The top teams won, the bottom teams lost, and the middle teams compacted, as week five of KBO action came to a close. NC and Doosan each concluded a sweep to secure the top two spots, Hanwha lost their 14th game in a row, and Lotte swept the Wiz to land just a half-game behind the stumbling Kia Tigers.
Miss some of the action from last night? Click on the links below to watch!
Doosan Bears: 3, Kia Tigers: 2
Samsung Lions: 3, SK Wyverns: 0
Let’s take a look at the top performers from the day, brought to you by Dylan Burris and Matt Wallach.
Kim Ho-ryeong (CF, Kia Tigers): 2-3, 2B, 3B, 2 R. The Tigers have really struggled to score against a weak Doosan pitching staff, and today was no different. Kim Ho-ryeong scored both runs for the Tigers, cracking a double to lead off the first and adding on a sliding triple at the start of the 6th. The 28-year-old has been sidelined with a back injury and only made his 2020 debut at the beginning of the week. He’s proven to be a much-needed spark for the Tigers, slugging .833 in his first six games of the season despite a high strikeout rate. He hasn’t played in the KBO since 2017, but this kind of hitting could keep him and the Tigers in contention.
Park Se-hyuk (C, Doosan Bears): 3-4, 2B, R, RBI. Doosan has to be happy about this kind of production from Park Se-hyuk, who stepped up when the Doosan offense struggled today (José Fernández went 0-5 with 3 K) to propel them to the series sweep. The primary catcher for Doosan has been fine to start the season, showcasing limited power but decent contact and solid plate discipline. He displayed how valuable that is today with a three-hit performance to lead Doosan’s offense. The 30-year-old will never be an offensive stud, but this kind of production is nonetheless extremely valuable in the tail-end of the lineup.
Kim Min-hyeok (LF, KT Wiz): 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI. The left fielder was responsible for both of KT’s runs, smacking a solo shot in the first inning to lead off scoring for the Wiz and following up with an RBI single in the eighth. The 24-year-old has built on a solid 2019 campaign but still has quite a bit of work to do if he wants to be a true offensive contributor. He’s showing a bit more pop than usual to his bat, which his third home run of the year should help support.
Lee Dae-ho (DH, Lotte Giants): 1-3, 2B, R, RBI, BB. A walk in the first led to a run, and the 37-year-old added an RBI double in the fifth in Lotte’s win. The highest-paid player in the KBO hasn’t been displaying the power we’re used to but he’s found ways to remain productive to the Giants. He’s showcased a patient, disciplined approach for years but has been sharp in 2020, excelling at all areas except power, where he’s improved beyond a disappointing 2019 but still lags below his career numbers.
Yoo Kang-nam (C, LG Twins): 3-3, R, 2 RBI. The primary catcher for the Twins started the day on the bench but entered a 0-0 game as a pinch hitter in the sixth and hit a single to plate two. He stayed in at catcher, adding singles in the eighth and ninth and scoring once, to finish with a perfect 3-3 on the day. The 27-year-old is a nice value for LG at catcher, contributing with decent contact and a bit of power, though his plate discipline leaves quite a bit to be desired.
Park Byung-ho (1B, Kiwoom Heroes): 0-3, 3 K, BB. A rough day for the Heroes is best encapsulated by this performance from the 33-year-old slugger. The KBO’s third-highest paid player has not been his usual self in the first few weeks of 2020, barely batting above the Mendoza line and largely keep himself relevant with a lot of walks, pushing his OBP nearly .150 points higher than his batting average. It’s hard to imagine this slump will continue much longer (he led the league in home runs just last year) but it’s undoubtedly causing a big blow to Kiwoom’s offense to have such minimal power coming out of the cleanup spot.
Kang Jin-sung (1B, NC Dinos): 3-5, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI. The first baseman hasn’t gotten a full slate of playing time this season in such a stacked Dinos lineup, but he’s made his appearances count, with an eye-popping OPS approaching 1.400 in around 90 PAs. He actually lowered his slugging with today’s performance by collecting two singles and a double, to give you an idea of how dominant he’s been offensively. He’s having a career year already, and though he’ll surely come back to earth a bit, this certainly looks like it could be a breakout year for the 26-year-old.
Lee Yong-kyu (CF, Hanwha Eagles): 2-4, 2 RBI. Yet another brutal offensive day for the Hanwha lineup, but leadoff hitter Lee Yong-kyu did what he could, plating both runs in a multi-hit game where hitters 2-7 in the lineup had a combined zero hits. The 34-year-old is doing his job about as expected, with an OBP nearing .400 and very minimal power, but getting on base doesn’t help when the rest of your teammates can’t hit you in.
