With the 2018 Korean Series nearing the end, the Doosan Bears find themselves in a position that many pundits didn't think they'd be in -- trailing the SK Wyverns 3-2 and one loss away from their second straight runner-up finish.
The Bears had the best record during the Korea Baseball Organization regular season at 93-51, tying their own record for most victories in a season and finishing 14.5 games ahead of the Wyverns. This is their fourth straight Korean Series appearance, but all of their regular season greatness could be for naught unless they win the next two games on their home grounds, Jamsil Stadium in Seoul.
Doosan manager Kim Tae-hyung(Yonhap)
Prior to Game 6 on Monday, Doosan manager Kim Tae-hyung said he held a short meeting with the players to hammer home a message.
"I told them that no matter what anybody says, we were the first place team in the regular season," Kim said in his pre-game media session. "A few games in the postseason doesn't change what we accomplished over the course of a season. And I also said they shouldn't really pay attention to what some people are saying about their performances."
The Bears have been uncharacteristically sloppy on the field -- with seven errors in five games so far, after committing a league-low 77 in 144 games -- and their bats have been mostly silenced by the Wyverns' strong pitching.
Kim acknowledged that there's only so much a manager can say to alleviate pressure that the players are feeling.
"Most of these guys have been on both sides (of winning the championship and losing in the Korean Series)," said Kim, who guided the Bears to championships in 2015 and 2016 and to a runner-up finish in 2017. "And they know how different people's reactions will be, and I think they feel that much more pressure because of that."
Kim's counterpart, Trey Hillman of the Wyverns, sits one win away from becoming the first foreign manager to win the Korean Series. Hillman, who is leaving the Wyverns after this year to spend more time with his family in the United States, said he will look to keep his focus on the present.
"I'll just stay focused on tonight's game," Hillman said. "I hope it is (our last game of the season). We obviously hope we're able to accomplish our wonderful season tonight but (I am) just staying focused on the game itself."
The Wyverns will try to close out the Bears as soon as possible, and Hillman didn't rule out the possibility that his ace Kim Kwang-hyun, who started Game 4 last Friday, will pitch out of the bullpen on Monday.
"I'd say it's doubtful (that Kim will pitch on Monday) but nothing is impossible," he said. "It'd have to be a really unique situation. I can't predict what that situation is going to be. The bottom line is just to get 27 outs. We'll stick to the same plan we've had and we'll adjust it any way we need to get the last out of the game." (Yonhap)