By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, May 9 (Yonhap) — LG Twins backup outfielder Shin Min-jae played the hero against the Kiwoom Heroes on Tuesday night, driving in the winning run with a walk-off infield single in the bottom of the 10th for a 5-4 victory.
In just his fourth at-bat of the season, Shin hit a soft grounder up the middle and beat the throw to first base with a headfirst slide to give the Twins their fourth consecutive win in the Korea Baseball Organization.
The Heroes have lost five in a row, tying the longest losing streak of the season.
Only minutes before his extra-inning heroics, Shin had been caught stealing third while representing the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning. He got his opportunity to redeem himself and made the most of it with the gutsy slide.
The Heroes opened the scoring in the top of the second inning. They got a couple of singles off starter Adam Plutko, and No. 8 hitter Lee Yong-kyu drove both runners home with a triple to right field.
The Twins tied things up in the bottom half of that inning against starter Ariel Jurado. After two straight singles put runners at the corners, Park Dong-won plated the Twins’ first run with a sacrifice fly to right field.
A hit-by-pitch with one out put runners at first and second for No. 2 hitter Moon Sung-ju, who delivered a game-tying single up the middle.
The game’s two starters traded zeroes for the next three innings. Plutko retired seven straight batters in one stretch, and Jurado kept the Twins off the board despite loading the bases with two outs in the bottom fifth.
The battle of the bullpen ensued, and the Heroes broke the deadlock in the top of the seventh.
Facing reliever Yi Jung-yong, Lee Jung-hoo, the reigning league MVP mired in the worst slump of his career, knocked in two runs with a double to deep right field corner for a 4-2 Heroes lead.
The lead didn’t last long.
To protect the two-run advantage, the Heroes summoned closer Kim Jae-woong in the eighth inning for a six-out save opportunity. Before the game, Heroes manager Hong Won-ki had said he might start using Kim before the ninth inning, so that he could lean on his best reliever in high-leverage situations more often.
The plan didn’t pan out Tuesday. Kim gave up a leadoff single, and two batters later, Park Dong-won smoked a middle-middle fastball and sent it deep into the left field seats for the game-tying two-run blast. It was his league-leading eighth homer of the campaign.
Lee Jung-hoo came up in a big spot again in the top of the ninth but he failed to deliver this time, as he hit a deep flyout to the warning track in left to waste a two-on, two-out opportunity.
The Twins put the winning run at second base twice in the bottom ninth but failed to cash in.
A walk and a single had men at first and second with one out, but pinch runner Shin Min-jae got thrown out trying to steal third base.
Another walk had runners at first and second once again for the Twins, who couldn’t finish the game right then and there as Moon Bo-gyeong grounded out to first to send the game into extra innings.
The Twins got another crack in the bottom 10th with a walk and a double, and Shin’s infield single ended the game after three hours and 34 minutes.
Neither starter factored into a decision. Plutko went six innings and gave up two runs on five hits and a walk. Jurado also surrendered two runs in five innings while giving up eight hits and two walks.
Twins cleanup Austin Dean went 4-for-5 for his first four-hit effort in the KBO. Park Dong-won drove in three runs in the win.