A wild start to the week in the KBO as the top two teams went down to two of the bottom teams, the SK Wyverns won their fifth straight, and the Hanwha Eagles seem incapable of winning, dropping their eighth game in a row. Doosan tightened their grip on third place in the standings by edging out the Wiz, while Kiwoom and Kia both won to remain in a tie for fourth. Also, cats!
The Jamsil cat also made an appearance tonight pic.twitter.com/RUb8Empvzm
— Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO) June 2, 2020
Miss some of the action from last night? Click on the links below to watch!
Kia Tigers: 6, Lotte Giants: 2
Kiwoom Heroes: 15, Hanwha Eagles: 3
Let’s take a look at the top performers from the day, brought to you by Dylan Burris and Adam Dubbin:
Son Ah-seop (RF, Lotte Giants): 3-3, 2B, BB. The Giants weren’t able to get on the board beyond a pair of solo homers from Lee Dae-ho and Kim Joon-tae, but you certainly can’t place any blame on Son Ah-seop, who reached base in all four of his plate appearances. The only Giant to record multiple hits today, the 32-year-old has had a solid start to 2020, leading Lotte in OBP out of the second spot in the lineup. Unfortunately, today it was all for naught as Lotte just couldn’t capitalize on the right fielder’s success, but he remains an integral part of the Giants’ offense.
Yoo Min-sang (1B, Kia Tigers): 4-4, HR, 5 RBI. What a day for Yoo Min-sang, who was a perfect 4-for-4 from the plate, highlighted by a three-run bomb to right-center in the sixth inning to push Kia into the lead they would never relinquish. He plated two more with a single the next inning as Kia added to their lead. The first baseman has never had a lot of power to display, but he’s had a solid start to the year with a .411 OBP. Today was the first homer of the year for the 31-year-old, plating five of the Tigers’ seven total runs on the night.
Oh Jae-il (1B, Doosan Bears): 4-5, 2B, 2 R, RBI. On a night when Doosan had no trouble scoring (which is, to be fair, most nights), the slugger was right in the thick of it all, showcasing his hit tool by collecting three singles and a double. While not necessarily even the most impressive performance on his team, most Bears fans would point to it as the most inspiring part of the night. The 33-year-old returned from the injured list a few days ago, recording a pair of pinch-hit outs followed by a pair of 1-5 outings. Tonight, however, he clarified to the league that he’s just fine—expect him to continue to warm up and add a bit more power very soon.
Mel Rojas Jr. (RF, KT Wiz): 2-5, 2B, HR, 3 RBI. This guy clearly has some kind of magnetic attraction to getting hits. Rojas has failed to record a hit in only two games this season, and this is his jaw-dropping 14th multi-hit game of the season (yes you read that right—out of 24 games). He’s in the top three of practically every category so far in the 2020 season and is a bonafide stud hitting cleanup for the Wiz. His counting stats take a slight hit from the lineup around him, but he has no problem generating offense on his own. The 30-year-old has never made an appearance past AAA, but he’s really started to shine the last few years in the KBO — he’ll be finishing the season in the top tier of the batting leaders yet again.
Jamie Romak (1B, SK Wyverns): 2-3, 2 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB. I’m honestly not sure which is more impressive: that the Wyverns held the Dinos’ league-best offense to just two runs, or that SK racked up eight runs against league’s best pitching staff (seriously, NC is really good). What I can tell you is that Jamie Romak deserves the most credit for the latter — the 34-year-old smacked two doubles (including a bases-clearing, two-outs one for all three of his RBI) and came around to score both times. The Dinos realized they should stop pitching to him and he walked his last two appearances of the game. Romak has been a bright spot for the Wyverns and will have to shoulder a lot of the offensive burden for SK if they want to get back into the standings race.
Kwon Hee-dong (LF, NC Dinos): 1-4, HR. In a rare off day for the Dinos’ offense, they turned to the back half of their lineup for help. Hitting seventh, the left fielder has never posted jaw-dropping offensive numbers, though he’s had a hot start to 2020 with an OPS north of .900 on the season. He smacked a solo shot to left field in the second inning back when the game still was in reach for the Dinos. NC just couldn’t get anything going, mustering up only seven hits. The 29-year-old recorded the only homer of the game for either team, his third on the year.
Tyler Saladino (1B, Samsung Lions): 2-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI. Saladino has had a rough start in his debut KBO season, missing a few games for a thigh injury and struggling to find his groove offensively. He’s been starting to settle in lately, posting an OPS just under 1.300 over his last eight games and racking up 11 RBI during that stretch. He gets a lot of credit for the Lions’ win today, smacking a 2 RBI double in the first to plate the only two runs scored in the game. He added another double in the third but the Lions struggled offensively, only managing six hits all game. If Saladino keeps hitting, the Lions resurgence of the last week (including series’ wins over Lotte and NC) could be for real.
Roberto Ramos (DH, LG Twins): 1-3. So he is human. Ramos is leading the league in pretty much all power numbers; he’s got 10 homers on the year, while Na Sung-bum of the Dinos is in second with just seven. The Twins were just useless offensively on the night, never making it past second base to even threaten to score. Ramos nonetheless pushed his hitting streak to eight games and there’s little reason to fear he’ll be down for long. Though his power will come back to earth a little bit (his current rate would mean 60 homers on the season—for reference, the home run leader last year was Park Byung-ho with 33), he’s for real and should continue to dominate KBO pitching for the rest of the season.
