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Race for KBO regular season crown tightens as possible Monday games loom

All News 10:37 September 05, 2022

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Sept. 5 (Yonhap) -- After games on the last Sunday of August, the LG Twins trailed the SSG Landers by seven games for first place in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).

The Twins have not lost since. And through the first Sunday of September, the Twins sit four games back of the Landers, with a realistic hope of catching the team that many were ready to crown the regular season champions not that long ago.

Adam Plutko of the LG Twins pitches against the Lotte Giants during the bottom of the first inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 325 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Sept. 4, 2022. (Yonhap)

Adam Plutko of the LG Twins pitches against the Lotte Giants during the bottom of the first inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 325 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Sept. 4, 2022. (Yonhap)

While the Landers' game against the Kiwoom Heroes was rained out Sunday, the Twins routed the Lotte Giants 14-1 for their seventh straight win. Starter Adam Plutko threw six shutout innings for his 14th win of the season, tying him with teammate Casey Kelly for the league lead.

The Twins improved to 72-42-1 (wins-losses-ties) while the Landers, who have lost six out of their past 10, remained at 77-39-3. The Twins have four games in hand.

And the Landers are scheduled to host the Twins in Incheon, about 30 kilometers west of Seoul, for a crucial two-game series starting Tuesday, though those games, as with others across the league this week, are questionable due to the effects of the incoming Typhoon Hinnamnor.

The Twins are tied with two other teams for the fewest games played so far, at 115 out of the 144-game schedule. Sixteen games across the league were canceled in August, more than any other month this season, and more cancellations could follow in the coming days.

As is the annual tradition this time of year, the league office will be in a scramble mode to squeeze makeup games into a tight window in September and October.

LG Twins manager Ryu Ji-hyun (R) bumps fists with Lee Young-bin following Lee's two-run home run against the Lotte Giants during the top of the seventh inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 325 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Sept. 4, 2022. (Yonhap)

LG Twins manager Ryu Ji-hyun (R) bumps fists with Lee Young-bin following Lee's two-run home run against the Lotte Giants during the top of the seventh inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 325 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Sept. 4, 2022. (Yonhap)

There is even more pressure to crown the Korean Series champions early this year, as the KBO is scheduled to host Major League Baseball (MLB) players for four exhibition games: on Nov. 11 and 12 in the southeastern city of Busan and Nov. 14 and 15 in Seoul.

The KBO will try to ensure the Korean Series, even if it goes the full seven games, will end no later than Nov. 5.

To that end, teams may be asked to play Monday, typically the designated off day in the KBO, and also to play doubleheaders. In the past, managers and players often complained about playing two a day, citing injury risks and lack of pitching options, but they may not have much of a choice this year.

For teams trying to get into the postseason, having more games left to play than their rivals can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, they can control their own destiny and just focus on winning their games, without having to steal glances at the out-of-town scoreboard every other inning.

This file photo from Aug. 19, 2022, shows Incheon SSG Landers Field following the cancellation of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game between the SSG Landers and the LG Twins. (Yonhap)

This file photo from Aug. 19, 2022, shows Incheon SSG Landers Field following the cancellation of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game between the SSG Landers and the LG Twins. (Yonhap)

On the flip side, there is very little pattern to the schedule of makeup games, meaning that teams may be forced to play one game in one city and then move to another city for another one game stop the very next day. Extra traveling this late into the season, when many players are banged up and nursing injuries of varying degrees, can take its toll.

The league has 50 games that must be made up once the regularly scheduled portion of the season ends Sept. 23. The schedule for those games is expected to be announced in the coming days.

Without Monday games or doubleheaders, the postseason likely won't begin until mid-October.

This file photo from July 31, 2022, shows Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul following the cancellation of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game between the LG Twins and the KT Wiz. (Yonhap)

This file photo from July 31, 2022, shows Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul following the cancellation of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game between the LG Twins and the KT Wiz. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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