KT’s second-place finish in this year’s regular season didn’t come from a technical advantage in a specific area, such as pitching or hitting. KT’s resilience was unprecedented in the history of the KBO this past regular season. After languishing at the bottom until early summer, the team quickly rose to near the top in late summer. KT, which was in last place with a win-loss margin of -14 on June 2, even threatened leader LG in the early fall.
Meanwhile, “resilience” seems to have been embedded as a team culture and asset for most members of KT. In fall baseball, KT also wrote a drama in which it came back from the brink with two consecutive losses.
KT overcame an early 0-2 deficit to win 3-2 in the fifth game of the playoffs at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, South Korea, and wrapped up the series 3-2. KT, which advanced to the Korean Series for the second time in two years after winning the 2021 title, will begin the best-of-seven series against regular-season champion LG on Sunday.
When KT faced playoff opponent NC, a team with a perfect record in fall baseball, and dropped both games, it looked like KT’s “fall march” would end prematurely.
However, KT rose to the occasion. With the help of a batting lineup that gradually improved, they took Games 3 and 4 in Changwon, and then completed the comeback in Game 5. KT became the third team to complete a reverse sweep in KBO playoff history. Until last year, only Hyundai in 1996 and SK in 2009 had completed a reverse sweep in the 17 playoffs in which a team took both Games 1 and 2.
KT manager Lee Kang-cheol’s ‘intuition’ shone through in Game 5.
KT was held to four perfect innings by the exquisite pitches of right-hander Shin Min-hyuk, who emerged as NC’s “fall hero. They lost the lead in the second inning after shortstop Kim Sang-soo faltered on a series of short ground balls, and in the fifth inning, they lost their second run on a single by Son Ah-seop.
KT turned the tide in the fifth with a bases-loaded walk. With runners on first and third and Oh Yoon-seok batting seventh, they brought up left-handed hitter Kim Min-hyuk. On a full count, Shin’s changeup was centered and Min-hyuk connected with a double that fell just inside the line behind the first baseman to load the bases.
With the score 2-2 and the bases loaded in the top of the sixth, Lee made a smart decision to switch to right-hander Son Dong-hyun after starter Wes Benjamin’s first-pitch fastball went for a ball. He read the slight drop in Benjamin’s pitch count of 82 pitches and judged the reaction of right-hander Kwon Hee-dong at the plate, so he abandoned any doubts about the starter. After a scoreless sixth inning, KT turned to Park Young-hyun (eighth) and Kim Jae-yoon (ninth) to close out the game with a scoreless ninth. In the bottom of the sixth inning, with the bases loaded and Hwang Jae-gyun at bat, KT created a chance with a hard hit instead of a sacrifice bunt. Hwang 스포츠토토 Jae-gyun singled to right-center to put runners on first and third, and Park Byung-ho grounded out to the second baseman to score the winning run.
Playoff MVP honors went to Son Dong-hyun, who pitched two scoreless innings in the deciding game. Son, who pitched seven scoreless innings in all five games of the series, received 39 of 71 votes (54.9 percent of the vote) in the journalists’ poll.