By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Oct. 16 (Yonhap) -- Cleanup hitter Park Byung-ho delivered a go-ahead double as part of the six-run seventh inning, lifting the Kiwoom Heroes past the Doosan Bears 7-4 on Friday.
In the thrilling, anxiety-inducing Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) pennant race, the Heroes jumped two spots to reach third place at 78-61-1 (wins-losses-ties). The Bears fell from third to fourth at 73-58-4.
The Heroes have four games left in the 144-game season after Friday, all four of them against the Bears. Doosan will play nine more games the rest of the way.
Park, a two-time MVP in the midst of his worst full season, came in batting just .221 with 20 homers and 61 RBIs -- this after hitting at least 31 homers and driving in at least 98 runs in six straight seasons. Park missed nearly two months of action with a hand injury and only rejoined the Heroes last Friday. He had gone 3-for-23 with three RBIs in six games since his return.
The Bears took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning against starter Jake Brigham.
After a leadoff single and a walk put two runners aboard, Jose Miguel Fernandez cashed in a run with a single.
Brigham walked another batter later in the inning to load the bases, and fell behind 3-1 on Park Sei-hyok. Brigham battled back to strike out Park on a 3-2 slider, and then retired Jung Soo-bin on a grounder to second to escape further damage.
The Heroes tried to rally against rookie right-hander Kim Min-gyu but shot themselves in the foot early on.
In the bottom second, Lee Jung-hoo hit a one-out single but was caught stealing second base. Huh Jung-heop led off the third inning with a single but was erased on a double play ball by Jeon Byeong-woo.
The Heroes managed two more singles after that twin killing, though Seo Geon-chang flied out to end that rally.
Two singles put runners at the corners for the Heroes in the bottom fourth, but Huh struck out looking at a fastball from Kim.
Brigham, meanwhile, settled down after the shaky first inning, allowing just one hit over his next four frames.
The American right-hander ran into some trouble in the top sixth, giving up a pair of singles to put runners at the corners. He wiggled out of the jam by getting Kim Jae-ho to ground into a 6-4-3, inning-ending double play.
With Brigham keeping them in the game, the Heroes finally evened the score in the bottom sixth.
Kim Ha-seong drew a one-out walk and that was the end of Kim Min-gyu's night. Two batters later, Lee Jung-hoo doubled home Kim Ha-seong to make it a 1-1 game.
It was Lee's 48th double of 2020, a new record for most two-baggers in one season.
The Bears responded right away against the Heroes' bullpen in the top seventh. Jo Soo-haeng worked a walk against reliever Yang Hyun to start the rally, and two batters later, facing new pitcher An Woo-jin on the mound, Choi Joo-hwan knocked in the tiebreaking run with a single.
Kim Jae-hwan then broke things open for the Bears with his two-run home run to left-center field.
That 4-1 lead didn't even last an inning. With one out, two straight singles and a walk loaded the bases for Kim Ha-seong, who cashed in two runs with a single to left. Park Byung-ho then stepped up and smacked a double to the right field corner to drive in two more runs, giving the Heroes a 5-4 lead.
The floodgates swung open. Park Dong-won came off the bench for an RBI single, and then Jeon Byeong-woo, batting for the second time in the inning, dropped a run-scoring single into shallow center field for a 7-4 advantage.
Closer Cho Sang-woo shut the door in the ninth inning and added to his league-leading total of 33 saves.
The Bears wasted a potential rally in the ninth with a base running gaffe.
With one out and a runner on first for the Bears, Fernandez drilled one off the top of the right field fence for what could have been a double. Right fielder Lee Jung-hoo made a quick throw back to the infield and Fernandez, who made a wide turn at first base, got tagged out on his way back to the bag.