Battle of strikeout pitchers set for postseason series opener

11:08 October 15, 2022

SEOUL, Oct. 15 (Yonhap) — A pair of hard-throwing right-handers with strong strikeout numbers will duel in the opening game of a South Korean baseball postseason series this weekend.

The Kiwoom Heroes on Saturday announced An Woo-jin as the Game 1 starter in the best-of-five first-round series against the KT Wiz on Sunday.

The Wiz will counter with Um Sang-back. The first pitch for the opener of this Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) postseason series is at 2 p.m. at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. As the higher seed at No. 3, the Heroes will host the first two games and, if necessary, the fifth game of this series.

An put together an MVP-worthy regular season, leading the league with a 2.11 ERA and 224 strikeouts — one shy of tying the league record. He finished tied for second at 15 wins, coming up just that category short of winning the pitching Triple Crown.

Per statistics website Statiz, An led all qualifying pitchers with an average fastball velocity of 153.4 kph (95.3 mph). He paired that with a sharp slider, a changeup and a curveball, en route to leading the KBO with a 10.3 strikeouts-per-nine innings (K/9) rate.

In 15 career postseason games, An has a 2.48 ERA, with 36 strikeouts in 29 innings. But only one of those appearances has been a start.

During the regular season, An had worse numbers against the Wiz than any other opponent. He had a 5.11 ERA in four starts against them, with 14 earned runs on 26 hits and 12 walks in 24 2/3 innings.

Bae Jung-dae, who drove in three runs in the Wiz’s wild card victory over the Kia Tigers on Thursday, batted 4-for-10 with four RBIs against An. Park Byung-ho, the former Kiwoom slugger, was 2-for-9 versus An with four strikeouts.

Um Sang-back set career highs with 140 1/3 innings and 139 strikeouts this year, and had the league’s best winning percentage at 11-2, along with a 2.95 ERA.

Um posted a 1.49 ERA over his final six regular season starts with 38 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings. He relied heavily on changeups and fastballs, with an average velocity of 146.3 kph.

Um held the Heroes’ slugger Yasiel Puig hitless in five at-bats, but their other MVP candidate, Lee Jung-hoo, batted 3-for-6 against him.

Sunday’s game will be Um’s postseason debut.