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The baseball semi-playoffs are finally here. The SSG Landers and NC Dinos are the main characters.
On April 22, SSG Landers Field in Incheon will host the first game of the 2023 KBO postseason semifinals (best-of-five series). The series will pit SSG, which finished third in the regular season with 76 wins, three draws, and 65 losses, against fourth-place NC (75 wins, two draws, and 67 losses).
In the regular season, SSG came out on top. With both teams battling for third place down to the final day, SSG swept both games of a two-game series against the Doosan Bears, which was played away and at home on April 16-17. NC, on the other hand, had to settle for fourth place after losing both games of a two-game series against the Gwangju
Despite missing out on the third place, NC was able to go straight to the semi-finals. The team defeated fifth-ranked Doosan (74 wins, 2 draws, 68 losses) 14-9 in the first game of the wild card deciding round (best-of-two) at its home stadium, Changwon NC Park, on the 19th. NC, who had one game in hand with the fourth place advantage, punched their ticket to Incheon.
First, SSG’s biggest strength is its long ball. The SSG bats have hit 125 home runs this season, the most arches of any of the 10 clubs. They are led by Choi Jeong-jeong, who is second on the team in home runs with 29 blasts over the fence, as well as Choi Joo-hwan (20) and Guillermo Heredia (.323 with 12 home runs).
The pitching staff, however, is not as good. Noh Kyung-eun, Ko Hyo-joon, and other veterans have been up and down throughout the second half of the season due to poor health. Seo Jin-yong, who had a zero ERA until mid-May, also faltered sharply in the middle of the season. Fortunately, he got a few days of rest heading into the semi-playoffs.
Kirk McCarty, who went 9-5 with a 3.39 ERA in the regular season, was fortunate to be on the roster for the series after injuring his right oblique muscle and missing about three weeks at the end of the regular season. However, he is likely to be used in the bullpen due to his lengthy absence.
Roenis Elias will be the starting pitcher for Game 1. The left-hander, who joined SSG during the season as a replacement for Ernie Romero, is 8-6 with a 3.70 ERA in 22 games (131.1 innings). His strengths include a powerful arsenal of pitches and an aggressive pitching style.
However, he hasn’t been smiling against NC. He has faced them three times this season, going 1-1 with a 7.53 ERA (13 runs, 12 earned, in 14.1 innings). Kwon Hee-dong (7-for-3 with a double, home run, and four RBIs against Elias), Oh Young-soo (5-for-3 with a double), and Jason Martin (8-for-3 with a double, home run, and three RBIs) are the main targets to watch.
On the other side of the ball, NC also has a potent offense. The NC bats combined for a .270 batting average during the regular season, ranking third among the 10 teams. The top lineup includes veterans such as Son Ah-seop, who is the first-ever individual batting champion (0.339 batting average) and the fourth most prolific hitter (187 hits) (2012, 2013, 2017, 2023), as well as Park Min-woo and Park Gun-woo.
The disparity between the top and bottom of the batting order was a drawback in the regular season, but the team erased that weakness in Game 1 of the wild-card decider. Seo Ho-cheol (WC performance – 4-for-3, 1 HR, 6 RBI), who is experiencing his first fall baseball, and Kim Hyung-jun (5-for-2, 2 HR, 4 RBI) and Kim Joo-won (4-for-2, 2 RBI) stepped up to the plate.
However, like SSG, the pitching staff is not as good. The team finished second in the regular season with a 3.83 ERA, but fatigue set in, especially in the bullpen, towards the end of the season. While right-hander Ryu Jin-wook has been solid, lefty setup man Lim Jung-ho and righty closer Lee Yong-chan have struggled.
Right-hander Shin Min-hyuk, who has a 20-6 record with a 2.00 ERA and 209 strikeouts this season, will start tonight’s game as the timing of super ace Eric Peddy’s return from the disabled list after being hit in the right forearm by a Ko Jong-wook pitch against the KIA in Gwangju on April 16 is one of the biggest factors that could determine the outcome of the series.토스카지노
After being drafted by NC with the 49th overall pick in the 2018 second round, Shin went 15-18 with a 4.66 ERA in 73 games last year, and has posted a 5-5 record with a 3.98 ERA in 29 appearances (122 innings) this season. He was unreliable throughout the season, but showed his true colors in the final game of the regular season against the Gwangju KIA on Sunday, when he threw five innings of two-hit ball with five strikeouts and no walks. He only threw 48 pitches in that game.
However, he has struggled against SSG in four games this year with a 6.57 ERA (9 runs in 12.1 innings). In order for Shin to be successful, he’ll have to overcome the likes of Choi Joo-hwan (6-for-6 with two doubles, two home runs, and four RBIs against Shin), as well as Choi Ji-hoon (5-for-3) and Han Yoo-seom (4-for-2).
The importance of Game 1 of the semifinals goes without saying. Historically, the winner of the first semifinal has an 87.5% (28 out of 32) chance of advancing to the playoffs. If we narrow it down to the best-of-five semi-finals, that number is 64.3% (9 out of 14). The winner of this match will have a leg up on the second-place KT Wiz in the playoffs.
The two teams had a strong start to the regular season with a combined record of 8 wins and 8 losses against each other, and the battle for third place came down to the wire. All eyes will be on SSG Landers Field in Incheon to see which team can smile after Game 1.