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Recapping Day 18 of the KBO

All you need to know from Day 18 of KBO action.

A thrilling 9th inning rally capped off by a grand slam for the LG Twins allows them to keep their hold on 2nd place.  The NC Dinos continue their dominant 2020 with a 10-5 victory over the Hanwha Eagles and are now 14-3, 3 games ahead of the LG Twins. The Samsung Lions handed a mighty 13-0 beatdown to the Doosan Bears and…wait, do my eyes deceive me? The SK Wyverns won a game! Not only are victories rare for the 2020 Wyverns, it also came at the expense of the Kia Tigers, who were steadily climbing the standings during their 5 game win streak. The Tigers are now tied with the Kiwoom Heroes for 4th place at 10-8.

 

Miss some of the action from last night? Click on the links below to watch!

LG Twins: 9, KT Wiz: 7

NC Dinos: 10, Hanwha Eagles: 5

SK Wyverns: 4, Kia Tigers: 3

Samsung Lions: 13, Doosan Bears: 0

Lotte Giants: 2, Kiwoom Heroes: 0

 

Let’s take a look at the top performers from the day, brought to you by Liam Casey and Matt Wallach:

 

Best Hitters

 

Lee Yong-kyu (CF, Hanwha Eagles): 2-4, HR, 3 RBI, R, BB. Lee did his best to keep the Eagles in the game on Sunday, smacking a 6th inning 3-run homer that put his team up 4-3. Unfortunately, the Dinos would answer back with 3 runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning on their way to a 10-5 victory. The home run was Lee’s first of the year and given the fact that he has never tallied more than 5 in any of his 16 KBO seasons, it was a pleasant albeit futile effort for the Eagles’ center fielder. 

Kang Jin-sung (LF/1B, NC Dinos): 3-5, HR, 2 RBI, R. The 26 year old Kang is off to a wonderful start in 2020, hitting a robust .485/.525/.848 with 4 home runs and 15 RBI. His RBI single on Sunday capped off a 3 run 6th inning for the Dinos, and he even managed to pad their lead with a solo shot in the 8th. Kang and the Dinos are sitting comfortably in 1st place at 14-3.

Noh Soo-kwang (CF/LF, SK Wyverns): 2-4, RBI, R. While the Wyverns’ leadoff man didn’t exactly fill up the score sheet, he did play the hero on Sunday – hitting a 12th inning, 2 out, opposite field RBI single for the walk off victory. He also scored one of his own in the 3rd after a leadoff triple. The speedy outfielder has been one of the few bright spots for the Wyverns so far in an otherwise bleak 2020 season. 

Bae Jeong-dae (CF, KT Wiz): 1-4, 3 RBI, R. Bae got the Wiz on the board early in this one, hitting a 3 run double in the top of the 2nd that gave his team a 4-3 lead. Ultimately, it would be squandered by the Wiz’s pitching staff, but they refused to go down without a fight. In 4 very mediocre seasons so far, the outfielder has never appeared in more than 66 games or made any sort of impact at the plate, but he did his best to keep the tough-luck Wiz in this game. After Monday’s off day the Wiz will start a 3 game set with the Kia Tigers.

Roberto Ramos (DH, LG Twins): 1-5, HR, 4 RBI, R. Ramos collected only 1 hit on Sunday, but I don’t think the Twins mind very much. Ramos capped off an awesome 9th inning rally for the Twins, hitting a walk off grand slam that moved his team to 11-6 on the season. Ramos is very much enjoying his new home in the KBO, as the cleanup man has now collected 7 home runs while maintaining a .364/.462/.764 batting line. Still only 25, Ramos never managed to make an impact with the Colorado Rockies, even after a 2019 AAA season in which he hit 30 home runs and a .980 OPS. 

Kim Hyun-soo (LF, LG Twins): 2-4, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB. Ramos wasn’t the only Twins player making a difference on Sunday. Kim Hyun-soo not only hit a game tying double in the bottom of the 2nd, but also contributed an RBI single during the 5 run 9th inning rally and was standing on 2nd base for his teammate’s grand slam. Kim has been enjoying another characteristically great season in 2020, slashing .379/.423/.561 good for a 154 wRC+. After a somewhat disappointing 2 year stint in the MLB with the Orioles and Phillies, Kim is back to his high level production in Korea. 

Lee Hak-ju (SS, Samsung Lions): 1-3, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB. Although his 3rd inning sacrifice fly was all that the Lions would need to dispatch the Bears, the former Cub, Ray, and Giant threw in a 2 run double in the 5th inning as well. Lee hasn’t been a revelation at the dish for the Lions, but his performance on Sunday was just what the Lions have needed after an underwhelming 6-12 start to 2020. 

Kim Heon-gon (RF, Samsung Lions): 3-5, 2 RBI. Another contributor to the Lions’ offensive outburst, Kim collected 3 singles, 2 of which drove in runs. Although he was caught stealing in the 2nd inning, Kim has tallied double digit steals in each of his last 3 seasons and has so far drastically cut down on his strikeouts (4.2 K%) and noticeable increased his patience at the plate (12.5 BB%). The 31 year old will look to improve upon his so far deflated .190/.292/.214 batting line when he and the Lions take on the Lotte Giants on Tuesday.

