Thu. Nov 26th, 2020

SEOUL, Oct. 30 (Yonhap) — With a scheduling quirk in the final stretch, the Kiwoom Heroes are finishing up their 2020 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) regular season by playing just two games over the final eight days.

Since Oct. 20, clubs have been playing makeup games of rained-out contests from earlier in the year. But the Heroes, who play their home games at Gocheok Sky Dome, the only domed stadium in the league, had fewer games to make up than anyone else.

Prior to facing the Doosan Bears Friday night, the Heroes had last played exactly a week ago, against the same opponent.

Kiwoom’s interim manager Kim Chang-hyun, though, isn’t worried about effects of the extended layoff, especially because there’s much at stake in Friday’s game.

The Heroes, who have already secured one of five postseason berths, are currently in fourth place. If they beat the Bears and if both the second-ranked KT Wiz and No. 3 LG Twins lose Friday, then the Heroes will finish in second place. That means the Heroes will advance directly to the second round in the playoffs.

Finishing either in fourth or fifth means a Wild Card game for the Heroes on Sunday.

“We enjoyed our down time, but we also tried to stay sharp,” Kim said in his pregame media availability at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. “We did live batting practice and tried to simulate game-like situations the best we could.”

The Bears, who are in fifth, also see Friday’s game as a must-win situation, since a victory could lift them to as high as third place. They will send their No. 1 starter Raul Alcantara to the mound, though they could have chosen to save him for the postseason.

Alcantara has been the hardest-throwing starter in the KBO this season, averaging 151.6 kilometers per hour with his fastball, according to the statistics site Statiz. No one else is averaging 150 kph.

After not playing for a week, Kiwoom hitters may have a hard time catching up to Alcantara’s fastball, at least early on in the game. Kim said the Heroes had been preparing for the game expecting to see Alcantara.

Earlier Friday, Doosan manager Kim Tae-hyoung said he’ll be receiving updates on scores in other stadiums. Kim Chang-hyun, on the other hand, said he’ll keep himself in the dark.

“It doesn’t matter what other scores are,” he said. “We have to do the best we can here, regardless of what is happening elsewhere.”

By Bureau