But this nail-biting contest at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, was much more than that. Both clubs put on a display of maddening inability to cash in on their opportunities
When the stakes are high and pitchers dig deep in playoffs, hitters have to pounce on what few chances they get and not do a collective Houdini act like these two clubs did Monday.
The starters do deserve some credit. Lotte left-hander Brooks Raley, the KBO's best pitcher in the second half, picked up right where he left off. He twirled 5 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing just four singles and walking none. He had to leave the game with one out in the sixth with Lotte leading 1-0 after taking a broken piece of bat to his left leg, but his bullpen preserved the slim lead to make Raley the deserving winner.
|Brooks Raley of the Lotte Giants bumps fists with a teammate after the top of the fourth inning against the NC Dinos in Game 2 of the clubs` first round postseason series in the Korea Baseball Organization at Sajik Stadium in Busan on Oct. 9, 2017. (Yonhap)|
Raley's counterpart, Jang Hyun-sik, threw seven innings and the one run he gave up was unearned. He only allowed three hits but issued five walks.
And the Giants' hitters failed to capitalize on those free passes, scoring their only run on a bases-loaded double play in the bottom of the second.
After third baseman Park Sok-min's error, Jang walked two straight batters to load the bases. But all Moon Kyu-hyun could muster was a grounder to second, which started a 4-6-3 double play.
The Giants hit into more twin killings than any team in the regular season with 146, and perhaps it was fitting that they got one on this day to score what proved to be the winning run.
Jang also issued two walks in the third inning. Lotte's No. 5 hitter, Andy Burns, hit a huge fly to left that just went foul, before flying out to center to kill the rally.
The Giants got a single off Jang with one out in the seventh, and the 22-year-old right-hander walked another batter. The defense behind him came through, as center fielder Kim Seong-uk and right fielder Na Sung-bum both made fine catches.
And that was really the last time the Giants made hard contact in this game. Jang settled down to sit down eight straight batters. Leadoff man Jeon Jun-woo ended the streak with an infield single -- a slow roller down the third base line that the Dinos hoped would go foul but didn't -- but pinch hitter Choi Joon-suk swung on the first pitch and popped out to third.
In their 9-2 loss in Sunday's Game 1, the Giants were 0-for-9 with men in scoring position, and left 10 men on base. Manager Cho Won-woo shuffled his batting order, hoping to spark his team's stagnant offense, but the revamped lineup produced just three hits. It was no mean feat that they actually pulled out a victory Monday.
Cho said he may have to do even more juggling for Game 3.
"For both clubs, it's hard to put up a big inning against good pitching," Cho said. "I am pretty sure these guys are playing under a lot of pressure. Shaking off that type of pressure is much easier said than done. But if we play with more confidence, I think our bats will come alive in Game 3."
The Dinos actually outhit the Giants 7-3, but had only one extra-base hit, a double by Xavier Scruggs in the sixth.
That was Scruggs' first hit of the series. In postseason play, counting the wild card game last Thursday, the cleanup man is only batting 2-for-11.
The Giants' cleanup man, former Seattle Mariners first baseman Lee Dae-ho, is just 2-for-8 in the series himself, with one walk and no RBIs.
Kim Kyung-moon, the losing manager, said he'd expected more offense from either side in this game.
"Honestly, I didn't think the two teams would struggle so much to score," he said. "This is why baseball is such a difficult game." (Yonhap)