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Upstart LG to clash with NC for 2nd time in 3 baseball postseasons

All Headlines 13:10 October 19, 2016

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 19 (Yonhap) -- The upstart LG Twins will take on the NC Dinos for the second time in three postseasons in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) starting this week.

The Twins, after finishing fourth in the regular season, had to get through two opponents to reach the second round. They knocked off the Kia Tigers for the wild card and eliminated the Nexen Heroes in four games in the first round.

The Dinos, by virtue of their second-place finish, earned the bye to the second round, which is best of five.

The series opens at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Dinos' home of Masan Stadium in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province. Game 2 starts at 2 p.m. Saturday at the same park. The winner will move on to the Korean Series, where the pennant-winning Doosan Bears await.

The two clubs met in the first round in 2014. The Twins dispatched the Dinos in four games then.

This year, the Dinos won the season series at 9-6-1 (wins-losses-ties).

Na Sung-bum of the NC Dinos hits a sacrifice fly against the Kia Tigers in their Korea Baseball Organization game at Masan Stadium in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, on Sept. 23, 2016. (Yonhap)

The Dinos have been waiting since the end of the regular season on Oct. 9 to see who their opponent would be. The Twins will also be well-rested after sending the Heroes home Monday.

The Dinos had a solid rotation, led by right-handers Eric Hacker and Zach Stewart, who combined to win 25 games. The Dinos had the second best team ERA with 4.49, and the best bullpen ERA with 4.15, with closer Lim Chang-min backed by the likes of Kim Jin-sung and Won Jong-hyun.

The Twins are on a roll. So far in the postseason, their relievers have given up just one earned run in 19 2/3 innings. And their starters have pitched deep into most games, with left-hander David Huff tossing back-to-back quality starts.

For the Dinos, Game 1 will be highlighted by who won't be in the lineup, rather than who will be in it.

Slugger Eric Thames, who tied for the regular season lead with 40 home runs and drove in a team-high 121 runs, has been suspended for Game 1 after his DUI incident late in the season.

The Dinos have also been dealing with a widening match-fixing scandal. Pitcher Lee Tae-yang has received a suspended jail term while another pitcher, Lee Jae-hak, has been under a police investigation.

David Huff of the LG Twins throws a pitch against the Nexen Heroes in their Korea Baseball Organization postseason game at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Oct. 16, 2016. (Yonhap)

The Dinos will try to battle off-field distractions and hope their regular season edge over LG will hold up.

As a team, they batted .292 against the Twins, while the pitchers posted a 3.74 ERA head-to-head. Stewart went 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in three starts versus the Twins.

The Twins, though, climbed all the way from eighth at the All-Star break to fourth by the end of the regular season and actually had a better second-half record than the Dinos, 37-26-1 to 36-30-1.

Huff, a second-half savior for the Twins, made one appearance against the Dinos and got a no-decision after keeping them to a run on five hits in seven innings on Sept. 21.

The Twins' rotation is also deeper, with Henry Sosa, Ryu Jae-kuk and Woo Kyu-min lined up behind Huff.

After Stewart and Hacker, the Dinos may be forced to go with inexperienced arms like Koo Chang-mo or Jang Hyun-sik.

The Dinos boast far more firepower than the Twins, with four hitting at least 20 homers and three driving in 100 runs or more. And their big bats all performed well against LG in the regular season.

Na Sung-bum batted .400 with 16 RBIs in 16 games against the Twins, his highest batting average against any opponent this year. Park Sok-min had three homers and 14 RBIs, while Thames had three homers and 12 RBIs against their upcoming playoff opponent.

The Twins will counter with speed and lineup depth. Luis Jimenez led the way with four homers and 17 RBIs against the Dinos.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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