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Teams tied at top of KBO standings set for midweek clash

By Yonhap

Published : May 22, 2023 - 09:44

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Guillermo Heredia of the SSG Landers hits a single against the NC Dinos during the top of the seventh inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Changwon NC Park in Changwon, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, last Tuesday. (SSG Landers) Guillermo Heredia of the SSG Landers hits a single against the NC Dinos during the top of the seventh inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Changwon NC Park in Changwon, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, last Tuesday. (SSG Landers)

Through Sunday's action in South Korean baseball, the SSG Landers and the LG Twins shared first place with identical records.

Something will have to give this week, when the two best teams in the Korea Baseball Organization square off for three games starting Tuesday.

The Landers and the Twins are both at 26-14-1 (wins-losses-ties), two games ahead of the Lotte Giants in a tie for first place. The Landers will host the Twins for a three-game series at home, Incheon SSG Landers Field, some 30 kilometers west of Seoul.

The Twins got the better of the Landers in their first showdown on April 25-27, winning two out of three at their home in Seoul, Jamsil Baseball Stadium.

They had been in a virtual tie for first place before that April series, with the Landers holding a .667-.650 edge in winning percentage. By the end of that set, the Twins emerged with a one-game lead at the top.

But the Twins haven't had sole possession of first place since then. They have spent the majority of the ensuing days in third, as the Landers and the Giants kept trading places at the top of the standings.

The Landers have temporarily fended off the Giants by taking two out of three games in their weekend series. The Twins had two wins and a tie against the Hanwha Eagles in their weekend three-game set, creating a deadlock in first place.

The Twins have the best winning percentage so far in May at .786 with a 11-3-1 record. The Landers are second in that category at .647 with a 11-6-1 mark.

In the upcoming series, the Twins will avoid the best starter for the Landers, Kirk McCarty, who pitched Sunday and won't be available until the weekend series. But they will encounter emerging left-hander Oh Won-seok, who has gone 2-0 with an excellent 1.45 ERA in three starts in May.

Roenis Elias, the new foreign pitcher for the Landers, is scheduled to make his KBO debut Wednesday.

For the Twins, Im Chan-kyu will try to win his third straight decision Tuesday. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA this month.

Casey Kelly, who has successfully turned his season around after a disappointing April, is in line to start Thursday. Kelly has won all three starts in May while pitching to a 2.14 ERA, after going 1-2 with a 5.66 ERA in six starts last month.

This series will also feature some high-end offensive talent.

Guillermo Heredia of the Landers leads the KBO with a .346 batting average, followed by two Twins teammates, Austin Dean (.333) and Moon Sung-ju (.329).

Dean is second in the KBO with 32 RBIs. Heredia and his teammate, Choi Jeong, are tied for third with 31 RBIs apiece.

Twins catcher Park Dong-won has hit the most home runs so far with 10. Choi sits in third place with eight dingers.

Park and Choi are 1-2 in on-base plus slugging at .911 and .910, respectively.

The Twins have scored the most runs this season with 218, leading the Landers in a distant second place with 183. But the Landers lead the way with 34 home runs, while the Twins are tied for fifth with 23. (Yonhap)