Tyler Saladino (DH, Samsung Lions): 1-2, R, 2 BB. Not the prettiest line, but important. Saladino got on base on three of his four plate appearances, scoring once and helping put pressure on SK’s pitching. The 30-year-old former MLB player had a slow start in his debut KBO season, exacerbated by a thigh injury, but he’s gotten into the groove of late: since May 24, he’s had an OPS over 1.250, walked more than he’s struck out, and provided a huge offensive boost for the Lions in the heart of the lineup. Ugly first few weeks aside, Saladino is showing himself to be one of the primary forces to be reckoned with in the KBO.
Jamie Romak (1B, SK Wyverns): 0-3, 2 K, BB. On a day when the Wyverns couldn’t get to third base without relying on defensive errors, a lot of responsibility surely lies with cleanup hitter Jamie Romak. The 34-year-old has been one of the top offensive stars in the KBO the last few years, and was a huge part in the Wyverns’ successful 2019 campaign. He’s been solid to start 2020, sacrificing a bit of power to get on base and boasting an even strikeout and walk rate, but when Romak struggles like today, SK often can’t make up for it. It puts a lot of pressure on Romak, but I would anticipate his power numbers to regress up and see some more home runs—he tied for second-most in the league last year.
Park Se-woong (Lotte Giants): 6 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 7 K: There were quite a few good pitching performances in the KBO on Sunday, and the best one of the night belonged to Park Se-woong. This was a much-needed good start for the 24-year-old right-hander, as he came into this one with a 6.38 ERA, and losing his last four starts in a row. He’s shown the ability to get strikeouts in his previous starts, but walks and the long ball have gotten him in trouble, as he also came into this start with a 1.75 WHIP. Hopefully, this is the start that gets Park going, as the Giants could surely use it, as they have now won three in a row and are just one game away from reaching the .500 mark.
Lee Jae-hak (NC Dinos): 7 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 K: Meanwhile, the Dinos keep up their dominant start to the season, as they have now have won five in a row and extended their overall lead to four games over second-place Doosan. It doesn’t even seem to matter who they send out there on a nightly basis, as Lee Jae-hak has been, to this point, the team’s worst starter, coming into Sunday’s start with a 6.08 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP. The 29-year-old righty is also coming off his worst start of the season when he allowed seven runs in four innings against the SK Wyverns on June 2nd. Lee clearly had his best stuff tonight, and he even had a perfect game going through 5.2 innings. Sure, it was against the Hanwha Eagles, who have now lost 14 games in a row, but this is still a good start for him, and hopefully, a confidence-building start, as it has been a rough start to the season, but he still has a chance to salvage it and end up where he wants to be.
David Buchanan (Samsung Lions): 6 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 5 K: The 31-year-old former Phillie’s first season in the KBO has mostly been a success to this point, although he did come into this start with a 4.50 ERA, most of that is coming from the 10 run shellacking he endured at the hands of the LG Twins back on May 19th, but since then, Buchanan has given up just 1 run in 20 innings, including another six shutout innings today, as the Lions were able to salvage the final game of their series against SK. It wasn’t the prettiest game ever pitched in terms of K:BB, but it was enough to get the job done, as the SK bats just weren’t up for the task today, as after Buchanan’s six innings, the Lions bullpen shut down the opposing lineup for the final three innings and secured the shutout.
Cha Woo-chan (LG Twins): 7 IP, 0 ER, 6 H, 5 BB, 5 K: Like Buchanan, the Twins’ Cha Woo-chan was able to shutout the opposing lineup, despite not pitching the most pretty game, with five walks and six hits allowed in seven innings, but it was enough to get the job done against the Kiwoom Heroes. Cha Woo-chan escaped trouble a handful of times in this one, including a key double play to get out of a first and third jam in the fifth inning with the game still scoreless. Overall, a fine but not flashy start for the 33-year-old KBO veteran, who came into this one with a 5.00 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP, and while the WHIP won’t get much better following this start, that ERA will go down a fair amount all the way down to 3.97, and the Twins will surely take it from him.
Tuesday’s Key Matchup
Raul Alcantara (Doosan Bears) vs Drew Rucinski (NC Dinos): Monday is the common off-day in the KBO, but even though there won’t be any games tomorrow, Pitcher List will still have KBO content with our weekly recap, which will get you caught up on everything that happened in the KBO last week. You can read last week’s recap by Nick Bucher here. As for Tuesday’s games, the week will start off with a matchup of the league’s best two teams as the Doosan Bears and NC Dinos will match up for a series, where if everything goes right for Doosan, they can end up just one game back of the Dinos in the league standings. The Bears will send out Raul Alcantara, who will try to bounce back from his five earned run performance against the KT Wiz back on June 4th. The Dinos will send out fellow former Major Leaguer Drew Rucinski, who has fared much better than Alcantara thus far in the season, with a 2.11 ERA, and he is also coming off a six shutout inning performance in which he struck out eight SK Wyverns. It’s a tough draw for the Bears lineup in a series they would like to win, but it should be a good start to the week for KBO fans.
— Matt Wallach