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Weekend Picks

BASEBALL

Korea Baseball Organization

KT Wiz at NC Dinos

6:30 p.m. Friday, Masan Baseball Stadium, Changwon, South Gyeongsang

The NC Dinos, who are wrapping up this year’s regular season as second in the league after the Doosan Bears, will be going straight to the second round of the playoffs.

In their fourth year in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), the Dinos will be playing their first postseason game on Oct. 21 as a host at their home park, Masan Baseball Stadium.

Among many things that went right this season, the Dinos especially stood out in terms of power hitting.

Infielder Eric Thames, last year’s regular season MVP, is leading the league in slugging, with 40 homers and a slugging percentage (SLG) of .679.

Aside Thames, Park Sok-min, former Samsung Lions man who joined the Dinos over the winter transfer window by signing a contract worth 9.6 billion won (8.4 million) for four years, is ranked fifth in the league in home runs with 32. He is also ranked sixth in SLG with .581. Park, winner of the Golden Glove for third base last year, became the most expensive free agent of the KBO after inking a deal with the Dinos.

As the series against the KT Wiz from Friday to Saturday is their last before the postseason, this weekend’s games are expected to be the final tune-up for the Dinos as they prepare to take a shot at the Korean Series title, which would be the first in the franchise’s history if they claim the trophy.

Doosan Bears vs. LG Twins

5 p.m. Saturday, Jamsil Baseball Stadium, Seoul

The final match of the regular season for two Jamsil-based teams is expected to be a derby, the perfect way to end an exciting season for the two clubs.

For the Doosan Bears, the defending champs of the last Korean Series, they will be making a trip to the Korean Series for the second straight year. Unlike last season, however, where they had to work their way up, the Bears will advance to the Korean Series automatically after claiming the regular season title. Other than taking the pennant for themselves, the Bears also have set a record in single-season wins by collecting 92, topping the previous record set by the now-gone Hyundai Unicorns, who raked in 91 wins in 2000.

This year’s Bears were especially solid in pitching. In terms of the number of wins, four of their starting pitchers are ranked from first to fourth in the league with more than 15 under their belts.

Dustin Nippert leads the league with 21 wins, while his fellow American pitcher Michael Bowden is ranked second with 18. Nippert also leads the league in earned run average (ERA) at 2.99 as of Thursday. Yoo Hee-kwan, 30-year-old veteran, is ranked third with 15 along with Chang Won-jun, who also has 15. Chang is second in the league in ERA with 3.22.

As for the Twins, their late run has boosted them in the standings, going from eighth in July to fourth now in the league as of Thursday. The Bears were the victim of the Twins’ run in August. After taking down the Bears on Aug. 3, the Twins went on an nine-game winning streak, which increased their chance for the first postseason appearance in two years.


FOOTBALL

K-League Challenge

Gyeongnam FC at Seoul E-Land FC

4 p.m. Saturday, Seoul Olympic Stadium, Seoul

With the K-League Classic going into the playoff round, the K-League Challenge, the second-tier league of professional football in Korea, is also approaching its end. Seoul E-Land FC and Gyeongnam FC are clashing at the 40th round of the Challenge.

Seoul and Gyeongnam are ranked sixth and eighth in the league with four games remaining in the season, which means they will not get a shot at the promotion from Challenge to Classic after the season.

After the regular season, the team that finishes first in the Challenge automatically gains promotion to the Classic while the teams that finish from second to fourth will play additioanl playoffs for promotion.

As for Seoul and Gyeongnam, however, this is a story of a different world.

Seoul, found two years ago in 2014, is still in the developmental stages. Last season was the first year for Seoul in professional football, finishing fourth in the league.

Gyeongnam, based in the capital of South Gyeongsang, Changwon, was established in 2006 and joined the K-League as its 14th club. However, despite the 10 years in the league, the club has yet to see any hope of playing in the Classic.

Other than K-League, Gyeongnam has finished as runner-up for the Korean FA Cup in 2008 and 2012, losing to Pohang Steelers each time.

As for others in the Challenge, Ansan Mugunghwa FC, commonly known as “Police FC” which is comprised of players that are serving their military duty, leads the league with 64 points and hoping to earn automatic promotion.

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