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SK Wyverns beat Lotte Giants to start second round of baseball playoffs

SK Wyverns` Park Jung-kwon hits a go-head single that clinched the game 1 of the second round of the KBO playoffs on Tuesday in Incheon. (Yonhap News)
SK Wyverns` Park Jung-kwon hits a go-head single that clinched the game 1 of the second round of the KBO playoffs on Tuesday in Incheon. (Yonhap News)

The SK Wyverns squeezed past the Lotte Giants 2-1 Tuesday to open the second round of the playoffs in South Korea's top baseball competition.

In the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) action at Munhak Stadium here, just west of Seoul, starter Kim Kwang-hyun struck out 10 in six innings and veterans came through with key hits for the victorious home side.

Cleanup Lee Ho-joon hit a solo shot off Lotte's starter Shane Youman in the second inning, and Park Jung-kwon lined a go-ahead single in the sixth, as the bullpen took care of the rest to start the best-of-five affair.

Kim, a former league most valuable player (MVP), has been hampered by injuries in the past two seasons, and missed the first two months of this year with shoulder pain. He was 8-5 with a 4.30 earned run average (ERA) in the regular season, and manager Lee Man-soo's decision to name him the starter for the series opener raised more than a few eyebrows.

Kim responded with his strongest outing all year, earning the victory with a season-high 10 strikeouts while scattering five hits. Closer Jung Woo-ram pitched a perfect ninth for the save.

The second game of the series is back at Munhak at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The Wyverns hold the home field advantage in this series. SK will send right-hander Yoon Hee-sang to start the game, with Lotte countering with right-hander Song Seung-jun.

Lee Ho-joon gave SK a lead with his seventh career postseason home run. The Giants finally solved Kim in the sixth, as Son A-seop tied the score with a towering double off the left-field wall.

Park Jung-kwon, known as the Korean equivalent of "Mr. October" for his playoff prowess, put the Wyverns ahead for good with a run-scoring single to left in the bottom sixth. Park, the 2010 Korean Series MVP, entered Tuesday's game with a career. 379 playoff batting average. He has been a .265 hitter in seven regular seasons.

The Giants blew a chance to put more runs on board following Son's double in the sixth inning.

Hong Sung-heun followed that double with a single, and the Giants had runners on corners with one out. Park Jong-yoon, the next batter, missed a bunt attempt, and was promptly replaced.

Pinch hitter Park Joon-seo lined out to shortstop, and Hong was doubled up at first to end the rally.

Youman pitched 5 1/3 innings and struck out seven in the loss.

Son went 2-for-4 in the losing cause.

Catcher Kang Min-ho went hitless in one at-bat as a pinch hitter for the Giants. He made his first appearance since taking an outfield throw to the face in the first game of the previous playoff round last Monday.

This is the rematch of the second round from a year ago. The Wyverns then knocked off the Giants in five games.

The winner of this series will go on to face the Samsung Lions in the championship Korean Series starting next week. The Lions beat the Wyverns to win the title last season.

Since the current three-round playoff format was introduced in 1989, teams that won the first game of the second round have reached the Korean Series on 21 occasions. (Yonhap News)