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Speed could be key in Korean Series games at neutral venue

All Headlines 08:34 November 10, 2014

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 10 (Yonhap) -- Under quirky postseason rules of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), the Samsung Lions and the Nexen Heroes, tied at two games apiece in the Korean Series, will play the remainder of the championship final at a neutral venue.

The two teams have shown plenty of power in the first two games, and as the series moves to the cavernous Jamsil Stadium in Seoul, speed could emerge as the key.

The KBO dictates that if neither club in the Korean Series plays in a ballpark with at least 25,000 seats, then the final three games of the best-of-seven final are to be played at Jamsil, with a capacity of 25,500.

The Lions' home park, Daegu Stadium, seats only 10,000. Seoul's Mokdong Stadium, the Heroes' home, has 10,600 seats, according to the KBO.

Not only do these stadiums have fewer seats than Jamsil, they're also smaller in dimensions than the league's largest stadium.

It's 125 meters straightaway center at Jamsil, five meters longer than Daegu and seven longer than Mokdong.

The Heroes and the Lions finished first and second in home runs during the 128-game regular season, with 199 and 161. In the Korean Series, Nexen has hit seven home runs, including four in its 9-3 victory in Game 4 on Saturday, while Samsung has hit five.

The teams may not be able to keep up their pace at Jamsil. The Lions hit 1.18 homers per game at Daegu during the regular season, but 0.75 per game, 12 in 16 games, at Jamsil.

The Heroes hit 1.75 home runs per game at both Mokdong and at Daegu, but 0.81 per game, 13 in 16 games, at Jamsil.

To make up for lost power, the teams will have to beat each other on the ground.

These two clubs don't lack in base stealers. The Lions led the regular season with 161 swipes and boast two of the top five stealers. Kim Sang-su topped the KBO with 53 steals, and rookie outfielder Park Hae-min ranked fifth with 36. Yamaico Navarro, the leadoff hitter with 31 home runs, also had 25 steals.

For Nexen, Seo Geon-chang finished third in the regular season with 48 steals. The Heroes' two leading sluggers, Park Byung-ho and Kang Jung-ho, didn't attempt steals as often this year as they used to, likely to avoid injuries, but they both have stolen 20 bases in a past season. The Heroes also have speedy utility players who can be called on to pinch run late in close games, such as Yoo Jae-shin and Kim Ji-soo.

So far in the Korean Series, the teams haven't been a bit gun-shy on the base paths, with three steals apiece. All three steals by Samsung came in Game 2.

Instead, they have used some heads-up baserunning to score key runs.

In Game 3, pinch-runner Park Hae-min scored from first base on a two-out, lucky single to tie the game at 1-1 in the top of the eighth.

With two men down, Park took off from first base on contact when Lee Seung-yuop hit a towering fly to shallow center. With second baseman Seo Geon-chang and center fielder Lee Taek-keun trying to get under the ball, Park kept running.

The ball eluded the diving Lee, and by the time the ball hit the ground, Park was about to make the turn at third. He came home without a throw, and the Lions went on to win the game with a two-run home run by Park Han-yi in the top ninth.

The Heroes also benefited from aggressive baserunning in Game 4. Seo Geon-chang led off the game with a single, and promptly stole second and third, before tagging home on a sacrifice fly for the game's first run.

Later in the same inning, Park Byung-ho came home from second after a throwing error by third baseman Park Sok-min.

Park Sok-min fielded a harmless grounder cleanly but bounced his throw in the dirt. First baseman Chae Tae-in failed to catch the ball on a short hop, and Park Byung-ho, watching the play develop, charged toward the plate. Chae made a desperate throw home while seated on the ground, and Park beat it with a head-first slide.

With two runs in the first, the Heroes set the tone for the rest of the day and beat the Lions 9-3.


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