The KBO returned from its off day with enough runs to make up for both days, exploding for 77 total runs across the ten-team league. Hanwha finally found its offensive groove but it wasn’t enough to take down the surging KT Wiz, who won their fourth straight. With Kia’s drubbing of second-place Lotte and Doosan’s loss to NC, the LG Twins have taken sole possession of second place after dealing Samsung their fourth straight loss. Oh, and the SK Wyverns lost their tenth in a row.
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Let’s take a look at the top performers from the day, brought to you by Dylan Burris and Adam Dubbin:
Lee Hae-chang (C, Hanwha Eagles): 1-2, HR, 2R, 3RBI. In a game where Hanwha scored more runs in the 7th inning than they have all year, the star was their catcher, Hae-chang Lee, who came in to replace starting catcher Jae-hoon Choi in the bottom of the 4th. In the 7th, Lee was HBP and came around to score, then came back up as the Hanwha batted around and smacked a three-run bomb to left field. An impressive day for the backup, who hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time this season.
Kang Baek-ho (1B, KT Wiz): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2R, 3RBI, BB. Not a bad day for the KT cleanup hitter, who was one of the best hitters in the league in 2019. He’s picked up 2020 right where he left off, showing even more power than last year. He started off the game with an RBI double in the 1st, then added an exclamation point with a towering two-run homer 410ft over the centerfield wall in the 4th. The No. 1 overall pick by the Wiz in the 2018 draft, the 20-year-old has done nothing but rake in professional baseball and has nowhere to go but up. Don’t forget this name — you’ll be hearing it for quite a while.
Koo Ja-wook (RF, Samsung Lions): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2R, 2RBI. Koo was one of the lone bright spots for Samsung today, notching two hits, both for extra bases. His magnum opus was a two-run shot in the 5th, but he added a leadoff double in the 8th and scored a run. Koo has been a solid hitter since he came into the league in 2015, but has struggled to find his power stroke in the first couple weeks of the 2020 season — perhaps this is the spark he needs to get hot.
Roberto Ramos (1B, LG Twins): 2-3, 2B, HR, R, 3RBI, BB. Ramos has been one of the hottest hitters in the KBO in his first season in the league. One of the top five power hitters so far, Ramos no doubt padded his spot there with a three-run bomb in the first inning, adding a double in the 7th. The Twins’ cleanup hitter has been unstoppable to start the year and shows no signs of slowing down, and figures to continue to be a huge part of LG’s success this season, helping push them into sole possession of second place.
Han Dong-hee (1B, Lotte Giants): 2-4, 2B, R. On a day when Lotte’s offense was stifled by Kia’s pitching, Han collected two of the Giants’ six hits in the game, including their lone extra-base hit — a double into right. Han would later come around to score. The 20-year-old has had a rough start to his KBO career and struggled in the first few weeks of the season, with severe plate discipline problems. He’ll benefit from a solid lineup around him, but he’ll need to fix his strikeout issues if he wants to turn a corner this year.
Na Ji-wan (LF, Kia Tigers): 2-3, HR, R, 4RBI, BB. In a blowout win for Kia to knock Lotte out of second place, the big 35-year-old smacked a three-run shot in the first inning to start the scoring for the Tigers. After a rough 2019 season where Na only saw 153 plate appearances, the left fielder has had a decent start to 2020, slashing .289/.341/.526 coming into this game. He should see plenty of RBI opportunities batting 5th in a solid Kia lineup.
Park Min-woo (2B, NC Dinos): 1-4, 2B, 2R, 2BB. For a game sapped of power, Park collected the lone extra-base hit for the Dinos: a double to right-center to lead off the game. He would later come around to score. A leadoff walk in the 2nd inning would provide another run for the Dinos, who hung on by the skin of their teeth for the win. The leadoff batter for the first-place Dinos has been electric to start the 2020 season, ranking near the top of the league in AVG and OBP, adding in a decent power stroke as well.
Kim Jae-ho (SS, Doosan Bears): 2-4, 2RBI, BB. An uncharacteristically power-challenged Doosan had to play a small-ball style that has been rare for the top slugging team in the league. As such, we have to give a shoutout to shortstop Jae-ho Kim, who had the only multi-hit day for the Bears. His shining moment was a two-out single in the bottom of the 7th to plate two runs. The 35-year-old has had an unexpectedly hot start to the season, slashing .390/.457/.439 backed by good plate discipline. It may not last, but in the hottest-hitting lineup in the KBO he should continue to see solid counting stats.
