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Usually reliable, American right-hander Dustin Nippert stumbling into postseason

All Headlines 11:24 September 28, 2017

SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) -- Doosan Bears' right-hander Dustin Nippert has been as reliable as they come, but in his seventh Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season in 2017, the American hurler is stumbling into the playoffs.

After taking his eighth loss of the season Wednesday against the KT Wiz, Nippert is 3-2 with a 5.53 ERA in his last 10 appearances. In four September starts, Nippert is 1-1 with an even more uncharacteristic 9.78 ERA.

For the year, Nippert is 14-8 with a 4.20 ERA, still solid numbers in an offense-happy league but a far cry from his MVP-winning 2016 season, when he was 22-3 with a league-leading 2.95 ERA.

The Bears have won the past two KBO championships largely thanks to their starting pitching. And they'll need Nippert to bounce back to pull off a "three-peat."

Nippert has a 1-1 record with an impressive 1.80 ERA in five Korean Series appearances. Over the past two championship finals, he tossed 17 1/3 shutout innings across three games.

Dustin Nippert of the Doosan Bears throws a pitch against the KT Wiz in the clubs' Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Sept. 27, 2017. (Yonhap)

And that's the version of Nippert the Bears would like to see this fall, not the one that was torched for a career-high 11 runs on 11 hits, including three home runs, against the NC Dinos in just 3 1/3 innings on Sept. 12.

Five days after that disastrous start, the 36-year-old held the Samsung Lions to one earned run in five innings.

But against the Wiz, Nippert once again looked shaky from the get-go. In the first inning alone, the Wiz sent eight batters to the plate, scoring three runs off Nippert on four hits and a walk.

Fortunately for the Bears, Nippert settled down and held the Wiz hitless over the next five innings. Unfortunately for the club, the offense couldn't muster much against five KT pitchers, as the Bears ended up losing 3-2.

The Bears have three games remaining in the regular season, and they sit in second place, a game behind the league-leading Kia Tigers. Nippert's next appearance will come in the postseason -- the pennant winners will get the bye to the Korean Series, and the No. 2 seed will advance straight to the second round.

Regardless of where the Bears start their title defense, they will need this lanky starter of theirs to get his groove back.


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