In a complete reversal of last Tuesday, KBO pitchers returned from their off day this week well-rested and ready to go, with quite a few low-scoring affairs across the slate of games today. The Dinos, Twins, and Tigers all continue to win, while the Bears came from behind to explode for five runs in the bottom of the eighth to hand the Wyverns yet another loss in rather excruciating fashion. Lotte eked out a 1-0 victory in a pitching duel against the Samsung Lions. Overall, the winning teams continued to win, and the losing teams continued to lose.
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Preston Tucker (RF, Kia Tigers): 2-4, 2B, R, RBI, BB. Tucker hit the only extra-base hit of the game, a double down the right-field line in the fifth inning. He added a run scored and an RBI as well. Tucker has had a strong start to 2020, building on a successful campaign from last year by pushing his OPS north of 1.000, adding a healthy dose of power to his high average from 2019. He’s been proven to be mortal, losing a seven-game hitting streak by going a combined 0-15 in his last three games, but today was a nice bounceback.
Mel Rojas Jr. (LF, KT Wiz): 2-4. I know, I know, that’s not a particularly impressive line. But on a day when the Wiz mustered only four hits against Kia’s pitching, Rojas was able to put together yet another multi-hit performance, his 12th of the year. No, that’s not a typo—Rojas has only six games where he didn’t get multiple hits (and only two games without any hits). He’s been a huge part of KT’s offense, which was the best in the league going into today, and figures to remain a huge offensive threat in the cleanup spot. He isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, either.
Jung Jin-ho (LF, Hanwha Eagles): 2-4. Not only is this not particularly impressive, but this was also by far the most impressive line for the Eagles offense today. Hanwha managed only three hits all game, and Jung Jin-ho was responsible for two of them. He did his part, but the feeble Eagles offense couldn’t make anything of it. The 31-year-old is batting third in his first season with the Eagles after a career with Doosan, but with a miserable .274 SLG going into this game, that says more about the Eagles than it does about him.
Roberto Ramos (1B, LG Twins): 1-3, HR, BB. How to follow up a walk-off grand slam? With what Ramos does best: another home run. He may not be getting the number of hits that some of the other stars of the young KBO season are, but he keeps piling on the homers—today with his league-leading eighth home run to keep his season OPS over 1.200, second-best in the league. He’s been a reliable source of power and RBIs from the cleanup spot for the second-place Twins and looks likely to keep mashing in one of the better offenses in the league.
Jeong Eui-yoon (DH, SK Wyverns): 1-2, 2 R, 2 BB. The primary left-fielder for the Wyverns had one of his best performances of the season, which admittedly is telling on SK’s league-worst offense more than anything else. On a day when the Wyverns couldn’t muster up any power, Jeong did the most important thing well: getting on base. He reached three times, setting himself up for two scores. The third overall pick back in 2005, the 33-year-old has struggled this season, with a SLG below .300 and nearly as many strikeouts as hits. This could be the much-needed spark to get going, though his offensive output has steadily declined since 2015, finishing with an OPS under .800 last season.
Hur Kyoung-min (3B, Doosan Bears): 2-2, 3B, 2 R, BB. On a rare off day for Doosan’s offense, Hur Kyoung-min came through for the Bears. He reached base on all three plate appearances and contributed the best extra-base hit of the game: a leadoff triple in the third. He would score that inning as well as in Doosan’s five-run eighth inning. The 29-year-old has had a solid if unexciting offensive career, but it has to be encouraging for the Bears that they can get help from deep in their lineup when their stars have a bad day.
Kim Heon-gon (RF, Samsung Lions): 0-2, 2 SB, 2 BB. Samsung only mustered four hits as they were shut out by Dan Straily and the Lotte Giants, but Kim Heon-gon was able to get on base twice, as good a performance as anyone else on the Lions. He tacked on a stolen base both times, but Samsung’s inept offense just couldn’t string anything together to score. Kim has had a slow start to the season, but these were his first two successful stolen bases of the year after getting caught stealing three times. He’ll likely never be a reliable source of power, but if he can continue to get on base and be a threat along the basepaths, he’ll remain valuable to the struggling Samsung offense.
Lee Dae-ho (1B, Lotte Giants): 2-4, 2B, RBI. The highest-paid player in the KBO delivered today, smacking a single into left field to score the winning (and only) run of the game for Lotte in the eighth inning. He added a double in the second inning. The 37-year-old had a bit of a down year in 2019, with his OPS falling below .800 for the first time since 2004, but he’s back on track to start 2020 with an OPS closing in on .900 and coming through in the clutch for the Giants. It seems unlikely he’ll move out of the cleanup spot anytime soon, and figures to be an integral part of Lotte’s offense this season, as he has in the nearly two decades he’s been in the KBO (not counting the several years he spent outside South Korea).
