With so much at stake in a single game, the pressure on the entire team was bound to be high, and in less than three hours, hope turned to despair. The KIA Tigers’ chances of reaching the postseason just got slimmer.
The Tigers’ three-game winning streak came to an end with a 1-3 loss to the Doosan Bears in their final regular-season game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on Wednesday.
The team’s record fell to 71-2-69 (.507) and the gap between fifth-place Doosan and sixth-place KIA widened to three games. All it would take is for Doosan to pick up one win in the two-game series against LG while Kia goes 14-15 days without a game, and Kia’s chances of qualifying for the postseason would be “zero.
With a record of 141 games, 71 wins, 2 losses, and 68 draws, KIA was within two games of Doosan before this game, and was trying to keep the fire alive. The odds were stacked against them, as their batting lineup was weighed down by injuries and they were forced to use substitute starter Kim Gun-guk.
Nonetheless, the skipper remained hopeful. Before the game, KIA head coach Kim Jong-guk said, “We have to overcome all the injury variables. We have come so far by overcoming (those things). The players have done a good job so far. There are a lot of players on the roster with nagging injuries, and I’m very grateful to them for trying to keep winning with one mind and one heart.”
“I’ve always thought that today is the last game,” Kim said. There is no tomorrow, and we have to win today. Both the pitchers and the batters think that there is no tomorrow, and they are trying to run all the players as if it is the last game.” “Honestly, I think Doosan has more pressure, and we just think that it is the last game. Doosan has to think about tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, but our team is playing as if today is the last day,” he said.
The game started off tighter than expected. Substitute starter Kim Gun-guk seemed to be cruising, retiring the first two batters he faced in a row. In contrast, Doosan starter Kwak Bin gave up two consecutive singles.
However, the nightmare began in the bottom of the third inning. Kim walked Heo Kyung-min on a full count, then gave up a single to Jung Soo-bin, and had to watch as Cho Su-hyun’s infield single allowed Heo to score from second. He then gave up a two-run double to Rojas to end his big inning. Eventually, the KIA bench decided to make a quick pitching change, calling on Park Jun-pyo.
The Tigers quickly responded with a run in the top of the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly by Lee Woo-sung. With less than halfway through the game, there was still a chance for an upset as the opponent was pressuring them. A run or two could have changed the game.
Despite the early departure of the starting pitcher, the bullpen did their part, with Park Jun-pyo, Yoon Jung-hyun, Kim Dae-yu, Lim Ki-young, and Jang Hyun-sik working a no-hit relay.
The problem was the bats. After ending the fifth and sixth innings with a triple play, they were unable to score in the seventh and eighth innings and finished the ninth inning without a run. KIA managed just three hits on the day. Kim Do-young, Kim Sun-bin, and even Socrates Brito had to settle for one hit each. Only Socrates had multiple hits, including a walk or a hit by pitch.
It’s not completely out of the question, but realistically, it’s very unlikely. If Doosan loses all four of its remaining games and KIA records two consecutive wins in the NC to equalize the two teams’ record at 73-2-69, a playoff will be held for fifth place in the regular season. The game will be played at Jamsil Baseball Stadium, Doosan’s home stadium, where they hold a 12-4 series advantage. 토토사이트
However, given that KIA’s mood has sagged somewhat since the rash of injuries, it’s unclear if the scenario will play out as hoped, which makes the game against Jamsil all the more significant. Now, KIA can only hope for a ‘miracle’ to happen. Otherwise, their postseason hopes are over.