By winning their fifth consecutive game on Sunday, the SSG Landers became the first team in South Korean baseball to reach the 20-win mark in 2023.
That may seem to be an insignificant milestone in a 144-game season, but beating everyone to that mark has often translated into postseason success for teams.
The Landers edged out the Kiwoom Heroes 7-6 in 11 innings to improve to 20-10 for the season. It was their fifth consecutive win, putting them two games ahead of the Lotte Giants (15-9) in first place.
In Korea Baseball Organization history, dating back to 1982, teams that reached the 20-win plateau first have gone on to win the regular season title about 65 percent of the time -- 22 out of 34 occasions.
For this milestone, the league doesn't count its first seven seasons, from 1982 to 1988, because seasons were held in two halves. The league also excludes the 1999 and 2000 seasons, when the teams were divided into two divisions.
First-place teams in the KBO advance directly to the Korean Series. And first teams to 20 wins have won the league championship in 17 out of 34 tries.
The Landers were also the first team to win 20 games last season, doing so in 27 games. They spent the entire regular season in first place and went on to capture the Korean Series, too.
Three of the past four Korean Series winners have been teams that made it to the 20-win mark first during the regular season.
The Landers have been led by a pair of first-year foreign players.
On the mound, left-hander Kirk McCarty has gone 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA. He was roughed up for eight earned runs on 10 hits in only 3 1/3 innings in his KBO debut on April 2. In five starts since, however, McCarty has given up just one earned run in 32 2/3 innings, while surrendering just 10 hits and striking out 32.
Guillermo Heredia has been doing damage with his bat. He leads the KBO with a .373 batting average, 44 hits and 60 total bases. The outfielder is second overall with 26 RBIs and fifth with a .930 on-base plus slugging. (Yonhap)