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Overhauled lineup does wonders for Samsung in Korean Series

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 30 (Yonhap) -- It might have been a desperate move on the part of the Samsung Lions' manager Ryu Joong-il, but reshuffling the struggling lineup kept the two-time defending champions alive in the Korean Series.

After scoring seven runs in four previous games against the Doosan Bears in their battle for the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) championship, the new-look Lions on Tuesday enjoyed a 7-5 victory in Game 5 to live to see another day in the best-of-seven affair.

The Lions still trail 3-2 in the series, but they head back home to Daegu Stadium for Game 6 on Thursday with renewed confidence.

The Lions entered Game 5 hitting .175 as a team with 24 hits in four games. On Tuesday, they had 11 hits, including a pair of solo home runs, and swung the bat with more assurance than at any point during the series.

For the first time in the series, Ryu benched leadoff man Bae Young-seop, who was batting 1-for-16 in four games, in favor of Jeong Hyeong-sik. Park Han-yi, 1-for-10 prior to Game 5, went up from seventh to second in the order.

Lee Seung-yeop, the 2012 Korean Series MVP struggling in the 2013 series, batted fifth in Game 5, up a spot from four previous games. Park Seok-min, who hit a solo shot in Game 1 but had since lost his touch, traded places with Lee and batted sixth.

Ryu's gamble in the win-or-go-home game mostly paid off. Park Han-yi went 0-for-4 through six innings but delivered a tie-breaking two-run single in the eighth that proved to be the difference in this game. Park Seok-min reached base five times, with two singles and three walks in five plate appearances.

The two mainstays in the heart of the order also came through. Chae Tae-in, batting third for the second straight game, hit an opposite-field solo home run to left to spark the three-run first inning. Choi Hyung-woo, cleaning up in every game of the series so far, also hit a solo shot as part of his 3-for-5 night.

Ryu breathed a sigh of relief that his offense woke up just in time.

"We finally hit today," the manager said. "Our guys had been stressed out during the series, but they really concentrated today, thinking this could be the last game of the year for us."

Lee Seung-yeop was 1-for-4 with a walk, but also hit a deep fly to center that was caught at the track at Jamsil Stadium, the league's largest ballpark with a distance of 125 meters from home plate to center field.

The ball would have left Daegu Stadium, where it's 120 meters from home to center. Ryu also tried to take a "glass half-full" approach of the long flyout.

"I know it was really well hit and would have been a home run in Daegu," he said. "I have to keep my faith in him. I believe he will eventually come through for us."

This is Lee's fourth Korean Series. In the three previous series, Lee batted .294 with five home runs and 20 RBIs in 18 games. Last year, he earned the Korean Series MVP honors after batting .348 with a home run and seven RBIs in six games, and hitting a three-run triple in the decisive Game 6 against the SK Wyverns.

Facing the right-hander Noh Kyung-eun on Tuesday, Ryu stacked the first five spots of his order with left-handed hitters, as the right-handed Bae Young-seop took a seat.

Bae hit .409 in last year's Korean Series, but is mired in a 1-for-16 slump this year. Ryu said he will have to think long and hard about inserting him back into the lineup.

The revived Lions will face right-hander Dustin Nippert in Game 6, set for a 6 p.m. start on Thursday. Nippert also made a start in Game 2 and kept the Lions scoreless over six innings while allowing only three hits, as the Bears went on to win 5-1 in 13 innings. He was 3-0 against the Lions with a 1.89 ERA during the regular season.

Nippert is 8-1 with a 2.09 ERA in 12 career regular season appearances against Samsung.

The Lions said they will send right-hander Rick van den Hurk to start the sixth game. The Dutchman was credited with the win in Game 5 thanks to two scoreless innings in relief, and will be back on the mound after one day's rest.

He was also the starter in Game 2, and struck out seven in 5 2/3 shutout innings in a no-decision.

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