Lions and Heroes set to do battle in KBO Series
The 2014 Korea Baseball Organization’s Korean Series between the Nexen Heroes and Samsung Lions, deemed a fight between David and Goliath, starts tomorrow night on the Lions’ home turf in Daegu.
Samsung has won six KBO Series titles since 2002 and finished first in the regular season for the past three years.
“We will win the title if we continue to play the way we have been, regardless of which team we face,” said Lions Manager Ryoo Joong-il on Saturday. “The players are raring to play baseball again, and I trust they will do fine.”
If Samsung beats Nexen, it would be the first time a KBO team has won both regular season and KBO Series titles for four consecutive years.
The Haitai Tigers hoisted the KBO Series trophy for four years in a row from 1986-89, but the team finished first in the regular season only in 1986, 1988 and 1989. In 1987, the Tigers ended up second to Samsung.
The Lions are well rested with a strong starting rotation of Rick VandenHurk, Bae Young-soo, Jang Won-sam, Yoon Sung-hwan and John Dale Martin. The Lions pitching staff had a 4.52 ERA during the regular season, second-lowest in the league.
The offense led by Lee Seung-yeop, Choi Hyoung-woo, Chae Tae-in and Park Seok-min ranked first with a team batting average of .301 and second with 161 home runs.
The Lions’ only question mark is the bullpen, which lost its best setup man, Oh Seung-hwan, to the Hanshin Tigers of Japanese league. An Ji-man and Lim Chang-yong remain.
Nexen is playing in its first Korean Series since the team was established in 2008. The Heroes eliminated the LG Twins three games to one in the second round of the playoffs by winning Game 4, 12-2, on Friday at Jamsil Baseball Stadium.
The Heroes advanced to the postseason for the first time last year with a third-place regular season finish, but they lost to the Doosan Bears in the first round three games to two.
Nexen is the only professional team operated independently, without owners. Nexen is only a sponsor. The Heroes were dogged by financial difficulties until 2010 and had to move many of their best players to raise cash, which drew criticism from fans.
But the strategy paid off, with four MVP contenders on this year’s squad.
Second baseman Seo Geon-chang became the first KBO player to get 200 hits in a season, finishing with 201. Cleanup hitter Park Byung-ho led the league in home runs with 52, and number five hitter Kang Jung-ho was second in homers with 40.
Nexen was the league leader in home runs (199) and ranked second in team batting average (.298).
Starting pitcher Andy Van Hekken, the league’s only 20-game winner, also is in the running for MVP honors.
Nexen finished the regular season in second place behind Van Hekken and Henry Sosa, who won 10 games. Nonetheless, the team still has to scramble for a third starting pitcher.
BY KIM SIK AND KIM BONG-MOON [email@example.com]