NC Dinos succeeded in taking the lead in the series with a valuable win in their away trip to Incheon.
NC defeated SSG Landers 4-3 in the first game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO semi-playoffs held at SSG Landers Field in Incheon on the 22nd.
The probability of the team that won the first game of the KBO semi-playoffs of all time advancing to the playoffs is a whopping 87.5% (28/32). Winning the first game is that important, and NC, which received support from away fans, has an advantage. On the other hand, the home team SSG, who missed the first game, is looking for a counterattack in the second game.
▲NC and SSG met at fall baseball for the first time in 6 years
. I remember NC and SSG meeting at fall baseball. SK (now SSG), which ranked 5th in the regular season during the 2017 season, and NC, the team ranked 4th in the regular season, played a wild card match at Masan Baseball Stadium. The result was NC’s 10-5 victory, ending the series in just one game.
Six years have passed since then, and they faced each other in the semi-playoffs for a ticket to the playoffs. NC easily ended the series with a 14-9 win in the wild card game against the Doosan Bears on the 19th.
In a short-term game, a so-called ‘crazy player’ must appear for the game to go well, and that was the case for NC on this day. In particular, Seo Ho-cheol, who started as the 7th batter and 3rd baseman, led the team to victory by hitting 3 hits (1 home run) and 6 RBI in 4 at-bats. In addition, catcher Kim Hyeong-jun, who hit two home runs, knocked down Doosan by scoring 4 RBIs.
NC coach Kang In-kwon said after the wild card game, “There were some things I was a little worried about in the first game, but we were able to win because the players played their roles well. I would like to say thank you to the players for their hard work and hope for the next game well. “I will prepare,” he said, giving credit to the players.
SSG coach Kim Won-hyung, who met NC in the semi-playoffs, said, “I thought both teams (Doosan and NC) were good teams, so rather than preparing to face a certain team, I trained with a focus on our team’s situation and power. “At the end of the regular season, we advanced to the semi-playoffs with the good atmosphere and concentration of the players and the united power to win. I will prepare well to continue showing that in this series as well,” he said.
▲Both teams’ lineups and starting matchups
– NC: Son Ah-seop (designated hitter) – Park Min-woo (second baseman) – Park Geon-woo (right fielder) – Jason Martin (center fielder) – Kwon Hee-dong (left fielder) – Seo Ho-cheol (third baseman) – Kim Hyeong-jun (catcher) – Oh Young-soo (1st baseman) – Kim Joo-won (shortstop), starting pitcher Shin Min-hyuk –
SSG: Oh Tae-gon (1st baseman) – Park Seong-han (shortstop) – Choi Jeong (3rd baseman) – Guillermo Heredia (left fielder) – Han Yu-seom (designated hitter) – Ha Jae-hoon (Right fielder) – Choi Ji-hoon (center fielder) – Kim Seong-hyun (second baseman) – Kim Min-sik (catcher), starting pitcher Roenis Elias.
Compared to the wild card game, there were no significant changes in NC’s lineup. However, Oh Young-soo took over as first baseman instead of Do Tae-hoon, and the lower batting line-up was slightly adjusted. In the case of SSG, Oh Tae-gon took on the leadoff role, and Choi Jeong, who returned from injury, was named to the starting lineup.
While Ha Jae-hoon started as the sixth hitter and right fielder, it attracted attention that ‘veteran outfielder’ Choo Shin-soo did not start. It was a choice that took into account to some extent the fact that his overall performance against Shin Min-hyuk was only 2 hits in 22 at-bats, and the fact that Ha Jae-hoon had a good hitting feel at the end of the regular season. Coach Kim Won-hyung looked forward to Ha Jae-hoon’s performance, saying, “Ha Jae-hoon has been in good form since the second half of the season, so he was added to the starting lineup.”
The NC selection was Shin Min-hyuk. Eric Peddy, the ’20-win ace’, had to rest after being hit by a batted ball in his last appearance in the regular season, and did not appear in the first game. Another foreign pitcher, Tanner Turley, needed a rest as he was the starting pitcher in the wild card game. In the end, NC decided to entrust Shin Min-hyuk with important responsibility.
This season, Shin Min-hyuk recorded 29 games, 122 innings, 5 wins, 5 losses, and an average ERA of 3.98. In his last appearance, against the Gwangju KIA Tigers on the 17th, Shin Min-hyuk pitched well with 2 hits, no walks, and 5 strikeouts in 5 innings before leaving the mound. Although he took the mound again after resting for four days, there were no major problems in appearing in the first game of the semi-playoffs because the number of pitches at the time was only 48 pitches.
