There were blowouts abound in Saturday’s KBO action with four of the five games being decided by a margin of at least four runs. The only game that wasn’t a blowout went to extra innings, as the Doosan Bears edged the Lotte Giants in 11 frames. Most key contributions came from unexpected bats for all the winners. As rare as those performances might have been in the context of 2020, Kim Hye-sung showed up everyone as he hit for the cycle to help the Hanwha Heroes zoom to a 14-3 win over the KT Wiz. Samsung Lions starter David Buchanan went seven strong and gave up just one earned run in the team’s 9-1 rout of the first place NC Dinos.
Miss some of the action from last night? Click on the links below to watch!
SK Wyverns: 9, Hanwha Eagles, 3
Doosan Bears: 5, Lotte Giants, 4
Let’s take a look at the top performers from the day, brought to you by Tim Jackson and Jai Correa:
Yoo Ming-sang (1B, Kia Tigers): 3-5, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI. Yoo’s gotten off to a slow start in 2020, with just one run scored and five RBI in 16 games before entering play on Saturday. But his fifth-inning double helped blow the doors open for Kia, who put up seven runs in the frame and effectively locked in the win right then and there. While he hasn’t produced much, he is on pace to play in a career-high amount of games.
Park Chan-ho (SS, Kia Tigers): 1-5, HR, R, 3 RBI. Like Yoo, Park’s biggest impact came in the game-sealing fifth inning for Kia. His homer plated three and sent the Tigers on their way to the win as he doubled his RBI total for the year. It was also only the third dinger he’s hit in 311 KBO games and the first in 23 this season, so don’t hold your breath while waiting for the next one. Check out the glorious bat flip below.
Lee Heung-ryun (C, SK Wyverns): 3-4, HR, R, 2 RBI. Lee has never played in more than 88 games in a KBO season dating back to 2014 and only got into his this season on Saturday. His fifth-inning shot helped put SK ahead for good, as everything that came after then was just insurance. Lee’s three hits were also his first of the season. He was the only Wyvern to register more than one hit in the contest, despite the team racking up nine runs.
Lee Sung-yeol (1B, Hanwha Eagles): 1-3, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB. When your team only registers two hits, and you get one of them, and it’s a three-run dinger that accounts for all your club’s runs, it’s pretty impressive even if the team loses. It was only Lee’s second homer of 2020, though, so he’s got his work cut out for him if he wants to notch his fourth-straight year of at least 21 round-trippers.
Park Dong-won (C, Kiwoom Heroes): 3-4, 2B, HR, 3 R, 4 RBI, BB. Our man Dong-won was seducing baseballs yesterday, notching his sixth homer and seventh double to give him 13 extra spicy, extra-base hits through just 22 games. His double came in the fourth and his homer came in the fifth, which gives us yet another middle innings offensive explosion from a hitter that helped his team cruise to a win. Park is off to his best start in his career with an ISO over .300 and a slugging number approaching .700.
Kim Hye-sung (2B, Kiwoom Heroes): 4-5, 2B, 3B, HR, 3 R, 4 RBI. HIP HOP AAAIIIIIRRRHOOOORRRRNNNNNS! Kim came into play on Saturday batting a deflating .200 with zero extra-base hits. By the end of the night, he had 300% more and was a big reason why Kiwoom stepped back to .500 and into a tie for fourth place in the league. He did his damage from the seven-hole and raised his average for the year to .250.
Choi Joo-hwan (2B, Doosan Bears): 2-4, HR, R, RBI. Choi’s another guy off to a slow start for 2020, coming into Saturday hitting just .232 with an OBP of .293. But when he makes contact, he makes it count. His homer last night was his fifth and he’s up to a spicy 10 extra-base hits. The jack came in the seventh to tie the game, helping Doosan stick around before pulling ahead for the win in extras in what was the closest game of the evening.
Dixon Machado (SS, Lotte Giants): 2-4, BB. Machado’s inclusion here is less because of an explosive night and more reflective of his last 10 games before Saturday after starting off the season like a bat out of hell. He’d registered just four hits in his last 32 plate appearances and was relegated to the nine-hole. His walk was his seventh on the year.
Jeon Jun-woo (LF, Lotte Giants): 3-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI, BB. Jeon sprinkled in as much offense as he could in the Giants’ losing effort, casting his 13th extra-base hit of the year in the fifth inning to give the team a 3-0 lead. His three hits bumped his average up to .307 which could be a harbinger of things to come since the veteran has hit at least .301 in each of the last three seasons.