Jung Eun-won (2B, Hanwha Eagles): 2-4, 2B, RBI. It’s hard to overstate how bad Hanwha’s offense has been this season and I imagine there’s a lot of frustration among that batting lineup. The 20-year-old has been one of the lone bright spots for the Eagles, posting a respectable .750 OPS to build on his young career. He was the only Eagle to record multiple hits and the only one to record an extra-base hit on the night. He contributed an RBI on a single in the third, back when it seemed like the game was still competitive. He’ll be a solid contributor for the Eagles in 2020 and a big part of their future, but with the absolutely inept offense, counting stats will be extremely hard to come by this season.
Park Byung-ho (1B, Kiwoom Heroes): 2-3, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB. The reigning home run leader has had a slow start to 2020 but he got back on track today with a big contribution to Kiwoom’s 15-run effort. He reached base on four of his five appearances, scoring three times and plating three more. The 33-year-old got the game started right away, drilling an absolute rocket 425 feet to left field in the top of the first inning to score two and put Kiwoom into the lead, which they would never lose. It’s hard to understate how good Park Byung-ho is — aside from a couple years with the Twins organization, he’s been one of the top sluggers of the KBO for the better portion of the last decade. Even in his current slump (.212 AVG coming into today), he’s maintaining impressive power numbers, drawing walks, and finding ways to be productive that justify his monster salary. This could spark a furious run of power from “Park Bang.”
Won Tae-in (Samsung Lions): 7 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 3 K, 0 BB. Won was our winner on Tuesday putting up a sparkling performance over seven innings against the LG Twins to take the win. He sent the side down in order both in the first and third innings, sandwiching a lone one-out double in the second. The 20-year-old right-hander saw some trouble in the fourth after giving up a pair of singles to start the frame only to send the next three back to the bench. Won retired the side in order over the next two and gave up a leadoff hit in the seventh before finishing off the inning and his outing to earn the win. The second-year starter is now 5-2 this season with a 2.75 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP, having struck out 21 in 33 innings pitched. Tuesday’s performance comes on the heels of a gem he threw last week, tossing eight shutout innings with six strikeouts; hopefully, Won can keep it going in his next outing.
Samsung Lions Won Tae-in
92-mile Good Fastball Strike out pic.twitter.com/wCB1BNAgDw
— 장진혁/KBO and Baseball Analyst/Jang Jin-Hyeok (@J_J_Hyeok92) June 2, 2020
Moon Seung-won (SK Wyverns): 6 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 8 K, 2 BB. Moon had a heck of an outing against the first-place NC Dinos, giving up just a run while his team ran away with the game. The ugliest part of his day was the two extra-base hits he gave up in the first two frames, the second of which was a solo home run that supplied the only offense against him on the day. Otherwise, the 30-year-old right-hander scattered his baserunners over the next few innings before the bullpen came in to relieve him. Moon’s eight strikeouts led the KBO on Tuesday — one more than our entry Lee below — and his efforts earned him his first win of the season. Moon is now 1-2 in 2020 with a bloated 5.62 ERA and 1.57 WHIP, though he has also 26 strikeouts in 26⅔ innings. Hopefully, today’s performance was a good omen for the seven-year veteran who has so far struggled unusually this year.
Lee Min-ho (LG Twins): 7 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 7 K, 2 BB. Lee took the mound opposite of our top pitcher for today, resulting in an exciting pitcher’s duel in which the Twins’ starter got the short end of the stick despite putting up a quality start. The 18-year-old right-hander found trouble early, giving up a pair of runs — his first earned runs of the season — in the first frame after giving up a single, a walk and a double to start the game. He saw a bit of trouble in the third when the Lions had runners on first and third with two outs, but escaped avoiding any damage; he then settled down and cruised through the remainder of his innings. While Lee’s performance was good enough to win on most days, his team failed to provide him with any offensive assistance, saddling him with the loss. The rookie starter is now 2-1 with a 0.71 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP with 9 strikeouts in 16⅓ innings this year — not a shabby start to one’s professional career.
Im Ki-young (Kia Tigers): 6 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 5 K, 1 BB. Kia’s starting hurler Im gets the honorable mention today with a quality start and a win to show for his efforts. The 27-year-old right-hander kept the Lotte Giants off the scoreboard for four frames before giving up a run in the fifth and sixth — both on solo home runs to start the inning. Otherwise, Im kept the Tigers at bay long enough for his team to mount a late-inning surge to seize the victory. Though he did allow eight baserunners, he scattered them sufficiently to minimize any potential harm with the help of five strikeouts. The seven-year veteran is now 2-3 on the season with a 3.67 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP along with 24 strikeouts in 27 innings pitched and the win represented a bounce-back from last week’s poor showing against the KT Wiz.
Wednesday’s Key Matchup
Warwick Saupold (Hanwha Eagles) vs Jo Young-gun (Kiwoom Heroes): Our key matchup for Wednesday features former major leaguer Warwick Saupold, who spent his time in the bigs with the Detroit Tigers, facing off with a fresh young face in Jo Young-gun. Saupold, a 30-year-old right-hander from Australia, has had a good deal of success so far in his one-plus seasons in Korea bringing in a 2-2 record with a 2.65 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP so far in 2020, though he has not been nearly as sharp since his opening day complete-game shut-out of the SK Wyverns. For Jo, this will be his first start after appearing only twice so far in his first two professional seasons in relief. He had a bitter cup of coffee last year giving up three earned runs in ⅓ of an inning but looked much better in his appearance on May 30 throwing a scoreless inning allowing just a walk on 14 pitches.
— Adam Dubbin