'Pajang' coach Lee Kang-cheol "We lost the initiative in the early game

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KT lost the first game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO Playoffs against the NC Dinos 5-9 on April 30 at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, South Korea.

A long break proved to be a poison as the KT Wiz, the second-place team in the regular season, lost its first game of the playoffs.

KT lost the first game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO Playoffs against the NC Dinos 5-9 on April 30 at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, South Korea.

In the history of the KBO Playoffs (best-of-three series, excluding the 1999-2000 Doubleheader - 1995-2008-2021), the winner of Game 1 has a 78.1% (25/32) chance of advancing to the Korean Series. The first game of the series was crucial for both NC and KT.

With three weeks to rest after the regular season ended, KT had more time to rest than NC, but the game didn't go their way from the start.

Starting pitcher William Cuevas gave up a sacrifice fly to Jason Martin with runners on first and second in the top of the first inning, and added a run in the bottom of the first on a solo shot by Oh Young-soo. In what was expected to be a tight pitcher's duel, NC took the lead early.

However, this was just the beginning. In the top of the third inning, third baseman Hwang Jae-gyun missed a fly ball by leadoff hitter Park Min-woo, allowing a run to score, and with the bases loaded, Cuevas hit a two-run double off Park. Cuevas' third run.

After Martin's grounder, Cuevas gave up another run on Kwon's RBI single. Considering that the NC starter was Eric Peddy, it looked like it would be difficult for KT to overcome the four-run deficit.

Cuevas didn't make it out of the fourth inning. In the top of the fourth, with his team trailing 1-4, Kim Hyung-joon walked and Kim Joo-won's bunt attempt resulted in a throwing error on his own second base, and he was forced to watch NC score on Son Ah-seop's RBI single with the bases loaded. Uhm Sang-baek took over the mound with runners on 1-3. Cuevas' deficit grew as the pinch runner came home. His final line was 3 innings, 6 hits (1 HR), 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, 7 runs (4 earned).

With the game tilted toward another NC, KT checked on the health of its bullpen. Starting with Uhm Sang-baek (⅓ inning), they pulled out all the stops, including Lee Sang-dong (⅔ inning), Son Dong-hyun (1 inning), Joo Kwon (1 inning), Park Young-hyun (1 inning), Kim Young-hyun (1 inning), and Kim Min-soo (1 inning). All pitchers took the mound except for Ko Young-pyo and Wes Benjamin, who were designated for assignment, and relievers Kim Jae-yoon and Choi Byung-seong.

Not only Cuevas, but also the batters didn't do their job. Tablesetters Kim Sang-soo and Hwang Jae-gyun were silent, going 0-for-4, as was Anthony Alford, who has been strong against Pedi this season, going 5-for-8 with two home runs. KT had to settle for a solo shot in the bottom of the third and a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth.

After the game, KT head coach Lee Kang-cheol said, "The other team had a good starter, and we lost the initiative in the early game," adding, "I think we gave away the game because we gave away the atmosphere."

"I thought, 'Let's try to hold them off as long as we can (with the bullpen),'" Lee said. We gave up a big run in the fourth inning. If we didn't give up a run, I thought we could take it to the end of the game, so I used good pitchers, and I thought about the sense of the game," he said, adding, "I felt that Uhm Sang-baek's condition wasn't improving, so I quickly changed pitchers."

There were also some nervous moments during the game. In the bottom of the fifth inning, after the opponent's starter, Pedi, protested a ball call in the first inning, NC coach Lee Kang-cheol had something to say about NC coach 토토 Kang Myung-hwon, who came on the field to stop Pedi. "I said that the manager crossed the line and the pitching coach came out, so I said that the pitcher should be replaced, but regardless of the pitcher, he came out to stop the umpire, so the situation was settled," Lee said.

Now, KT is looking to put the loss behind them and win the second game. "We got some hits after the end of the fifth inning, and I think it's encouraging that we ended the game in a good way with the bases loaded," said Lee Kang-cheol.

Meanwhile, in Game 2 on the 31st, Wes Benjamin will start as expected.

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