(ATTN: ADDS comments, photo)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Oct. 31 (Yonhap) -- The Samsung Lions began their quest for a record fifth straight championship minus three key pieces of their pitching staff and couldn't quite overcome the absence of these pitchers, as they were knocked out by the Doosan Bears in five games in the Korean Series on Saturday.
Prior to the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) championship final, the Lions left starter Yun Sung-hwan, setup man An Ji-man and closer Lim Chang-yong off their roster. The move was in response to a news report that three unidentified Samsung players could be facing an investigation over illegal overseas gambling charges.
Yun led the team with 17 wins and 194 innings pitched. An has been the KBO's top setup man for the past several years and was 4-3 with 37 holds and a 3.33 ERA this season.
Lim, in his second tour of duty with the Lions after spending a season with the Chicago Cubs and the previous five years with the Yakult Swallows, led the KBO with 33 saves, while striking out 71 batters in 54 innings.
With his hands tied, manager Ryu Joong-il pointed to right-hander Shim Chang-min and left-hander Cha Woo-chan as the key players.
Cha, a versatile veteran who can start and pitch in relief, has done his part, tossing five shutout innings out of the pen and striking out eight.
Shim, however, appeared to crack under the pressure. He failed to retire a batter while giving up two hits on three pitches in Game 1. In the next game, he faced four batters, and hit one and walked another while recording just one out.
On Saturday, Shim came on in the bottom fifth with two base runners, and promptly issued a walk, an RBI groundout, and a run-scoring double, as both of the inherited runners scored.
For the series, Shim was charged with two earned runs in two innings, while walking three and hitting another.
Not having Yun at the top of the rotation forced Ryu to use two pitchers, Alfredo Figaro and Jang Won-sam, twice on three days' rest. They were largely ineffective in four appearances, going a combined 0-3 with a 10.80 ERA in 16 2/3 innings.
While the once-vaunted staff was suddenly rendered ineffective, the offense that produced four hitters with at least 26 home runs and 90 RBIs in the regular season did even less.
Choi Hyoung-woo, the team's captain and cleanup hitter, batted just .095 (2-for-21), a performance especially disappointing considering he'd batted .320 in last year's Korean Series and .308 the year before that.
Despite Choi's woes at the plate, manager Ryu stuck to his gun and kept penciling in Choi as his cleanup man -- a strategy that may have backfired as Choi hit one pop fly after another with men on base.
No. 3 hitter Yamaico Navarro won the Korean Series MVP in 2014 by hitting four home runs and driving in 10 runs in six games. This year, he only had four hits in 19 at-bats, with four RBIs.
With the Lions' Korean Series winning streak snapped at four, Ryu said he will look to start a new streak next year.
"We were flat-out beat in this Korean Series," he said. "Whether it was pitching or offense, it was just a disappointing series for us. It feels miserable to finish second."
K-pop star Sulli found dead: police
(LEAD) K-pop star Sulli found dead: police
(2nd LD) K-pop star Sulli found dead: police
Justice Minister Cho Kuk offers to resign
(URGENT) Justice Minister Cho Kuk steps down from post