Frequent KBO postseason participant making late push for berth

유지호 / 2021-09-14 10:06:43
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▲ Members of the Doosan Bears celebrate their 8-5 victory over the LG Twins in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on Sept. 12, 2021. (Yonhap)

▲ Kim Jae-hwan of the Doosan Bears tosses his bat after hitting a single against the NC Dinos in the top of the seventh inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Changwon NC Park in Changwon, 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Sept. 10, 2021. (Yonhap)

▲ Heo Kyoung-min of the Doosan Bears hits an RBI single against the LG Twins in the bottom of the fourth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on Sept. 12, 2021. (Yonhap)

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Frequent KBO postseason participant making late push for berth

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Sept. 14 (Yonhap) -- Don't look now, but here come the Doosan Bears.

A frequent participant in Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) playoffs, the Bears are making a late run at a postseason berth again -- this after playing mediocre ball for most of the year so far.

The Bears went undefeated last week, with six wins and a tie in seven games. They're still in seventh place at 49-50-3 (wins-losses-ties), a position that they've occupied since June 25.

However, the Bears are in a much better position to get into the postseason now than before. They're only half a game behind the two clubs tied for fifth and final playoff spot, the NC Dinos and the SSG Landers. The Kiwoom Heroes, in fourth place, are three games ahead of the Bears. But the Heroes have 36 games left, compared to 42 games remaining for the Bears.

The Bears have played in every Korean Series since 2015 and won three titles in that stretch. They're one of just three clubs in league history to play for the KBO championship in six straight years.

For most of this season, it didn't appear as though the Bears would even reach the postseason, let alone extend their Korean Series streak.

But over the past half-dozen or so years, the Bears have often played well over the final weeks of regular seasons.

In 2019, they went 12-7-1 after September en route to winning the pennant and the Korean Series title. Last year, when the start of the season got pushed back by more than a month due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Bears posted the best winning percentage in October at 16-7.

The term "championship DNA" is a nebulous one at best, but don't tell that to Doosan players now.

"The way we've been playing lately, I could see why some of the veterans have earned that respect (as champions)," said reliever Lee Young-ha, who was the winning pitch in both of the Bears' wins in a doubleheader against the LG Twins on Sunday. "They're coming up huge in key moments, whether it's on the field or at the plate."

Lee, who made his Bears debut in 2017, was referring to a group that has been together for the entire run. The group includes third baseman Heo Kyoung-min, shortstop Kim Jae-ho, pitcher Yoo Hee-kwan, and outfielders Jung Soo-bin, Park Kun-woo and Kim Jae-hwan.

Over the years, the Bears have lost some key pieces via free agency. And some members of the remaining core have had their share of struggles this year.

But they have shown signs of a turnaround. Kim Jae-hwan, for instance, is batting .350/.438/.600 this month, his best numbers since the first month of the season. Kim had four game-winning hits last week alone.

"I don't know if we're doing anything different, but we've been winning so often," Lee Young-ha said. He then added with a smile, "I have no idea why. We're just playing good baseball."

(END)

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