-Liam Casey

Best Pitchers

 

Seo Jun-won (Lotte Giants): 6.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 4 K, 1 BB, 101 pitches: There weren’t many top pitchers going today in the KBO, but Seo Jun-won was the standout pitcher of the day, as the nineteen-year-old pitcher went six and two-thirds innings of shutout baseball as the Lotte Giants held off the Kiwoom Heroes in a rare pitching duel (more on the Heroes’ starter a bit later). After leaving the game, the Giants lead was in danger a few times, but ultimately, the Giants bullpen was able to close the door and give the young pitcher his second win of the season. As to be expected for a young nineteen-year-old pitcher, things have been a little rocky for Jun-won Seo thus far in 2020, this now being his fourth start of the season, he’s now had two really good starts, and two really bad starts. His earned-run totals in those four starts look like this: 0 ER, 5 ER, 7 ER, 0 ER, so he’s shown the ability to be successful in the league despite his young age, and now it should be more about trying to be more consistent on the mound. Overall, a fine start for the youngster, and he’ll look to keep up the momentum in the future.

David Buchanan (Samsung Lions): 7 IP, 0 ER, 9 H, 5 K, 0 BB, 105 pitches: It wasn’t the cleanest seven shutout innings, with nine hits allowed, but Buchanan was able to manage and work around it, as the Lions cruised to an easy 13-0 victory over the Doosan Bears. There haven’t been many easy victories for Samsung thus far in the season, as they have now slipped to ninth place in the standings, but Buchanan was able to take some of the load off for the team today and help out a gassed bullpen that had worked 17.2 innings in the two previous games of the series. For Buchanan, the former Phillie, his first season in the KBO hasn’t been entirely smooth, as like the aforementioned Seo Jun-won, Buchanan has now made four starts and he now has two starts where he pitched seven innings of shutout baseball, combined with two disastrous starts, including a 10 run shellacking at the hands of the LG Twins in his last start. Buchanan will surely hope that the worst is behind him, and even though it wasn’t the prettiest game ever pitched, this start could give him confidence going forward.

Lee Min-woo (Kia Tigers): 7 IP, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 H, 2 K, 2 BB, 102 pitches: Sunday’s slate of games did feature a lot of low scores (relatively speaking), but those performances didn’t exactly translate into many overall great pitching lines. Lee Min-woo’s performance against the SK Wyverns is a good example of this. Sure, seven innings of one-run ball is more than fine, and the team is surely not going to complain about it at all, but in terms of great pitching, it’s hard for me to get excited about a two strikeout performance. If those two unearned runs were earned ones instead, we’d definitely look at this start a lot differently. On the other side of this matchup, SK’s Ricardo Pinto also pitched well in terms of earned runs with just one allowed but he also gave up 13 hits. Both starters left the game after seven innings, and handed it over to the bullpens, who pitched well for both sides, as the Tigers scored one unearned run in the ninth to push the game to extras where SK finally prevailed in the 12th. For the 27-year-old Min-woo Lee, this is pretty much a typical start, although this one was his best of the season in terms of earned runs, but three total runs match up with his three other starts of the season.

Choi Won-tae (Kiwoom Heroes): 6 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 3 K, 0 BB, 70 pitches: The other half of the pitching duel between the Lotte Giants and the Kiwoom Heroes, it ultimately didn’t matter how well the Heroes pitchers pitched, as the Giants pitching completely shut down their offense, but still, this was a good start for the 23-year-old Won-tae Choi, and perhaps his best of the season. He pitched just 2.3 innings in his last start against SK, giving up five runs with four of them being unearned, so this was a good start to turn the page and get back on track. It ultimately came with him taking the loss, but it was still a good start, even if it was a little bittersweet, but still, a good result for the pitcher and although the team lost, they’ll surely be happy with this performance.

 

Tuesday’s Key Matchup

 

Lee Seung-ho (Kiwoom Heroes) vs. Koo Chang-mo (NC Dinos): Monday is the common off-day in the KBO, so there won’t be any games tomorrow, but Pitcher List will still have KBO coverage as Alex Fast will wrap up and review this past week in the KBO. For Tuesday however, I believe we’ll see the league’s best pitcher in Koo Chang-mo take the bump for the first place NC Dinos against the Kiwoom Heroes, a team that needs a good week. It won’t be an easy start to the week for the Heroes though, as Koo has the league’s best ERA at a just insane 0.41 make in 22 innings pitched. A player that Ales Fast dubbed as the “Korean Matt Boyd without the home run issues”, this pitcher is quickly becoming a must-watch for fans of the KBO, as he is just 23-years-old and now seems to be taking off as a pitcher and becoming the ace of the league’s best team. On the other side, the Heroes will send out 21-year-old Lee Seung-ho, who is coming off his best start of the season, where he struck out seven and allowed two runs in five innings. It won’t be an easy task to try and shut down the Dinos offense that ranks third in the KBO in terms of runs scored per game at 6.00, and he may need to be as close to perfect as possible considering who is pitching for the other side, but either way, a week that starts off with Chang-mo Koo on the bump, is a good way to start the week, and this should be a good series between two of the better teams in the league.

-Matt Wallach

Alex Fast

An FSWA award winner for Research Article of the Year, Alex is the co-host of On The Corner and host of the weekend edition of First Pitch. He received his masters in interactive telecommunications from NYU's ITP. All opinions are Alex's and Alex's alone. A die-hard Orioles fan, Alex is well versed in futility and broken pitching prospects.

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