in the seventh spot, added a base hit.
They had six of the team’s eight hits.
On Monday, Hwang, then batting eighth, had two hits and drove in two runs. Park Joon-seo, who pinched hit for Son Yong-seok in the seventh spot, hit a game-tying, two-run homer in the eighth inning and put down a bunt single in the top of the 10th to keep the decisive rally alive.
Two players higher up in the order, Cho Sung-hwan and Jeon Jun-woo, are a combined 0-for-7 in the series so far. Jeon batted third Monday and was hitless in five at-bats. He was moved down to sixth Tuesday but was replaced after going 0-for-2.
Lotte’s Ryan Sadowski (left) and Doosan’s Lee Yong-chan will be the Game 3 starters. (Yonhap News)
With their struggles, Lotte has needed all the help it can get from other places in the lineup. Manager Yang Seung-ho said he appreciates production from unlikely sources.
“In big games, we need unexpected players to come through,” he said after Tuesday’s victory. “I am very grateful for what Yong Deok-han has done. He is a classic defensive catcher, and I didn’t expect much from him offensively.”
Yong started Tuesday in place of Kang Min-ho, the usual starting catcher who injured his left eye Monday when a bad hop on a throw from outfield nailed him in the face. Kang led the Giants with 19 home runs in the regular season, and remains doubtful for Thursday’s game.
If Yong can keep up his pace, though, offense from the catcher’s spot should be of little concern to the Giants.
Though Yong has had only four regular season home runs in 359 career games, he has enjoyed some playoff success before.
While playing for the Bears in 2010, he went 6-for-9 with 4 RBIs against the Giants in the first round and was named the series MVP. He has 12 career postseason hits, and five have gone for extra bases.
Yong joined the Giants in a midseason trade this June, after playing six and a half seasons for the Bears. He said he wanted to prove his worth before his former club.
“The Bears obviously didn’t think I could be part of their future, and that is why I got traded,” Yong said. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt. I wanted to prove on the field that I could play. That helped me concentrate better at the plate.”
Yong also thanked the Bears for “not blocking my way and giving me the opportunity to play through this trade.”
“I sort of feel bad about beating Doosan,” he added. “But today, I am a member of the Lotte Giants and I did my best for this team.”
The backup catcher said he will readily cede the spotlight to Kang at the first opportunity.
“Min-ho is our starter, and he will be back for the third game,” Yong said with a smile. “I am ready to take a backseat.” (Yonhap News)