Doosan Bears are off to an unexpected start in the exhibition season

The Doosan Bears of the Korean Baseball Organization are off to an unexpected start in the exhibition season. The Bears are undefeated in eight games and have clinched sole possession of first place in the exhibition series, regardless of the final game on Sept. 19.

Doosan extended its winning streak to eight games with a 2-0 victory over the Hanwha Eagles in an exhibition game of the 2024 Shinhan SOL Bank KBO League at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon on Monday.

Catcher Yang Yang-ji (37), batting third, led the team to victory with back-to-back home runs. Yang, who was 1-for-8 with two home runs and one RBI in 11 at-bats in four exhibition games, exploded for back-to-back solo homers in the fourth and sixth innings to account for the team’s two runs.

He twice chased Hanwha starter Felix Peña, who started the game with a quality start, allowing two runs on four hits (two homers) with three walks and two strikeouts in six innings. In the fourth inning, he hit a 133-kilometer changeup low and away down the middle, and in the sixth, he took a 146-kilometer fastball low and away over the left-field wall. His 1-2 home runs in the exhibition game were capped by back-to-back arches.

After the game,

Doosan manager Lee Seung-yeop said, “Yang-ji hit back-to-back home runs to start the season, which is a good sign for his cycle.” “It came so fast,” Yang said of his back-to-back home runs, adding, “I think I was ready because I hit a few good pitches at the end of the exhibition game. I was more worried about my defense than my hitting, but as I continued to play, I think I was well prepared for the opening game.”

Shin-ji Park, who started the game in place of Brandon Waddell, who was scratched due to back tightness, pitched three scoreless innings of one-hit ball. The bullpen of Park Jung-soo (one inning, two strikeouts), Park So-joon (two innings, one strikeout), Choi Joon-ho (one inning, one hit), Choi Jun-ho (one inning, one strikeout), and Jung Chul-won (one inning, one hit) combined for the shutout.

To date, Doosan has a team ERA of 2.50 in the tournament and leads the league in that category. In addition to Kim Dong-ju (1.13 ERA in eight innings), 스포츠토토 who has secured the No. 5 spot, younger pitchers such as Park Shin-ji (1 run in five innings), Kim Taek-yeon (1 run in three innings), Jung Chul-won (1 run in four innings), Park Jeong-soo (1 run in four innings), Lee Byung-heon (1 run in 2⅓ innings), Kim Min-kyu (1 run in two innings), and Choi Jae-in (1 run in four innings) have shown promise.

“It’s good to have pitching coach Cho Ung-chun here,” Yang said. I’ve been doing a lot of (battery) work with the young pitchers in the exhibition games, and they’ve improved a lot. I’m surprised to see so many good friends,” he said. “There are more pitchers who are throwing boldly without fear. I don’t see a lot of strikeouts, which is good,” he said. Doosan’s 2.6 strikeouts per nine innings is the lowest among the 10 teams.

The batting lineup also has more firepower than last year.

“I think the whole team has worked hard since Australia,” Yang said. We all know that we didn’t bat well last year, so we trained a lot and gained confidence at the plate. The results will come later, so we’re taking chances, but we’re scoring a lot of runs and it’s leading to good results,” Yang said.

Doosan’s first-place finish in the exhibition season is the sixth in a decade and first since 1983 (4-1, .800 winning percentage), 1990 (3-1, .750 – tied for first), 1994 (5-1, .833), 2000 (6-3, .667 – topped the Dream League) and 2014 (4-2, .667).

In the 40 KBO League exhibition games played between 1983 and last year, the first-place team has won the Korean Series only seven times: 1987 Haetae, 1992 Lotte, 1993 Haetae, 1998 Hyundai, 1999 Hanwha, 2002 Samsung, and 2007 SK. However, while performance in exhibition games doesn’t necessarily translate to regular season success, it does guarantee some success. Since 2001, when the semi-playoffs were reinstated, the team that finishes first (including ties) has a 60% (12/20) chance of making the postseason.

“If you don’t do well in the exhibition games, you go into the season with a lot of anxiety,” says Yang. If you go into the season in good shape, the players will be a little more relaxed going into the opening game. It’s better to do well now and keep doing well than to do badly. It’s better to be steady and good,” he said.

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