Doosan Bears' reliever Lee Young-ha reacts after giving up a run against the KT Wiz during the bottom of the seventh inning in Game 1 of the Korean Series at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on Sunday. (Yonhap)
Errors aren't always the most accurate measure of defense in baseball, but untimely miscues on the field can come bite a team when they least expect them.
Just ask the Doosan Bears, whose defense failed them in an opening 4-2 loss to the KT Wiz in the Korean Series on Sunday.
Three of the Wiz's runs were unearned, having been a direct result of fielding errors that preceded them.
The Bears committed two errors. First, third baseman Heo Kyoung-min, one of the better defenders at the hot corner in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), couldn't field a grounder off the bat of Yoo Han-joon with a runner at first in the bottom fourth.
The Wiz moved the runners to second and third on a sacrifice bunt, and Jang Sung-woo's sacrifice fly scored the game's first run,
Then in the decisive seventh inning, shortstop Kim Jae-ho bobbled what appeared to be a routine groundball with a runner at second.
Kim picked up the ball and threw to first, but the speedy batter, Cho Yong-ho, was safe. With the runners now at the corners, Hwang Jae-gyun's groundball back to Kim scored a run to put the Wiz up 3-1. They added another run that inning for more breathing room.
The Bears have made 10 errors in eight postseason games so far, compared to three in 12 games last year. There's no such thing as a good time to make an error, but the Bears' two mishaps in Game 1 couldn't have resulted in worse outcomes for them.
In the seventh inning, though, the Bears' bullpen could have bailed out their infield. Instead, Lee Young-ha and Lee Hyun-seung, two of their most reliable relievers so far this month, failed to keep their team in the game.
Starter Gwak Been did more than his part by holding the Wiz to a run over five innings. Lee Young-ha, a workhorse with 11 innings over his five previous postseason outings, was summoned to begin the sixth.
He erased a leadoff single by Kang Baek-ho with a double play, and Jared Hoying's two-out double amounted to nothing.
But Lee quickly ran into trouble in the seventh. He hung a slider against Bae Jung-dae, who hammered it over the left field wall for a solo shot that put the Wiz ahead 2-1.
Shim Woo-jun singled with one out and stole second. Kim Jae-ho's error followed by Hwang's grounder made it 3-1, chasing Lee from the game.
With the left-handed Kang Baek-ho at the plate, left-hander Lee Hyun-seung came on for the lefty-lefty matchup. But Kang, who's known to try to hit every pitch he sees out of park, put a compact swing on Lee's first-pitch slider and poked it down the left field line for an RBI single. Lee Hyun-seung was pulled after that one pitch.
The Bears don't have the kind of starting pitching depth that the Wiz have. And if the likes of Lee Young-ha and Lee Hyun-seung get knocked around in late innings, the Bears basically have no answer.
Manager Kim Tae-hyoung has been riding those arms hard so far and they may be finally hitting a wall. But Kim said he wasn't overly concerned after one loss.
"It's not as though they pitched all that poorly. The other guys just made good contact," Kim said. "We're not going to let this one game affect us." (Yonhap)