Today was an uncharacteristically low scoring day by KBO standards, featuring just two games in which both teams scored more than one run. The NC Dinos and LG Twins finished off series sweeps over the Kiwoom Heroes and Hanwha Eagles, respectively. On the other hand the SK Wyverns avoided being swept by the Doosan Bears with a 6-1 victory, and the Samsung Lions and KT Wiz both took the rubber match of their series’ against the Lotte Giants and the Kia Tigers.
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Let’s take a look at the top performers from the day, brought to you by Josh Kurzer and Adam Dubbin:
Preston Tucker (RF, Kia Tigers): 3-5, HR, 3 R, 2B, 2 RBI. After becoming a regular in this column early in the season Tucker has fallen into a bit of a slump. Hitting just .172 over his last seven, Tucker needed a performance like today’s to get some swagger back and return to early season form. The American right fielder collected three hits, including a home run, and fell a triple shy of the cycle in his team’s loss to KT.
Na Ji-wan (LF, Kia Tigers): 2-2, HR, R, 3 RBI, 2 BB. Kia’s corner outfielders accounted for 100 percent of its scoring output today. Tucker finished the game with two RBIs, and the other three belong to left fielder Na Ji-Wan. Na brought Tucker home twice in the game, first with a single in the third inning and then with a home run in the fifth. Na walked in his other two plate appearances, reaching base all four times he stepped to the plate.
Kim Min-sung (3B, LG Twins): 3-4, RBI. In a game with limited offensive output, Kim’s contributions loomed large in a 3-0 victory for his team. Kim smacked an RBI single into left field his first at-bat, and followed it up with singles in each of his next two at-bats for a three-hit night. This was Kim’s second consecutive multi-hit game, and he has now reached base safely in four of his last five.
Noh Soo-kwang (CF, SK Wyverns): 3-5 2 R. Noh’s strong start to the season has been a silver lining in what has been a nightmare opening month for the SK Wyverns. The leadoff hitter provided a spark plug to the cellar-dwelling offense of the Wyverns with three singles, crossing the plate twice in SK’s win over Doosan.
Choi Jeong (3B, SK Wyverns): 2-3, 3 RBI, R, 2 2B. In contrast to the bright spot provided by Noh, Choi’s lack of production has been a big disappointment to the Wyverns thus far. Choi has hit no fewer than 29 home runs in each of his last four seasons, but has managed just one to this point through the 2020 season. A two double performance against Doosan today proved he still has pop in his bat, and it will be needed if the Wyverns are to turn around their season.
Kim Heon-gon (RF, Samsung Lions): 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI. The discourse of this game will be centered around the 18-year-old Hoo Yoon-dong and his outstanding start and deservedly so, but he can thank right fielder Kim Heon-gon for the offensive production that earned him his first W. Kim kicked off the game’s scoring with an RBI double in the second inning, and added another RBI later on with a single in the sixth.
Seo Keon-chang (2B, Kiwoom Heroes): 3-5, 2 RBI. Kiwoom’s leadoff man singled three times in a game that featured 15 total runs. Seo’s RBIs came in the second inning, where he drove in two runs with a base hit to give his team the lead at the time. Kiwoom’s second baseman is north of the .300 mark as of now, sitting at a .317 batting average through 21 games.
Park Don-wong (C, Kiwoom Heroes): 3-4, HR, 2 RBI, R, BB. Park has been the best catcher in the KBO so far this season, and his three-hit game today showed he has no intention of slowing down. The Kiwoom slugger joined Preston Tucker by falling just a triple short of the cycle, but seeing as how the catcher has just five triples since 2010 I do not imagine that hitting for the cycle was ever in the cards for him.
Na Sung-bum (DH, NC Dinos): 2-3, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, BB. The Dinos designated hitter missed much of last season with an injury, and seems to be making up for lost time the way he is punishing baseballs in the 2020 campaign. Na delivered for the first place Dinos once again, reaching base in all four of his plate appearance and hitting two bombs to lead the Dinos to their league-leading 16th win of the season.