Kang Min-ho (C, Samsung Lions): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. Kang gonged two home runs and doubled his season total on Saturday. He smoked the dingers in the seventh and eighth inning as the Lions were pouring it on. Coming into the game, Kang was hitting a paltry .167 through 18 games, which we can only assume would make Spongebob Squarepants look as buff as Larry the Lobster. On the other hand, the guy’s in his 17th year in the KBO, so we can give him a break. My top accomplishment over the same time frame is maintaining a haircut that doesn’t involve a bowl.
Tyler Saladino (1B, Samsung Lions): 3-4, 2B, R, 3 RBI. This one had to feel good for Saladino, as he, too, came into play Saturday hitting below .200. His bases-clearing double came in the seventh. Another plus last night for the former major leaguer is how he didn’t strikeout. He’s shown a propensity to whiff in his first crack at the KBO, registering 20 Ks in 20 games.
When you flip like this on your 3rd career home run (1st of 2020), you’re allowed to break things in the next at-bat. pic.twitter.com/IzmiZnaD75
— Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO) May 30, 2020
Lee Min-woo (Kia Tigers): 7 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 8 K, 2 BB. In yesterday’s write up, I said in the matchup preview of today’s game between the Twins and Tigers that Lee Min-woo would struggle and Lim Chan-gyu would succeed – boy, was I wrong. Lim didn’t get out of the fifth after the Tigers scored seven runs in the frame, while Lee pitched his heart out for seven brilliant innings. For the most part, Lee kept the traffic to a minimum, only allowing a run in the sixth despite striking out three batters in the frame. After two rough outings to start the year, Lee has now thrown three straight quality starts.
David Buchanan (Samsung Lions): 7 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 3 K, 2 BB. After this most recent start, Buchanan has a 4.50 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, speaking to an average pitcher. However, how he’s gotten there is truly bizarre. Here’s the number of earned runs he’s given up in every start this season: 5, 0, 10, 0, 1. Should we expect a clean showing next time out? In all seriousness, Buchanan has shown high volatility between starts so far but this showing against the Dinos also shows the potential he has. He throws a wonderful changeup (here’s the slo-mo release) but Buchanan also hits his fair share of batters – after two against the Dinos, he’s now up to four on the season. With two straight good outings, maybe Buchanan has settled in and can find some consistency.
Choi Won-tae (Kiwoom Heroes): 6 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 5 K, 0 BB. Averaging just over six runs per game, the Wiz are a hard team to keep quiet at the plate – but Choi did just that. Over six innings, Choi only faced four over the minimum while striking out five men with no free passes. The only blemish on the outing was a two-run home run by Wiz catcher Jang Sung-woo. Choi has allowed two or fewer earned runs in four of his five starts this season, lowering his season totals to a 3.67 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.
Ricardo Pinto (SK Wyverns): 6 IP, 3 ER, 2 H, 6 K, 6 BB. Pinto has recorded a 4.71 ERA through five starts – it’s not great, but if you consider that his WHIP was 1.78, it’s a miracle that it isn’t much higher. In his last start, Pinto allowed only one earned run over seven innings but gave up 13 hits. Pinto gives up a ton of hits and yields the same number of walks as strikeouts – 17 strikeouts to 17 walks after this most recent start. The only strength Pinto has is run prevention and facing an Eagles offense with the fewest number of runs scored surely helps in that department. With too few strikeouts to mask the inordinate number of hits and walks issued, Pinto is a prime regression candidate.
Sunday’s Key Matchup
Dan Straily (Lotte Giants) vs Chris Flexen (Doosan Bears): Sunday is going to be full of outstanding pitchers, including the Dinos’ Koo Chang-mo, the Wiz’ Bae Je-seong, and the Tigers’ Drew Gagnon. Though if we’re talking pure matchup, I think the Giants and Bears have that working for them. For the Giants, Straily rebounded from a poor start against the Tigers with six and one-third innings and seven strikeouts against the Lions. On the other side, Chris Flexen is looking to repeat his eight-inning ten strikeout performance against the Dinos a couple starts back. With both Straily and Flexen in the top ten for strikeouts, I’d expect a ton of punchouts and a low scoring affair tomorrow.
— Jai Correa