GWANGJU -- Two former major league pitchers will start the opening game of the South Korean baseball championship series this week.
The Kia Tigers will host the Doosan Bears to open the Korean Series, the championship final in the Korea Baseball Organization, Wednesday at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field in Gwangju, some 330 kilometers south of Seoul. To start the best-of-seven series, the Tigers will hand the ball to Dominican right-hander Hector Noesi, who went 20-5 with a 3.48 ERA in the regular season.
The Bears will counter with American right-hander Dustin Nippert, who was 14-8 with a 4.06 ERA this year. Nippert was voted the league MVP last year thanks to a 22-3 record and a 2.95 ERA.
Both had some major league experience before arriving in the KBO. This is Noesi's second KBO season and his first Korean Series, as the Tigers are seeking their first title since 2009.
In this file photo taken Oct. 3, 2017, Hector Noesi of the Kia Tigers leaves the mound after completing the bottom of the seventh inning against the KT Wiz in the clubs` Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province. (Yonhap)
The Bears are the two-time defending champions playing in their third straight Korean Series, with Nippert, who has been their ace since 2011, having been a key player on those two championship teams.
Nippert had an up-and-down regular season and struggled against the Tigers too. He was only 1-3 in four starts with a 9.00 ERA, highest against any opponent this year.
Noesi earned three of his 20 wins against the Bears but had a 4.06 ERA in five starts.
The Tigers finished the regular season in first place and advanced directly to the Korean Series. They haven't played since the regular season finale on Oct. 3.
The Bears ranked second in the regular season and had a bye to the second round, where they eliminated the NC Dinos in four games.
Nippert started Game 1 of that series but took a loss after giving up five earned runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Both teams have a handful of batters who put up solid numbers against each other during the regular season.
For the Tigers, the KBO batting champion Kim Sun-bin batted .403 in 16 games against the Bears. He batted .370 for the season to win his first batting title.
Cleanup Choi Hyoung-woo batted .309 against them and had the most RBIs among Kia batters with 11 against Doosan.
For the Bears, Park Kun-woo, who finished second to Kim in the batting race at .366, posted a .446 batting average in 14 games against the Tigers. He didn't homer against them but stole five bases, drew five walks and hit seven doubles.
Park had Noesi's number, going 9-for-12 against the right-hander.
Leadoff Min Byung-hun batted .397 with 12 RBIs against the Tigers. Oh Jae-il, the series MVP against the Dinos with five home runs, had three homers and 14 RBIs -- both team highs -- against the Tigers. (Yonhap)