The Korea Herald


NC Dinos get monkey off their back, earn first KBO win

By 윤민식

Published : April 12, 2013 - 09:46

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It took them eight games, and the NC Dinos finally have their first victory in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).

Behind a strong start by right-hander Lee Jae-hak, the expansion club defeated the LG Twins 4-1 in Seoul Thursday night.

They're now 1-7 in their inaugural KBO season.

"(This game) made us all realize the importance of one win," said manager Kim Kyung-moon. "Every player concentrated hard and played good defense, and we had a strong desire to win."

The Dinos had come close to beating the Twins in their two previous games. On Tuesday, the the Dinos only trailed 6-5 through six innings before succumbing 9-5. They still knocked around LG pitching for 10 hits.

Then on Wednesday, the Dinos clawed back from a 4-0 deficit and trailed 7-5 through seven, but that stood as the final score as their offense ran out of gas.

However, the third time against the Twins was a charm, as the Dinos scored twice in the top of the first and added two insurance runs in the top eighth for the momentous win.

Among expansion clubs in the league history, the Dinos were the latest to reach the winner's circle. In 1986, the Binggrae Eagles, the former incarnation of the Hanwha Eagles, won their fourth game.

The now-defunct Ssangbangwool Raiders in 1991 and the SK Wyverns in 2000 each won their very first game.

Kim, who had previously managed the Doosan Bears, entered Thursday's contest with 512 career wins, the second most among active KBO managers. After Thursday's game, Kim, who admitted he'd lost sleep over the losing streak, said his win No. 513 was as emotional as any.

Relieved to get the first win out of the way, the manager quipped that he felt like the team had reached the playoffs.

"It wasn't just the players and coaches; I am sure our fans must also have been stressed out over our skid," Kim said. "I'd like to thank them for sticking with us even though we'd been playing below expectations. We'll be better from here on out."

The Dinos had their season-high 12 hits and played their third errorless game of the season. But manager Kim gave the biggest credit to Lee, the starting pitcher, who threw six scoreless innings and gave up seven hits and a walk.

The freckle-faced 22-year-old was making his first start of the season. He had been scheduled to make his season debut against the Samsung Lions last Saturday but that game was rained out.

Lee led the Futures League, the South Korean minor league, with 15 wins and a 1.55 ERA in 2012. He was a second-round draft pick in 2010 for the Doosan Bears and pitched 16 games in relief that season under his current manager Kim Kyung-moon, going just 1-1 with a 5.01 ERA.

Lee, however, didn't make a single appearance in 2011 while recovering from an elbow injury. The Dinos still selected him in their expansion draft later in 2011, reuniting him with Kim.

Though he didn't overpower LG hitters, Lee still fooled them with an effective mix of his fastball, changeup and slider.

Lee said he wasn't thinking too much about the team's losing streak and was instead trying to play his own game.

"It would have been better if we'd won earlier, but it's still an honor to be part of this historic victory," Lee said. "I kept throwing inside and it worked out pretty well. I will try to stay positive for my future starts, too."

The Eagles, meanwhile, lost their 10th straight game Thursday night and are now the only winless club in the KBO this season.

They fell to the Samsung Lions 9-3 and starting Friday night, the Eagles will host the Twins for three games in Daejeon, about 160 kilometers south of Seoul.

The 2003 Lotte Giants own the KBO record for the longest losing streak to start a season with 12.

The Dinos go home to Changwon, South Gyeongsang, about 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul, to host the SK Wyverns in their three-game set starting Friday.

The Eagles and the Dinos will meet for the first time this season next Tuesday in Daejeon. (Yonhap News)