The Korea Herald


LG Twins crowned champions for 1st time since 1994 as S. Korean baseball season ends

By Yonhap

Published : Nov. 14, 2023 - 09:09

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LG Twins players celebrate winning the Korean Series over the KT Wiz following their 6-2 victory in Game 5 at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap) LG Twins players celebrate winning the Korean Series over the KT Wiz following their 6-2 victory in Game 5 at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

The 2023 season in South Korean baseball ended Monday night the way it hadn't for nearly three decades: with the LG Twins as the champions.

The Twins defeated the KT Wiz 6-2 in Game 5 of the Korean Series at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul, claiming the best-of-seven series 4-1 for their first championship since 1994.

The drought-busting victory capped a memorable season in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), which saw the attendance figure surpass the 8 million mark for the first time in five years, as jostling for postseason positions went down to the wire. Some significant milestones were reached and records tumbled throughout the year too.

The Twins clinched the best record in the regular season with nine games to spare, while the Wiz, who were in last place in early June, climbed all the way up to second place at the end.

The SSG Landers, the NC Dinos and the Doosan Bears fought until the end for the final three postseason spots. The Dinos and the Bears ended up taking the fourth and fifth seeds, respectively, as the Bears, under new manager Lee Seung-yuop, the all-time home run king in KBO history, put them back in the postseason a year after they'd finished in ninth.

But the Bears had no answer against the Dinos in the wild card game. And the Landers, the 2022 champions, did not, either, as the Dinos swept them in the best-of-five first round. It cost Landers manager Kim Won-hyong his job.

The Dinos won the first two games of the second round against the Wiz. The Dinos tied the record for the longest postseason winning streak with nine games, having won three straight in their previous postseason appearance in 2020.

But the Wiz quickly turned the tables and won the final three games of that series, becoming just the third team to pull off that reverse sweep in the second round.

The Wiz were pursuing their second Korean Series title in three years, and even took the ever-important first game on the road against the Twins.

In the history of the Korean Series, Game 1 winners had gone on to take the title nearly 75 percent of the time.

But the Twins beat those odds, reeling off four consecutive wins to capture the title. They erased a 4-0 deficit for a 5-4 victory in Game 2. In Game 3, an instant classic featuring multiple lead changes, the Wiz scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a 7-5 lead, before the Twins responded with Oh Ji-hwan's three-run homer with two outs in the ninth to pull out an 8-7 win.

The Twins cruised to a 15-4 win in Game 4, setting the stage for the title-clinching, 6-2 victory in Game 5 on Monday night.

All five games of the series were played before sellout crowds. At Jamsil on Monday night, 23,750 fans -- at least 90 percent Twins fans -- were on hand to witness the momentous victory.

The Twins didn't just top the regular season standings; they also led in attendance, with a little over 1.2 million fans.

Overall, the league's 10 clubs drew 8.1 million fans, the first time the KBO has seen over 8 million fans since 2018.

A playoff push by two of the most popular teams, the Lotte Giants and the Kia Tigers, also helped the cause. They both fell short, and the Giants will be going in a new direction after hiring former Bears manager Kim Tae-hyoung to be their new skipper.

There was no shortage of memorable individual performances.

Dinos ace Erick Fedde dominated on the mound, becoming the first non-Korean winner of the Triple Crown after leading the league with 20 wins, a 2.00 ERA and 209 strikeouts. Fedde also became just the fifth pitcher -- and the first from outside South Korea -- to record 20 wins and 200 strikeouts in the same season.

Samsung Lions closer Oh Seung-hwan, already the league's career saves leader, became the first to reach the 400-save milestone in October. No other closer even has 300 saves.

Roh Si-hwan of the Hanwha Eagles led everyone with 31 home runs and 101 RBIs. He became the third-youngest home run king at age 22 and the second-youngest with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in a season.

Kia Tigers outfielder/designated hitter Choi Hyoung-woo became the league's all-time RBI leader in June, picking up his 1,500th RBI with a two-run shot that moved him past Lee Seung-yuop (1,498 RBIs).

Landers third baseman Choi Jeong rose to the top of the runs scored leaderboard with 1,356 in September, surpassing Lee in that category. (Yonhap)