Two clubs that clashed for the South Korean baseball championship last year will renew their postseason rivalry this week.
The Doosan Bears and the NC Dinos will meet for the third straight year in the Korea Baseball Organization playoffs starting Tuesday at the Bears' home, Jamsil Stadium in Seoul.
There's less at stake this year than the last, though. The Bears swept the Dinos in four straight games in the Korean Series last year to capture their second straight league championship. This time, they're meeting in the best-of-five second round, with the winner moving on to the Korean Series against the Kia Tigers, the regular season champions.
In 2015, these two also met in the second round, which the Bears took in five games.
By virtue of finishing with the second-best regular season record, the Bears had the bye into the second round. The Dinos, who finished fourth in the regular season, defeated the SK Wyverns in the wild card game and then eliminated the Lotte Giants in five games in the first round, which wrapped up Sunday.
The Bears are trying to become just the third team in the league's 35-year history to win at least three consecutive championships. The Dinos, who joined the KBO in 2013, are chasing their first title.
|In this file photo taken July 9, 2017, Kim Seong-uk of the NC Dinos (R) slides home safely against the Doosan Bears in the clubs` Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Masan Stadium in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province. The two teams will meet in the second round series in the postseason starting Oct. 17, 2017. (Yonhap)|
The Bears won the season series 11-5 and took all five games against the Dinos in the second half.
The Bears will send their long-time ace Dustin Nippert to start Game 1. In his seventh KBO season, Nippert, 36, has appeared in 14 postseason games, with a 4-1 record and a 2.53 ERA.
In Game 1 of last year's Korean Series against the Dinos, Nippert tossed eight shutout innings, holding the Dinos to just two hits as the Bears walked off 1-0 in the bottom 11th.
He also had two scoreless starts against the Dinos in the 2015 postseason.
In this year's regular season, Nippert went just 1-1 with a 5.56 ERA in four starts against the Dinos.
The Dinos will counter with the 22-year-old right-hander Jang Hyun-sik, who will make his fourth postseason appearance.
The latest start was a memorable one for Jang. He held the Giants off the board in seven solid innings in Game 2 of the previous round, though the Dinos lost to the Giants 1-0.
He struggled in six regular season starts against the Bears this year, going 1-3 with a 4.91 ERA.
Two of the Bears' best hitters put up excellent numbers against the Dinos. Cleanup Kim Jae-hwan, who led the club with 35 home runs and 115 RBIs, batted .359 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 16 games against the Dinos. Park Kun-woo, who batted a team-high .366, had a .380 batting average in 14 games against NC pitching, along with four home runs and 10 RBIs.
Among NC pitchers, right-hander Eric Hacker was 1-1 in two starts with a 2.77 ERA, but after pitching in Sunday's series clincher against the Giants, he won't be available until at least Game 3 of this round, to be played Friday.
At the plate, two former Doosan stars thrived against their former club. Shortstop Son Si-hyun batted .444 with seven RBIs against the Bears while outfielder Lee Jong-wook hit at a .459 clip versus Doosan.
Mo Chang-min, who wielded a hot bat in the previous series with a .364 batting average and two home runs, raked in 15 RBIs in 16 games against Doosan. (Yonhap)