Park Byung-ho (1B, Kiwoom Heroes): 2-3, R, BB. Kiwoom struggled in this one, unable to accrue any hits for extra bases and only managing two runs. Star slugger Park Byung-ho hasn’t quite lived up to his monster salary so far this season, but came through today reaching base in three of his four appearances, scoring one of Kiwoom’s two runs. The 2019 HR leader hasn’t showcased his trademark power this year, with a slugging under .400 (and a batting average under .200), but it’s only a matter of time before the 33-year-old kicks it into gear. In the meantime, he finds ways to remain productive for the Heroes, with 13 walks through the first 19 games.
Aaron Altherr (CF, NC Dinos): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, SB, BB. Altherr finally seems to be getting comfortable in the KBO, stuffing the stat sheet with a three-run bomb to left in the eighth inning to put the game out of reach. Altherr added an RBI single in the second inning and stole a base after drawing a walk in the sixth. Altherr has been up and down but has put together several monster performances in the last week or so. If this is the start of something real (which it very well could be), the Dinos are going to be downright scary with how productive their core lineup has already been this season. Altherr is stuck near the bottom of the lineup right now, but if he keeps up days like this he’ll be moved up in no time.
Interested in how some of these offensive stat lines compare to their MLB counterparts? Check out our breakdown of comparing the two leagues and see how insane Roberto Ramos‘ eight home runs through 18 games really is.
Drew Gagnon (Kia Tigers): 7 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 8 K, 0 BB. Gagnon put up a sparkling performance on Tuesday, carrying his Tigers to victory over the KT Wiz. The 29-year-old right-hander had a couple of rough patches — after keeping his opponent off the bases the first two frames, an error and a single in the third while a hit batter and single in the fourth made things interesting, but Gagnon was able to escape unscathed both times; he threw two clean innings to finish his outing. The former New York Met has now held his opponent scoreless over his last two starts — lowering his ERA and WHIP to 2.73 and 0.95, respectively — and the win was his second of the year after two rough outings to open the schedule. He now has 31 strikeouts in 23⅓ innings pitched, which places him at third in the KBO in total Ks and the top spot when it comes to K/9.
Drew Gagnon tossed his second consecutive scoreless outing today for the Kia Tigers:
7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayerMMO) May 26, 2020
Choi Chae-heung (Samsung Lions): 7 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 5 K, 3 BB. Speaking of sparkling, Choi had a gem of an outing today keeping his team in the game with seven shutout innings, only to lose the lead in the bottom of the eighth to take the no-decision. Much like Gagnon, the first real threat in the game he faced was in the third when he escaped after loading the bases on a couple of walks and a throwing error, pretty much cruising the rest of the way. The 25-year-old left-hander is now 3-0 on the season with two quality starts while sporting a 1.88 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. He has apparently taken a step forward in his second season of KBO play
Koo Chang-mo (NC Dinos): 7 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 7 K, 4 BB. Hey everybody, it’s Koo Chang-mo day! Unlike most days when he pitches, Koo did not make the top of our list but still pitched well enough to place third. However, make no mistake, the 23-year-old left-hander still took to the mound with his typical tenacity, allowing an early second-inning run before getting a boost from his offense in the bottom of the frame, after which he coasted for the win; a pair of walks in the third and the seventh were only baserunners allowed the rest of his outing. His seven strikeouts keep him tied for most in the league with Dan Straily (up next) with 32 and improves his ERA to a microscopic 0.66 over 29 innings pitched in his rookie campaign.
Can't tell if the hitter is about to go super saiyan or break dance. pic.twitter.com/RTT5OVSHup
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) May 26, 2020
Dan Straily (Lotte Giants): 6⅓ IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 7 K, 4 BB. Last, but certainly not least on this list, is former major leaguer Dan Straily, who as mentioned earlier managed to maintain a tie for the most strikeouts this season by sending down seven batters over 6⅓ in the no-decision victory over the Samsung Lions. Much like his opponent Choi, he kept the Lions off the scoreboard for his entire outing, allowing his Giants to remain in a game that ended up being a pitcher’s duel. Straily started off strong but began seeing a bit of trouble in the fourth frame, though he managed to dodge any damage until he was removed after walking two and striking out one to start the seventh. The 31-year-old right-hander appears to be back on track after a rough last two starts and now holds a 2-2 record with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP in his first season overseas.
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) May 26, 2020
Wednesday’s Key Matchup
Im Ki-young (Kia Tigers) vs Odrisamer Despaigne (KT Wiz): This matchup is easily the best of the day, with Kia’s Im (1-2, 3.38 ERA, 1.06 WHIP) facing off with KT’s former major leaguer Despaigne (1-0, 2.25 ERA, 0.96 WHIP) in a battle between two grizzled veteran pitchers. The former is coming off an impressive eight-inning outing against the Lotte Giants, in which he allowed just an earned run on five hits and no walks while striking out four for the win. The latter was decent against the Samsung Lions his last time out, lasting six while giving up two runs — one earned — for the victory. Neither pitcher has given up a home run this season so far, which could pose a challenge for Im as the Wiz currently sit at third in the league in home runs hit, while Kia offers much less of a threat to Despaigne with its average power production.