The most anticipated game in the three-game series this week is the LG Twins-NC Dinos in Changwon.
It’s a showdown between first-place LG and third-place NC. They are separated by 3.5 games. With the LG-SSG two-team system in place after Lotte’s poor form saw them drop out of the top three, and NC getting back into the race for the top spot, it’s going to be interesting to see how they fare against each other. It’s especially intriguing as NC swept the previous two meetings between the two teams. NC started June on a high note, winning all three of their games against LG in Jamsil from the 2nd to the 4th, which has been the driving force behind their current 1st place finish in June.
LG is tied with SSG for the top spot by half a game, so the pressure is on for the surging NC. A winning series of 2-1 or better would give LG a chance to set a better tone and go home.
However, this three-game series is unique, as both teams will play the three-game series with only domestic starters, with no foreign pitchers.
For the first game on the 20th, LG will use Lee Sang-young and NC will use Choi Sung-young. They kept the same rotation as last week. If the rotation goes back in order, it will be Im Chan-gyu and Shin Min-hyuk on the 21st and Lee Min-ho and Lee Jae-hak on the 22nd.
LG had two foreign pitchers pitch over the weekend. Casey Kelly pitched on Saturday, the 17th, and Adam Plutko on Sunday, the 18th. The five-man rotation will remain the same, with Lee Sang-young, Lim Chan-kyu, and Lee Min-ho in the starting lineup.
The same goes for NC. Taylor Widener threw 101 pitches against KIA on the 17th. If the rotation stays the same, he’ll start against the Changwon Hanwha Eagles on the 23rd. Ace Eric Peddy was removed from the first team on the 14th due to right forearm soreness, and even if he returns quickly, he won’t be able to pitch until the 24th, so even if he’s healthy, he won’t be available for LG Electronics.
This means that the three-game series will be a battle of how well the Korean starters can shut down the opposing bats. Both LG and NC have tremendous bats.
NC is batting first overall in June with a team batting average of 2.089. Son Ah-seop has been hitting like a man possessed with a 3-for-9 average, while Seo Ho-cheol has been energising the team with a 3-for-7 batting average. Foreign-born batsman Jason Martin has also adapted to the KBO with a 3-for-6 average.
In the last six games, the team batted even better at 3-for-1. Seo Ho-cheol is batting 5-for-5, Park Min-woo 4-for-5, Son Ah-seop 3-for-8, Martin 3-for-6, and Park Gun-woo 3-for-4, and the top of the order is all hitting hard.
LG, which leads the league in team batting average, has slipped to ninth overall in June with a team batting average of 2.057. However, the team’s batting has improved significantly in the past week with a 5-1 record. In six games last week, the team batted .298, good for third place.
Kim Hyun-soo, who has been struggling, led the team with a 3.8/1, while Austin Dean had a 3.7/5 and Hong Chang-ki had a 3.5/5.
It will be interesting to see if he can pitch more than six innings against such a strong batting line-up. Lee Sang-young just got out of the military and made his first start last week, and this will be his second. LG coach Yeom Kyung-yeop has him in mind as the fourth starter, giving him plenty of time to adjust to the first team. No matter how many starts he gets, he has to prove his worth in the results. The upcoming NC game is a good opportunity for him to prove his worth. Lim Chan-kyu, the third starter, is 5-1 with a 3.10 ERA this season. When he is the starter, he is 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA. However, he hasn’t been great against the NCs. He suffered his first loss of the season on the 3rd in Jamsil, giving up seven runs on seven hits in five innings. This is a revenge game.
Lee Min-ho hasn’t shown much of an advantage in his three starts since returning from injury. However, he was solid in his last outing on the 16th, 안전놀이터 allowing two runs on three hits in five innings against Doosan in Jamsil.
Choi Sung-young, NC’s starter on the 20th, made his first relief appearance due to a sudden injury to Koo Chang-mo at LG Electronics in Jamsil on the 2nd, and had a great outing, giving up two runs on five hits (one home run) over six innings.
Shin Min-hyuk made a substitute start against Doosan on the 15th as Pedi was demoted to the second team, and he did his part with five hits and one run in 4⅔ innings.
Lee Jae-hak had four consecutive quality starts since being promoted to the first team, but in his last outing on the 16th against KIA in Gwangju, he gave up seven runs on four hits and four walks in 3⅓ innings. He earned his first win of the season with six innings of two-hit, one-run (unearned) ball against LG Electronics on the 4th, so expectations are high for this start.
It’s a battle of which team can break down the starters first. The strength of the Korean starters is one of the most important points in the season and postseason, which makes this series even more interesting.