2009 Korean Series
The 2009 Korean Series was the 27th Korean Series. It was won by the KIA Tigers, the 10th title by the Tigers but their first in 12 years and their first since being sold to KIA. The Series went 7 games, with the finale not being decided until a Ji-wan Na home run in the 9th. Na was named Korean Series MVP.
The Tigers went 81-48-4 in 2009, coming within one of the KBO record for wins. They qualified for the Series by posting the best regular-season mark. Their story was one of players who had been written off at one point or another. First baseman Hee-seop Choi was the first Korean position player in the major leagues but had hit just .229/.295/.346 for KIA in 2008 and spent time in the minors. He recovered to hit .308/.435/.589 and finish in the league's top five in walks (103), runs (98), RBI (100), home runs (33), OBP and slugging. 39-year-old right fielder Jong-beom Lee had been a two-time Korean Series MVP but had been asked by his manager to retire two years ago; he provided solid play from the #2 spot in the batting order. 30-year-old center fielder Won-seop Kim (.301/.401/.458) led the league in triples after filling in for injured Yong-kyu Lee at the top of the order; Kim had never slugged .400 before. The biggest story, though, was 3B Sang-hyeon Kim, picked up in a trade in the winter for a pitcher with a career 25-35 record. Kim had never hit double-digit home runs before or driven in 50 runs, yet he paced the 2009 KBO with 36 homers and 127 RBI. He hit .315/.379/.632 and was a serious MVP candidate.
Their pitching staff was one of balance. Their top four starters had nearly identical ERAs. with Aquilino Lopez (14-5, 3.12), Hyeon-jong Yang (12-5, 3.15), Rick Guttormson (13-4, 3.24) and Suk-min Yoon (9-4, 3.46). A pleasant surprise was closer Dong-hoon Yoo (6-2, 22 Sv, 0.53, .74 WHIP), who had never had an ERA under 2.98 before.
They were managed by Bum-hyun Cho.
The Wyverns were right behind KIA in the regular season at 80-47-6, one game off the pace. They lost their first two playoff games to the Doosan Bears but rallied to take the next three and advance to the Series. The Wyverns had won the prior two Korean Series.
SK's top hitter was second baseman Keun-woo Jeong, who usually hit leadoff. He batted .350/.437/.483 with 53 steals in 66 tries and scored 98 runs, tying KIA's Hee-seop Choi for the league lead. An impressive 10 players hit double-digit homers (Jeong had 9, almost making it 11) but only one cracked 20 - 1B Jung-kwon Park (.276/.354/.504, 25 HR).
The top pitcher for the Wyverns was ERA leader Kwang-hyun Kim (12-2, 2.80), but he was unavailable for the Series due to injury. Other key hurlers were Byung-doo Jun (8-4, 8 Sv, 3.11), Eun-beom Song (12-3, 3.13) and relief ace submariner Tae-hyon Chong (2-3, 10 Sv, 1.20).
They are managed by Sung-keun Kim.
- October 16: Both teams turned to foreign imports, with KIA going to 34-year-old Dominican Aquilino Lopez (who pitched over 150 games in the majors) while SK went to 36-year-old Japanese right-hander Ken Kadokura (who pitched 14 seasons in Nippon Pro Baseball).
Kadokura allowed his only run in the 4th when 3B Sang-hyeon Kim hit a sacrifice fly to bring in a run. Kadokura gave up one hit and fanned seven in five innings but was yanked at that point, perhaps due to his being on short rest.
In the 6th, veteran RF Jong-beom Lee came up with two outs and the bases loaded against Kil-hyun Yoon. Lee got the better of that match with a 2-run double to put the Tigers in front for the first time.
In the 7th, C Sang-ho Jung homered off Lopez to even the contest at three apiece. KIA mounted a rally in the 8th, getting two men in scoring position with one out. Again, Jong-beom Lee was put into a key role. The former Korean Series MVP again delivered, with a RBI single. C Sang-hoon Kim singled in one more for a 5-3 lead. Dong-hoon Yoo went 1-2-3 in the 9th for the save and KIA led, 1 game to 0.
- October 17: Two pitchers returned from injuries to square off in game two. SK's Eun-beom Song had been hold out of the postseason to date while Suk-min Yoon had missed 6 weeks to a shoulder injury. Yoon was in top form, as the 2008 KBO ERA leader threw 7 shutout innings, fanning 7. 1B Hee-seop Choi started the damage off Song in the 4th with a RBI double; he tacked on another RBI with a single in the 6th. In the 9th, SK finally scored, when C Sang-ho Jung went yard off Dong-hoon Yoo. Yoo still picked up his second save of the Series to give Yoon the win.
- October 19: SK got back into the Series with a strong win over the SK Wyverns as a sellout crowd of 27,800 fans watched on.
