After years of futility, LG Twins get playoff berthWith a win Sunday, the LG Twins clinched a playoff spot for the first time in a decade.
In a game held at the NC Dinos’ home field, Masan Baseball Stadium, the Twins won 6-1, guaranteeing a spot in the Korea Baseball Organization’s postseason.
The Twins took a 2-1 lead into the sixth when veteran Lee Byung-kyu, appearing as a pinch-hitter, drove in three runs. The Dinos would not challenge the rest of the way.
Afterward, Twins manager Kim Ki-tae expressed relief at making the postseason.
“It took quite a lot longer than our players, coaching staff and fans thought it would,” Kim told reporters after the game.
In a baseball league that had just eight teams until last year, the Twins finished fifth only once in the past decade, while placing sixth five times, seventh two times and last two times.
Over that run of futility, four mangers were resigned or fired before their contracts expired.
The Twins, however, never gave up.
Right-hander Ryu Jae-Kuk made his Major League Baseball debut with the Chicago Cubs in 2006 but was never able to succeed there, leaving the Majors with a record of 1-3 and a 7.49 ERA.
But after returning to the KBO in 2011, Ryu rediscovered his form. He joined the Twins in the offseason and went 10-2.
Signing Ryu allowed Kim to use his best lefty pitcher Bong Jung-keun as the team’s closer, fixing what had been one of the team’s biggest problems for years. Bong made 30 saves in 55.2 innings, along with 7 wins and no losses.
Another veteran right-hander, Jong Hyun-wook, who also joined the team this season as a free agent, has been a decent set-up man, with a 3.57 ERA in 51 games.
Despite the big win, there was no champagne in the Twins’ clubhouse Sunday evening.
“The real ball games [the postseason] start next month,” Twins outfielder Park Yong-taik told reporters after the game.
“Our goal isn’t just advancing to the postseason. Just like our fans want, we want to take the 2013 championship. We will save the ceremonies for that moment.”
Kim expressed another goal for the season. “I first want to win the regular season, as it gives us a direct ticket to the Korean Series,” Kim said.
With yesterday’s victory, the Twins are the No. 2 team in the KBO with a 71-49 record, just .003 behind the Samsung Lions, who are at 69-47 and two draws.
The Lions have 10 games left, the Twins just eight. But with so little space between the two teams, the regular season title is certainly in sight.
Since 2003, every team that clinched the regular season also won the Korean Series.
“I personally want to face the Lions again in the Korea Series as they beat us in 2002,” said outfielder Lee Byung-kyu.
“It would be a very nice revenge for us.”
BY KWON SANG-SOO [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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