While Jeff Manship’s September ERA of 6.94 would have you think that SK have an advantage coming into the first wild card game, the very nature of the wildcard format, Jeff Manship’s experience from last year’s World Series, and the recent form of the SK bullpen hands that advantage back to the Dinos. While the SK offense has looked inconsistent of late and failed to score many runs, the Dinos’ offense has flourished and put at least 8 runs up in each of their last 3 games.
A tighter defensive setup from both sides may stifle some of the runs that each side would produce, but ultimately, I can’t see SK putting more than 5 runs on the board. NC will likely have a late flurry that retires Merrill Kelly in the 7th and puts enough runs on the board against the bullpen to threaten a meeting with their neighbours in Busan, but a late run for SK will see them take game 1.
Game 2 will be a very different story. After a season of inconsistency that has seen the Wyverns without a reliable second choice pitcher, Scott Diamond will take the mound against Eric Hacker. The Wyverns will struggle to put up any offense against Hacker and the Dinos bullpen, and NC will handily beat the Wyverns to advance to the playoff semi-final in Busan.
Now that the 2017 regular season is over, the KBO is all set to get the post season started with the Wild Card series between the SK Wyverns and the NC Dinos.
Unlike the MLB wild card, which is just a one and done game, the KBO system is a little more complicated. It is a ‘three’ game series with a catch. As the 4th place team, the NC Dinos will be given one game at the start of the series. Therefore, the SK Wyverns will be coming into Changwon already 0-1 down in the series.
Game 1 will be this Thursday October 5th at 2 p.m. Jeff Manship will take the mound for NC, while Merrill Kelly will get the ball for SK. This looks to be a great pitcher’s duel between both teams’ aces. Despite the Wyverns’ power, the Dinos are playing at home and coming off of a four game winning streak, not to mention Manship’s World Series experience last year. Therefore, it looks likely that we will see the Dinos move on to face the Giants in the Sub-playoffs.
However, if the Wyverns manage a win they will still face a second away game on Friday October 6th at 2 p.m. Winning two games away might prove too much for an SK team that has struggled for consistency. So, whether or not they win game 1, the odds are certainly stacked against the Wyverns. Bad news for Lotte fans, but their local rival will most likely be coming to Busan.
On paper, Merrill Kelly v Jeff Manship looks like a brilliant battle to start the 2017 KBO playoffs. The fact that the hitters of both teams have had only one prior meeting with the opposition pitcher makes it better, too. Kelly is 1-0 v NC Dinos this season. Jeff Manship is 1-0 v SK Wyverns.
But despite a seriously impressive start to his career in Korea, Manship’s form dipped and, as Matthew points out above, holds a 6.94 September ERA. The Dinos, as a whole, have really fallen away in the second half of the season, going from title favourites to an unpredictable wild card match up. There is no better time to catch them, even if the series is heavily weighted in their favour (see below).
The Wyverns, for their part, head into this with a man (Kelly) on the radar of most MLB scouts in Korea. Their line up will also include the best offensive player in Korea, Choi Jeong, alongside a cavalry of impressive home run hitters who will look to inflict maximum damage. Neither team has any real form to speak of but I just get the feeling momentum is with SK here, to at least force a second game. The Wyverns dropped from 3rd to 7th post All-Star after a dreadful sequence of results, before settling for 5th. NC’s previously unparalleled bullpen looked shaky by the end, hence I’m going for a Giants-Wyverns series next.
The weather: overcast and cool for the 2pm start. Light winds and no rain. Perfect.
For anyone unfamiliar with the play-off system, this is how it works;
As a reward for finishing 4th and above the SK Wyverns, the NC Dinos will not only have home advantage, but they’ll also come into the Wildcard Series 1-0 up. That means they just need to tie or win a game to qualify for the next round. SK Wyverns need to win both games to meet Lotte Giants next. Unlike the regular season, which ends after 12 innings, these games are capped at 15.
SK Wyverns could essentially, in a 2 game series, go undefeated (1 win and 1 tie) and be eliminated.
Last season, LG Twins finished 4th, with KIA Tigers in 5th. The Tigers won the first Wildcard game, taking it to a deciding 2nd game. The Twins won that and advanced.