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The 2019 Korean Series is finally here

Two Seoul teams chase the title for the first time in KBO history

Oct 22,2019
From left, Doosan Bears’ Lee Young-ha, Oh Jae-il and manager Kim Tae-hyung and Kiwoom Heroes’ manager Jang Jung-seok, Lee Ji-young and Lee Jung-hoo pose for a photo with the Korean Series trophy during a media conference at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul on Monday. [YONHAP]
Nearly seven months after the season began, the 2019 Korean Series finally kicks off at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul today.

For the first time in KBO history, two Seoul clubs - the Doosan Bears and the Kiwoom Heroes - will be competing for the championship title.

Unlike the playoff series, the Korean Series will be played in a best-of-seven format. The first two games will be played at Jamsil, while the next three games will be played at the Heroes’ home at Gocheok Sky Dome in western Seoul. If needed, the series will then return to Jamsil.

Game 1 of the Korean Series starts at 6:30 p.m. this evening.

The Bears and the Heroes may never have met in the Korean Series, but the two teams do have some postseason history.

Back in 2013, the two clubs played in the first round of the playoffs, and the Bears defeated the Heroes in Game 5 to advance to the second round. Then, the two faced each other again in the first round of the playoffs in 2015. The Heroes once again lost to the Bears, this time in Game 4.

In addition to the postseason record, the Bears are a significantly more experienced team. As one of the original KBO teams, the Bears have reached the Korean Series 13 times since the league was founded in 1982, winning it five times. The Bears are also on an impressive streak as they start their fifth consecutive championship series today.

In the past five years, the Bears have won the title twice, in 2015 and 2016, but finished runner-up for the last two years.

But although the Bears have the history - and to be fair, the Heroes didn’t actually exist until 2008, a full 26 seasons after the Bears - in this season’s head-to-head record, the Heroes come out on top. In 16 games, the Heroes have the lead with nine wins and seven losses.

Looking at the two teams’ 2019 season, whatever happens in the Korean Series, it’s likely to be dramatic.

The Bears clinched one of the most dramatic regular season titles in the history of the KBO this year.

Despite being a good nine games behind the SK Wyverns as recently as August, the Bears overcame the huge margin to take the pennant title on the very last day of the regular season, picking up an improbable come-from-behind victory against the NC Dinos to do so.

The win allowed the Bears to tie the lead with the Wyverns, but as the Bears were ahead of the Wyverns in the head-to-head record, the Bears were declared the regular season champion.

“We got good vibes from a dramatic regular season win,” said the Bears manager Kim Tae-hyung. “We’ll lead it to a good result at the Korean Series as well. There’s nothing especially different [in our preparations]. We’re only thinking about winning on the final stage.”

The Heroes may have finished third in the regular season, but they’ve dominated the playoffs so far.

Finishing third in the regular season, the Heroes had to play through both playoff rounds to reach the Korean Series. In first playoff round, the Heroes defeated the LG Twins in Game 4 before going on to shut out the Wyverns, the defending Korean Series champions, in the second round.

The Heroes’ dominance is especially impressive as they are the youngest team in the league, in terms of the average age of the players.

“Our players and coaching staff have been working toward this great position, and now we have a chance,” said Heroes manager Jang Jung-seok. “After losing the playoffs to SK last year, we’ve studied a lot. We want to achieve what we couldn’t have last year. We’ll give it our all, without even leaving 1 percent of it.”

Throughout the playoff series, Jang came up with an interesting 30-man postseason entry, as he filled up 14 of those spots with pitchers. His plan turned out to be a successful one.

“There’s nothing I could have done by myself,” Jang said. “All our players and staff made it happen for me.”

Once again, Jang will have 14 pitchers in his Korean Series entry.

Kim’s roster will also be filled with pitchers, as the Bears have named 13 to the roster. In the Korean Series, the Bears’ starting pitcher Lee Yong-chan will play in the bullpen.

In Game 1, both managers will start foreign pitchers.

The Bears will start Josh Lindblom while the Heroes will start Eric Jokisch. Lindblom is having the best season of his career, picking up 20 wins and three losses with a 2.50 ERA. With Lindblom starting in Game 1, the Bears clearly hope to take an early lead in the series.

Jokisch’s ERA or wins may not be as impressive as Lindblom’s in the regular season, but he tossed an impressive game in the second round of the playoffs against the SK Wyverns. Throughout four and two-thirds of an inning, he gave up only one run with a 1.93 ERA.

BY KANG YOO-RIM, AN HEE-SOO [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]


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