NC, Doosan, and Kiwoom all fell while the Hanwha Eagles got back to doing what they do best: losing. A thriller in Incheon as KT takes a back-and-forth game in the 10th inning over the Wyverns.
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Yoo Han-joon (DH, KT Wiz): 1-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB. KT had to work hard for every run in this game, and Yoo Han-joon did his part, cracking a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to temporarily give the Wiz the lead. He also drew a walk to lead off the fourth and came around to score. Nestled between Kang Baek-ho and Mel Rojas Jr. in the batting order, the 38-year-old is one of the most solid and reliable offensive contributors to the Wiz—when he’s healthy. After going on the injured list about a month ago, Yoo didn’t get back to the starting lineup until June 7, but he’s made his return known with an OPS over 1.200 in his first eight games back.
Jamie Romak (1B, SK Wyverns): 1-4, HR, 2 RBI, BB. The Wyverns’ offense comes up just short once again, but the home run title runner-up from the last two years did what he does best, smashing an absolute rocket in the bottom of the 8th to plate two and push the Wyverns into the lead, at least briefly. He also walked in the contest. The 34-year-old slugger is putting up similar numbers to last year, and even improving his plate discipline at the cost of a slight drop in average and power, but the lineup around him gives him absolutely no help.
Jung Ju-hyeon (2B, LG Twins): 2-5, 3B, HR, 4 RBI. The 8th spot in the batting order is not exactly where you look for the best hitters, but these guys are professionals for a reason. The 29-year-old got started in a long, five-run first inning when he hit a bases-clearing triple to notch three RBI. He added on a solo homer in the eighth, his third of the year. Don’t get used to this—while Jung is showing a bit more power than ever before, he’s pretty in-line with his career average and OBP, both of which are… not good. He’s not going to be moving up in the order anytime soon, but a nice bonus from the back end of the lineup for the Twins.
Jo Han-min (SS, Hanwha Eagles): 2-4, 2B, 2 R. It’s not easy to write about any of the Eagles in the “Best Hitters” category, and I don’t expect that will change anytime soon. The 19-year-old Jo Han-min is in his debut year in the KBO and has largely been limited to substitutions and pinch-hitting (14 PAs through just ten games), but in both games where he got a full four ABs, he’s delivered with a pair of hits each. This was the first extra-base hit of his young KBO career, and should make an argument for more playing time—after all, what do the Eagles have to lose?
Dixon Machado (SS, Lotte Giants): 3-4, 2 R, RBI, SB. After a hot start to the season, Machado’s bat has cooled off significantly, but the former Detroit Tiger has found other ways to contribute, helping out defensively and causing havoc around the basepaths. He also contributes days like this, racking up his fourth multi-hit game since June 7, with an OPS around .900 during that stretch. He’s been moved up in the batting order and looks to be settling in a bit against KBO pitching.
Heo Jeong-hyeop (LF, Kiwoom Heroes): 2-4, HR, 2 RBI. After taking a scary pitch to the head on Saturday (resulting in the ejection of Dinos’ starter Lee Jae-hak and an absolute blowout as the Heroes piled on 18 runs), Heo was taken to the hospital but cleared to start the series finale on Sunday and he responded with a pair of hits. He improved on that today, notching another pair of hits and turning one into a home run to plate two runs for the Heroes. It was his first of the season. The 30-year-old has never had consistent playing time, only recording over 100 plate appearances in one season back in 2017, but is showing signs of life at the plate so far this season.
Lee Myung-gi (LF, NC Dinos): 4-5, two 2Bs, R, RBI. It was a rare off day for the Dinos’ offense, but Lee Myung-gi didn’t get the memo. He racked up four of the Dinos’ ten hits, two for extra bases, to finish with a run and an RBI. The 32-year-old has displayed minimal power this season (only one homer and four doubles on the year before today) but is rocking a batting average over .350 and an OBP over .400. He’s never reached double digits in HRs, but he’s an extremely valuable hitter for the Dinos, who have plenty of power backing him up in the order.
Choi Hyung-woo (DH, Kia Tigers): 2-4, R, 2 RBI, BB. With the bases loaded and the game tied in the bottom of the seventh, Choi stepped up to the plate and rapped a single into left field to plate two runs and give Kia the lead for good. He led off the previous inning with a walk and came around to score. The venerable slugger is looking just like normal this year: batting average over .300, OBP over .400 (including more walks than strikeouts), and SLG over .500. He’s got it all—contact, power, and plate discipline (okay, admittedly he isn’t going to be stealing a lot of bases). He’ll continue to be an extremely reliable contributor out of the 3rd spot of the lineup for the Tigers.