However, I don’t have good memories of the SSG game. This season, Shin Min-hyuk is recording an average ERA of 6.57 in 4 games and 12⅓ innings against SSG. In particular, SSG’s main hitters such as Choi Ji-hoon (3 hits in 5 at-bats), Choi Jeong (2 hits, 2 hits on at-bats, 2 walks on balls), and Han Yu-seom (2 hits in 4 at-bats) struggled. His career performance against SSG was 14 games, 53⅔ innings, 3 wins, 1 loss, and an average ERA of 5.37. In the end, it was important how he handled the early part of the game.
The starting pitcher for SSG’s first fall baseball game in 2023 was Roenis Elias, not Kirk McCarty and Gwang-Hyun Kim. Elias, who was recruited as a replacement foreign pitcher for Eni Romero early this season, started playing against the Incheon LG Twins on May 24, and lived up to the team’s expectations with 8 wins, 6 losses, and an ERA of 3.70 in 22 games and 131⅓ innings this season. In particular, as time passed, he improved in all aspects, including ball control and ability to digest innings, which made SSG coach Kim Won-hyung smile.
Like Shin Min-hyuk, Elias’ performance in head-to-head matches is not that good. Elias performed poorly against NC this season with 3 games, 14⅓ innings, 1 win, and an ERA of 7.53. Many NC batters, including Park Min-woo and Oh Young-soo (3 hits in 5 at-bats), Kwon Hee-dong (3 hits in 7 at-bats), Seo Ho-cheol (2 hits in 5 at-bats), and Jason Martin (3 hits in 8 at-bats), targeted Elias.
In particular, Elias performed poorly in two matches in October. In the Incheon game on the 3rd, he recorded 8 hits (1 home run), 1 strikeout, and 5 runs (4 earned) in 3 innings, and then collapsed in the Changwon away game on the 8th with 9 hits (2 home runs), 1 strikeout, and 7 runs in 5⅓ innings. This was the first time since his KBO League debut that he gave up more than 7 points in one game.
▲Comments from both teams’ commanders and players before the game
NC had two days to reorganize after the wild card game. Before the game, coach Kang In-kwon said, “SSG has a lot of experience, and they were last year’s champions. I think the key to this series is for us to be a little more aggressive rather than being too safe. The young players are in a good mood right now. “There are some parts that are on the rise, so I think it could be a good match if we don’t fall behind in the early stages,” he said.
Coach Kang also said, “Our young players played well in the wild card game. They showed good hitting and their batting condition clearly appears to be on the rise. Along with the young players, there are clearly areas where our senior players must play a role. “I believe that our win or loss will be determined by the roles of those players.” “I will look forward to good performances. I think my current batting condition is good,” he said, explaining the reason for appointing Oh Young-soo as the starter.
How did you prepare for the opposing starting pitcher Elias? Manager Kang In-kwon said, “He is a very good pitcher, but our batting line had good batting in the last two games of the season. I am hoping that will also have an effect in today’s game.”
Oh Young-soo, who was on the bench as a substitute in the wild card game, said, “(When I went to watch the semi-playoffs in person when I was young), I remember having so much fun and my heart racing, so to be honest, the fact that I’m going to go on stage as a starter in that dream is still there.” “I can’t even believe it. I think I’ll feel it when I go on defense,” he said. “I’m going to do it with the mindset that even if I become a hero, I’ll be myself, and even if I’m a traitor, I’ll be myself. I plan to approach it with a positive mindset. The team won’t lose no matter how bad I am. “I plan to do it without any pressure since I am placed in the lower batting lineup,” he expressed his bold ambition.
Teammate Seo Ho-cheol’s performance also served as a good stimulus for Oh Young-soo. Oh Young-soo said, “I felt proud because a person who should really do well (Seo Ho-cheol) was doing well, and even though he is a close brother, I think I have become a sincere fan. We have been together since before he went to the military, and he always has a sincere attitude at the baseball stadium and his appearance outside the baseball stadium. When I see things like this, I think that a player who should be doing well is doing well. I think he will continue to do well this fall.” “I think there will be a day when I will see results and I will work hard,” he praised.
