(LEAD) Heroes’ ‘Mr. October’ comes through again in KBO postseason

October 22, 2022

SEOUL, Oct. 22 (Yonhap) — For the Kiwoom Heroes, clutch performances by their No. 9 hitter provided nice bookends to their opening round victory over the defending champions KT Wiz in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) postseason.

Song Sung-mun, dubbed “Mr. October,” lived up to his moniker once again Saturday, when he smacked a go-ahead, two-run home run off Wiz starter Wes Benjamin to put the Heroes up 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning in Game 5 of the best-of-five first round. The Heroes hung on to win 4-3 at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul and punch a ticket to the next round against the LG Twins.

Song Sung-mun of the Kiwoom Heroes rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the KT Wiz during the bottom of the fourth inning of Game 5 of the first round in the Korea Baseball Organization postseason at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Oct. 22, 2022. (Yonhap)

Song was the hero of Game 1, delivering two RBIs, including a tiebreaking run in the eighth inning, for an 8-4 victory.

But from Games 2 to 4, Song batted 1-for-10. He briefly moved up in the batting order before dropping down to the No. 9 spot for Saturday.

Facing a tough lefty in Benjamin, who’d blanked the Heroes for seven innings in Game 2, Song added another chapter to his growing postseason legacy with the homer.

With the Heroes trailing 2-1, Lee Ji-young opened that fourth inning with a double. But Benjamin struck out the next two batters, and things suddenly looked dire for the Heroes.

In came Song, who pounced on a 1-2 slider and sent it over the right field wall. Right fielder Kim Min-hyuck fooled thousands of Heroes fans at the dome, as he stopped at the warning track, as if he were ready to make the grab. Instead, the ball sailed over his head to give the Heroes a 3-2 lead.

Song said he felt the momentum shifting in the Wiz’s favor after those two strikeouts by Benjamin and he wanted to change the tide again.

“The first two pitches were a mistake, but I couldn’t take advantage of those. I was just trying to make good contact,” Song said. “I was lucky I hit that homer.”

Before the start of this series, Song said he wasn’t sure he deserved to be called “Mr. October.” After what he has done in the clinching game of this round, few would dispute Song’s postseason credentials. He said the secret to his success is keeping his mind free of distractions.

“I step into the box not thinking of anything else but trying to make contact,” Song said. “I hope we will have more Mr. Octobers on our team.”

The go-ahead shot made the winner out of Kiwoom starter An Woo-jin, who pitched six solid innings and struck out eight, and was named the MVP of the series.

He’d pitched six scoreless innings with nine strikeouts in a no-decision in Game 1. But An allowed a run right away in the first inning on Anthony Alford’s RBI double.

Alford proved to be a thorn on An’s side again in the third, when he smoked a solo home run for a 2-1 KT lead.

An said afterward he didn’t feel great while pitching in the bullpen to get ready for this game. He said he wasn’t trying to throw particularly hard because he wanted to focus on getting the proper release point and balance on the mound.

“I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t give up any more runs,” An said. “Sung-mun’s home run gave me a boost of energy. After that home run, I decided I should try to go six or seven innings and minimize damage.”

But once Song had staked him to a 3-2 lead, An dug deep and made the lead stand.

In the top sixth, Alford reached with an infield single off An’s right arm. The right-hander stayed in the game but gave up a single, before a sacrifice bunt put runners at second and third with one out.

And that’s when the fireballer reached back for some hard stuff. He struck out Hwang Jae-gyun fanning on a fastball clocked at 155 kilometers per hour (96.3 miles per hour). Then against Kim Min-hyuck, An threw four straight fastballs at 155 kph or 156 kph, and got him to ground out to shortstop.

Up next for the Heroes are the LG Twins, who earned the bye to the second round after posting the second-best record in the regular season. The Twins won the season series over the Heroes 10-6 and will be the heavy favorites in the next round, which starts Monday.

But the two stars of the Heroes’ clinching win begged to differ.

“I know many people say the Twins are the favorites, but then they also thought the Wiz would beat us in this round,” Song said. “The Twins are a good team, but we have the momentum on our side.”