West aims to break East’s grip on series

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West aims to break East’s grip on series

Players on the LG Twins and the Nexen Heroes, the Korean Baseball Organization’s (KBO) two hottest teams, will try to crack the Eastern League’s All-Star dominance.

The Eastern League, whose four members - the Samsung Lions, SK Wyverns, Doosan Bears and the Lotte Giants - have been upper-table fixtures in recent years, lead the series against the Western League, 23-13.

But the two Seoul-based teams are having their best seasons in years, raising hopes that the Western League can reverse that trend. The Western League also includes the Kia Tigers, Hanwha Eagles and NC Dinos.

The KBO All-Star Game will be held at Pohang Baseball Stadium in Pohang, a southeastern port city in North Gyeongsang, 6:30 p.m. today.

The Twins finished the first half of the season with a five-game winning streak, putting them on course to make their first postseason appearance in 11 years. The Twins trail the league-leading Lions by only a half-game. The sizzling run united the Twins’ deep fan base, helping the team sweep the All-Star fan votes for the Western League’s best 11 positions.

Radhames Liz, 29, of the Dominican Republic, a Twins starter who has six wins, including his first KBO shutout, will start for the Western League against Song Seung-jun of the Giants. Liz (6-7), who is in his third year in the KBO, is leading the league with 114 strikeouts.

The Twins’ other stellar pitcher, Bong Jung-keun (7-0, 20 saves) and Oh Seung-hwan of the Lions will form a dream duel of relievers.

Lee Byung-kyu, who broke a KBO record with his 10th straight hit earlier this month, is playing in his 11th All-Star Game. The 38-year-old Twins outfielder, who hit nearly .400 in the first half, will try to strengthen the West’s lineup, along with four All-Stars from the Heroes.

The third-place Heroes have high hopes of making their first postseason appearance.

Park Byung-ho, the 2012 KBO MVP who made the All-Star team for the first time, seeks to overpower sluggers of the East, such as Asian home-run king Lee Seung-yeop and his rival for this year’s home-run race, Choi Jeong of the Wyverns. Park is leading the league with 19 homers, one ahead of Choi.

The All-Star Game was held 11 times for the first four years of the 31-year-old league. In 1999, the game was held with different team formats before it returned to its old format in 2001.

BY MOON GWANG-LIP [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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