Twins to put stout bullpen against slugging Heroes in KBO postseason

October 23, 2022

SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) — Looking to end a 28-year title drought, the LG Twins will take their strong relief pitching up against the power-hitting Kiwoom Heroes in the upcoming South Korean baseball postseason series.

Game 1 of the best-of-five second round in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul, the Twins’ home.

The Twins received a bye to this stage by virtue of having the second-best record in the regular season. They will host the first two games and, if necessary, the deciding fifth game. The Heroes, who knocked off the defending champions KT Wiz in the previous round, will play Game 3 and, if need be, Game 4 at their home, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul.

In this file photo from Sept. 13, 2022, LG Twins starter Casey Kelly pitches against the Doosan Bears during the bottom of the third inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

This is the first “Subway Series” between the two Seoul-based clubs since the wild card round in 2020.

The winner of this round will advance to the Korean Series, where the SSG Landers, the regular season champions, are waiting.

The Twins haven’t won a title since 1994 and haven’t played in the Korean Series since 2002. The Heroes played in the 2014 and 2019 Korean Series but have not yet won a championship.

The Twins won the season series 10-6, including a 6-2 mark on the road.

And four of those 10 victories were relief wins for the Twins, with setup men Kim Jin-sung and Jin Hae-soo each collecting two wins. Closer Go Woo-suk, who led the KBO with 42 saves, had five against the Heroes.

The Twins boasted the lowest bullpen ERA in the regular season at 2.89 and also the lowest opponents’ on-base plus slugging (OPS) at .647.

Against the Heroes, infielder Moon Bo-gyeong batted .409 (18-for-44), while outfielder Kim Hyun-soo hit the most home runs with five and the most RBIs with 16.

The Heroes’ top two starters, An Woo-jin (1-1, 1.89 ERA) and Eric Jokisch (1-1, 2.49 ERA), both had strong numbers against the Twins.

On offense, two-time batting champion Lee Jung-hoo batted .422 (27-for-64) against the Twins. He had more hits against them than any other opponents during the regular season. Yasiel Puig led the Heroes with three home runs and 11 RBIs versus the Twins.

Both put on strong performances against the Wiz. Lee batted .368/.435/.526 with three doubles and three RBIs in five games. Puig delivered a three-run bomb in Game 3 to set up a 9-2 victory.

The Heroes hit four home runs in that series but none bigger than the go-ahead, two-run blast by their resident “Mr. October,” Song Sung-mun, in the 4-3 victory in Game 5.

The Twins haven’t played since their final regular season game on Oct. 11. As fresh as their pitchers may be, they will have to shake off the cobwebs against red-hot Heroes bats that pounded out 52 hits, 16 for extra bases, in five games versus the Wiz.

With An and Jokisch not available for Monday — An started Saturday and Joksich pitched in relief of An in the same game — the Heroes will go with right-hander Tyler Eppler to start their series against the Twins. He pitched five solid innings in Game 3 against the Wiz, allowing one unearned run in five innings of a 9-2 victory.

Eppler was 0-1 but had a 2.70 ERA in two regular season starts against the Twins.

The Twins will open the series with right-hander Casey Kelly on the hill. The fourth-year ace won a KBO-best 16 games and ranked fifth with a 2.54 ERA in the regular season.

Kelly has been an excellent postseason pitcher, with a 2-0 record and a 1.78 ERA over four starts covering 25 1/3 innings.

But he struggled in his lone regular season outing against the Heroes on Aug. 5, allowing seven runs on eight hits in three innings.