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NC Dinos take series opener in baseball postseason

BUSAN -- The NC Dinos stole a road game in the Korea Baseball Organization postseason Sunday, beating the Lotte Giants 9-2 in 11 innings to open their best-of-five first round series.

The Dinos exploded for seven runs in the top of the 11th at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, powered by Mo Chang-min's grand slam.

The winner of Game 1 in the first round has gone on to take the series in six of the past 10 years, including each of the last three. Game 2 is back at Sajik Stadium at 2 p.m. Monday, before the series moves to the Dinos' home in Changwon, about 50 kilometers west of Busan, on Wednesday.

NC manager Kim Kyung-moon said the road victory should set the tone for the rest of the series.

"After winning the first game on the road, we have some momentum on our side now," he said. "If we can just stay composed for Game 2, we should have another good game."

The Dinos blew a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth, when Lotte pinch hitter Park Hun-do hit a game-tying solo home run. But the Dinos rode out the storm and took the lead for good in the top of the 11th, on a combination of heads-up base running and timely hitting.
Kwon Hee-dong of the NC Dinos celebrates his go-ahead double in the top of the 11th inning against the Lotte Giants in Game 1 of the clubs` first round postseason series in the Korea Baseball Organization at Sajik Stadium in Busan on Oct. 8, 2017. The Dinos went on to take the game 9-2. (Yonhap)
Kwon Hee-dong of the NC Dinos celebrates his go-ahead double in the top of the 11th inning against the Lotte Giants in Game 1 of the clubs` first round postseason series in the Korea Baseball Organization at Sajik Stadium in Busan on Oct. 8, 2017. The Dinos went on to take the game 9-2. (Yonhap)

Ji Seok-hun led off the frame with a double and alertly took third base when Lotte reliever Park Si-young bounced a pitch in the dirt.

Catcher Kang Min-ho made a strong throw to third, but Ji made a nifty slide to avoid the tag and stay alive.

Then Kwon Hee-dong brought him home with a sharp double to left, picking up his second RBI of the game.

The Dinos were far from done. With Lee Myung-woo now pitching, No Jin-hyuk tried to put down a sacrifice bunt. Third baseman Hwang Jin-soo fielded the ball but made a poor throw to third trying to get the lead runner and ended up putting men at the corners for the Dinos instead.

New Lotte pitcher, Chang Si-hwan, struck out the next two batters but then suddenly lost command of all of his pitches, walking three straight batters.

After the first walk loaded the bases, Chang issued another free pass to Na Sung-bum. Catcher Kang couldn't hold on to the fourth ball, allowing two runners to come home for a 5-2 lead.

Chang walked Xavier Scruggs on four pitches to load the bases again. Then Mo Chang-min put the game further out of reach with a towering grand slam.

The seven runs in the 11th inning were a KBO postseason record for most runs in an extra inning.

The Dinos got on the board ahead of their opponents in the top of the first when Park Min-woo, who led off the game with a double and moved to third on a groundout, scored on a wild pitch by Lotte starter Josh Lindblom.

Park barely beat Lindblom's tag at the plate. The Giants challenged the initial call, which stood after a video review.

The Giants tried to rally immediately in the bottom of the first, putting two men on with one out after a single and a walk. But NC starter Eric Hacker escaped the inning unscathed by retiring the next two batters.

That was the recurring theme in this game. The Giants put two men on base with two outs in the third, but Hacker wiggled his way out once again by striking out No. 5 hitter Kang Min-ho.

The Dinos made their opponents pay for these wasted chances as Kwon Hee-dong delivered a two-out RBI single off Lindblom in the top of the fourth to put the Dinos up 2-0.

The Giants finally eked out a run in the bottom of the fourth, with an RBI groundout by No. 9 hitter Hwang Jin-soo. But that didn't quite spark the rest of the Giants' lineup.

In the bottom of the sixth, they had men at the corners after back-to-back one-out singles. Then No. 8 hitter Moon Kyu-hyun struck out swinging, and Hwang lined out to right to end the threat.

Hwang made solid contact on that sinking line drive, and right fielder Na Sung-bum made a crucial catch while losing his balance and falling forward onto the ground.

The Giants squandered yet another opportunity in the bottom of the seventh, when Kang Min-ho struck out with men at first and second.

That was the final inning for Hacker, and right on cue, the Giants scored one off the Dinos' bullpen, as pinch hitter Park Hun-do launched a game-tying solo home run off reliever Kim Jin-sung with two outs in the eighth.

The Giants summoned their All-Star closer Son Seung-lak to keep the door shut on the Dinos in the ninth and 10th innings. After making his season-high 35 pitches, Son handed the reins over to Park Si-young to open the 11th, but the right-hander conceded the go-ahead run before the rest of the bullpen had a meltdown.

The Giants had at least a runner in scoring position in five of the first seven innings against Hacker, who outlasted his Lotte counterpart Lindblom in a strong pitching duel.

Hacker scattered eight singles to hold the Giants to a run over seven innings, striking out six and walking two. He just missed out on his second career postseason win.

Lindblom, in his first KBO postseason appearance, settled down after allowing the first-inning run on a wild pitch but got little help from his offense. He was charged with two earned runs on five hits over six innings, and had seven strikeouts against two walks.

The Dinos will try to take a stranglehold Monday with 22-year-old right-hander Jang Hyun-sik on the mound. He was 9-9 with a 5.29 ERA in 31 appearances this year. He also struggled against the Giants, going 0-2 with a 5.71 ERA in four games.

The Giants will look to even the series as left-hander Brooks Raley takes the ball. He was 13-7 with a 3.80 ERA for the year, but was among the KBO's best starters in the second half, with a 7-0 record and a 2.83 ERA, the lowest in the league after the All-Star break.

He was just 1-3 with a 4.82 ERA in five starts against the Dinos during the regular season. (Yonhap)