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No panic yet for LG Twins after dropping crucial Korean Series opener

By Yonhap

Published : Nov. 8, 2023 - 20:16

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(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

History shows that the team that drops the opening game of the Korean Series, the South Korean baseball championship round, loses the series nearly 75 percent of the time.

But there's no panic in the clubhouse for the LG Twins even after their 3-2 loss to the KT Wiz in Game 1 of the best-of-the-seven series Tuesday night, according to manager Youm Kyoung-youb.

In his media scrum prior to Game 2 at Jamsil Baseball Stadium on Wednesday, Youm said he told his players to stick to what they've been doing, without changing anything.

To that end, Youm will dole out the exact same lineup as the one that left eight men on base in Tuesday's loss.

"I didn't have to think that much about it," Youm said of his decision to keep his lineup intact. "Our pitchers did a great job last night, but our bats couldn't capitalize on chances. But we can't play well every game."

The Twins had the best offense in the Korea Baseball Organization in the regular season, but after more than three weeks of break between the end of their regular season and the start of the Korean Series, they showed some signs of rust Tuesday.

Leadoff man Hong Chang-ki continued his postseason woes Tuesday, batting 0-for-5 after putting up a career-high .332 average in the regular season. For his postseason career, the usually reliable Hong is batting only .071 (3-for-42).

While keeping Hong at the top of the order, Youm also told the player to stick to his guns.

"I told him to keep doing the things the way he's always done them," Youm said. "We've only played one game. If he starts tinkering with his approach or mechanics, he'll be in trouble and the series will be over before he knows it."

Youm denied his batters' problems didn't have anything to do with their physical preparation. Instead, he attributed them to postseason jitters.

"I am sure those guys were nervous playing in front of such a huge crowd," Youm said of the packed house of 23,750 fans, the vast majority of whom were Twins fans. "And with the first game out of the way, I think they should be better from now on."

Youm said Game 2 starter Choi Won-tae will hold the key, as the Twins look to even the series before hitting the road for Games 3 and 4.

"Throughout the year, our winning formula has been to score about five runs and keep the opponents to about three runs," Youm said. "We took care of one part of the equation but not the other last night. If Choi Won-tae can hold the Wiz to about three runs, then he will have done his part."

For the Wiz, manager Lee Kang-chul made one lineup change from Game 1. Second baseman Park Kyung-su was taken out in favor of Shin Bon-ki, who entered Tuesday's game in the seventh inning as a defensive replacement.

Though Park is a strong defender, he has been playing through an adductor injury and made an uncharacteristic error Tuesday. Shin is a glove-first, bat-later utility infielder who can also play shortstop or third base.

"Bon-ki has done well in the Korean Series before, and he even hit a home run for us in 2021. He's also a good defensive player," Lee said. "We've been keeping him on the bench because he's the only backup shortstop we have in case something happens to (regular) Kim Sang-su. But Sang-su has been playing well, and Bon-ki is in pretty good form, too."

Though the Wiz stole the first game on the road, struggles of the big boppers in the heart of the lineup, Park Byung-ho and Anthony Alford, remain a source of concern for Lee.

Park is only .148 (4-for-27) this postseason with no home runs, after going 0-for-4 Tuesday. Alford has a .200 average (4-for-20) with seven walks.

"They're going to be fine. I am confident they're going to come through in a key spot. It's not as though we can replace them with someone else," Lee said. The manager then quipped, "If those guys get it going, then this series will be over too soon. Maybe it's better they take their time." (Yonhap)