Korea Baseball Organization
Hanwha Eagles at Doosan Bears
6:30 p.m. Friday, Jamsil Baseball Stadium, Seoul
Hanwha Eagles are traveling to Seoul this weekend for a series against the top-ranked Doosan Bears.
The Eagles were stuck in a downward spiral early in the season and lost 17 games in the month of April alone. Some fans criticized the team’s manager Kim Sung-kun, pointing out the 74-year-old’s harsh and outmoded coaching philosophy.
By all means, the Eagles’ slide came as a surprise. Many insiders picked the team as a favorite to play in the post-season this fall. The Eagles spent more than 10.2 billion won ($8.99 million) this year for domestic players, the most among the 10 KBO teams. The Eagles also spent the most among the KBO teams on foreign players, investing 4.2 billion won.
Because of what happened early in the season, some insiders even went as far as conjecturing that Kim might be fired from the managerial position. But the Eagles were not going to let themselves get stuck in a pit. Their determination was evident when the team’s players, including Eagles star Kim Tae-kyun and foreign slugger Wili Rosario, came out one day with their heads shaved.
The Eagles have been doing better since they escaped the pit. Still, they remain at the bottom of the league.
In comparison, as the season enters its second half, defending champions Doosan Bears are emerging again as the clear favorite to win the Korean Series this year. Behind the Bears’ success stands a solid pitching lineup consisting of Dustin Nippert, the winningest pitcher in the KBO now, Michael Bowden and Jang Won-jun.
The two will play at the same venue on Saturday and Sunday.
Gwangju FC at Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
7 p.m. Saturday, Jeonju World Cup Stadium, Jeonju, North Jeolla
Can Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors extend its undefeated record?
Already 22 games into the season, Jeonbuk has yet to concede a loss in the league, making it the only undefeated club in the K-League.
Last weekend, during a duel against Ulsan Hyundai FC, Jeonbuk had a dramatic comeback, scoring two back-to-back goals in the 76th and 78th minute of the match, despite yielding a goal in the 65th minute.
It was Jeonbuk’s Brazilian forward Lopes Pereira Ricardo that saved the day for the team by scoring the equalizer to bring the momentum back to Jeonbuk’s side. That was the Brazilian’s seventh goal of the season.
The K-League Classic this season was supposed to be a Jeonbuk-FC Seoul duopoly.
But, as the season unfolds, it is becoming clearer that Jeonbuk is the more plausible favorite to take home the trophy this season, based on numbers so far.
In 22 games, Jeonbuk has won 13 games and tied nine. As a team, it has netted 41 goals while conceding 25. The latter is particularly intriguing as it is the lowest number of goals conceded by a single club in the league so far. Both numbers combined, it is a testament to Jeonbuk’s offensive prowess as well as to its solid defense.
This weekend’s game, however, will not be an easy win for Jeonbuk.
Although Gwangju FC is ranked seven steps below Jeonbuk at eighth, it has the league-leading scorer at the top, Jung Jo-gook, who is leading the league in scoring with 14 goals.
He already surpassed his past career high when he netted 13 goals for FC Seoul back in 2010.
At this pace, Jung could easily claim the top scorer title this season, an honor that has eluded him during his 14 years of career.