Defending KBO champions KT Wiz creep into postseason picture

유지호 / 2022-06-20 10:19:27
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▲ Kang Baek-ho of the KT Wiz rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the Doosan Bears during the top of the third inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on June 19, 2022. (Yonhap)

▲ Anthony Alford of the KT Wiz celebrates after hitting a solo home run against the Doosan Bears during the top of the fifth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on June 19, 2022. (Yonhap)

▲ Nick Martini of the NC Dinos celebrates after hitting a three-run triple against the Kia Tigers during the bottom of the seventh inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Changwon NC Park in Changwon, 380 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on June 15, 2022. (Yonhap)

▲ In this file photo from June 3, 2022, Koo Chang-mo of the NC Dinos pitches against the Lotte Giants during a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Changwon NC Park in Changwon, 380 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

baseball-clubs

Defending KBO champions KT Wiz creep into postseason picture

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, June 20 (Yonhap) -- The KT Wiz haven't looked like the defending champions in South Korean baseball for much of the season, but since the start of June, they have shown signs of a turnaround that has pushed them into a playoff position and could keep them there.

The Wiz completed their third straight series victory Sunday with a 7-1 win over the Doosan Bears. They took two out of three against the Bears over the weekend, after beating first-place SSG Landers twice in their midweek three-game set. And just prior to that, the Wiz had taken two games in a three-game series against the Lotte Giants.

On May 31, the Wiz were in eighth place among 10 teams in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) at 22-28. They have gone 10-5-2 (wins-losses-ties) so far in June, tied for the second-best winning percentage this month, to climb to fifth place in the standings.

They are now clinging to the wild card spot by half a game over the Samsung Lions.

The top four clubs have not changed for nearly a month, with the Landers still leading the way and the Kiwoom Heroes trying to chase them down. The LG Twins and the Kia Tigers have traded places in third and fourth a couple of times but have stayed firmly in the top-four mix.

And now come the Wiz, which have gone through some major roster changes of late.

Slugger Kang Baek-ho only made his season debut on June 4 after missing the early portion of the season with a broken toe. Kang finally hit his first home run of the season Sunday, though the 22-year-old is still trying to get his groove back and is hitting just .265/.351/.449 in 13 games.

The Wiz cut ties with first-year outfielder Henry Ramos after he, too, suffered a broken toe, and his replacement, Anthony Alford, also went deep in Sunday's game for his first KBO home run.

The Wiz will open the new week Tuesday against the only team that has been hotter in June, the NC Dinos.

The Dinos have gone 9-4-2 in June. That they are still stuck in ninth place at 26-38-2 illustrates just how deep of a hole they had dug themselves in the beginning.

The Dinos were once duking it out with the Hanwha Eagles to stay out of the league cellar but have now opened a 4.5-game lead over the Eagles. The Dinos are 3.5 games back of the Lotte Giants for eighth and 5.5 games behind the Wiz for fifth.

The Dinos have thrived since sacking manager Lee Dong-wook and putting bench coach Kang in the interim position.

They have the lowest team ERA for June at 2.08. Leading the way in the recent surge has been left-hander Koo Chang-mo, who had missed most of the past two seasons with arm problems but is back pitching like the ace he had been in early 2020.

In four starts since his return on May 28, Koo has gone 3-0 with a 0.40 ERA, having allowed just one earned run in 22 2/3 innings.

Also in the new week, the Heroes will resume their pursuit of first place against two clubs that they've dominated: the Lions (5-1 head-to-head record this year) and the Giants (4-1).

The Landers, meanwhile, will face the Bears (4-1-1) and the Dinos (3-4-1) this week.

(END)

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