Two right-handers will be making their first postseason starts in South Korean baseball when the series between the Kiwoom Heroes and the KT Wiz resumes Wednesday.
The teams have split the first two games of their best-of-five series in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) playoffs, with the Heroes taking the opener 8-4 on Sunday and the Wiz responding with a 2-0 win on Monday, both at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul.
When the series shifts to KT Wiz Park in Suwon, just south of the capital city, sidearmer Ko Young-pyo will be on the hill for the home team.
The Heroes will counter with Tyler Eppler, their first-year American pitcher.
Ko pitched exclusively in relief during the Wiz's Korean Series title run last year. Though he had been a solid starter in the regular season, the Wiz carried four other above-average starting pitchers but were much thinner in the bullpen. Ko held his ground in the relief role, allowing two earned runs in 4 2/3 innings across three outings, as the Wiz swept the Doosan Bears in four games.
This year, Ko will finally make his first postseason start, though he almost made a bullpen appearance in Monday's win.
KT manager Lee Kang-chul asked Ko to stay ready for a late-inning situation, with most of the key relievers running on fumes. Fortunately for the Wiz, Lee didn't have to waste his Game 3 starter Monday night, as starter Wes Benjamin threw seven shutout innings and rookie reliever Park Yeong-hyun recorded a six-out save.
In the regular season, Ko set career highs with 182 1/3 innings pitched, 13 wins and 156 strikeouts.
But he had a higher ERA against the Heroes than any other opponent, with 5.60 in three starts and a 0-3 record. Kiwoom hitters torched Ko for 30 hits in 17 2/3 innings. Former National League All-Star Yasiel Puig batted 7-for-9 with a home run and two doubles, while Lee Ji-young hit 6-for-7.
Eppler went 6-8 with a 4.30 ERA while sprinkling in a few relief appearances during his first KBO season.
But he pitched relatively well against the Wiz, recording a 3.57 ERA n 17 2/3 innings over three starts. Eppler's final regular season victory came against the Wiz on Sept. 11, when he threw seven shutout innings and struck out six.
Power-hitting catcher Jang Sung-woo batted 5-for-9 with a home run against Eppler, though the regular season home run king, Park Byung-ho, was only 0-for-5 with a strikeout against the right-hander. (Yonhap)