Lee Sung-gyu (1B, Samsung Lions): 1-1, 2B, RBI, 2 BB. Not the most impressive offensive day for the Lions, but at least Lee Sung-gyu was seeing the ball well. He led off the fifth inning with a double (the Lions followed that up with two flyouts and a strikeout to strand Lee at third) but really came through with a sacrifice fly to center in the eighth inning to plate the winning run. The first baseman is getting his first real look at consistent playing time, already nearly doubling his previous high in PAs. His 1-1 performance today pushed his batting average just over .200 (yikes), but he’s got a slugging almost three hundred points higher—out of his 13 hits on the season, nine of them are for extra bases, including four home runs. He doesn’t have much besides power, but getting some regular playing time could help ease him into seeing KBO pitchers.
Kuk Hae-sung (OF, Doosan Bears): 1-2, 2 RBI, SB, BB. Furthering today’s trend of heralding some lesser-known players in the KBO, the outfielder recorded his first hit of the season, in just his third game. He pinch-hit in the fourth inning and plated two with a single, and was intentionally walked in the eighth and stole a base. The 30-year-old has only eclipsed the 100-PA mark once in his career but had a nice .800 OPS to show for it. If he gets a shot at consistent playing time, he could show off a nice even-handed approach with decent contact, a solid eye, and a little bit of power.
Jung Chan-heon (LG Twins): 6 ⅔ IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 4 K, 1 BB. There were not exactly any stellar starting performances on Tuesday, but LG’s Jung led the way with his 6 ⅔ innings of two-run ball to earn the win against the lowly Hanwha Eagles. The 30-year-old right-hander cruised through his first six frames, allowing a baserunner in four of those but managing to keep the Eagles off the scoreboard. Things finally caught up to him in the seventh inning, when Hanwha staged a furious two-out rally to hang two runs on Jung and a third on reliever Choi Sung-hoon. The 11-year veteran is now 3-1 on the season with a 3.34 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP along with 29 strikeouts in 29 ⅔ innings in 2020.
Drew Rucinski (NC Dinos): 6 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 8 K, 4 BB. Rucinski tied for the KBO lead in strikeouts on Tuesday with his eight Ks against the Kia Tigers en route to a no-decision in the Dinos’ 7-4 loss on the road. The 31-year-old former major leaguer sent down the first seven batters he saw — five on strikeouts — before a one-out walk in the third turned into a run after a second walk and a single brought one of Kia’s players across the plate. He then settled down, striking out the side in the fourth, until the sixth inning when a walk, two singles and an error brought two runners home and ultimately ended Rucinski’s day. The veteran pitcher remains 4-1 on the season with a 2.50 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP along with 49 strikeouts — the third-most in the league — in 50 ⅓ innings pitched.
6 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 4 BB, 8 K
Rucinski's sinker has posted a .191 BAA so far this season. pic.twitter.com/YnsCyTzfmh
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) June 16, 2020
Noh Kyung-eun (Lotte Giants): 6 IP, 3 ER, 3 H, 5 K, 3 BB. Our bronze medal-winner on Tuesday was Lotte’s Noh, who put up numbers good enough for a quality start and the win against the Kiwoom Heroes. Save for a one-out solo home run given up in the second inning, the 36-year-old right-hander cruised through the first four frames, otherwise keeping the Heroes off the bases as well as the scoreboard. Unfortunately for him, the home run bug struck again in the fifth inning after giving up a one-out walk, but he bounced back in the sixth to work out of some trouble to keep his team ahead with a one-run lead. Noh is now 3-2 in 2020 with a 5.31 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP along with 25 strikeouts in 39 innings pitched.
Kim Min-soo (KT Wiz): 5 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 2 K, 0 BB. Kim is the honorable mention for today, though he only lasted five innings he managed to stymie the lowly Wyverns over that span; however, it was not enough to figure in the final decision as the Wiz pulled out the win in extra innings. Still, the 27-year-old right-hander held his own, allowing just one runner on base in the first two innings on a hit-by-pitch, after which he gave up his lone run in the third thanks to a lead-off single and some small-ball play. He allowed a runner in each of his final two frames though neither of SK’s players threatened to score. Kim’s record remains at 1-2 while his performance on Tuesday deflated his bloated 7.97 ERA and 2.02 WHIP a bit, and he also added two to his strikeout tally for a grand total of 16 in 21 ⅓ innings pitched.
Wednesday’s Key Matchup
Mike Wright (NC Dinos) vs Lee Min-woo (Kia Tigers): NC’s Wright has had a splendid debut season in Korea so far, sporting a 5-1 record in seven starts with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP along with 35 strikeouts in 39 innings pitched in 2020 for the first place Dinos. His lone loss came despite earning a quality start against the Samsung Lions on May 30. On the mound opposite of Wright is Kia’s Lee, who comes into the game with a 3-2 record and an unimpressive stat line that includes a 5.09 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP, along with 28 strikeouts in 40 ⅔ innings. The 27-year-old right-hander has not had a season in which his ERA was south of five since 2017, so what you see with Lee appears to be what you get.