(ATTN: ADDS managers' comments in paras 15-18)
SEOUL, Oct. 9 (Yonhap) -- Two evenly matched baseball clubs will clash in the wild card game Monday, with the winner advancing to the first round of the playoffs.
The LG Twins will host the Kia Tigers at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul, the second wild card game in Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) history. They finished fourth and fifth in the regular season, with the Twins going 71-71-2 (wins-losses-ties) and the Tigers at 70-73-1. They will battle for the right to take on the Nexen Heroes, the No. 3 seed, in the first round.
The KBO wild card format is a bit quirkier than the one in the majors. The Twins, as the higher seed, will get two cracks at a chance to advance to the next stage. They can do so with a win or even a tie Monday, but if they lose, they can still advance with a victory on Tuesday.
If the Tigers win Monday, it will force a second wild card game Tuesday at Jamsil, and the Tigers will have to win that game as well to reach the next round.
This is the first postseason clash between the Twins and the Tigers, based in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, since 2002.
They have long been among the more popular clubs in the KBO. And, they sold out back-to-back games at the 26,000-seat Jamsil Stadium during the Chuseok long weekend last month.
The Twins won the season series at 8-7-1. They were also neck-and-neck in most team pitching and batting stats.
The Tigers did enjoy a major advantage in home runs over the Twins, 170 to 118, but the Twins gave up the fewest long balls in the league with 122.
The Tigers had four players with 20 or more home runs led by 34-year-old veteran Lee Bum-ho with a career-high 33.
Without as much firepower, the Twins got the job done on the mound, with starters David Huff and Ryu Jae-kuk leading the club's second-half surge.
Huff has been the Twins' savior since joining the club in July. He was 7-2 with a 3.13 ERA in 13 appearances, spanning 74 2/3 innings. LG manager Yang Sang-moon has already named Huff the starter for Monday, and with good reason -- the left-hander was 2-0 against the Tigers with a 1.26 ERA in two starts.
On Sept. 15, Huff held the Tigers to two earned runs in 7 1/3 innings. Then, 12 days later, he tossed seven shutout innings against the same opponents.
The Tigers will counter with right-hander Hector Noesi, who led the Tigers with 15 wins and 206 2/3 innings pitched in the regular season.
The Dominican pitcher, though, didn't fare so well against the Twins, going 1-2 with a 4.15 ERA in four meetings. That lone victory over the Twins came on June 1 at Jamsil, when he threw seven scoreless frames.
Predictably, Yang said he'd like to dispatch the Tigers in just one game, while his counterpart, Kim Ki-tai, said he wants to extend the meeting to Tuesday.
"I'm sure we'll have a lot of fans on hand tomorrow, and we'd love to play a great game for them," Yang said at Sunday's press conference. "Given the pressure on us to win before our home crowds, scoring the first run will be crucial."
Kim said playing two wild card games "will be the best present we can give our fans," and added virtually every pitcher will be available out of the bullpen.
"I think defense will be the key factor, and both teams will have to make sure they won't make any silly mistakes," the Kia manager added. "We've been working on our fielding and baserunning."
If the teams need to play again on Tuesday, the Twins will have Ryu, a former major leaguer, start that game.
The Twins saw two different versions of Ryu this year. The right-hander was just 5-8 with a 5.11 ERA in the first half, but went 8-3 with a 3.36 ERA after the All-Star break. It included Ryu's first career complete game shutout on Sept. 18.
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