Members of the KT Wiz celebrate their 8-3 victory over the Samsung Lions in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, 45 kilometers south of Seoul, on Sunday. (Yonhap)
As teams approach the century mark in games played this season, the KT Wiz will set its sights on padding its lead atop the South Korean baseball standings.
The Wiz is coming off a 4-2 week. Its most recent victory, on Sunday against the Samsung Lions, must have been particularly gratifying for the leaders of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). After allowing two runs in the top of the first inning, the Wiz put up a seven-spot in the fifth inning. It pounded out 12 hits, with every member of the starting lineup getting at least one hit.
With a record of 55-36-1 (wins-losses-ties), the Wiz leads the LG Twins by 2.5 games. It has not suffered consecutive losses in 14 games.
And that streak appears safe for at least another couple of games, as the Wiz visits the last-place Hanwha Eagles for a two-game set starting Tuesday evening. After traveling to Seoul to take on the Kiwoom Heroes for two games, the Wiz will stay in the capital city for a weekend showdown against the Twins.
KBO clubs will now be playing two-game sets, instead of the usual three-game series, as the regular season winds down. Because of rainouts and earlier cancellations caused by COVID-19 infections, six of 10 teams will play double headers on Wednesday as part of a seven-games-in-six-days week.
The Lions, which has fallen five games back of the Wiz in third place, will open the new week against the Heroes. The Heroes is three games behind the Lions in fourth place.
There's a virtual tie for the fifth and final postseason spot between the defending champs NC Dinos and the SSG Landers. They will play each other three times to kick off the week, including a double header on Wednesday.
Another crucial early week series will pit the seventh-ranked Doosan Bears, 2.5 games out of fifth, against the ninth-ranked Kia Tigers. The Bears has played in every Korean Series since 2015, winning it all in 2015, 2016 and 2019, but the streak appears to be in jeopardy this year.
As has been the case for most of the summer, teams will be at the mercy of Mother Nature. With rain in forecast across the nation for the next two days, multiple postponements aren't out of the question.
It would only compound the league's scheduling headache. Even without earlier rainouts, the KBO has already lost four week's worth of games due to COVID-19 infections and the Tokyo Olympics. The league has decided to do away with extra innings in the second half of the season and has also shortened the postseason, hoping to crown the Korean Series champion by the end of November.
Last year, when the start of the regular season was pushed back by over a month due to the onset of the pandemic, the Dinos clinched the Korean Series championship on Nov. 24. It was the latest conclusion to a season in league history, which dates back to 1982.
Starting in September, all Saturday games will begin at 5 p.m. Games on Sundays and holidays will start at 2 p.m. Weekday games will continue to start at 6:30 p.m., but the first game of a double header will begin at 3 p.m. (Yonhap)