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Lotte, SK to clash in rematch of last year’s playoffs

The Lotte Giants and SK Wyverns will clash in Korea’s pro baseball playoffs this week for the second year in a row.

The Wyverns will host the Giants in Incheon on Tuesday to open the best-of-five series. SK earned a bye to the round by finishing second in the regular season. Fourth-seeded Lotte reached the playoffs Friday by beating the Doosan Bears to win the playoff qualification series 3-1.

SK is vying to compete in the championship Korean Series for the sixth straight time. Last year, the Wyverns, then No. 3, defeated the No. 2 Giants in five games.

In their head-to-head matches of the regular season, Lotte leads SK with 10 wins and nine losses.

The Wyverns have won three of the past five Korean Series titles, and reached a record five consecutive championship finals.

The Giants are in their fifth straight playoffs but have not been to the Korean Series since 1999.

SK is a tough team to beat in close games. Of the 32 games it played that were decided by a single run, they won 19 and lost 13, the best percentage in the Korea Baseball Organization.

If the Giants are to eliminate the Wyverns, they will have to beat two left-handed SK relievers. Park Hee-soo pitched in 65 games, going 8-1 with six saves and a record 34 holds, along with a 3.31 ERA. He struck out 93 batters in 82 innings. Park usually hands the mound over to Jung Woo-ram in the ninth. Jung has 30 saves and a 2.20 ERA in his first full season as the closer.

The Giants’ bullpen is led by Chong Tae-hyon, former closer for SK. Due to injuries, he only pitched in 24 games in the second half of the season, giving up only two runs in 23 1/3 innings.

On offense, slugger Choi Jeong will lead the way for the Wyverns. He blasted a career-high 26 homers in the regular season, five of them against Lotte.

Lotte outfielder Son A-seop has a .382 batting average against SK along with 10 RBIs. Catcher Kang Min-ho leads the Giants with 15 RBIs against the Wyverns.

The defending champion Samsung Lions earned a bye to the Korean Series by finishing first in the regular season. It will take on the winner of the playoffs. The Korean Series is scheduled to begin on Oct. 24.

By Chun Sung-woo (swchun@heraldcorp.com)
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