Doosan Bears take the Series title 4-0
On Wednesday at Masan Baseball Stadium in Changwon, South Gyeongsang, the Bears outscored the Dinos by seven runs to conclude the game 8-1, climbing to the top once more by taking the best-of-seven series in just four games. With this victory, not only did the Bears clinch their second straight title, they also became the first team in 21 years to sweep both the pennant and the KBO trophy.
The KBO this year was filled with heroics, and the numbers don’t lie. In the regular season, the Bears ranked top in batting as a team with a .298 batting average (BA). Together in offense, the Bears raked in 183 home runs and 877 runs batted in (RBI), the most in the league in both categories. They also drove in 935 runs, about 80 more than the Dinos, who stood in second in the category with 857 runs. Looking at individual numbers, five of their sluggers tallied more than 20 homers.
Impressive as it is, their fired-up bats are only part of the full story.
And just like they did throughout the season, the Bears overpowered their opponents during the Korean Series in pitching and batting.
During the Korean series, the “Fantastic Four” made sure they got things done on the mound, all of them spending at least six innings in the game before they were relieved. The Dinos had some power to count on at the plate. Their slugging lineup composed of Na Sung-bum, Eric Thames, Lee Ho-joon and Park Sok-min was going to be the biggest challenge for the Bears’ “Fantastic Four,” but they kept the Dinos sluggers down low, allowing only five hits during their 52 at-bats. On Wednesday, the Dinos quartet went almost entirely hitless, with Thames being the only one of the four to tally any hits. Thames drove the solo homer in the ninth inning that gave the only run of the day for the Dinos.
With the “Fantastic Four” taking turns on the mound, the team only yielded two runs throughout the Korean Series and their earned runs as a team stood at a meager .47, breaking the previous record set by the Samsung Lions in 2005, when the then-champions gave out only five runs and a 1.15 earned run average. This record set by the Bears over past week is likely to stick for a while.
Of course, to win a game takes a combined effort by the pitchers as well as the batters. And as they did throughout the season, the Bears batting lineup did not fail to show up. The team BA during the series was .287, not much different compared to their BA of during the regular season. The third game of the series saw a brief struggle by the batters, who went 7-for-33, a .212 BA. However, the BA of the team generally saw a steady increase, going from .275 on Game 1 to .281 on Game 2 to finally .368 on Game 4.
Their two-way catcher, Yang Eui-ji, did more than enough to get the job done. While leading the pitchers behind the plate, when he was actually on the plate, his bat gushed out hits left and right. Picked as the MVP of the series, the catcher tallied four RBIs and batted .438. His stint on the plate was especially impressive in Game 4, in which he was the catalyst of the Bears’ offensive effort. At the bottom of the second inning, Yang belted the Dinos starting pitcher Zach Stuart’s slider over the left fence for a solo homer. He went 3-for-4 with one homer and two RBIs at the end of the day on Wednesday. Other than Yang, third baseman Hur Kyoung-min also was rock-solid on the plate, collecting five RBIs and batting .353 in the series. Nick Evans, a foreign designated hitter, batted .438.
While no one else from the Bears struggled to make contact throughout the series, Oh Jae-il recorded a meager .059 BA, but that isn’t enough to give him a bad score, as his shoulder lifted the Bears in Game 1. Oh hit a sacrifice fly ball in the 11th, which broke the deadlock of the game as it brought home Hur. In the history of KBO Korean Series, 24 out of 33 titles went to the team who won the Game 1. Oh gave those odds to the Bears.
Throughout, the Bears outscored the Dinos 20-2, dominating them in every aspect of batting, .287 to .168 in BA, .420 to .200 in slugging, .352 to .235 in on base percentage and 41 to 21 in number of hits.
“I have mixed feeling [about the win],” said Kim Tae-hyung, the skipper of the Bears, during the post-game press conference. “I would like to offer my gratitude to the staff. Right now, all I can think about is Kim Kyung-moon [the Dinos manager].”
The two skippers go way back, playing alongside each other for the Bears back in the 90’s.
“I did not think about winning the Series,” he further said. “We won last year but I was worried that thinking about winning the title would only jinx our chance. But after April, I grew assured of our chances and pushed the coaches harder. By July, I emptied my mind and we started to play better games.”
BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [firstname.lastname@example.org]