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Seoul clubs to renew rivalry in postseason baseball

All News 13:25 October 12, 2016

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 12 (Yonhap) -- Two Seoul clubs -- the Nexen Heroes and the LG Twins -- will renew their Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) rivalry when they meet in the first round playoff series starting Thursday.

The Heroes finished third in the regular season and will have the home field advantage in the best-of-five set. Game 1 is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Gocheok Sky Dome.

The Twins finished fourth in the standings and dispatched the fifth-seed Kia Tigers in the wild-card game.

This is their first meeting in the playoffs since the second round in 2014. The Heroes knocked out the Twins in four games at the time.

The Twins won the season series 10-6 this year.

Both are surprise playoff contestants. The Heroes stayed near the top of the standings all season long despite losing some vital pieces of their lineup and staff over the offseason. MVP-winning slugger Park Byung-ho signed with the Minnesota Twins, while hard-hitting outfielder Yoo Han-joon joined another KBO club, the KT Wiz, as a free agent.

Their two setup men -- Han Hyun-hee and Cho Sang-woo -- missed the entire season with injuries, while their closer, Son Seung-lak, left via free agency.

Manager Yeom Kyung-yup did more with less than anyone in the KBO, and the Heroes also got a second-half boost by the return of left-hander Andy Van Hekken, who'd left for Japan last winter after four successful seasons here and rejoined the Heroes in July.

Van Hekken, the likely Game 1 starter, went 7-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 12 starts. He didn't face the Twins this season but is 12-4 in 19 starts against them in his career.

The Heroes get a break because the Twins have used David Huff and Ryu Jae-kuk, their two best starters, in wild-card games against the Tigers this week.

Right-hander Henry Sosa may get the nod for the Twins in Game 1. He was 10-9 with a 5.16 ERA this season, and 1-0 in four starts versus the Heroes with a 5.63 ERA.

Despite losing the big bats, the Heroes still posted the KBO's second-highest team batting average with .293. They went from leading the league in home runs to slapping their way around the bases, and topped the KBO with 39 triples, 19 more than a year ago.

Their staff issued the fewest walks in the league, as the team worked on a philosophy of getting batters out on contact.

The Twins made a strong second-half surge to get into the postseason, and will look to rely on their deep bench to wear out the opposing pitching.

Their blend of experience and athleticism came in handy against the Tigers in the late innings in the decisive wild-card game Tuesday.


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