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Importance of Game 5 not lost on Korean Series contestants

All Headlines 13:18 November 10, 2014

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 10 (Yonhap) -- As they braced themselves for the resumption of the Korean Series, members of the Samsung Lions and the Nexen Heroes said Monday they were fully aware of the importance of winning Game 5 in the South Korean baseball championship final.

The two teams have split the first four games through Saturday. After a day off Sunday, the best-of-seven series will come down to best-of-three at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul.

Jamsil will be the neutral venue in the final stretch. The Lions use 10,000-seat Daegu Stadium as home, while the Heroes are based at the 10,600-seat Mokdong Stadium. Under the KBO rules, if neither team in the Korean Series plays in a ballpark with at least 25,000 seats, the final three games are to be played at the 25,500-seat Jamsil.

Whoever takes the fifth game in the nation's capital will have history on its side. In the past 31 Korean Series, teams have been knotted at two wins apiece on nine occasions. Of those, the club that won Game 5 went on to capture the series seven times.

Considering starting pitchers lined up for Game 6 and, if necessary, Game 7, winning Game 5 Monday takes on an extra significance for both clubs.

If the Lions win Game 5, they appear to have a solid chance of closing out the Heroes in Game 6.

The Lions will send right-hander Yun Sung-hwan in Game 6 against Nexen left-hander Oh Jae-young in a matchup that appears to favor Samsung.

Yun stifled the Heroes to one run on four hits in seven innings in the Lions' 7-1 victory in Game 2. With great command of all his pitches, Yun struck out six and walked one. The battle-tested 33-year-old is pitching in his fourth consecutive Korean Series.

Oh Jae-young was surprisingly effective in Game 3, tossing five shutout innings while limiting the Lions to just two hits. He got a no-decision after his bullpen blew a 1-0 lead and lost 3-1.

It was Oh's first Korean Series appearance in 10 years. Despite a sub-par regular season --- 5-6 with a 6.45 ERA -- Oh became the team's No. 3 starter by default in the postseason, since the team has a thin rotation behind Andy Van Hekken and Henry Sosa.

While Oh has more than done his part in the postseason -- he threw six innings of one-run ball in the previous playoff series -- even the most optimistic of Nexen fans won't likely count on him with the team's season on the line given Oh's underwhelming stuff.

On the flip side, should the Heroes take Game 5, Oh and the rest of the team will be under considerably less pressure to take Game 6, knowing their ace is lined up to start the seventh game.

Van Hekken has been dominant in his two Korean Series appearances so far. In getting a no-decision in Game 1, he retired the final 12 batters he faced. Then starting on three days' rest in Game 4, Van Hekken was perfect through six innings, before serving up a solo shot to Yamaico Navarro.

Should the series go the distance, Van Hekken will once again pitch on three days' rest. It could take its toll on the 35-year-old body, but Van Hekken only made 80 pitches in Game 4. In 13 Korean Series innings, Van Hekken has held the Lions to five hits and three runs, with 10 strikeouts against one walk.

The Lions' manager Ryu Joong-il said he will count on his players' substantial Korean Series experience. This is the Lions' fifth consecutive Korean Series and they've had to play at least a game at Jamsil in four of them. In 2011 and 2012, they clinched the championship at Jamsil.

"We've always played well at Jamsil in postseason," Ryu said. "We just need to more wins here and we'll do the best we can."


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