As the 2023 KBO League enters its final stretch of games, KT Wiz and SSG Landers will meet again in just two days after battling to the death last weekend.
The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) released the starting pitching lists for the four games on Dec. 11. The most eye-catching game will be the final regular season matchup between KT and SSG at SSG Landers Field in Incheon.
The two teams played a three-game weekend series at KT Wiz Park in Suwon on Aug. 8-10. In the first game of the series, KT scored double-digit runs in a 16-7 victory, and Kang Baek-ho, who came in as a pinch-hitter, delighted fans with a grand slam in his first at-bat since returning to the first team.
The next day, the two teams couldn’t find a winner and ended in an 8-8 draw. After more than five hours of hard-fought battles, neither team was able to score after SSG tied the game in the top of the seventh inning. The bullpen was activated early, with SSG’s Oh Won-seok and KT’s Kim Min-seok pitching three innings each, and the teams combined to use 10 bullpen pitchers on the mound.
SSG, which had fallen to fifth place after nine games without a win, was more eager than ever for the final game of the series. While victory was not assured until midway through the game, they started the rally with a sacrifice fly by Cho Hyung-woo in the top of the sixth inning, and then cut the deficit to one run in the top of the ninth inning with Choi Jeong-jeong’s RBI single. Park Sung-ho then hit a two-run homer off KT closer Kim Jae-yoon, and in a dramatic comeback, SSG defeated KT 6-5.
As of the 11th, the two teams are ranked 2nd and 5th, respectively, but only two games separate them. Anything can happen between second and fifth place at any time, so both teams are eager to secure the matchup.
Wes Benjamin and Kwang-hyun Kim are the starting pitchers for the 12th. After an up-and-down first half of the season, Benjamin has steadily racked up wins in the second half of the season with his steady delivery. A win against SSG would tie the record for the most wins by a KT pitcher in a single season (previously held by Odrisamer Despine in 2020).
Kim Kwang-hyun needs to make up for his poor performance in his last start. In his start against the Hanwha Eagles in Daejeon on the 6th, he struggled a bit, allowing four runs on nine hits in 3⅔ innings with three walks and five strikeouts. It remains to be seen if Kim Kwang-hyun, who hasn’t won in four games since his last start against the Incheon Samsung Lions on March 13, will find his confidence against KT.
Besides KT-SSG, there is another matchup from two days ago. At Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan, the ‘Nakdong River rivals’ NC Dinos and Lotte Giants will meet again. The two teams played a four-game series at Changwon NC Park last weekend, including a doubleheader, with NC going 3-1 and securing third place. They also closed the gap to second-place KT by 0.5 games.
In particular, Eric Peddy, who started the final game of the series, pitched 8⅓ innings of four-hit ball, striking out nine and walking one to maintain his lead in the wins category. With one more win over the remainder of the season, he would tie the NC single-season record for wins by a pitcher (previously held by Eric Hacker in 2015 and Drew Luchinski in 2020) and become the first 20-win pitcher in franchise history.
NC will try to ride this momentum to a third straight win against Busan. The starting pitcher is Shin Min-hyuk. His record this season is 5-5 with a 3.94 ERA in 22 games and 96 innings pitched, and his most recent start against the Changwon Kiwoom on June 6 was 5 innings, 3 hits, no walks, 4 strikeouts, and 1 run (unearned). However, his record against Lotte this season has not been as good as against other teams, with a 4.09 ERA in three games, 11 innings, and two losses.
Looking to snap a two-game losing streak, Lotte will start Na Kyun-ahn. In his last start, on the 6th against the Samsung Lions in Ulsan, he went 6 innings, 4 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts, and 1 run (unearned) to finish the game without a loss. His record against the NC this season is 3-1 with a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings pitched in three games.
After collecting three wins in a four-game series against LG last weekend, the Kia Tigers return home to face Samsung at Samsung Lions Park in Daegu. With a 9-4 record this season, Kia has already established its dominance over its opponents and will start Thomas Pannoni to try to make it four straight wins. With no rest day this week, the pressure is on Pannoni’s shoulders more than ever.
Starting against Panoni will be Taylor Widener. He’s struggled since joining the team, going 1-2 with a 5.16 ERA in four games and 22⅔ innings, but his only win came against KIA on March 18 (six innings, five hits, no walks, seven strikeouts). Widener will need to recall that memory to help his team snap a two-game losing streak.
At Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul, the Hanwha Eagles and Doosan Bears will meet for the 16th time in the regular season. Hanwha is riding high and has won seven straight games, with Lee Tae-yang playing a key role in the starting rotation since mid-August.메이저놀이터
Doosan will be counting on their ‘homegrown ace’ Kwak Bin to pitch well. After a strong first half, in which he went 8-2 with a 2.08 ERA in 12 games and 65 innings, Kwak has struggled in the second half, going 2-5 with a 4.27 ERA in eight games and 46⅓ innings. Both the team and the national baseball team will be hoping for a rebound as they prepare for the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games.
Meanwhile, the LG Twins and Kiwoom Heroes are taking a break with no games scheduled. LG will not play until the 14th against the Changwon NC, while Kiwoom will take a break until the 14th and then play away games against Lotte on the 15th and 16th.