Bears and Lions head into a critical Game 3
The regular season champion Lions opened the best-of-seven series with 9-8 come-from-behind victory on Monday after scoring five runs in the seventh inning.
But the Bears fought back in Game 2 with a 6-1 win, thanks to their starting pitcher Dustin Nippert, who blanked the Lions for seven innings. The 34-year-old American has shut out opponents for 24 1/3 consecutive innings this post season, a Korea Baseball Organization record.
Now, the Korean Series has moved to the Bears home turf, where they will host three straight games until Saturday, which gives the advantage to the Seoul-based club that hasn’t won the championship since 2001.
But the four-time defending champion Lions are looking to force the series, and do it quickly. The team wants to get back home, celebrate with their fans and say one last goodbye to Daegu Baseball Stadium. Starting next year, the team will play at a new stadium dubbed Samsung Lions Park.
History suggests the winner of Game 3 will be the Korean Series champion. In 11 out of the 12 occasions when both teams entered Game 3 at 1-1, the team that won Game 3 went on to take the series.
Cloyd, who previously played for the Philadelphia Phillies, went 11-11 with a 5.19 ERA in the regular season. Against the Bears, the 28-year-old American hasn’t been as impressive, going 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA.
With three core pitchers - Yoon Sung-hwan, An Ji-man and Lim Chang-yong - out due to the alleged gambling scandal, the Lions are struggling to manage the pitching rotation. The team is also hurting because closer Sim Chang-min has been shaky so far.
“I think Sim is feeling the pressure, but he will overcome it,” the Lions manager Ryu Joong-il said.
The Bears’ southpaw Jang went 12-12 with a 4.08 ERA in the regular season, and has gone 8-7 with a 3.44 ERA at home. The 30-year-old, who joined the Bears from the Lotte Giants this year, also has been pitching well in this post season, allowing six runs in 19 innings against the Nexen Heroes and the NC Dinos.
But the question for the Bears is whether the players can recover from playing 11 games in the post season.
“There is a stamina issue,” said Bears manager Kim Tae-hyung. “[But] this isn’t a situation where we can think about resting players.”
BY JOO KYUNG-DON [firstname.lastname@example.org]