Lifted by four home runs and impressive starting pitching, the Nexen Heroes defeated the Samsung Lions 9-3 Saturday to even the South Korean baseball championship series.
Starter Andy Van Hekken flirted with a perfect game and outfielder Yoo Han-joon backed him up with two homers, as the Heroes knotted the best-of-seven Korean Series at two wins apiece at home, Mokdong Stadium in Seoul.
The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) teams will be back for Game 5 Monday at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul.
Since neither club plays in a ballpark with at least 25,000 seats, the final three games will be played at Jamsil, a neutral venue with a capacity of 25,500 seats, under the league regulations.
Van Hekken, pitching on three days' rest for the first time this year, showed no signs of fatigue. He was perfect through six before Yamaico Navarro broke his bid for history with a solo home run to lead off the seventh.
There has been just one no-hitter but no perfect game in the history of the Korean Series.
Dating back to his Game 1 start Tuesday, Van Hekken retired 30 consecutive batters in order before Navarro's home run.
The Heroes gave Van Hekken plenty of breathing room early on.
They scored twice in the first inning, capitalizing on their speed and Samsung's defensive miscue.
Seo Geon-chang led off the game with a single and promptly stole two bases. He later came home on a sacrifice fly by Yoo Han-joon.
With two outs and a man at second, Kang Jung-ho hit a seemingly harmless grounder to third. Third baseman Park Sok-min fielded it cleanly but bounced his throw to first.
First baseman Chae Tae-in couldn't hold on to the ball on the short hop, and Park Byung-ho came sliding home from second to make it 2-0 Nexen.
The Heroes blew the game open in the second, thanks to Yoo's three-run home run.
After getting one out in the second, Samsung starter J.D. Martin hit Park Dong-won and walked Seo Geon-chang.
In relief of Martin, right-hander Bae Young-soo struck out Lee Taek-keun but couldn't get past Yoo, who drilled a hanging slider over the deep left field to make it 5-0 for the Heroes.
With Van Hekken mowing down the Lions, the Heroes bats went to work again in the fourth, as team captain Lee Taek-keun took Bae over the left field for a two-run home run.
To start the top of the seventh, Van Hekken got to a full count against Navarro, but left his seventh pitch of the at-bat high up in the zone. Navarro pounced on that mistake for his third Korean Series home run in four games.
After Navarro's long ball, the Lions managed three more singles the rest of the day. They eked out two more runs in the top ninth on a ground out and a single, not nearly enough to come back from the big deficit.
Yoo hit his second home run of the day, and his fourth this poseason, in the seventh inning. In the eighth inning, pinch hitter Park Hun-do launched the team's fourth long ball of the game, a solo shot off reliever Cha Woo-chan.
Van Hekken picked up his first postseason victory by tossing seven innings of two-hit ball. He struck out four and walked none.
Van Hekken is slated to start Wednesday's Game 7, again on three days' rest, if the Korean Series goes the distance. He threw 80 pitches on Saturday.
Martin, who had an unsightly 24.30 ERA against the Heroes during the regular season, lasted only 1 1/3 innings Saturday. He was charged with four runs, one of them unearned, on two hits, two walks and one hit-by-pitch. (Yonhap)