Not for a rookie manager. NC Dinos manager Kang Myung-ho has ridden a four-game winning streak in fall baseball to advance to the playoffs (PO).
NC won the best-of-five best-of-three semifinal series against SSG Landers 7-6 at NC Park in Changwon on the 25th. NC, which ended the series with three wins, will play a best-of-five series against regular-season runner-up KT Wiz on the 30th. Kang In-hwa, who took over as acting head coach in May last year, has been leading the team as head coach since this season. The team entered the postseason in fourth place in the regular season and went on a four-game winning streak, starting with a victory in Game 1 of the wild-card decider against Doosan.
“It was difficult not to score after the first run of the game today, but the middle bullpen did their job well enough. I think we finished the semifinals in a good mood.” “I saw a lot of conditions on the day. We saw how the hitters responded to our pitchers and used the bullpen accordingly.”
When asked about his best choice as a manager, Kang said, “The players did a good job. I made my own choices, and I think it worked out for us.” “Lee Jae-hak was injured, so we had to use our pitchers quickly. Ryu Jin-wook couldn’t make it to the eighth inning because of the high pitch count. We couldn’t get Lee Yong-chan up early enough. The bullpen coach also said Lim Jung-ho was good, so I went long regardless of the (left and right) hitters.”
“We struggled today because (starter) Tanner didn’t pitch well. I was worried about who to put up as the second pitcher and how to keep him going. Lee Jae-hak, Kim Young-kyu, Ryu Jin-wook, Lim Jung-ho, and Lee Yong-chan did a good job, so I think we won.”
As for Lee Jae-hak, the pitcher who was hit by the pitch, he said, “I didn’t get an accurate report. It doesn’t look like a major injury, just a bruise. We haven’t thought about it (changing the lineup) yet.” Regarding Eric Pedroia, who was benched today, he said, “We originally prepared him for tomorrow (Game 4). Barring any changes, I think he’ll be available for Game 1 of the PO. I think he’s not feeling it, but we’ve got time, so I think he’ll get one more bullpen pitch and then he’ll feel it after one inning or so.”
Regarding closer Lee Yong-chan, who broke out of his slump, he said, “I found my form today. I was relaxed on the mound. I feel like I’ve found my groove. I expect him to pitch well in the future.” On Tanner, he said, “He had a high strikeout rate with his changeup. He needs to work on that.”
NC will have four days off before the POs. Coach Kang Myung-ho said, “We are mentally and physically tired. We will take advantage of the time to recharge and prepare well for the game against KT. KT has a very strong starting lineup, so we need to think about how to select players other than foreigners.”
SSG coach Kim Won-hyung said, “We had to win one game and take the game tomorrow. I’m very disappointed that we lost. SSG fans have been supporting us for a year, and I’m sorry as a coach.” “On the one hand, we lost, but the players continued to do their best and focus, and I’m grateful for that,” said Kim. “I made quick substitutions… whether it was pitchers or pinch-hitters, it was all my responsibility,” said Kim Won-hyung.
Overall, he said, “We had a lot of chances to take the lead in the first inning, but I think that part was disappointing, and we struggled as the game went on. I didn’t capitalize on some of the situations where I could have scored early on. We set the tone for today’s game with a leadoff home run, and we gave it up right away. The guys behind us did a good job of shutting it down, and it went down to the wire. I think we just didn’t have enough power.”
Kirk McCarty, who pitched two innings in relief, said, “There was nothing to hide today. We planned to keep McCarty under 30 pitches, but Won-seok Oh was unstable with his pitches early on. I tried to use Kyung-eun Noh from the third inning, but he came up early and got stuck, and McCarty came up early. I had to take more pitches than I thought. I had to think about it because of the injury, but I didn’t have enough time.”
Coach Kim Won-hyung said, “We had a meeting after the game. The players did a great job. I want to express my gratitude to them. Last year, I saw only good things in the Korean Series for the first time, but I saw the bitter taste of defeat for the first time as a manager. We have to put it behind us and prepare for camp soon. I will prepare well so that next year’s disappointment will be a good thing.”