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KBO-leading Landers remain on course for history after productive week

10:42 August 16, 2022

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Aug. 16 (Yonhap) -- They just keep on winning.

The SSG Landers, fresh off yet another productive week, are in the midst of a potentially historic season in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).

On Saturday, they became the first team to reach the 70-win mark this year by beating the Doosan Bears 8-2. The next day, they edged out the Bears 5-4 in extra innings, thanks to Choi Jeong's go-ahead solo home run in the top of the 10th.

SSG Landers manager Kim Won-hyong (R) congratulates his players after their 4-2 win over the KT Wiz in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, 30 kilometers west of Seoul, on Aug. 11, 2022. (Yonhap)

With five wins in their past six games, the Landers' record now stands at 71-31-3 (wins-losses-ties), 9.5 games ahead of the LG Twins for first place with 39 games remaining.

The Landers can lose all of their remaining games and still finish above .500 in the winning percentage. Through Sunday's action, six out of the 10 teams in the KBO were sitting below .500.

The Landers have been especially dominant during the dog days of summer. Since the start of July, they have gone 24-6, the best mark in the KBO in that span. They have not lost back-to-back games since June 21.

And yet, it has been difficult to find any trace of complacency in the dugout, with many key players having experienced late-season heartbreaks in recent years.

SSG Landers starter Wilmer Font pitches against the KT Wiz during the top of the first inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, 30 kilometers west of Seoul, on Aug. 12, 2022. (Yonhap)

In 2019, the Landers, then called the SK Wyverns under different ownership, lost their grip on first place on the final day of the regular season. The Wyverns had enjoyed a comfortable lead at the top for most of the season, and the regular season crown would have sent them directly to the Korean Series, for a chance to win their second straight title.

Instead, the Bears won their regular season finale and ended with the identical record as the Wyverns. The Bears were declared the regular season champions because they had won the season series against the Wyverns, who had to play an extra round in the postseason and bowed out against the Kiwoom Heroes.

Then last year, they finished half a game out of the fifth and final postseason spot. Losing the final game of the regular season to the KT Wiz did them in, though there were a slew of other winnable games that the Landers had blown over the course of the campaign.

Han Yoo-seom of the SSG Landers rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the KT Wiz during the bottom of the eighth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, 30 kilometers west of Seoul, on Aug. 11, 2022. (Yonhap)

The Landers, having learned their lessons on the value of every regular season win, aren't about to let their guard down despite their significant lead at the top.

That mindset has put them on course for a few records.

The Landers are almost a lock to set a new franchise record for most wins in a season. They won 88 games in that fateful 2019 campaign and are just 18 wins away from surpassing that total.

In the current, 144-game schedule, which came into place in 2015, the 2016 and 2018 Bears hold the record for most victories with 93. The Landers will only need to go 23-16, or about 59 percent of their remaining games, to break that record.

Jeon Ui-san of the SSG Landers hits a sacrifice fly against the KT Wiz during the bottom of the seventh inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, 30 kilometers west of Seoul, on Aug. 11, 2022. (Yonhap)

The century mark in the win total may be a bit tougher to reach, as the Landers would have to win at a .744 clip the rest of the way. Their current winning percentage stands at .696.

Only two clubs in KBO history have ever finished a season with a winning percentage of at least .700. In the inaugural season of 1982, the Bears went 56-24 for a .700 winning percentage. In 1985, with 110 games per team, the Samsung Lions had a 77-32-1 record for a .706 winning percentage.

But the Landers can do one thing that no team has ever accomplished in the KBO: go wire-to-wire for the regular season crown.

The Landers have spent every day of this season in first place. In KBO history, teams that made it to 70 wins first have won the regular season title 75 percent of the time.

Choo Shin-soo of the SSG Landers slides into third base against the KT Wiz during the bottom of the third inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, 30 kilometers west of Seoul, on Aug. 11, 2022. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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