There’s a saying in baseball that it takes a month to lose three games. This means that it is difficult to catch up to the top teams in a long league. In that sense, 2019 is a bad memory for 텍사스홀덤 LG coach Yeom Kyung-yeop (pictured). As the head coach of SK (now SSG) at the time, Yeom led his team to the top spot for the entire season. The gap between them and the second-place team was so large that, according to the conventional wisdom, the lead should be safe.
However, in mid-August, Doosan, who were in third place and nine games behind SK, made a frightening surge, and the tide turned in September when SK’s bats seriously cooled off. In the end, Doosan reversed the order in the final game of the regular season and punched their ticket directly to the Korean Series. It was a season that broke the previous record for an upset, set in 2002 when Samsung overturned a 7.5-game deficit against Kia to finish first in the regular season.
Yeom was named LG’s manager ahead of this season. LG started the season at the top of the standings and finished the first half in first place, boasting one of the most stable pitching staffs in the league, as evidenced by its first-place team batting average (0.282) and second-place team ERA (3.73). LG further consolidated its lead as SSG, which formed the ‘Yanggang’ in the first half, slumped in the second half. KT, which was at the bottom of the standings until May due to a string of injuries to its main players and made a huge comeback in June, pushed past SSG to take second place, but until the last 24 days, the two teams were separated by 7.5 games. No matter how scary KT’s momentum was, it seemed like LG’s ticket to the Korean Series was a foregone conclusion.
But while LG was swept by NC in a three-game series in Changwon last weekend, KT swept Lotte in Busan, cutting a three-game winning streak that would have taken a month to complete into just three days. It’s a traumatic 2019 that Yeom doesn’t want to remember.
Of course, things are much better for LG this season than they were for SK in 2019. Their recent three-game losing streak included an unfortunate reversal of fortune when a batted ball was ruled a hit. The team’s depth is still solid. Their August record is 12-8 with a winning percentage of 6 percent. However, KT has been too hot with an 18-4 record (0.818 winning percentage) to allow them to catch up. KT is also somewhat weakened as starting pitcher Uhm Sang-baek is expected to miss about four weeks with a microfracture in his ribs, and shortstop Kim Sang-soo is out of the first team with a left ankle sprain.
Can Yeom overcome the trauma of 2019 and lead LG back to the Korean Series for the first time since 1994, but the odds are still in LG’s favor.