In the first, SK quickly got to Rick Guttormson. LF Jae-sang Park doubled and 1B Jung-kwon Park singled him home. 3B Jeong Choi (the defending Series MVP) walked to begin the second and C Sang-ho Jung doubled for a 2-0 score. Jae-sang Park drew a third-inning walk and Jung-kwon Park homered to make it 4-0, knocking an ineffective Guttormson from the hill.
Gary Glover and his relievers held KIA hitless for 6 1/3 innings. Chi-hong An began with a single and Hyun-gon Lee singled as well; Jae-hong Park made an error on the play, advancing both runners. Seung-ho Lee threw a wild pitch to score An and close it to 8-1. Sang-hyeon Kim homered off reliever Hyo-joon Ko with three aboard in the 8th for a 8-4 game. SK scored three more in the 8th, then KIA got two in the 9th.
Jung-kwon Park finished with four hits and four RBI.
KIA hurler Hyeon-jong Yang retired his first five opponents but walked Sang-ho Jung then yielded a 2-run homer to Jae-hong Park to put the Wyverns ahead. Yang retired the next seven hitters before Jung doubled to again start trouble. Park bunted Jung over, then SS Joo-hwan Na doubled him in for a 3-0 lead.
In the 6th, KIA finally got to Byung-yong Chae with a solo homer by singles specialist Hyun-gon Lee. In the 8th, Jae-sang Park singled then Jung-kwon Park and Jung both walked. Dong-hwa Cho singled for a 4-1 SK lead.
KIA rallied in the 9th. Il-mok Cha led off with a pinch-hit single and Hee-seop Choi singled as well. With two away, Ji-wan Na singled for a 4-2 score. KIA loaded the bases against Kil-hyun Yoon. Sang-hoon Kim hit a grounder to Joo-hwan Na, whose error made it 4-3. Hyun-gon Lee came up, but grounded out to end the game.
- October 22: Moving to the neutral site Jamsil Stadium, KIA got a gem of a pitching effort. SK had won all their games 3 and 4 in the postseason and had been 1-0 in game 5 entering this one.
#9 hitter Hyun-gon Lee led off the third with a double off Ken Kadokura, the first hit surrendered by the Japanese veteran. Won-seop Kim singled to short, then OF Yong-kyu Lee laid down a squeeze bunt.
Tigers outfielder Lee Yong-kyu's suicide squeeze in the third inning gave his side the much-coveted first run of the game and Lopez made it stand up as the winning run, notching six strikeouts in a four-hitter. In the 6th, Hee-seop Choi singled in Yong-kyu Lee for a 2-0 lead. Sang-hyeon Kim singled Choi to second. Jong-beom Lee grounded to 2B Keun-woo Jeong who threw to second for the force, but Kim slid in to break up the throw, scoring Choi for a 3-0 lead. SK skipper Sung-keun Kim appealed that there was interference on the play. When the umpire did not agree, Kim pulled his team from the field for 11 minutes. He was then ejected and the game continued; no Korean manager had ever been tossed from a postseason game before.
In the meantime, Dominican hurler Aquilino Lopez was stifling the Wyverns. In the 7th, they finally got a rally going when Ho-jun Lee walked and Jae-hong Park singled; an error put two men in scoring position with one out but Lopez got two in a row to escape. He finished with a four-hit shutout gem.
- October 23: The exciting Series continued with a one-run match won by SK to force a seventh game.
Catcher Sang-ho Jung was the early star for SK, throwing out runners in the first two innings. DH Ho-jun Lee homered off Suk-min Yoon for a 1-0 Wyverns lead in the second. In the third, Jae-sang Park doubled and later came in on a fly by Jung-kwon Park.
SK extended their lead to 3 in the 4th when PH Dong-hwa Cho singled home Ho-jun Lee. KIA was shut down for the first 7 innings as SK starter Eun-beom Song tossed five shutout innings and the bullpen tacked on two more. In the 8th, Hyun-gon Lee and Won-seop Kim hit singles with one out for KIA. Hyo-joon Ko issued a walk to load the bases. Hee-seop Choi hit a 2-run single to make it 3-2. Byung-yong Chae relieved to face the KBO's home run leader in 2009, Sang-hyeon Kim. Kim grounded out to end the threat with his team still down a run. Chae also tossed shutout ball in the 9th to wrap up the win.
- October 24: The drama wasn't over until the bottom of the 9th inning of the 7th game.
At Jamsil Stadium, the Wyverns went ahead early on a 2-run homer by 1B Jung-kwon Park. SK went up 3-1 by the 6th, but KIA rallied with a 2-run homer by DH Ji-wan Na in that frame. Rookie 2B Chi-hong An hit a solo home run in the 7th to close it to 5-3; later that inning, Won-seop Kim tied it with a bases-loaded hit.
The game was still tied at five in the bottom of the ninth. With one out, Na homered off game six winner Byung-yong Chae to end the Series with a dramatic blow, earning Na Series MVP honors. It was Chae's last appearance for SK before entering into military service.
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