Members of the Doosan Bears celebrate their 11-5 victory over the Kia Tigers in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, on Saturday. (Yonhap)
Two Seoul-based rivals will square off on Monday in the first postseason game in South Korean baseball this year.
The Doosan Bears will host the Kiwoom Heroes for the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) wild card game at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul, with the first pitch at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
The Bears finished fourth in the regular season at 71-65-8 (wins-losses-ties), and the Heroes ended 1.5 games back in fifth place at 70-67-7.
As the higher seed, the Bears will advance to the next stage with a win or a tie, and will take two cracks at it. The Heroes, on the other hand, must win two straight games to reach the next round.
In the playoffs, ties will be called if teams remain deadlocked after 15 innings.
If the Bears win or end in a tie on Monday, then they will advance to the next round. But if the Heroes win, the two clubs will go at it again at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, back at Jamsil.
For Monday's game, the Bears will start right-hander Gwak Been. The 22-year-old went 4-7 with a 4.10 ERA in the regular season, with 96 strikeouts and 79 walks in 98 2/3 innings. He didn't face the Heroes during the regular season.
Gwak will be pitching on three days' rest.
The Heroes will counter with right-hander An Woo-jin. He was 8-8 with a 3.26 ERA, recording 110 strikeouts and 41 walks in 107 2/3 regular season innings.
One of the hardest throwers in the KBO, An missed time in the summer while serving a suspension for breaching COVID-19 protocols.
He was 0-1 with a 2.84 ERA in two regular season starts versus the Bears.
The Heroes won the season series at 8-7-1.
These two clubs met in the 2019 Korean Series, and the Bears swept the Heroes in four games. The Bears have played in every Korean Series since 2015, and will try to set a record with a seventh straight appearance this year. During that run, the Bears won titles in 2015, 2016 and 2019.
The Heroes have yet to win a Korean Series since entering the league in 2008.
The Bears have lost both of their foreign starters for the postseason. Ariel Miranda, who led the regular season with a 2.33 ERA and a record 225 strikeouts, was shut down last week with shoulder fatigue. Walker Lockett returned to the United States on Oct. 20 to undergo season-ending elbow surgery, after posting a 2.98 ERA and a 9-9 record in 21 starts.
Yang Suk-hwan destroyed Kiwoom pitching with seven home runs and 21 RBIs in 16 games. He slashed .316/.361/.754 in those games, but he was hitless in six at-bats against An, the Heroes' starter on Monday.
While Yang alone hit seven home runs versus the Heroes, Kiwoom batters went deep just six times combined against Doosan pitching.
The regular season batting champion Lee Jung-hoo had one of those home runs. He batted .400/.477/.509 against the Bears with three doubles, nine walks and nine RBIs. (Yonhap)