The LG Twins have won their first Korean Series in 21 years. The LG Twins defeated the KT Wiz 5-4 in Game 2 of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO Postseason at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on April 8 to even the series at 1-1.
It was an emotional moment for LG, which was playing in the Korean Series for the first time since 2002, when it hosted the Korea-Japan World Cup. Prior to this game, LG’s last Korean Series victory was an 8-7 Game 5 win over the Samsung Lions in 2002. That game was won by second-year right-hander Lee Dong-hyun and saved by Jang Moon-seok, so you can imagine the weight of time.
In fact, from the start of the game, there was a sense of anxiety that LG might lose a second straight game. Starting pitcher Choi Won-tae was shaky in the first inning and was pulled after just ⅓ of an inning, and LG got off to a rough start, scoring a whopping four runs in the first inning alone.굿모닝토토 도메인
But LG was not to be deterred. In the bottom of the third, Shin Min-jae was thrown out trying to steal second base, but after a walk by Hong Chang-gi and an infield hit to the pitcher by Park Hae-min put runners on second and third with one out, LG scored a run on Austin Dean’s RBI single to left in the bottom of the sixth, then added a run on Oh Ji-hwan’s solo home run to right with one out in the bottom of the seventh on Kim Hyun-soo’s RBI double to right with two outs to pull within 3-4.
The highlight came in the eighth inning. In the bottom of the eighth, Oh Ji-hwan walked and Moon Bo-kyung laid down a pitcher’s sacrifice bunt, giving LG runners on first and second with no outs, and Park Dong-won didn’t hesitate to take a full swing and hit a two-run home run over the left-center field wall to pull off a 5-4 comeback.
In fact, the secret to LG’s 5-4 comeback was the pitching. Forced to use a de facto “bullpen day,” Lee Jung-yong pitched 1⅔ scoreless innings, Jung Woo-young pitched 1⅓ scoreless innings, Kim Jin-sung pitched ⅔ scoreless innings, Baek Seung-hyun pitched ⅔ scoreless innings, Yoo Young-chan pitched 2⅓ scoreless innings, and Ham Deok-joo pitched 1 scoreless inning to lay the foundation for the comeback.
There was only one thing left to do. That was to stop KT’s rally in the top of the ninth. LG sent closer Go Woo-seok to the mound.
Go Woo-seok had pitched in the first game of the Korean Series the previous day (July 7), but he had to hang his head after being hit by Moon Sang-chul’s huge game-winning double in the top of the ninth inning. LG lost the game 2-3 and failed to sweep the series as Go Woo-seok gave up the decisive hit.
Still, LG believed in Go Woo-seok once more, and he responded with a fastball that reached up to 154 kilometers per hour.
In the top of the ninth inning, KT sent Kim Min-hyuk, the best pinch-hitter they could muster off the bench, to the plate, but Go Woo-seok didn’t hesitate to throw a 130-kilometer curveball for a swinging strike. The next batter, Choi Jong-ho, did the same. He fired back-to-back 150-kilometer fastballs and struck out the next two batters. The final out of the inning came from Kim Sang-soo. Two 154-kilometer fastballs were enough to get Kim Sang-soo to ground out to the second baseman.
In the end, Go Woo-seok was able to preserve the one-run lead and LG was able to win the game 5-4, taking the first two games of the series 1-1. It wasn’t just a one-game win.
After the game, LG head coach Yeom Kyung-yeop expressed his satisfaction. Speaking about Go Woo-seok, Yeom said, “Go Woo-seok’s pitching wasn’t bad in Game 1. He made one mistake and his opponent hit him well. The result was not good, but he returned to his original form. The players, myself, and the coaching staff said a lot of things to give him confidence. As our closer, we need to protect him to achieve our goals. We talked about the things that weren’t going well and how he utilized his changeup when his fastball was flying. When he got his fastball straight, it became a strike. I’m looking forward to the future.”
Go Woo-seok is one of the key players in the Korean Series. A year ago, he was a dominant closer with a 4-2 record, 42 saves and a 1.48 ERA in 60⅔ innings in 61 games, but this year, he had a disappointing regular season, going 3-8 with a 3.68 ERA in 44 games and 15 saves in 44 innings.
His physical condition had a lot to do with it. Ko had a busy schedule this year, traveling to the World Baseball Classic (WBC) and the Hangzhou Asian Games, and his shoulder and back were not in perfect condition.
His participation in the Korean Series was almost canceled. Go Woo-seok took the mound in the ninth inning of a practice game against Sangsung at Jamsil Stadium on the first of this month, but while pitching, he felt something wrong with his body and signaled to the bench for a substitution. He felt a muscle pain in his back. He headed straight to the hospital for a checkup. Luckily, it was diagnosed as a simple muscle soreness, and he had plenty of time to recover before the start of the Korean Series.
Even if he’s not as “untouchable” as he was last year, there’s no way LG can replace him now. He is indeed irreplaceable.
LG’s past Korean Series championships have also been characterized by special finishes. In 1990, LG’s first year as a franchise, the team won the Korean Series against Samsung in four straight games to claim its first title. In Game 4 of the Korean Series at Daegu Stadium, it was Jeong Sam-hum who got the last out and raised his right arm in the air. Known as the master of “cerebral pitching,” Chung was the backstop for LG in the 1990 season with an 8-9 record, 23 saves, and a 2.78 ERA. He has 47 career saves, nearly half of which came in the 1990 season.
In 1994, which still stands as LG’s last Korean Series title, the team also had a solid closer in Kim Yong-soo, known as “North Song. Kim Yong-soo went 5-5 with a 2.56 ERA in 30 saves in 1994, his first career 30-save season, making him an elite closer. While the Pacific Dolphins’ Jung Myung-won would go on to become the first player in history to reach the 40-save milestone, Kim’s back door was a big part of LG’s success in both the regular season and Korean Series.
In Game 4 of the Korean Series against Pacific, Kim Yong-soo personally caught Kim Sung-gap’s grounder, raised his arms in the air, and calmly threw to first base to seal the win. Kim Yong-soo, who went 1-0 with two saves during the series, was named the Korean Series MVP for the second time since 1990. Kim Yong-soo remains the only Korean Series MVP in LG’s history.
Will Go Woo-seok be able to secure LG’s back door like Chung and Kim Yong-soo did and earn the honor of “rinse and repeat pitcher?” Go Woo-seok’s resurgence in Game 2 of the Korean Series has already laid the groundwork.