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Nexen, SK chasing historic victory at inaugural KBO Wild Card Game

All Headlines 18:01 October 06, 2015

SEOUL, Oct. 6 (Yonhap) -- The two contestants in the first-ever play-in game in South Korean baseball said Tuesday they're both eyeing a historic victory.

The Nexen Heroes will host the SK Wyverns in the first Wild Card Game in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) on Wednesday at Mokdong Stadium in Seoul. The Heroes finished the regular season in fourth place and the Wyverns ended in fifth.

The Heroes (78-65-1) won the season series, 8-7-1, and they also enjoy a one-game advantage as the higher seed.

They only have to win Wednesday to move on to the next round. If the Wyverns win Wednesday, they must beat the Heroes again Thursday to reach the next stage.

Nexen manager Yeom Kyung-yup said his club has set its sights on a bigger prize than winning the Wild Card Game.

"We began our season trying to win the Korean Series, and we're starting the postseason with a difficult challenge," he said during the pre-game press conference at Mokdong. The Heroes lost to the Samsung Lions in last year's Korean Series. "There's pressure on us, but we have never lost sight of our goal."

Kim Yong-hee, Yeom's counterpart for SK, sneaked into the postseason, despite having a sub-.500 record at 69-73-2. A trendy preseason pick to challenge for the pennant, the Wyverns failed to sustain their strong start before salvaging a postseason spot.

"In a nutshell, we left a lot to be desired this season," Kim said. "We got the Wild Card the hard way, and we want to redeem ourselves with a victory in this series."

Both teams will go with their No. 1 starters. The Heroes will start left-hander Andy Van Hekken, who was 15-8 with a 3.62 ERA and 193 strikeouts in 196 2/3 innings. The Wyverns will counter with southpaw Kim Kwang-hyun, who went 14-6 with a 3.72 ERA, and 169 Ks in 176 2/3 innings.

"Obviously, we will try to win the game tomorrow," Yeom said. "I think starting Andy Van Hekken proves our desire."

Kim said the Wyverns have their backs against the wall even before the first pitch, but won't look past the first game.

The players traded some verbal jabs on the podium. Nexen's captain, Lee Taek-keun, said he wants to take care of business quickly.

"Honestly, I'd want nothing more than to finish this series in one game," Lee said. "I was kind of stressed out about having to play the Wild Card Game. But since we only have to win once, it's lessened the pressure somewhat."

Cho Dong-hwa, captain for the Wyverns, said because his club prevailed in some playoff-like games near the end of the regular season, the momentum will be their side.

"We played every game like we were in the Korean Series," he said. "It was a difficult journey, but we've gotten that much tighter as a group. We're really pumped up. We have a lot of postseason experience in our clubhouse, and we know how to play these big games."

In addition to the captains, Nexen slugger Park Byung-ho also received plenty of attention. He led the KBO with 53 home runs and 146 RBIs, and will seek to keep slugging away in the postseason.

This could also be Park's last postseason in the KBO. He's almost certain to be posted for Major League Baseball clubs, as Park tries to join his former Nexen teammate, Kang Jung-ho of the Pittsburgh Pirates, in the bigs.

Park declined to answer questions about his potential jump to MLB, saying he will have to think about it at some other time.

"I won't consider this postseason as my last one here," he added. "We were in the postseason the past two years, and I will try to learn from my mistakes from those years and stay focused on the task at hand."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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