Right-handed pitcher Shin Min-hyuk, 24, has emerged as the savior of the NC Dinos’ shaky starting rotation.
Shin has started two postseason games this year, throwing 12 scoreless innings with five hits, two walks and five strikeouts.
It’s a welcome return for NC, which hasn’t had much in the way of starting options other than “Three-Star Pitcher” Eric Pedroia, who returned from injury.
Second starter Tanner Tully, who pitched in the wild-card game and Game 3 of the semifinals, struggled in Game 2, giving up 10 runs on 12 hits and six walks in 6 innings.
Shin Min-hyuk, on the other hand, made his first postseason start, pitching 5⅔ innings of one-hit ball with one walk and three strikeouts in Game 1 of the semifinals on April 22, and followed that up with 6⅓ innings of one-hit ball with one walk and two strikeouts in Game 2 of the playoffs on April 31.
Both times, the opposing team’s starting pitcher was a foreigner, so NC was always going to be favored.
However, in the reverse, Shin Min-hyuk picked up the win against SSG Landers Roenis Elias (8 innings, 2 runs) and KT Wiz Wes Benjamin (5 innings, 3 runs).
NC coach Kang In-hwa, who had expressed a simple wish before the game, “I hope he can play long innings somehow,” had to admit after the game that he was “strong in big games.”
In the postgame press conference, Shin said, “I think (my pitches) were good because I threw a lot of strikes in the first inning,” adding, “My changeup was working well, so I was comfortable when I was battling (batters).”
On the day, Shin had a 66 percent strike rate (54 of 81 pitches), giving him an advantage in the ball count battle, inducing 18 hits with his decisive changeup.
He retired 14 consecutive batters before giving up his first hit to No. 6 Moon Sang-chul in the second inning and his first walk to No. 3 Anthony Alford in the top of the seventh.
When asked if he wanted to throw more, Shin said, “I’ve never thrown a complete game in the pros, so I wanted to give it a try, but I felt good about my bullpen, so I came down with confidence.”
With one out in the seventh inning, Shin induced Park Byung-ho to ground out in front of the third baseman, but a fielding error allowed both runners to reach base, forcing Shin to turn the ball over to the bullpen. He threw just 81 pitches.
“I was trying to drop my changeup, but I threw it wrong and it got away,” he said of his first walk to Alford.
He laughed about shortstop Kim Joo-won, who made a super diving catch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, saying, “I thought it was our Joo-won after all,” and about catcher Kim Hyung-jun, saying, “He seems to read my mind. It’s like he’s reading my thoughts, and he’s mixing the pitches for me, so my breathing is good.”
Shin Min-hyuk, who has made a name for himself in the Junpo and PO, now has only the Korean Series in his sights.
With two wins behind enemy lines, NC is just one win away from qualifying for the Korean Series.
“It doesn’t feel real yet,” he said, “but if I go to the Korean Series, I want to pitch as well as I did today,” he added. 토토사이트