Doosan’s dreams of qualifying for the postseason for the first time in two years were dashed with a heartbreaking upset loss to rival LG.
Doosan suffered a 2-5 reverse in their final game of the season 안전놀이터(Game 16) against LG in the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on April 15.
Before the game, head coach Lee Seung-yeop told the media that the team would go all out. Not satisfied with the team’s first postseason berth in two years, he was determined to start fall baseball in the highest possible position. “We’re not celebrating yet. “We’ve just accomplished our primary goal,” he said. “Of the three games we have left, today is the most important. We can’t afford to lose, so we’ll give it our all.”
Doosan was in a three-way tie for third place with SSG and NC before the game. With their recent three-game winning streak, they have reignited the battle for third place, pulling away from sixth-place KIA.
With a fateful two-game series against ranking rival SSG on the 16th and 17th, the team needed a win on the 15th to secure third place. “We’ve come this far, so we’re going to do everything we can,” Lee said of his team’s determination to win.
Doosan struck first. After Yang Seok-hwan led off the second inning with a double, Kang Seung-ho laid down a sacrifice bunt, Kim In-tae walked to put runners on first and third, and Park Jun-young hit an infield single to break the scoreless tie. The ball bounced off LG third baseman Moon Bo-kyung’s chest, allowing Yang Seok-hwan to score from third.
However, the Doosan batting lineup could not ignite any further. Jang Seung-hyun struck out on three pitches, Kim Jae-ho flied out to shortstop, and a back-to-back Jose Rojas-Yang Seok-hwan double in the sixth inning was nullified by Kang Seung-ho’s grounder to first base.
In the seventh inning, 38-year-old veteran Kim Jae-ho, one of the biggest contributors to Doosan’s fall run, stirred up controversy with a bobbled walk. He came up with two outs and hit a ground ball toward the shortstop. Shortstop Oh Ji-hwan made a tough backhanded catch and then twisted his step and threw to first base a tempo too late, resulting in a close call. Kim Jae-ho didn’t run all the way to first base. After the game, Kim Jae-ho was criticized by fans on Doosan’s official social media and various baseball communities.
After Rojas’ solo home run in the eighth inning cut the deficit to 2-5, Doosan put runners on first and second with one out in the top of the ninth when Kim In-tae singled and Park Jun-young walked. Lee, who declared an all-out war, made a gamble by sending the depleted Yang Ji Won to pinch-hit, but Yang Ji Won hit an RBI single to end the game.
On defense, the fourth inning was the most disappointing. With the bases loaded in the top of the fourth with a 1-0 lead, Doosan starter Kim Dong-joo induced a fly ball to left-center field against Moon Bo-kyung, but the ball hit the glove of center fielder Jung Soo-bin. Of course, it wasn’t an easy hit to catch, but since the center fielder was no other player but Jung Soo-bin, the ‘master of defense’, it was a deep disappointment. In the meantime, all three runners reached base.
The loss snapped Doosan’s four-game winning streak and dropped them out of the joint third place group to fifth place (74 points, 2 draws, 66 losses). With two games left in the season, they are now one point behind third-place NC and half a point behind fourth-place SSG.
To qualify for the semi-finals, they need to take both SSG on the 16th and 17th and hope that NC drops both games against KIA. If any of the above scenarios don’t play out, we’ll have to start fall baseball with a wild-card game like we did two years ago. Add to that the fact that if they finish fifth, they will need to win two games away from home to advance to the next stage.
Doosan will start Raul Alcantara on the 16th and Choi Seung-yong on the 17th. SSG also has a one-two punch of Loenis Elias and Kim Kwang-hyun to contend with.
A miraculous third place finish will require the entire squad’s commitment and unity. If they play like LG Electronics did on the 15th, they may not be able to share the fall with their home fans.