Wyverns smash Lions to take the Korean series
The SK Wyverns cemented their place in the KBO history books as the best team in recent years with a four-game sweep of the Samsung Lions in the Korean Series on Tuesday night. SK has advanced to the Korean Series in four consecutive seasons since 2007 and has now won the title three times - it’s only recent Korean Series loss coming in seven games to the Kia Tigers last year.
SK, which had the best record in the KBO this season at 84-47-2 - the second most wins in a season after the Hyundai Unicorns’ 91 wins in 2000 - appropriately disposed of the Samsung Lions in four games.
“I didn’t think we could win the series so soon,” said SK manager Kim Sung-geun. “We gave it everything we had and the fact that Samsung was fatigued and coming off a five-game series worked in our favor. We set the pace in all four games of the series.”
Coming off a 4-2 win in game three, Kim’s players looked eager to finish the series in four games. Gary Glover took the mound for SK and put together four solid scoreless innings.
But when he walked Park Sun-min in the fifth inning, Kim immediately replaced Glover with Chun Byung-doo. Relief pitchers like Jeong Woo-ram, Song Eun-bum and Lee Seung-ho kept Samsung at bay until Kim decided to bring in his ace Kim Kwang-hyun with a three-run lead in the bottom of the eighth.
The win was a team effort, but SK still had standout individual performances. Both first baseman Park Jung-kwon and catcher Park Kyung-oan came up big for the Wyverns with Park Jung-kwon narrowly edging Park Kyung-oan for the series MVP, receiving 38 of 71 media votes.
The 29-year-old first baseman hit .294 with one home run and six RBI in the Korean Series. More importantly, he came through in the clutch several times. In game one, with his team ahead 6-4, Park Jung-kwon hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to put the game out of reach. In game three, he hit a one-run double in the top of the eighth with his team ahead 2-1, and also produced a two-run double in the top of the fourth of game four with SK leading 1-0.
“I tried not to get anxious in the series,” Park said. “I kept telling myself to enjoy the competition as much as possible. I have a tendency to struggle when I get greedy at the plate.
“There were many players who performed better in the series. I have a lot of respect for Park Kyung-oan.”
Samsung, which played the Doosan Bears in a thrilling five-game series in the second round of the playoffs, failed to put up a fight against SK in the Korean Series. After briefly holding a 3-2 lead in the top of the fifth inning of game one, the Lions were kept quiet for most the rest of the series.
Samsung relied heavily on its bullpen during the regular season, but this time around the Lions’ relief pitchers failed to live up to expectations.
Samsung’s roster was left with a void after Yang Joon-hyeok announced his retirement earlier this season. Catcher Jin Kap-yong, Park Jin-man and Park Han-yi were the only Samsung veterans with significant postseason experience. Jin looked uncharacteristically shaky behind the plate on several occasions and Park Han-yi hit a middling .286 against SK.
“I apologize to our fans,” said Samsung manager Sun Dong-yeol. “Our young batters failed to attack SK’s pitchers. With our southpaw relief pitcher Kwon Hyuk struggling out of the bullpen, it was difficult for us to play to our strengths.
“We were swept in the series but I see a bright future ahead for this team. We improved from fifth place last season to second overall this year with the strong play of our young players. This series was a great experience for them. We will be able to field a much stronger team in two to three years.”
The end of the 2010 KBO season also signified the end of two players’ careers. SK’s Kim Jae-hyun said prior to the start of the 2009 Korean Series that he would retire from the game at the end of this season. He broke into the league in 1994 with the LG Twins and won the Korean Series in his rookie season. He led the Wyverns to the 2007 title and earned the series MVP.
Samsung’s Yang Joon-hyuk’s career came to a less dramatic finish. Having already announced his retirement during the regular season, Yang was excluded from Samsung’s postseason roster. Yang broke into the KBO with the Samsung Lions in 1993, and thus holds most of the team’s major offensive records, including all-time home runs.
By Jason Kim [firstname.lastname@example.org]