Tigers, Bears prepare for historic Korean Series

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Tigers, Bears prepare for historic Korean Series


From left: Doosan Bears’ first baseman Oh Jae-il, pitcher Yoo Hee-kwan and manager Kim Tae-hyung pose with the Kia Tigers shortstop Kim Sun-bin, manager Kim Ki-tai and pitcher Yang Hyeon-jong next to the Korean Series trophy during the media day at Chonnam National University in Gwangju on Tuesday. [YONHAP]

The Kia Tigers and the Doosan Bears will face each other in the first game of the Korean Series at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field today, with both teams planning to field their top foreign pitchers.

The Tigers will have Hector Noesi as their starter, while Dustin Nippert will take the mound for the Bears.

“We have two pitchers [Hector Noesi and Yang Hyeon-jong] who picked up 20 wins in the regular season,” said the Tigers’ manager Kim Ki-tai during a media day at Chonnam National University in Gwangju on Tuesday. “He’s just first in the lineup because we were going by the pitchers’ height.”

Noesi concluded the regular season with 20 wins, five losses and a 3.48 ERA this season. He got off to a great start with 14 wins and no losses in the first half of the season. Since Noesi joined the KBO in 2016 he has thrown more innings each season than any other pitcher in the KBO - 206 and two thirds in 2016 and 201 and two thirds in 2017.

Most importantly, Noesi has a better record than Yang when it comes to pitching statistics against the Bears. This season, Noesi picked up three wins and one loss with a 4.06 ERA against the Bears. But since he’s been playing in the KBO for only two seasons, this is only his second postseason appearance, having pitched against the LG Twins in the Wildcard game last year, giving up five hits and two runs in seven innings.

“It’s an honor to play the Korean Series against the team that won it for two consecutive years,” said Tigers’ manager Kim. “We can’t have one team win every year. We’ll try to foil their bid and keep things more interesting.”

While Noesi may have been the best foreign pitcher this season, Nippert is the most successful foreign pitcher in the league’s history after picking up 22 wins in the 2016 season and being named season MVP. Nippert’s holds the record for both the most wins by a foreign pitcher in a season and the most KBO career wins for a foreign pitcher, at 94. Though he is not as dominant as he was last year, Nippert still managed to pick up 14 wins this season.

Nippert is a bit of a postseason specialist. He played a significant role in leading the Bears to their Korean Series victories in 2015 and 2016, picking up one win and a loss with a 1.80 ERA in five Korean Series games. Nippert still holds the record for the most consecutive scoreless innings pitched in the postseason - 36 and one third innings.

But so far this autumn, Nippert seems to be off his game - he gave up six runs and eight hits while throwing five and one third innings during the first playoff game against the NC Dinos. As Nippert was given an eight-day rest since that debacle, the Bears will once again put their trust in Nippert and have him start the first game.

“It is Nippert’s turn to start just by looking at the rotation order and since he is our ace pitcher, he will start the first game,” said the Bears’ manager Kim Tae-hyung. “I’ll promise three consecutive wins to the Doosan fans.”

This will be the third time this season that the two pitchers have faced each other. So far, Noesi has won both games. It wasn’t a perfect score, however, as he gave up the most runs against Doosan in June - six runs in five innings - than against any other team this season.

Aside from the pitchers, the batters are expected to be the ones to watch throughout the series, as the Tigers have Kim Sun-bin, who led the KBO’s batting average at 0.370, and Park Kun-woo, who finished right behind Kim with a 0.366 batting average.

As this is the first time in KBO history that the two teams have met in the Korean Series, it has been hard for the fans to get tickets. Depending on seats, the prices for the tickets vary from 10,000 won ($8.87) to 100,000 won.

Since a large number of fans weren’t able to purchase tickets directly through the website, many had to buy them at four to five times more than the original price from online scalpers.

“I tried to buy the ticket at a PC cafe with my cousin and it was unsuccessful,” Kim Sun-bin said during the media day. “I got so mad that I turned off the computer.”

After the first two games in Gwangju, the series will continue on Saturday with three games to be played at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul.

BY PARK SO-YOUNG [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]
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