The ‘Fall Dinosaurs’ are on a roll. After sweeping aside a strong contender in the wildcard round, they’re one win away from an upset in the semifinals. It’s a wild ride. The best-case scenario is now within reach for NC.
NC took both games of the semifinals against SSG in the ‘2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League Postseason’ at SSG Landers Field in Incheon on the 22nd and 23rd, giving them an absolute advantage in the playoffs. As a best-of-three semifinal, KT only needs one more win in their remaining games to advance to the playoffs.
NC, who held onto third place until the end of the season, eventually dropped to fourth after losing third place to SSG. The team’s left-handed ace, Koo Chang-mo, has been plagued by injuries this year and is out for the season, while the team’s foreign ace and top ace in the league, Eric Pedi, was hit in the elbow by a bat in his last appearance of the regular season, leaving him unavailable. NC’s fall prospects were looking a little bleak.
But there was a silver lining. In the wild-card deciding game, it was Kwak-Bin’s pounding of Dusan to end the series in one game that proved crucial. Seo Ho-cheol’s six-hit performance, including the decisive walk-off home run, sent NC into the semifinals. NC’s momentum started to build from here.
The momentum continued in the semifinals, where Pedi’s physical condition did not recover easily and he was unable to start the first and second games. In Game 1, starter Shin Min-hyuk exceeded expectations with 5⅔ scoreless innings, followed by a hit by pinch-hitter Kim Sung-wook to defeat SSG. In game two, the team’s veterans, Son As-seop, Park Min-woo, and Park Gun-woo, did their part and pushed the opposition from the start. The bullpen was able to close out the game and take the win.
Pedi, who was initially expected to start Game 3, was pushed back again. Despite a last-minute checkup, he was still feeling some discomfort in his elbow. Instead, NC will turn to another foreign pitcher, Tanner Tully, to try and end the series early. As an alternate foreign player, Tanner had a relatively good season, going 5-2 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 games. While he struggled a bit in the Wild Card decider, he hasn’t been bad against SSG this year, going 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in two games.
Ryu Jin-wook and Lee Yong-chan have been a bit shaky, but Kim Young-gyu has been solid in his role. If the bullpen can step up their game, NC will be a force to be reckoned with on the mound. They also have a slight edge over SSG in hitting, as evidenced in Games 1 and 2. The roster is well-structured, with veterans who have established themselves and rookies with good momentum. Looking at the batting lineup alone, the 24-day break was rather disappointing.
If NC ends the series in Game 3, that’s great. They’ll have 30 days to rest before Game 1 of the playoffs. That gives Peddy time to get back to 100%. The bullpen can rebuild in peace. However, if the series doesn’t end in Game 3, Peddy could be called upon to start again, which would leave the rotation up in the air even if they make the playoffs. The idea of giving SSG, last year’s overall winners, a chance to fight back with experience is nerve-wracking. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Tanner’s shoulders will be on the line for NC’s final fall performance.
SSG, on the other hand, will be counting on the momentum of Oh Won-seok. All three players – Roenis Elias, who pitched well in Game 1, Kim Kwang-hyun, who started Game 2, and Moon Seung-won, who pitched well in relief of Kim Kwang-hyun – are unable to play in Game 3. That means Oh Won-seok will have to be the bulwark against the oncoming dinosaurs. That might be a bit harsh for a player who is only 22 years old.
If you look at his performance this year, he is inferior to Tanner. Oh Won-seok, the rookie pitcher who had the highest expectations from manager Kim Won-hyung this year, had a rough start to the season before falling apart midway through. In 144⅔ innings pitched in 28 games last season, he went 8-10 with a 5.23 ERA. His ERA was actually worse than last year’s (4.50).
However, Oh Won-seok has a history of saving the day in fall baseball. Last year, he started Game 3 of the Korean Series and threw a surprise shutout to give his team some breathing room. At the time, SSG was 1-1 at home, so they sent Oh Won-seok to the mound for Game 3, and Kiwoom was the turn of foreign ace Eric Yokishi. Everyone expected Kiwoom to win with Yokishi in the lineup, but Oh’s gritty pitching changed that. 온라인카지노
Oh threw 88 pitches in 5⅔ innings, allowing one run. Although he didn’t get the win, Won-seok’s quality start against Yokishi allowed SSG to maintain control of the game and eventually win 8-2. It was a glimpse of his potential as a ‘big game pitcher’ as he threw the ball with more confidence in big games. In the end, SSG took Game 3, which was a watershed moment, and overcame Shawn Morimando’s Game 4 slump to win the series 4-2.
The team’s midseason slump was due to some confusion over pitching styles, but the final stretch was good. He gave up two runs in 5⅔ innings against Lotte on September 23, three runs in 6⅓ innings against Kiwoom on September 28, three runs in six innings against NC on October 5, and one run in six innings against Kiwoom on October 13. If he can get through the first four or five innings, SSG has a chance to go all out from there. Oh Won-seok is once again in control of SSG’s fate.