NC outfielder Kwon Hee-dong said, “I don’t know how it feels to hit. Since it’s only one game, I don’t think there’s anything special to say about whether it’s good or bad. I think we just have to prepare the same way and go into the game.” He added, “Because the opponent is SSG, we haven’t prepared anything special. “There is nothing to prepare, right? The pitchers have all met the starting pitchers just like in the regular season, and I think the young players will go into the game with a lot of confidence,” he said. “Although we have less experience than the opposing team, our team has a lot of confidence.” “Isn’t that what you can do with youth and enthusiasm? Once you get into the mood, it can be very scary, so if things go well, there will be good results,” he said, cheering on his juniors.
SSG, which went straight to the semi-playoffs, completed inspection with four days of rest and training after the end of the regular season. Manager Kim Won-hyung said, “NC hitters are very good overall, not just from numbers 1 to 5. There are many hitters who consistently hit .300, so I think the starting pitchers should acknowledge this and block it well.” There were a lot of extra-base hits, and there were many areas where he was connected to the top batting lineup with good batting skills. He did not let down his guard, saying, “Our pitchers need to pay a little more attention.”
Choi Jeong-eun, who was unable to play the final game of the regular season due to a minor injury to his left hamstring and was left out of the first team entry, said, “I’m not completely 100%, including base running, but I think I’ve improved by 70 to 80%. I didn’t do anything, but I was able to prepare a little more thanks to my teammates.” “I think I was able to buy some time,” he said. “I thought the regular season was over the moment I got hurt at the end of the season anyway. Rather, I think I was able to focus on recovery because I relaxed like that. Still, I was able to finish playing baseball at the end. “I feel fortunate to be here,” he said, sighing in relief.
No matter how experienced a veteran I am, I feel nervous every time I play fall baseball. Choi Jeong said, “It feels a little different from last year. I’m a bit worried,” but added, “It’s not the Korean Series, but the semi-playoffs, so I feel more at ease because I think this might have a better effect. We have to do really well last year. I was in the forefront of my mind, but this time, I’m not sure. We’re working hard together, but the worries seem to be different from last year. Big games are always a burden. All players will be burdened. The results will vary depending on whether they play cool-headed there. “It’s the same,” he said.
What do veteran left-handed pitcher Ko Hyo-jun, who has as much experience as Choi Jeong, think? Ko Hyo-jun said, “Honestly, I don’t think the players feel much pressure. It’s the same for young players, too.” He added, “I’m always the same. I don’t really care about my position or role. Anyway, I always thought it was the Korean Series and kept pitching. So, I don’t really care about that part,” he said. “I was able to enjoy the atmosphere because the overall team’s two-hit balance was good, but I think the atmosphere itself became that way as we tried to win many games that we could win while fighting for second place. “In some ways, I wonder if we could have started the postseason earlier, and I think that could have been a starting point for the atmosphere we need to pursue going forward,” he said.
▲The first inning ended with a three-way throw, Shin Min-hyuk and Elias got off to a good start.
Both teams’ starters, Shin Min-hyuk and Elias, started the game in a good mood as they ended the first inning with a three-way throw. SSG starter Elias struck out first batter Son A-seop in the top of the first inning, then caught Min-woo Park with a fly ball to first base and Geon-woo Park with a fly ball to center field, ending the inning after 9 pitches.
NC starter Shin Min-hyuk caught leadoff Oh Tae-gon in the bottom of the first inning with a grounder to shortstop after a three-pitch match, and then induced second hitter Park Seong-han to strike out a missed swing. With two outs, Choi Jeong’s fly ball to center field resulted in the third out. Shin Min-hyuk’s pitch count in the first inning was only 11.
▲A golden opportunity that came amidst a tense pitching battle, SSG kicked the table.
The two teams failed to score in the second inning. In the top of the second inning, leadoff hitter Martin retired with a fly ball to third baseman after two balls, and Kwon Hee-dong and Seo Ho-cheol recorded strikeouts on a fly ball and a missed swing to center field, respectively, and were unable to attack Elias.
The situation was not much different in SSG. Leadoff hitter Heredia hit a fly ball to right field, and follow-up hitter Han Yoo-seom took a swing at Shin Min-hyuk’s 6th pitch fastball after a full count and moved to the dugout. Ha Jae-hoon, who appeared with two outs, also ended the bottom of the second inning with a grounder to shortstop without any significant results.
NC’s lower-order batting lineup, consisting of Kim Hyeong-jun, Oh Young-soo, and Kim Joo-won, remained silent in the top of the third inning with a strikeout, a fly ball to center fielder, and a fly ball to second base. On the other hand, SSG created the first opportunity since the start of the game. Leadoff batter Choi Ji-hoon hit Shin Min-hyuk’s first pitch fastball and reached base with a single. It was the first time both teams were on base and had a hit.
