Titans clashed as the Dinos took the first game of their marquee series against Doosan, cementing their role as the top team in the KBO. Kang Baek-ho returned from the injured list but couldn’t lead KT to a win over the Tigers, and Kiwoom and SK both eked out important victories. Hanwha, of course, lost their 15th straight game and it wasn’t particularly close.
Oh, and bat flips!
MyKBO's Favorite Home Run Bat-flips for June 9th featuring Jeon Byung-woo and Choi Hyung-woo pic.twitter.com/LQuDqME7LG
— Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO) June 9, 2020
Miss some of the action from last night? Click on the links below to watch!
Jared Hoying (RF, Hanwha Eagles): 1-4, HR. The one-time Texas Ranger struggled today but was able to belt a solo shot 410 feet to right to lead off the seventh inning. It was good for his fourth homer of the year and just the 20th of the season for the entire Eagles squad. The 31-year-old hasn’t yet been able to replicate the success from his previous two seasons so far in 2020, with a batting average just over the Mendoza line and woeful power numbers, but regression has to be coming and we know what he’s capable of. Don’t expect any changes to his high strikeout rate, but we should see some better contact and more power from Hoying before the year is out. A 20HR/20SB season is still possible, mainly since he doesn’t have to rely on much help from his teammates for it.
Lee Dae-ho (1B, Lotte Giants): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. The highest-paid player in the KBO singled in the fourth and came around to score, then smashed his fourth homer of the year over 400 feet to plate two more in the fifth. In our last daily recap, we discussed how the 37-year-old is looking as sharp as ever in most areas (contact, plate discipline) but lagging behind his typical numbers in power. He made a point to address that today, so clearly he’s reading our column. While he’s not likely to compete with the home run leaders, there’s a definite source of power that he hasn’t yet tapped into this season. Scary to think a .327/.421/.481 slash isn’t as good as it gets for him.
Choi Hyung-woo (DH, Kia Tigers): 2-4, 2B, HR. Kia’s DH stepped up and did his part in a low-scoring affair against the Wiz. He was the only Tiger to collect two hits, and both of them for extra bases, including a solo shot to kick off the scoring in the first inning. A lackluster day for the Tigers (only five hits on the day) but the everyday DH continues to be a solid contributor in the heart of a dangerous lineup. His batting average is under .300 for the first time since 2012, but a keen eye, strict plate discipline (more walks than strikeouts), and power stroke (6 HR) is keeping the 36-year-old’s OPS right around his usual .900.
Kang Baek-ho (1B, KT Wiz): 0-2, 2 BB, K. This certainly wasn’t the best hitting performance of the day for the Wiz (that goes to Yoo Han-joon and his two hits and solo homer), and I usually wouldn’t skip an opportunity to rave about Mel Rojas Jr. But all of that takes a backseat because Kang Baek-ho is back! The 20-year-old phenom hadn’t played for nearly three weeks with a wrist injury, but returned today and walked twice in his four plate appearances. It’s hard to understate how huge he is, not just for the Wiz but for the game itself. He won’t turn 21 until the end of next month, but he hit .336 last year with a slugging just under .500, and after just two seasons has already established himself as one of the most dominant offensive players in the league. The strikeout problems that plagued him his rookie year have gotten under control, and it’s exciting to see how he’ll improve next. Through his 65 PAs in 2020 before injury, he slashed .333/.406/.737 and for KT fans watching their team slip back down the standings in his absence, he’s a sight for sore eyes.
Park Kun-woo (RF, Doosan Bears): 3-4, 2B, 2 R, RBI. The Bears’ leadoff hitter did his job and he did it well, recording three hits and reaching a fourth time with a HBP in his five plate appearances. He was able to convert that into two runs scored and added an RBI on his double in the sixth inning. The 29-year-old has struggled mightily to start 2020, with a batting average about a hundred points below his usual numbers, and decreased power to match. He finally turned a corner in plate discipline last year, walking more than he struck out, but he hasn’t yet gotten into the groove yet this year. There’s no reason not expect it to happen soon, and when it does a dangerous Doosan lineup will get even deadlier.
Yang Eui-ji (C, NC Dinos): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 5 RBI, BB. The 2019 leader in BA, OBP, and SLG continues to dominate the KBO in 2020. He isn’t quite up to his typical level, slashing about 50 points below each of his numbers from 2018 and 2019, but it’s still good for a .927 OPS on the season. He added to his numbers today, giving the Dinos the lead in the first inning with a three-run bomb. He led off the fifth with a walk, came around to score, and then came back up to hit an RBI single to plate two more to cap off a seven-run inning for NC.
Jamie Romak (1B, SK Wyverns): 3-4, two 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB. What a day for Jamie Romak. All three hits went for extra bases, including the double in the 10th inning that plated the winning two runs. He also swatted a solo homer to lead off the second inning, his fifth of the year. He’s fallen behind his typical numbers a bit, but has improved his plate discipline and struck out only one more time than he’s walked. The SK offensive gameplan largely centers around Romak, so the 34-year-old will need to hone in on his trademark power—he finished second in the home run race each of the previous two seasons.
Kim Hyun-soo (LF, LG Twins): 3-5, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Another day, another casually dominant Kim Hyun-soo performance. The Twins’ left fielder has been on fire since the season kicked off, belting twelve doubles through the first 29 games. Stellar plate discipline, amazing contact (.368 BA), a power stroke—the 32-year-old has it all. He’s been a huge part of LG’s early-season success and will need to keep on raking if they want to stay competitive.
Jeon Byung-woo (3B, Kiwoom Heroes): 2-4, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, BB. The Heroes’ third baseman was on point today, drawing a bases-loaded walk in the first to plate a run, smashing a home run to right field to add two more runs in the fifth, and then adding an insurance run with an RBI double in the ninth inning. He plated four of the Heroes’ five runs on the day. He’s played every day since May 31, posting an OPS over 1.100 in that stretch including 12 RBIs after today.
Kim Sang-su (2B, Samsung Lions): 1-3, 2 R, RBI, SB, BB. The Lions’ second baseman led off the first inning with a walk and came around to score. He singled to lead off the third inning, stole a base, and scored off a Tyler Saladino single. He added a sacrifice fly in the sixth to plate the third run of the game for the Lions—contributing to all three runs for his team. He’s been one of the more reliable offensive players for the Lions out of the leadoff spot, with minimal power but good contact. He improved his plate discipline quite a bit last year and that seems to have carried into 2020 with a nearly even BB/K rate.
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
Drew Rucinski (NC Dinos) vs Raúl Alcántara (Doosan Bears): Wednesday’s featured matchup pits two former major leaguers up against each other. NC’s Rucinski is off to a hot start in his second season overseas, bringing a 4-0 record with a 2.11 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP along with 38 strikeouts and 10 walks in 38 ⅓ innings pitched into the game. Facing off against him for Doosan is Alcántara, who has not fared quite as well in his season-plus with the Bears. Despite his 5-1 record, the 27-year-old has not been nearly as sharp, putting up an extremely mediocre 4.63 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP while striking out 31 and walking nine in 35 innings pitched. In a battle between the two top teams in the league — albeit it with the Dinos holding a firm five-game lead — this should be a great match, but expect NC to pull this one off.