TRISTIN CLINT WRITES – On November 8 the SSG Landers, of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO), put the final stamp on its incredible season, winning the Korean Series by defeating the Kiwoom Heroes in six games. This marked the fifth championship in franchise history for the Landers, and the first since 2018, when they were known as the SK Wyverns.
That’s not all. This home team of Incheon, outside of Seoul, was dominant all year, capturing the number one record in the KBO by holding first place throughout. It finished the regular season winning 88 games and losing just 52. By earning the best record in the league, it was awarded a bye (a pass for extra rest awarded to the top teams in the playoffs) all the way to the Korean Series, which could have caused many to be wary, given the long period during which they did not play due to the interval between their last regular season game and their first playoff game.
Some were skeptical that other teams would gain momentum by working through the postseason as the Landers waited for November’s Korean Series to arrive. And it wasn’t always smooth for the SSG Landers. But while the team had a hiccup early on, there was nothing Dodgers-esque about this team (In U.S. baseball this postseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers won a franchise record 111 games but were bounced out of the first round of playoff action). SSG lost the first game of the series when the Kiwoom Heroes upset the number one seed, winning 7-6. The Landers would put that loss behind them, though, and take a 2-1 series lead over the course of the next two games, with victories of 6-1 on November 2 and 8-2 on November 4. The Heroes tied the series at two games apiece in Game 4, but that was the last mark of vulnerability—ultimately, they came out on top in consecutive games to win the Championship in six games.
SSG’s defense had some big moments, and Kim Sung-hyun came through in the clutch for the Landers, with a timely two-run double in the final game. Wilmer Font’s 7.2 innings of work were much needed, as he only allowed three earned runs as the starting pitcher. The Landers’ bullpen pitching allowed no runs for the remainder of the game after Font was removed, and the Landers got their first title under their new moniker.
The former MLB player for the Texas Rangers, Shin-soo Choo, who batted leadoff in Game 6 and scored one of the team’s four runs, won his first championship in his sixteenth season with the KBO. Juan Lagares, Kwang-hyun Kim, and Wilmer Font are also former MLB players who became champions with the Landers on November 8.
The Landers are the first team in KBO history to spend the entire season in first place. Small wonder that they were showered with cheers from their home crowd in Incheon. The Landers hoisted the trophy that put a wrap on an incredible year of Korean baseball, and now look forward to being a serious contending force for the next few years. The team’s Front Office will remain committed to winning, as next year’s roster has been constructed for yet another title run. Ultimately, SSG hopes to repeat the magic they created from 2007 to 2010, when they won the Korean Series three times in four years.