Yang Eui-ji (C, NC Dinos): 2-4, HR, 4 RBI, 2 R. Yang has been one of the KBO’s premiere catchers for years now, with a batting average of .305 in 1,201 career games. Tonight was just another walk in the park for Yang, collecting four RBIs in the win. Yang brought in a run with a single in the third inning, and hit a go-ahead three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to give his team a 7-5 lead that they never looked back from.
Casey Kelly (LG Twins): 6 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 10 K, 3 BB. Former major leaguer Casey Kelly had a heck of an outing on Thursday to earn the win against the Hanwha Eagles, throwing six innings of shutout ball allowing four hits and three walks and leading the KBO with 10 strikeouts on the day. However, between all of those strikeouts and the seven baserunners he allowed, along with some shoddy defense behind him, it took 97 pitches to labor through those six frames; his only clean innings came in the fourth and sixth. The 30-year-old right-hander is now 2-0 with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP during his second season in Korea and will look to get back closer to his 2019 season form in his next outing.
6 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 10 K
Just look at some of these curveballs… pic.twitter.com/YUq1H2gzmo
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) May 28, 2020
Lee Geon-wook (SK Wyverns): 5⅓ IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 3 K, 1 BB. Lee is the only other starter to make today’s list with a performance that started off sparkling to earn the win against the Doosan Bears in his first start of the season. The 25-year-old right-hander had a perfect game going through 5⅓ innings before a double by shortstop Kim Jae-ho broke it up; his lone run allowed came in the sixth on a one-out triple followed by a single, which ended his day. Lee is now 1-0 with a 1.10 ERA and a 0.73 WHIP in his third year of KBO competition — a vast improvement over the cups of coffee he has had over the past couple of years.
Woo Kyu-min (Samsung Lions): 1⅓ IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 3 K, 0 BB. The last two pitchers on our list came in as relievers and helped their teams keep their games close, starting with Samsung’s Woo. The 35-year-old veteran entered the game in the eighth with two outs, a runner on second and another already across the plate, and promptly got shortstop Dixon Machado to pop out to end the threat. He then sent down the top of the batting order all on strikeouts in the ninth to earn his second save of the season. So far this year Woo is sporting a bloated 5.90 ERA along with an oddly small 0.98 WHIP in 6⅓ innings pitched this year and will continue to get a chance to bring that ERA down further as he fills in for suspended closer Oh Seung-hwan.
Lee Tae-yang (Hanwha Eagles): 1⅓ IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 2 K, 0 BB. Lee did not figure in the decision in this — for the better probably, as his team lost — but he put up a valiant effort in the later innings to keep his Eagles in the game against the LG Twins. Taking the ball from reliever Kim Bum-soo with two outs in the seventh, he struck out third baseman Kim Min-sung to end the frame and went on to pitch a clean eighth, adding another strikeout to his total. The 29-year-old right-hander has had a shaky season leading up to today’s game, entering with a 7.20 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP in five innings pitched. Hopefully, Thursday’s outing is the boost he needs to get his season on track.
Friday’s Key Matchup
Kim Min-woo (Hanwha Eagles) vs Kim Tae-hoon (SK Wyverns): Our T.G.I.F. matchup for tomorrow has Hanwha’s Kim (0-1, 2.25 ERA, 0.96 WHIP) facing off against SK’s Kim (0-2, 2.84 ERA, 0.95) in a battle between two winless pitchers who nonetheless carry appreciable stat lines. The Eagles’ 24-year-old right-hander is having something of a breakout year so far after putting up some ugly numbers over his first five seasons in the KBO, while the Wyverns’ 30-year-old left-hander appears to be riding a performance plateau that stretches back to the 2018 season. The former has struck out 25 and walked 10 this year over 24 innings pitched while the latter has 13 Ks and nine bases-on-balls over 19 innings during the 2020 campaign. Something will likely have to give in this fight between two cellar-dwelling teams.