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KBO season ends with Bears far ahead

Pitcher Dustin Nippert helped carry team to victory with 22 wins

Oct 10,2016
The Doosan Bears celebrate their KBO pennant at home on Sept. 22. As the winners of this year’s Korea Baseball Organization regular season, the Bears have earned their farewell until the Korea Series, hoping to claim the second consecutive Series titles. Beside the Bears, the NC Dinos, Nexen Heroes, LG Twins and KIA Tigers will be competing for a shot at the Korean Series title. [NEWSIS]
The curtains came down on the regular season of this year’s Korea Baseball Organization on Sunday. With the playoff seed determined, some will be taking off their gloves and putting their bats aside for now, while others will see a little more time on the field this fall.

The Doosan Bears, the defending Korean Series champions, had a particularly memorable season. Securing the pennant of the KBO regular season three weeks ago, the Bears cruised through the year with 93 wins, 50 losses and one draw, setting the single-season record for wins. At the fore of it all was the Bears’ Dustin Nippert.

Nippert, a righty from the United States, was the winningest pitcher at this year’s KBO, leading the league with 22 wins and an earned run average (ERA) of 2.95, making him the only pitcher to hold more than 20 wins with an ERA under 3.00. Carding his 22nd win Saturday against the LG Twins, Nippert tied the record for the number of wins clinched by a foreign pitcher in a single season, which was set by Daniel Rios in 2007. As a leading pitcher for the Bears, Nippert is a favorite to take this year’s MVP award.

Along with Nippert’s brilliant season, the Bears will automatically advance to this year’s Korean Series to take a crack at their second Series title. “We will give the fans a show to watch this fall,” said Kim Tae-hyeong, the Bears skipper, after the win on Saturday. “We would like to show our sincere gratitude to our fans. We will prepare ourselves thoroughly during the break for this year’s Korean Series.”

After the Bears, the NC Dinos finished the season as runners-ups. In the fourth year of their existence, the Dinos may be a young team but the way they have handled themselves on the ground has been far from green.

The Dinos finished this year with an 83-58-3 record, seven games ahead of the third-placed Nexen Heroes. In batting, Eric Thames, last year’s MVP, prompted the success of the Dinos once more with 40 homers, tied at first with Choi Jeong of the SK Wyverns. His slugging percentage, synonymous with power hitting, stood at .679, also first in the league. His runs batted in (RBI) came out to 121 by the end of the season, fourth in the league.

As the first one to join the 40-40 club, a group of batters who have collected more than 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a single season, with 47 dingers and 40 stolen bases last season, Thames overwhelmingly claimed the MVP honor last year. But as impressive as his performance was at-bat this year, it is questionable whether Thames would once more be the recipient of the honor. The American slugger was caught driving under the influence in late September and the KBO suspended the 30-year-old for the remainder of the regular season as well as the first Dinos game of the playoffs. This late DUI case may put a damper on things in Thames’ shot for the MVP title.

Despite the incident, as the runners-up, the Dinos will advance straight to the second round of the playoffs, taking on the winner of the previous rounds competed among the Heroes, LG Twins or KIA Tigers.

The Heroes, despite losing some of their key players after last year including power hitter Park Byung-ho, who left the Heroes to join the Minnesota Twins of the Major League after reaching the climax of his career in the KBO by hitting 53 home runs and 146 RBIs for the season, have made it into the postseason once more. Finishing the season at 77-66-1, the Heroes will face the winner of the wild-card game between the Twins and the Tigers.

The wild-card game between the Twins and the Tigers will start off this year’s postseason and ignite the baseball fever that only comes during the fall. With the Twins seeded higher than the Tigers, they will have an advantage going into the first wild-card game starting tomorrow. Not only do the Twins face the Tigers at home in Jamsil Baseball Stadium, but the Seoul-based team only needs one win to advance to the next round.

For the Tigers, they have quite a hill ahead to climb as they are the dark horse of this year’s playoffs.

Noesi Hector, a Dominican pitcher for the Tigers, will be starting for the team. Ranked third in the league in ERA with 3.40, Hector has been absent from the starting roster since Oct. 2, most likely trying to put his physical condition at its peak for the playoff game.

The first game of the KBO playoffs between the Twins and the Tigers starts at 6:30 p.m. in Jamsil today.

BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]


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