I simply cannot get enough of the Korean Baseball Organization, the contact-oriented style of play lends to more balls in play and generally exciting games. Last night we were once again blessed with a bevy of interesting and unusual games. The Twins scored two runs in the top of the first, and after that nobody crossed the plate the rest of the game. The Dinos overwhelmed the Bears with a nine-run ninth inning barrage to move to 12-2 on the season, and the Heroes came back from down 5-0 to tie the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and walk it off in extras.
Miss some of the action from last night? Click on the links below to watch!
Let’s take a look at the top performers from the day, brought to you by Josh Kurzer and Adam Dubbin:
Noh Si-hwan (SS, Hanwha Eagles): 2-4,2 R, RBI, HR. In a game where seven different Eagles crossed the plate and six drove in runs it could have been anybody on this list. I’m going to give the nod to 19-year-old shortstop Noh Si-hwan, who launched his bat into orbit after hitting his first home run of the season last night. The youngster struggled in 2019 and was thrust into his first start of the season due to a myriad of injuries to Hanwha infielders. It is not easy for any player to step into the lineup without getting consistent reps, let alone a 19-year-old at a premium position. If Noh can keep swinging the bat well he will be rewarded with more playing time throughout the season.
Jo Yong-ho (LF, KT Wiz): 2-3, 2 2B, R, RBI, 2 BB. The 30-year-old left fielder is off to a mind-numbing start to the season. Prior to last night Jo was batting .565 in 23 at-bats, and he upped the average to a breathtaking .577 with two hits last night. Jo reached base 4 out of his 5 plate appearances last night, both of hits went for extra bases and he added two walks as well. His at-bats have been limited so far, but as long as Jo keeps raking KT cannot afford to leave him out of the lineup.
Chae Eun-sung (RF, LG Twins): 1-4, HR, R, 2 RBI. LG’s RBI leader came through again for his team in the rubber match of their series against Samsung last night. Chae took Won Tae-in deep in the top of the first for a two-run home run, and those would be the only two runs to cross the plate for the rest of the game. The Twins will Chae to keep his bat hot in their upcoming series against the Wiz, who boast the number one scoring offense in the league.
Lee Dae-ho (1B, Lotte Giants): 3-4, RBI. Lee’s hot start to the season continued last night, as the Lotte first basemen hit three singles and drove in Lotte’s only run during a disappointing 6-1 loss to the Kia Tigers. Lee is batting .377 on the young season, which is good for the team lead. The Giants are just 3-7 in their last ten and will look to right the ship and overtake the Kiwoom Heroes in the standings in their next series.
Hwang Dae-in (1B, Kia Tigers): 2-4, R, 2 RBI. This series was a coming-out party for Kia’s young first baseman. His first three starts of the season came in the last three games, and he made the most of them. Hwang finished the series with five hits in twelve at-bats, two of those hits coming last night in the form of early-game RBI singles.
Choi Hyung-woo (DH, Kia Tigers: 0-1, 3 BB, R. They say a walk is as good as a hit, and this Kia slugger finds himself in the best hitters column for the second day in a row after reaching base on balls three times last night. Yesterday Choi had a multi-hit game including a home run and today he was held hitless, but his teammates will be happy with his selflessness at the dish.
Aaron Altherr (OF, NC Dinos): 3-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB. Altherr must have read yesterday’s column and felt called out because he delivered big time for the Dinos last night. The Dinos big offseason acquisition has struggled mightily early in the season and hit eighth in the order last night, slipping all the way down from the two-hole he started the season in. Each of Altherr’s at-bats was better than the last. He grounded out in his first at-bat, legged out an infield single in his next one, doubled into the gap after that, and punctuated his strong performance with a three-run home run to put the game out of reach in the ninth.
Park Don-wong (C, Kiwoom Heroes): 3-5, 2B, R, 3 RBI. The Kiwoom catcher came up clutch in multiple spots for his team last night picking up three base hits and driving in as many runs. After going down 5-0 early in the game, Park hit an RBI double in the fourth inning to put his team on the board and spark a comeback. In the very next inning Park delivered an RBI single to tie the game at five, then when the Wyverns retook the lead he did it again in the ninth. With Kiwoom down to its final out Park lined a base hit to left-center that scored Kim Ha-seong from second and they would go on to win it in the ninth.
– Josh Kurzer
Im Ki-young (Kia Tigers): 8 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 4 K, 0 BB. After giving up a run in the first inning, Im settled down and threw a gem nearly going the distance in his team’s 6-1 win against the Lotte Giants. The win was his first this season after a couple of shaky outings to start the season in which he gave up nine runs — four earned — in eight innings, though he managed to strike out 10 as well. Im has not recorded an ERA under five since 2017, so it is unlikely that today’s outing was a sign of a turn-around, but there is always hope.
Lee Min-ho (LG Twins): 5⅓ IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 2 K, 4 BB. Lee got his first start of the season after throwing four relief innings without allowing an earned run to start the season, earning the win against the Samsung Lions. He continued that streak, allowing his only hit with two outs in the bottom of the first, and then proceeding to no-hit the Lions for 4⅔ innings to notch the win; his four walks were a bit of a blemish on his stat line, however. The 18-year-old rookie right-hander is off to a sizzling start to his professional career.
Won Tae-in (Samsung Lions): 7 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 6 K, 2 BB. On the opposite mound from Lee was Won, who had a solid outing of his own despite getting saddled with his first loss of the year. Coming into Thursday, he had been up and down to start his sophomore campaign, winning his opening game with a similarly solid performance while getting bombed in his last match. The 20-year-old right-hander will have something to build on next time out after today’s performance.
Jo Sang-woo (Kiwoom Heroes): 2 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 2 K, 0 BB. Our honorable mention pitcher today is Jo, who came into the game against the SK Wyverns in the ninth inning with the game all tied up and held them scoreless to earn the extra-inning walk-off win. It took him only 24 pitches to get through two frames — including a pair of strikeouts on the last two batters he faced — and he was a beneficiary of a double play on a liner to first after a double in the ninth to get him out of trouble. The 25-year-old closer has been pristine so far this year, having given up just one unearned run in six appearances while recording a perfect 5-for-5 in save opportunities this season.
Friday’s Key Matchup
Warwick Saupold (Hanwha Eagles) vs Kim Young-gyu (NC Dinos): Former Detroit Tiger Saupold has put together a pretty nice career so far in his one-plus year in Korea, providing a solid presence in the rotation for the Eagles. He enters Friday sporting a 1.64 ERA along with a microscopic 0.82 WHIP over 22 innings so far. Though he has only won one start — his opening day complete-game shutout — Saupold has reliably eaten innings and kept the games close so far. On the other mound, 20-year-old left-hander Kim comes in on the heels of a no-decision in which he threw six innings of one-run ball against the SK Wyverns. The first-place Dinos have been charging through the schedule these first few weeks and an adequate outing from Kim should put him in line for a win against the bottom-feeding Eagles.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)