Pennant race to heat up in 2nd halfThe second-half of the Korean pro baseball league gets under way today, and it’s expected to generate plenty of heat for sports fans in the middle of summer.
The first-place Hyundai Unicorns have a one-game lead over the Doosan Bears and a two-game lead over the third-place Samsung Lions.
Competition for the four available playoff spots is likely to be fierce. The Kia Tigers, SK Wyverns, and LG Twins are all within five games of the leader in fourth, fifth and sixth place respectively.
Because Korea has only one league, the third- and fourth-place teams meet in the first round of the playoffs, with the winner facing off against the second-place team. The winner of that series goes on to face the pennant winner, who gets a bye all the way to the final.
Hyundai is hoping for a big effort from pitchers Chung Min-tae and Kim Soo-kyung. The resurgence of the two star players will be necessary if Hyundai hopes to hold onto its lead.
Doosan lost five straight games right before the All-Star break as its batters slumped. The Bears need to get back on track at the plate if they hope to stay in the pennant chase.
One thing Doosan has going for them is its pitching: Rath Alfred Gary (9 wins), Mark Kiefer Andrew (7 wins) and Park Myung-hwan (8 wins) are all solid.
Teams considered on the upturn heading into the second half include Samsung, which has a team ERA of 3.99, and Kia, which has won its last four games.
The Samsung Lions released Troy O’Leary, a former major-leaguer, and now must depend on Mendy Lopez to help them in their pennant bid.
Kia expects two of its ace pitchers, Kim Jin-u and Choi Sang-deok, who are recovering from injuries, to join the team in August at the latest.
Some milestones to watch: Hanwha Eagles’ Song Jin-woo, who has 176 career wins, is closing in on 180. Hanwha’s Chang Jong-hoon, who has a career total of 336 home runs and 1,749 hits, hope to accumulate 350 home runs and 1,800 hits.
by Sung Baik-you