Kim Seong-hyun, who had the opportunity to reach first base with no outs, pushed Shin Min-hyuk’s changeup on the third pitch with the ball count at 0-2 and produced a right-handed hit. At the same time, first base runner Choi Ji-hoon moved to second base, and a scoring situation unfolded. SSG reached 2nd and 3rd bases with 1 out and no outs, with Kim Min-sik’s sacrifice bunt allowing 2nd base runner Ji-hoon Choi and 1st base runner Kim Seong-hyun to move one base each.
It was possible to score with just a base hit, but the game did not go as SSG wanted. Following Oh Tae-gon’s strikeout, Park Seong-han hit a fly ball to left field, destroying the opportunity. Left fielder Kwon Hee-dong, who followed through to the end without missing a hit, snatched the ball and the inning ended.
▲After overcoming the crisis, he counterattacked and nullified NC’s opportunity as well.
NC, which failed to reach base even once until the 3rd inning, did not sit still. With one out in the top of the 4th inning, Park Min-woo reached base with a hit to right, and then Park Geon-woo hit a hit to left. Shortstop Park Seong-han was unable to catch the batted ball heading for the 3rd down, resulting in a hit.
However, NC was also hampered by lack of concentration. Martin, who was at bat with 1 out and 1st and 2nd base, hit a fly ball to right field, making it impossible for the runners to get on base, and Kwon Hee-dong, who hit Elias’ 3rd pitch fastball with the ball count 2-0, had to swallow his disappointment with a fly ball to first base.
▲ SSG wasted the opportunity to score for two consecutive innings.
After escaping from a scoring crisis in the top of the 4th inning, SSG looked to score first once again. In the bottom of the 4th inning, leadoff hitter Choi Jeong pulled Shin Min-hyuk’s first pitch cut fastball and made a left-field hit, and Heredia produced a hit from Shin Min-hyuk, putting pressure on NC with first and second bases without an out. Because the batting order was not bad, SSG was in a situation where they could go beyond first scoring. Moreover, since it was Hanyu Island’s at-bat, which had been ranked first in batting average in the league since September, fans’ expectations were heightened.
Contrary to SSG’s wishes, Hanyu Island hit a fly to right field, and the runners were unable to move and stayed on second and first base. When Ha Jae-hoon’s fly ball to right field with one out and runners on first and second base, second base runner Choi Jeong advanced to third base, making it 1st and 3rd base with 2 outs, but Choi Ji-hoon threw away the opportunity with a fly ball to second base. Choi Ji-hoon, who could not help but express his disappointment, threw the bat on the ground.
▲In the top of NC’s 5th inning, which passed quietly, SSG failed to get the lead hitter on base and score for 3 consecutive innings.
NC, which did not allow a run due to Shin Min-hyuk’s crisis management ability, was unable to shake Elias in the attack in the top of the 5th inning. Seo Ho-cheol and Kim Hyeong-jun, who were hitting hard in the wild card game, failed to reach base with a fly ball to center field and a ground ball to third base, respectively, and even Oh Young-soo struck out and remained silent.
SSG’s leadoff hitter went out on base in the bottom of the 3rd and 4th inning and also in the bottom of the 5th inning. Leadoff hitter Kim Seong-hyun calmly picked off four balls in a row at a ball count of 0-2, and withstood Shin Min-hyuk’s 7th pitch changeup to reach first base.
Despite Kim Seong-hyun’s concentration, there was no follow-up hit. Min-sik Kim recorded a fly ball to right field at full count, and Tae-gon Oh, who took the first pitch, also retired with a fly ball to left field. With 2 outs and runners on first base, the inning ended when Park Seong-han’s batted ball headed straight for left fielder Kwon Hee-dong. Five innings have been played, but the score is still 0-0.
Until the 5th inning, NC was tied to 2 hits, and Sasa Guro did not reach base even once. SSG, who had the opportunity to score first by having the leadoff hitter on base for three consecutive innings from the bottom of the third inning, was unable to score even though they got four hits and one walk, respectively.
▲There were no scores in the 6th inning, and NC Elias’ perfect pitching was still in progress as the team that started the bullpen first . In the top of the 6th inning, after leadoff hitter Kim Joo-won’s fly ball to shortstop, Son Ah-seop was dealt a fly ball to center field with the first pitch, and with 2 outs, Park Min-woo was set up with a looking strikeout. Elias pitched 66 pitches through the 6th inning.
