One day it’s Hanwha, this year it’s Kia—at the end of the season, the team that’s ‘really last’ is scarier

One day it’s Hanwha, this year it’s Kia—at the end of the season, the team that’s ‘really last’ is scarier

Last week, there was a lot of talk about the “battle for third place” in professional baseball stadiums everywhere. With SSG, NC, and Doosan all within a point of each other in third through fifth place, coaches unaffiliated with any of the teams were looking at the final bracket and predicting that NC would have a slight advantage.

While SSG and Doosan were playing their final two games, NC had already started the season with a two-game series against KIA, who had already been eliminated from the top five. In matchups like this, most observers habitually make similar predictions. However, the reality is often different.

This is because it is often the teams that play the “real last” game of the regular season that are more frightening, as they completely miss the opportunity to play fall baseball.

NC also missed a chance to clinch third place on its own, going 2-4 against the Gwangju KIA on Sept. 16 despite losing ace Eric Peddy. Pedi pitched 5.2 innings of three-hit ball. There were a few things that went wrong for NC in the loss, the first being that they were unable to capitalize on a sacrifice bunt by Park Min-woo to put runners on first and second with nobody out in the fifth inning with the score 2-0. Park’s grounder to shortstop caught Do Tae-hoon between home and third base, and the next batter, Jason Martin, couldn’t get a hit. It was yet another collapse for the bullpen, which has been sagging in the fall season.

In the grand scheme of things, however, it was a case of KIA staying in the game. After giving the fifth inning to the starter, KIA immediately brought in foreign pitcher Thomas Pannoni. After two scoreless innings of no-hit ball, Kim Dae-yu and Park Joon-pyo closed out the eighth, and Jeong Hae-young closed out the game in the ninth. KIA, whose pitching staff seemed to be playing a shorter game than NC’s, will take on NC in the season finale on the 17th, with traditional ace Yang Hyeon-jong as their calling card. Those who characterized NC’s final schedule as a “big game” were wrong.

It’s not an unfamiliar scene. It’s not uncommon for teams unrelated to fall baseball to pull off a last-minute upset.

Exactly a decade ago in 2013, LG, Doosan and Nexen (Heroes) took the battle for second place to the final day of the regular season, with the favorite, Kiwoom, falling 1-2 to the last-place Hanwha and losing second place to LG. Hanwha’s starting foreign pitcher at the time, Denny Batista, had previously gone 6-7 with a four-run ERA, but that day he dominated the second-place fight, allowing one hit and one run while striking out 12 in 7.1 innings. 스포츠토토

Teams without fall baseball often need to leave “something” on the table at the end of the regular season. While Hanwha’s Batista was ultimately unsuccessful in his bid to re-sign a decade ago, foreign players whose future is unclear may be more inclined to make a last-ditch effort to hold on to their slim hopes of re-signing. The bench also needs to make a case for next season. It is also a time to appease the fans with anything. The direction of KIA’s last two games against NC looks no different.

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