Doosan Bears captain Heo Kyung-min (33) is tough on SSG Landers closer Seo Jin-yong.
With his extraordinary concentration and hitting skills, Heo was often able to effectively target Seo’s main weapon, the forked ball.
Heo had faced Seo 17 times in his career before the SSG home game at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Thursday, going 5-for-14 with two walks, a .357 batting average and a .438 on-base percentage.
Heo began to warm up in the bottom of the ninth inning against SSG, trailing 0-2.
SSG brought in closer Seo Jin-yong, and Heo, who was out of the starting lineup, was expected to pinch-hit.
However, Doosan manager Lee Seung-yeop did not call on Heo Kyung-min.
With runners on first and second after a leadoff single to left by Yang Seok-hwan and a double by Yang Ji, he brought in Lee Yoo-chan for Kim Jae-hwan.
Lee tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt but was thrown out at third base.
A wild pitch by Seo Jin-yong and an infield grounder by Kang Seung-ho put runners on second and third with one out.
Heo Kyung-min was expected to pinch-hit again, but Lee Seung-yeop called up Kim In-tae to bat for Park Jun-young. Kim In-tae drew a walk to load the bases.
The next batter, Park Kye-beom, stepped up to the plate and was hit by an intentional pitch.
Doosan had a chance to tie the game with two outs, so Lee called up Heo Kyung-min.
“I was looking forward to pinch-hitting, but I was disappointed that I didn’t get the chance,” said Heo. “The coach called me at a crucial moment, and when I stepped into the batter’s box, I felt my endorphins surge as the crowd cheered.”
In fact, there was a reason why Lee called up Heo late.
He had recently injured his right hand. The bruise wasn’t severe, but every time he hit, it was painful.
That’s why he was left out of the starting lineup.
For Heo, the pain didn’t matter.
“I didn’t feel anything when I stepped into the batter’s box,” he said, “I just knew that I couldn’t miss the chance to win the game with my teammates.”
Perhaps because his “nemesis” Heo Kyung-min was up to bat, Seo Jin-yong threw a wild pitch.
The ball bounced off the ground and rolled backward, allowing Kim In-tae to score from third base to tie the game at 2-2.
“It made me feel relaxed,” Heo said, “I just needed to get one hit.”
“I knew he was a good pitcher, so I just waited for it,” Heo said of Seo’s forked ball.
As expected, Seo threw a forkball on a one-ball, one-strike pitch.
The ball flew high toward Heo’s body.
He pulled as if he had been waiting for it.
The ball flew to left-center field. It was an exhilarating come-from-behind hit to end the game.
He roared and celebrated with his teammates.
“My hand injury is fine,” Heo said after the game, “and I’m just happy to get an important game in the center of a fierce top-five battle.”
“It was a heavy feeling to be sidelined with an injury in the middle of the ranking battle,” he said, adding, “I’m glad that we paid off our debt to some extent today.”
With the win, sixth-ranked Doosan moved to within one game of fourth-ranked KIA Tigers and fifth-ranked SSG. 스포츠토토