(ATTN: ADDS details on starting pitchers in paras 10-12)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Oct. 2 (Yonhap) -- The 2019 postseason in South Korean baseball will begin this week with a wild-card game between one of the league's top pitching staffs and its best slugging club.
The LG Twins, which finished at 79-64-1 (wins-losses-ties), will host the NC Dinos (73-69-2) at 2 p.m. Thursday at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul.
As the higher seed, the Twins will have two cracks at trying to win or tie one game to advance to the next stage. If the Twins claim Thursday's game or end up in a tie after 15 innings, then they'll move on.
But if the Dinos win Thursday, it will force another wild-card game for Saturday, back at Jamsil. The Dinos will have to win that game as well, but the Twins can reach the next round with a tie.
This is the third postseason meeting between the two clubs. In 2014, the Twins knocked off the Dinos in the best-of-five first round. Two years later, they met in the second round, and the Dinos eliminated the Twins in four games
They split their season series this year at 8-8.
The Twins boast a strong one-two punch in their starting rotation: Casey Kelly (14-12, 2.55 ERA) and Tyler Wilson (14-7, 2.92 ERA) were the only pair of teammates to post a sub-3.00 ERA this season. As a team, the Twins finished fourth in both team ERA with 3.86 and bullpen ERA with 3.78.
Led by closer Go Woo-suk, who had a career-best 35 saves, the Twins were 64-1-1 when leading after seven innings, the highest winning percentage in the KBO in that situation.
The Dinos were fifth overall with a 4.01 ERA as a staff, and their top of the rotation is also solid with Drew Rucinski (9-9, 3.05 ERA) and mid-season acquisition Christian Friedrich (7-4, 2.75 ERA). But their bullpen ERA was 4.45, good for only seventh.
Kelly will get the nod on Thursday for the Twins, and Friedrich will start for the Dinos.
Kelly went 2-1 with a 1.80 in day games this season and had a 1-1 record with a 2.52 ERA in four starts against the Dinos.
Friedrich faced the Twins once at Jamsil on Aug. 23 and took the loss after giving up four earned runs in six innings. He has yet to pitch in a day game in the KBO.
The Dinos have a lethal lineup that could give any pitching staff fits. They led the KBO with 128 home runs and a .416 slugging percentage. Their MVP candidate Yang Eu-ji led the KBO in batting average (.354), on-base percentage (.438) and slugging percentage (.574) this season, his first with the Dinos after joining them via free agency.
Midseason arrival Jake Smolinski batted .333 with runners in scoring position and knocked in 42 runs in 55 games. Veteran third baseman Park Sok-min contributed 19 dingers and a team-high 74 RBIs.
The Twins will need their captain Kim Hyun-soo to bounce back from a September he'd rather forget. The former outfielder with the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies batted .304 with 82 RBIs this year, his fifth straight season of hitting at least .300, but he went only 10-for-63 (.159) at the plate in September with only five RBIs.
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