Landers hold on to KBO top spot as Heroes take third
The SSG Landers continue their dominant start to the 2022 KBO season, winning both series last week to hold on to the top spot with just one loss so far this year.
The Landers started off their week with a series against the second-place LG Twins at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul. After winning the first two games — 4-1, 4-2 — the Landers suffered their first loss of the season, appropriately at the hands of their closest competition, on Thursday, dropping the game 5-1.
Undeterred by the loss, the Landers were back on top over the weekend, sweeping the seventh-place Samsung Lions at home in Incheon. Three decisive wins — 5-0, 6-2, 7-5 — secured the Landers' top spot, three points clear of the Twins in second place.
The Landers' early success has been led by an impressive all-around team performance. The club leads the KBO in every major batting statistic except home runs, with a team batting average at 0.267, 73 runs, 125 hits, 70 RBIs and nine homers, one behind the Twins' 10. SSG also lead the league for team ERA, at 2.14, and have the lowest WHIP, at 1.01.
After beating the Landers on Thursday, the Twins took on the ninth-place Hanwha Eagles over the weekend, dropping their first game 7-3, before winning 6-2 on Saturday and taking a close-fought rubber match 8-7 on Sunday.
The three losses on the week saw the gap between the Twins and Landers widen significantly, increasing from one to three games in the early stages of the season. The club's lead over third place also narrowed as the Kiwoom Heroes won both their series to overtake the Doosan Bears.
The Heroes started their week facing the NC Dinos, winning their first game 10-0 and then losing 5-4 before taking the rubber match 1-0. The west Seoul team rode that momentum into their weekend series against local rivals Doosan, winning the opener 4-2, dropping the second game 4-1 and then coming back to take the series with a 6-2 win on Sunday.
Sunday's game also saw the return of 2021 KBO MVP Ariel Miranda of the Bears, who missed the start of the season after struggling with shoulder pain during spring training. Miranda started for the Bears and threw three scoreless innings before allowing a single run in the fourth. He was taken out of the game at the top of the fifth, when the Bears immediately gave up five runs to lose the game.
Prior to the clash with Kiwoom, the Bears won a shortened mid-week series against the reigning champion KT Wiz, winning two games — 3-1, 5-4 — with one canceled due to rain.
The Lotte Giants sit a game behind Doosan in fifth place, having tied a shortened mid-week series and beat the Wiz over the weekend.
The Giants took on the Kia Tigers in Gwangju last week, dropping the opening game 6-5 and winning the final game 3-2 after a rain cancelation on Wednesday. The Busan team were on better form over the weekend at home, beating the Wiz 9-7 on Friday, losing 8-0 on Saturday and taking the rubber match 3-0 on Sunday.
With seven wins and six losses, the Giants are off to a solid start this season compared to recent form. The Busan club, despite being one of the proudest teams in the league, has only qualified for the playoffs once in the last nine years and finished the 2021 season in eighth place.
The Tigers take sixth place, a game behind the Giants. After tying their midweek fixture, the Tigers headed to Changwon, South Gyeongsang to take on the Dinos over the weekend, winning the series two games to one. After dropping the opening game 5-0, the Tigers came back on Saturday for the biggest win of the week, a resounding 14-0 victory over the 2020 champions, taking the rubber match 4-3 to round off the weekend.
While the Lions trail just half a game behind the Tigers, the gap widens again before the bottom three teams, two of which are the most recent KBO champions. KT, NC and Hanwha all have just three wins so far this season, with the Wiz taking eighth place with one game in hand, followed by the Eagles and Dinos splitting ninth.
That gap could well widen for the Wiz this week as they take on the Twins at Jamsil starting Tuesday. The Eagles and Dinos also face tough fixtures, with the Eagles visiting the Giants in Busan and the Dinos hosting the Lions in Changwon.
The Bears will attempt to retake third place as they take on the Tigers in Gwangju, while the Heroes and Landers face off in Incheon in what is likely to be the most interesting series of the week.
BY JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]