NC starter Shin Min-hyuk also filled two outs in the bottom of the 6th inning with leadoff hitter Choi Jeong-ui’s straight hit to third base and Heredia’s fly ball to left field. Because there weren’t many pitches, it appeared he would finish six innings on his own.
At that time, the NC bench moved. The second company decided to activate the bullpen ahead of the game against Hanyu Island. Left-hander Kim Young-gyu, who was warming up in the bullpen, headed to the mound and maintained the balance of 0 by hitting a fly ball to center field with a fastball at a ball count of 2-2. Although ⅔ of the regular innings had passed, the score remained unchanged.
▲Elias came up in the top of the 7th inning, and Kim Young-gyu lived up to expectations.
Elias, who did not throw even 70 pitches until the 6th inning, stayed on the mound in the top of the 7th inning. After leadoff hitter Park Geon-woo’s ground ball to second base, Martin’s ground ball to first base resulted in two outs, and the result of the match against Kwon Hee-dong was a fly ball to right field. This time, Elias also saved his strength with 12 pitches.
Kim Young-gyu, who succeeded Shin Min-hyuk, was also formidable. In the bottom of the 7th inning, Ha Jae-hoon’s fly ball to shortstop prevented the lead batter from getting on base, and with one out, Choi Ji-hoon’s fly ball to left field increased the number of outs by one. With two outs, the inning ended with Kim Seong-hyun’s ground ball to shortstop.
▲NC broke the balance of 0 and took the lead, and SSG, which immediately chased after them,
disappeared in the top of the 8th inning when 0 disappeared from the scoreboard. Leadoff batter Seo Ho-cheol reached base with an infield hit to the shortstop, and when follow-up batter Kim Hyeong-jun attempted a sacrifice bunt, first base runner Seo Ho-cheol was forced out at second base, leaving the team with one out and a runner on first base.
Here, NC used pinch hitter Kim Seong-wook instead of Oh Young-soo, and Kim Seong-wook pulled Elias’ first pitch changeup and drew a two-run arch that went over the left wall. The flying distance is 120m.
NC, which had a 2-point lead, began to ‘solidify’ by putting Ryu Jin-wook on the mound instead of Kim Young-gyu in the bottom of the 8th inning. SSG then used a pinch hitter during leadoff hitter Kim Min-sik’s at-bat, and Choo Shin-soo, who was called by the bench, reached first base with a hit to right-center. In addition, Choi Joo-hwan, who was given the opportunity to pinch hit during Oh Tae-gon’s at-bat, got on base with a heavy hit and kept the chase alive.스포츠토토
Park Seong-han performed a sacrifice bunt operation to help the runners advance, and the first pitch hit by Choi Jeong at second and third bases with one out went into the glove of left fielder Kwon Hee-dong. Meanwhile, third base runner Choi Sang-min, who attempted to tag up, stepped on home and scored the team’s first run. The score is 1-2.
NC, who was chased by 1 run, avoided the worst by ending the inning without allowing any additional runs. Ryu Jin-wook escaped the crisis by striking out Heredia, a difficult hitter, with 2 outs and runners on second base.
▲NC solidified victory with two timely hits, Lee Yong-chan protecting
the lead NC, which was anxious with a 1-run lead, pushed SSG’s second pitcher Noh Kyung-eun hard in the top of the 9th inning with a hit by leadoff hitter Park Min-woo. After Do Tae-hoon’s sacrifice bunt, the team was on second base with one out, and second base runner Min-woo Park made a surprise attempt to steal third base. Before the top of the 9th inning, the catcher changed to Lee Jae-won, and I did not miss the fact that the opponent’s home base was a little looser than when Kim Min-sik was there.
Martin, who was able to score with a sacrifice fly rather than a hit, pulled Noh Kyeong-eun’s forkball on the 6th pitch and broke through SSG’s infield defense with a hit that passed between the first and second basemen. Meanwhile, third base runner Park Min-woo came home and the score was 3-1. The weight of the game was tilted towards NC. SSG, which needed to prevent additional runs, replaced Noh Kyung-eun at first base with one out and brought in closer Seo Jin-yong.
NC, which opened the gap by 2 points, did not let the opponent go even after replacing the pitcher. First base runner Martin stole second base, creating a scoring opportunity. After Kwon Hee-dong hit a fly ball to left field, with 2 outs and runners on second base, Seo Ho-cheol singled to right to bring home second base runner Martin. It was a key point.