The NC Dinos’ second pitcher Lee Jae-hak (33), who was doing well on the mound, was hit by a pitch, and the NC bench went into a panic.
Left-handed pitcher Kim Young-kyu (23), who came into the game with the bases loaded in the top of the fifth inning with a 7-6 lead, tied the game with a single hit, but with two pitches, Lee Jae-won flied out to center field to end the threat in an instant.
Starting as the team’s third pitcher in the third game of the semi-playoffs (best-of-five) against SSG Landers at Changwon NC Park on the 25th, Kim pitched a scoreless fifth and sixth innings to earn his second hold of the series.
In the sixth, he walked Choo Shin-soo and Guillermo Heredia before getting Choi Jung to fly out to center field.
He pitched 1 1/3 innings, allowing no hits, walking one and striking out one to end the threat.
With Kim Young-kyu coming on in the clinching game to save the day, NC defeated SSG 7-6 to end the best-of-three series early.
In the series, only Game 1 starter Shin Min-hyuk did his job with 5⅔ scoreless innings, while Game 2 starter Song Myung-ki (2 runs in 3 innings) and Game 3 starter Tanner Tully (5 runs in 2 innings) left the mound early.
With the bullpen overloaded, Kim Young-gyu pitched both Game 1 and Game 3 to preserve the win.
In Game 1, he relieved Shin Min-hyuk in the sixth inning and pitched 1⅓ scoreless innings to earn the win, and in Game 2, he was the team’s fourth pitcher in the sixth inning and pitched 1 inning of scoreless relief to secure the win.
He was equally effective on the mound in the series-clinching Game 3.
Including the wild-card game against the Doosan Bears, Kim has pitched in all four of the team’s games in fall baseball this year, going 2-2 with a 0.00 ERA.
After throwing a complete game shutout as a starter in 2019, his first year on the first team, Young-gyu split time between the mound and the bullpen before moving to the bullpen entirely last year.
It changed his baseball life forever.
After finishing last year with a 2-7 record, one save, and a 3.41 ERA in 13 appearances, he finished this year’s regular season with a 2-4 record and a 3.06 ERA in 24 appearances.
This earned him a spot on the national team for the Hangzhou Asian Games, where he won a gold medal.
With the big game experience he gained in Hangzhou, Kim hopes to continue his success in fall baseball.
After the game, Kim said, “I pitched with confidence and it paid off. It’s because I focused on each batter.”
On the day, Kim was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the Junpo, receiving 37 votes out of 78, or 47.4 percent, of the journalists’ votes, and earning a cash prize of $2 million.
“There were a lot of crazy players (on our team), so I didn’t expect it at all. I was just happy that the team won, but I’m grateful that I got MVP. I’ll do my best in the playoffs,” he said.
Although still in his early 20s, Kim has plenty of experience in big games.
He won the Korean Series in 2020, and this year he won gold at the Asian Games.
“In the 2020 Korean Series, my brothers supported me, and this time, I wanted to help us win a little bit. It worked out well,” he said.
Now, NC will have to fight for a ticket to the Korean Series against KT Wiz in Suwon.
Kim Young-gyu’s eyes turn to Suwon, where KT awaits in the playoffs (PO) stage.
“KT’s hitters have one big hit and no place to rest,” Young-gyu warns, then adds, “Our pitchers are also good. We will throw confidently and aggressively. We will play without thinking that we are outclassed.” 스포츠토토