Kim Kang-min (CF, SK Wyverns): 2-5, HR, R, 3RBI. While Kim hit the Wyverns’ only homer of the game (a no-doubter solo shot in the 7th), his other hit was even better: a bases-loaded two-RBI single over the second baseman to bring the Wyverns to within two of the Heroes in the 2nd. The 37-year-old has been with the Wyverns since they drafted him in 2001, so he’s ridden through the team’s ups and downs, but has to be downcast at the Wyverns’ miserable start to 2020. Kim hasn’t had a great start to 2020 either, with today bringing his first extra-base hit while also showcasing his strikeout problems. For the Wyverns to get anywhere, they’re going to need Kim to be an important part after his career-high 127 games last season.
Park Dong-won (C, Kiwoom Heroes): 2-5, 2B, HR, 2R, 3RBI. In a game with only five extra-base hits total, Park collected two of them, including the Heroes’ only homer—a solo shot in the 8th. Park added a bases-loaded double in the Heroes’ six-run 1st inning to plate two more. The 30-year-old catcher split time evenly with 34-year-old Lee Ji-young in 2019, but has had an electric start to the 2020 season, posting a .855 OPS before today on 35 PA, compared to Lee’s 24. Park has impressive power and should be a big part of Kiwoom’s offense in 2020.
Kim Hye-sung (3B, Kiwoom Heroes): 3-4, 2R, RBI, SB, BB. Maybe just because I’m a Kiwoom homer, but I had to give a shoutout to 21-year-old 3B Kim, who collected three hits and a stolen base. Kim hasn’t yet proven himself as a big-league hitter and has serious plate discipline issues, but he took a good step forward in 2019 while hitting declined across the board in the rest of the league. He’s had a rough start to 2020, but the 2017 No. 7 overall pick still has plenty of time to improve.
Mike Wright (NC Dinos): 5 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 5 K, 5 BB, 1 HBP, 115 pitches. Former major league pitcher Mike Wright led the way on a day that saw a dearth of quality starting pitching. Though the erstwhile Oriole labored through five frames allowing 10 baserunners, he kept the Bears off the board long enough for he and his team to eke out the win thanks to a five-run lead provided by his offense. Though the bullpen nearly gave the game up in the seventh and eighth innings, it ended up being just enough in the end. Coming into the game, the 30-year-old right-hander was sporting a 2.45 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP, having struck out 11 while walking three in 11 innings pitched; his performance today will improve those numbers.
Lee Min-woo (Kia Tigers): 6 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 6 K, 3 BB, 89 pitches. Lee was the only other starting pitcher to put up a quality performance on Tuesday, throwing six innings of two-run ball to earn the win. He was mostly efficient through his outing, though his three free passes are a bit of a blemish on his stat line. He gave up one run in both the fifth and sixth innings, the former on a one-out double by first baseman Han Dong-hee who scored on a single by the next batter and the latter on a pair of walks, a single and a sacrifice fly. The outcome of today’s game was better than his two previous starts, when he gave up four and three earned runs, respectively, while failing to finish a full six innings in either appearance.
Moon Kyung-chan (Kia Tigers): 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 3 K, 0 BB, 11 pitches. Moon was the man on Tuesday, entering the game in the ninth for the Tigers and slamming the door closed on the Giants. He pitched a clean and efficient final frame, striking out all three batters he faced on just 11 pitches; unfortunately, it did not come in a save opportunity. His outing will help deflated his bloated numbers coming into the game, which stood at a 4.50 ERA with a 2.00 WHIP in five innings pitched. Moon finished the 2019 season with a 1.31 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP along with 24 saves, so it’s safe to assume that he’s still getting things going in 2020.
Lee Seung-hyun (Samsung Lions): 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 2 K, 1 BB, 19 pitches. Our top pitching performance for Tuesday goes to another reliever — this time it is Samsung’s Lee, whose outing wasn’t quite as pristine as Moon Kyung-chan’s but nonetheless was among the best on the day. Not only was Lee ineligible for a save opportunity against the Twins, but his scoreless ninth also came in a losing cause as starter David Buchanan gave up 10 runs in five innings to put the game out of reach. Despite a poor performance in his previous appearance on Sunday in which he gave up two earned runs in 1⅔, he has thrown scoreless innings in his three other appearances so far this season, which along with his 1.95 ERA and 1.06 WHIP from last season suggests that blip was merely an outlier.
Wednesday’s Key Matchup
Chris Flexen (Doosan Bears) vs. Koo Chang-mo (NC Dinos): Former New York Met Chris Flexen will take the mound opposite of 23-year-old Koo Chang-mo on Wednesday in our key matchup. The right-handed Flexen enters the match with a 2-0 record with a 3.75 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP in two starts so far in his debut KBO season while left-hander Koo has yet to give up a run so far this year, sporting a 2-0 record with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.64 WHIP — both league leaders for pitchers with 12 or more innings thrown. And speaking of league leaders, the Dinos have surged to start the season, jumping out to an 11-1 record with a three-game lead over the Twins in the third week of KBO play. Doosan is only four games back, so the Bears will be looking to gain some ground on the Dinos though that path is a steep one facing the white-hot Koo.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)