When the NC Dinos host the LG Twins to start the second playoff round in the Korea Baseball Organization this week, the relatively small ballpark here in the southeastern part of the nation could play a big role, the teams' managers said Thursday.
Game 1 between the two clubs is 6:30 p.m. Friday at Masan Stadium in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, some 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul. NC manager Kim Kyung-moon and LG manager Yang Sang-moon agreed small dimensions of the ballpark could mean one swing of the bat could alter the course of the series.
At Masan, it's 97 meters down the left and right field lines and 116 meters to center. The Twins are based at Seoul's Jamsil Stadium, where it's 100 meters down both lines and 125 meters from home plate to center.
"It can also get windy at Masan, and you can't discount the impact of the weather conditions," Kim said at the preseries media day event. "And LG is coming into this series on a roll, so we have to cool them off a bit."
The Dinos had the bye to the second round after finishing with the second-best record in the regular season. The Twins beat the Kia Tigers for the wild card and then knocked off the Nexen Heroes in four games in the first round.
This is a rematch of the first round in 2014, and the Twins prevailed in four games then. The teams combined for eight home runs then.
"We took the first game of that series when we got an unexpected home run from Choi Kyung-chul," Yang said of the backup catcher who blasted a three-run home run during the six-run first inning. "It'll be important for starting pitchers to avoid big innings, and on offense, we'll have to try to leave the yard while playing here at the small stadium."
The winner of the first game in the second round has advanced to the championship Korean Series on 23 out of 28 occasions, or more than 82 percent of the time.
The Dinos will enter the series marred by a series of off-field issues. Slugger Eric Thames, who tied for the league lead with 40 home runs and knocked in a team-high 121 runs, has been suspended for Game 1 after his DUI incident late in the season.
The Dinos have also been dealing with a widening match-fixing scandal. Pitcher Lee Tae-yang has received a suspended jail term, while another pitcher, Lee Jae-hak, has been under police investigation. Neither pitcher is on the playoff roster.
"I'd like to apologize to our fans for these unsavory incidents," Kim said at the start of the press conference. "I should have taken better care of them as the manager. I think the best to make up for that is for our players to give their best on the field."
Kim admitted the team's morale "reached a low point" when the news of Lee Jae-hak's investigation came out, but he wanted the players to come together and "rally around each other."
"We have a bunch of good, young pitchers who can step in," Kim said of Lee's absence. "I can pick and choose from our list." (Yonhap)