For first time in years, the LG Twins are kings at Jamsil

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For first time in years, the LG Twins are kings at Jamsil

The LG Twins players celebrate after picking up a 4-1 win against the Doosan Bears at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul on August 30. [NEWS1]

The LG Twins players celebrate after picking up a 4-1 win against the Doosan Bears at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul on August 30. [NEWS1]

 
In the KBO, August was all about the LG Twins.
 
Throughout 25 games in August, the Twins picked up 16 wins, a draw and eight losses to top the league in monthly winning percentage at 0.667. This allowed the Twins to push past their Jamsil rival, the Doosan Bears, and take third place.
 
The cherry on the cake came with a 4-1 win over the Bears on Sunday to round off the month. The Twins appear able to continue that momentum into September, as they are currently on a five-game winning streak as of 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
 
The Twins are now only one game behind the second ranked Kiwoom Heroes and could even be in contention for the top spot, as they are 3.5 games behind the top-ranked NC Dinos. For the Twins, who have only won the regular season twice in their 38-year history — most recently back in 1994 — their recent momentum could set them up to make history this year.
 
Aside from the regular season standing, the Twins’ performance stands out this season as for once they're clearly outperforming their long-term rival. Since the mid-2010s, the Bears have regularly advanced to the postseason and have won the Korean Series three times — in 2015, 2016 and 2019. The Twins, on the other hand, have been struggling to qualify for the postseason since 2004.
 
Over the last 15 years, the Twins have finished ahead of the Bears in the regular season standing just once, back in 2014. At the time, the Twins finished fourth while the Bears finished sixth.
 
The Twins also finished ahead of the Bears in 2013, in second place to the Bears' fourth, but Doosan had the last laugh, knocking LG out in the playoffs.
 
The Twins, who had advanced to the postseason for the first time in 11 seasons at the time, could do nothing but sit back and watch as the Bears defeated the Nexen Heroes to earn a spot in the playoff series, before going on to win that before losing to the Samsung Lions in the final. As a result, the overall season standings had the Bears in second and the Twins knocked down to third.
 
The Bears and the Twins have one of the oldest rivalries in Korean baseball. The Twins, originally founded as the MBC Chungryong, began their life playing out of the Dongdaemun Baseball Stadium in central Seoul in 1982. Later that year they moved to Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul, where they still play today. The Bears were originally the OB Bears, and despite starting their life in Daejeon, by the end of 1985 they were sharing Jamsil with MBC.
 
This joint ownership of Jamsil created the Korean version of the MLB's Subway Series — except both teams play at the same subway stop. When LG and Doosan face each other, the tickets always sell out.
 
For years, the rivalry has swung heavily in the Bears' favor. Back in 2018, when Doosan dominated the regular season, the Twins were left with a traumatic head-to-head record of 15 losses and only one win. 
 
They only narrowly avoided a sweep for the entire season, as it wasn't until the very last game that Twins’ starter Cha Woo-chan was able to lead the team to a face-saving win.
 
That head-to-head record got slightly better last season, with six wins and 10 losses, but the Bears were still clearly dominant whenever they met the Twins.
 
So far this season, the Bears are still out in front with eight wins, one draw and five losses. But the Twins are catching up — the head-to-head record for the month of August is one win to the Twins and one tie.
 
Not only are the two teams rivals on the field, but they also share a long history in terms of popularity. Up until the 1990s, the Twins were Jamsil's most popular team and had an advantage when it came to securing the most prestigious players.
 
But things seem to have shifted in the 2000s. The Bears are known to have one of the most vocal fan bases, augmented in the last few years by an influx of fair-weather fans attracted to the team's recent success. Even Twins’ manager Ryu Joong-il has said that Doosan is the team the Twins have to beat to get to the top.
 
“We have to overcome Doosan to be ranked higher,” Ryu said. “I think we end up playing poorly because our players are trying too hard to play well [against Doosan]. Against Doosan this season, I want our team to have a winning percentage of 0.500 or higher.”
 
But the Twins are now very clearly on the rise. Foreign pitcher Casey Kelly has fully recovered as he picked up four wins and a loss in the five games he started in August. For the month, he has a 2.25 ERA.
 
Tyler Wilson, too, seems to be getting back on pace as he picked up three wins and a loss with a 3.52 ERA in August.
 
As the Twins also had their closer Go Woo-suk back in the roster, the club seems to have a stronger bullpen than the Bears, who have been struggling this month.
 
More than anything, the Twins’ batting lineup is at its best this season. The addition of Roberto Ramos has been a serious threat to many of the other teams. Over 25 games in August, Ramos hit 10 home runs. Even captain Kim Hyun-soo had quite a month as he had a 0.500 batting average with runners in scoring position.
 
Over the past few seasons, the Twins have become known as the club that falls behind as the weather heats up. The numbers this year suggest the exact opposite.
 
BY BAE YOUNG-EUN, KANG YOO-RIM   [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]
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