After dropping the first two games of this year's Korean Series, the championship final for South Korea's top baseball league, the SK Wyverns finally beat their opponents, the Samsung Lions, 12-8, in Game 3 on Sunday.
The emphatic way in which the Wyverns got right back into the series -- they overcame a 6-1 deficit and launched three home runs -- has breathed life back into the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) team that plodded through the first two defeats. Above all, players and coaches are hoping that they will repeat some positive postseason history.
In the 30-year history of the KBO, a team has taken a 2-0 Korean Series lead 15 times, and 14 times that team has gone on to win the championship.
The only exception has been SK in 2007. The Wyverns at the time lost the first two against the Doosan Bears before coming back to win four in a row to claim their first title, and their first of three in a four-year stretch.
And through the first three games of this year's Korean Series, the similarities to the Wyverns' run in 2007 aren't that hard to find.
Five years ago, the Wyverns handed the first two games to the Bears and looked bad doing it -- getting blanked 2-0 in Game 1 and blowing a 2-0 lead to lose 6-3 in Game 2. Then they were propelled by a resounding 9-1 victory in Game 3.
In Game 4, an unheralded rookie starter Kim Kwang-hyun, making his first playoff start, held the Bears to just one hit over 7 1/3 and struck out nine in a 4-0 victory. The Wyverns enjoyed another 4-0 shutout win in Game 5 and won the clinching game 5-2 at home.
Turn the clock forward to 2012. The Wyverns lost the first two games by a combined score of 11-4 and never once led during those games. Their bats came alive in the third game, providing 17 hits and 12 runs.
And as fate would have it, Kim Kwang-hyun, who has pitched in 11 more playoff games since 2007, is slated to start Game 4 on Monday.
Is this going to be deja vu for the Wyverns? Manager Lee Man-soo certainly hopes so.
"Our players proved today that they can get the job done if they put their minds to it," Lee said after the victory Sunday. "We came back from down 6-1, and I think we will keep up this momentum going forward."
Kim had been slated to start Game 3, but a mediocre bullpen session last Thursday pushed him back another game. And when rain postponed Game 3 from Saturday to Sunday and moved Game 4 from Sunday to Monday, Kim got an extra day of rest.
Lee said the rainout should work in Kim's and also the rest of the team's favor.
"Kim has had a difficult year," Lee said of Kim's shoulder problems that limited him to 16 games in the regular season. "This will be his last start of the year, and he's really fired up. I think he will throw a great game. Our guys tend to bear down and concentrate even more when Kim is on the mound."
The Lions, on the other hand, were licking their wounds Sunday after their vaunted bullpen got pounded for 10 hits and nine runs in six innings. Over the first two games, relief pitchers hadn't given up an earned run in 6 2/3 innings.
Ahn Ji-man, one of the KBO's most effective setup men in the last eight seasons, was especially shaky in taking the loss, giving up four runs on three hits, including a three-run homer by Kim Kang-min in the sixth inning, as the Wyverns completed their comeback. Ahn hadn't served up a long ball since May 18 this year.
Ryu Joong-il, the Lions' manager, insisted one bad game will not change the way he operates his bullpen.
"Clearly, our pitchers got hit hard today, but pitchers can get knocked around in any given game," Ryu said. "The Wyverns must have studied our pitchers hard over the past couple of days, and we'll have to be just as well prepared." (Yonhap News)