With 1st place at stake, Lions and Wiz to clash in KBO tiebreaker game
Even 144 games weren't enough to determine the best regular season team in South Korean baseball this year. So the KT Wiz and the Samsung Lions will go at it for one last time on Sunday.
Following the conclusion of the 2021 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) regular season on Saturday, the Wiz and the Lions were tied for the best record in the league at 76-59-9 (wins-losses-ties).
The Wiz defeated the SSG Landers 8-3, while the Lions toppled the NC Dinos 11-5.
These two teams will play an extra game starting at 2 p.m. Sunday at Daegu Samsung Lions Park in Daegu, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul. The Lions will host the game after winning the season series 9-6-1.
The tiebreaker winner will head straight to the Korean Series, and the loser will end up in the second round of the postseason.
The KBO said statistics from the tiebreaker game will not count toward regular season totals. And unlike regular season games, there will be no ties. If the two teams are all deadlocked through nine innings, they will play on until the winner is determined.
This will be the first tiebreaker game in the KBO since 1985.
In one of the wildest finishes in KBO's 39-year history, all five playoff berths were up for grabs entering Saturday. The Wiz, the Lions and the LG Twins all had a chance to finish first. The Doosan Bears, in fourth place prior to Saturday, had secured at least a spot in the wild card game, but the Landers could still snatch the fourth seed with a victory. Meanwhile, the Kiwoom Heroes began the day in sixth place and a combination of their victory and a Landers loss would get them into the wild card contest.
With five games involving all 10 clubs starting at 5 p.m., there was plenty of scoreboard watching among fans across the ballparks. And the picture started becoming clearer about two hours into the chaotic evening.
At Changwon NC Park in Changwon, some 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul, Lions' slugger Oh Jae-il smacked a go-ahead two-run homer to give his team a 5-4 lead. The Lions then put up a three-spot in the sixth inning, highlighted by Koo Ja-wook's two-run triple.
They added a pair of runs in the top seventh to open up a comfortable 10-4 lead. The Lions tacked on a run in the top ninth en route to a breezy victory.
Over at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, just west of the capital, the Wiz turned a slim 3-2 lead into an 8-2 advantage in the fifth inning. A wild pitch by reliever Kim Tae-hoon got a run across, and Kang Baek-ho made it 5-2 with an RBI single.
Jared Hoying then landed a big blow with a three-run blast for a six-run lead.
With the top two clubs enjoying sizable leads, the Twins' hopes of leapfrogging them both to first place faded quickly. The Twins fell to the Lotte Giants 4-2 at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
As the No. 3 seed with a 72-58-14 record, the Twins will move straight to the best-of-three first round of the postseason, which begins Thursday at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. They will play the winner of the wild card game.
The Landers' big deficit against the Wiz gave the Heroes an opening, and they crashed through it with a 6-1 victory over the Kia Tiger at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul.
The Heroes scored five runs in the top of the second inning, with the batting champion Lee Jung-hoo homering off Bo Takahashi to win a 10-pitch battle.
Once the Landers lost their game to the Wiz a few minutes later, the Heroes secured the final ticket to the postseason at 70-67-7.
The Bears took care of business with a 5-3 victory over the Hanwha Eagles at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, and finished the season at 71-65-8.
The Bears will host the Heroes in Monday's wild card game at Jamsil. As the higher seed, the Bears will advance with a win or a tie on Monday. The Heroes must win two straight games to move on.
The Bears will be playing in their seventh consecutive postseason and will now try to become the first club to appear in seven Korean Series in a row. They won it all in 2015, 2016 and 2019.
Source: Yonhap News Agency