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By Yoo Jee-ho
SUWON, South Korea, Oct. 31 (Yonhap) — Pitching a day after a teammate tossed a dominant start in the South Korean baseball postseason, NC Dinos starter Shin Min-hyeok had a tough act to follow Tuesday night against the KT Wiz.
And the 24-year-old, making just his second career start in a Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) postseason game, delivered a gem of his own, pushing his club to the verge of reaching the championship round in the process.
Shin threw 6 1/3 shutout innings in the Dinos’ 3-2 victory in Game 2 of the best-of-five second round Tuesday at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, south of Seoul. Shin allowed just one hit and one walk.
Shin’s stellar outing came some 24 hours after Erick Fedde struck out 12 batters in six overpowering innings of a 9-5 victory.
Shin’s outing couldn’t have been more different. He only recorded two strikeouts and instead induced a series of soft outs.
Shin got six infield pop flies, three groundouts, one soft lineout and three routine outfield flies.
The Wiz hitters helped out Shin by swinging early in the count. They never got their timing down against Shin’s 35 changeups and 28 cutters on this night. His four-seam fastball topped out only at 144 kilometers per hour, but the Wiz hitters were often late on those pitches or got jammed, after getting set up by effective changeups.
Shin only needed 50 pitches to get through five frames and 67 through six.
With the Dinos up 3-0 and the Wiz showing no life on offense, Shin came back out for the seventh. After issuing a one-out walk, Shin induced a groundball to third for what should have been the start of a double play.
Second baseman Park Min-woo, though, dropped a relay throw to keep the inning alive. That spelled the abrupt end of the night for Shin, who watched as reliever Ryu Jin-wook did get the double play to end the inning.
The Wiz rallied for two runs in the bottom eighth and had the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth. Shortstop Kim Ju-won then made an outstanding diving grab on a soft liner by Oh Yoon-suk, locking down the narrow victory and making a winner out of Shin.
Shin said getting ahead of hitters consistently was a key to his strong outing.
“I threw a lot of strikes on first pitches,” he said. “I had a great command of the changeup, and that made it easy to get guys out.”
Dinos manager Kang In-kwon said he thought Shin was “a big-game pitcher.” Shin, though, wasn’t so sure about the designation.
“I don’t know. I’ve never been in the postseason until this year,” Shin said with a smile. “I suppose I am doing okay.”
Given his low pitch count, Shin could have gone for a complete game shutout, though in a high-stakes postseason game, Kang wasn’t going to take that chance.
“I’ve never had a shutout as a pro, and it’d be nice to throw one at some point,” said Shin, who once threw a no-hitter in high school. “In a game like this, I trusted my bullpen to take care of the rest.”
Shin has yet to allow a run in his two career postseason outings. He had tossed 5 2/3 shutout frames in the first game of the previous round against the SSG Landers, though he got a no-decision then.
On Tuesday, Shin got a well-deserved W to his name, and now the Dinos are a win away from reaching the Korean Series.
“It hasn’t dawned on me yet that we’re so close to playing in the Korean Series,” said Shin, who was not on the postseason roster in 2020 when the Dinos won their first Korean Series title. “Maybe it will hit me if we get there.”