Aces set for rematch in do-or-die postseason baseball game

October 31, 2018

SEOUL, Nov. 1 (Yonhap) — They didn’t live up to their ace billing in their first postseason showdown in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) last week. And as they get ready for a rematch Friday, the stakes are much higher for the SK Wyverns’ left-hander Kim Kwang-hyun and Nexen Heroes’ right-hander Jake Brigham.

Kim and Brigham will start the deciding Game 5 of the penultimate postseason round at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, the Wyverns’ home just west of Seoul. The Wyverns won the first two games of the series at home, and the Heroes responded by taking the next two games at their own home park, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, to even the series.

The winner will move on to the Korean Series to play the Doosan Bears, the best regular season team that advanced directly to the best-of-seven championship series.

In this file photo from Oct. 27, 2018, Kim Kwang-hyun of the SK Wyverns throws a pitch against the Nexen Heroes in the top of the first inning of Game 1 of the second round playoff series in the Korea Baseball Organization at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul. (Yonhap)

In this file photo from Oct. 27, 2018, Kim Kwang-hyun of the SK Wyverns throws a pitch against the Nexen Heroes in the top of the first inning of Game 1 of the second round playoff series in the Korea Baseball Organization at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Kim and Brigham both started the opening game of their current series, and neither got a decision in the Wyverns’ 10-8 victory.

Kim gave up five earned runs on eight hits, including two home runs, in six innings. Both of those homers came off the bat of Song Sung-mun, a light-hitting infielder who batted eighth in that game.

Brigham lasted just four innings while allowing five earned runs on six hits. Brigham also served up two dingers, one each to Choi Jeong and Kim Kang-min, while walking three batters and hitting another.

Both had fine regular seasons. After missing the entire 2017 season following Tommy John surgery, Kim Kwang-hyun went 11-8 with a 2.98 ERA in 25 starts.

Song hasn’t done much in this series since that two-homer game against Kim, but Kim should now be wary of Jerry Sands, who is batting 7-for-15 with a pair of home runs and five RBIs in the series.

In the Heroes’ 4-2 victory in Wednesday’s Game 4, Sands had four of the team’s five hits, including a two-run homer that broke the scoreless tie in the fourth.

In Game 1, Sands was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his first-ever meeting against Kim. Sands said after Wednesday’s win that having already faced the left-hander “will definitely help me” in Game 5.

Brigham, in his second KBO regular season, was 11-7 and had a 3.84 ERA, while topping the league with 199 innings pitched.

During the regular season, Han Dong-min had the best numbers against Brigham among SK hitters by going 3-for-6 with two home runs.

Han snapped out of a 1-for-15 slump by blasting a two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning in Game 4. Han was moved down from second to seventh in the lineup for that game. And it remains to be seen if manager Trey Hillman — who led the regular season by deploying 129 different lineups — will move Han back to his usual spot, given the hitter’s strong history against Brigham.

But in Game 1 at least, Brigham got the better of Han, who was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and grounded into a double play.

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