The KBO made good on yet another promise of exciting games Friday, providing both great offensive performances and dazzling pitching showings. The league-leading NC Dinos knocked off the Doosan Bears and gained ground in the standings as the second-place Kiwoom Heroes had their eight-game winning streak snapped by the Kia Tigers. Elsewhere, the SK Wyverns shut out the LG Twins to continue LG’s growing losing streak, the Hanwha Eagles topped the KT Wiz, and the Samsung Lions broke past the Lotte Giants in ten innings.
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Let’s take a look at the top performers from the day, brought to you by Nick Bucher and Jai Correa:
Choi Hyung-woo (DH, Kia Tigers): 3-5, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI. Kia’s designated hitter was phenomenal Friday, picking up three hits. In the third inning, Choi came to the plate with his team down 2-1, with the bases loaded and two outs. The cleanup hitter cleaned up, as Choi ripped a 410-foot bomb over the fence in center field. The grand slam capped the Tigers’ rally and gave his team a 5-2 lead, and the 36-year-old vet would later add a single and a double as well, finishing the game a triple shy of the cycle.
Seo Keon-chang (2B, Kiwoom Heroes): 4-5, 3B, 2B, R, SB. Like Kia’s Choi, Seo made a valiant bid at a cycle on Friday as well. Seo finished with four hits, coming up short only by missing a home run in his bid for the cycle, but somehow scored only once and did not record a single RBI. Still, the second baseman was raking all game long and even got involved on the basepaths when he swiped a base in the fourth inning.
Kim Tae-Kyun (1B, Hanwha Eagles): 2-4, R, 2 RBI. Kim was the hero for Hanwha on Friday, as he picked up multiple hits. The first baseman came to the plate with two runners in scoring position and a tied score in the third inning and immediately delivered by knocking a base hit down the right-field line. The 38-year-old has struggled for much of the season offensively, but now is riding a four-game hitting streak.
Jamie Romak (1B, SK Wyverns): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. Despite the look of a 7-0 final score, this game was largely in question into the later innings. Romak’s plate appearance in the sixth inning came after the first two batters in the inning reached, and the Wyverns clinging to a 2-0 lead. Following a mound visit by the catcher, Romak got a pitch he could handle and picked up a three-run homer, good for his eighth on the season.
Mel Rojas Jr. (RF, KT Wiz): 1-3, HR, R, RBI, BB. Rojas is on a major power streak. He has now homered in three of his past four games and leads the KBO in dingers with 16. With a batting average approaching .400 for the season, and an OPS well over 1.100, the outfielder/designated hitter for the Wiz has been one of the best offensive forces through the first two months of the season.
Aaron Altherr (CF, NC Dinos): 2-3, 2B, 3 R, RBI, SB. Altherr did a lot of damage from the eight-spot in NC’s lineup Friday, scoring three runs in this one. The center fielder for NC picked up a stolen base as well in this one, his eighth on the season. In his first season playing in the KBO, Altherr has performed well, with an OPS well over .900 while chipping in eight stolen bases on ten attempts for the league-leading Dinos.
Kim Sang-su (2B, Samsung Lions): 1-1, R, RBI. The Lions were locked in a 4-4 tie with the Lotte Giants after nine innings Friday, in a game that Kim Sang-su didn’t even start. However, after appearing as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, Kim got his first chance to bat in the top of the tenth inning. The infielder for Samsung got a pitch he could handle, and his go-ahead RBI double down the line in left field made Kim the hero of this one.
Lee Geon-wook (SK Wyverns): 6 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 3 K, 3 BB. Lee was lights out with six hitless innings against the Twins, as the Wyverns got second consecutive dominant outing from their starter. While he had the no-no going, Lee was pulled at 90 pitches, leaving it for the bullpen to get the win despite some theatrics in the seventh where the Twins loaded the base with one out but failed to score. Reflecting his season performance, the Wyverns right-hander struck out as many as he walked – has walked 18 men with 22 strikeouts this season in 38.1 IP – but also kept the runs to a minimum as his season ERA now sits at 2.78.
Won Tae-in (Samsung Lions): 6.2 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 3 K, 1 BB. In his last start, Won Tae-in suffered his worst start of the season as he gave up six earned runs and five walks in five innings against the Tigers. Won righted the ship nicely in this one, not only keeping the Giants to a single run over six and two-thirds innings but only walking one man in those innings. With multiple five walk outings on the season, including one last time out, Won has displayed poor control at times, but his slider and changeup have shown promise, making him an intriguing starter to look at going forward.
Won Tae-in, 84mph de-helmet-ing Slider. 😨 pic.twitter.com/sNEZ89Nm0a
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 26, 2020
Won Tae-in, Changeup Grip/Release. pic.twitter.com/bNpYJ4bzTY
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 26, 2020
Park Jong-gi (Doosan Bears): 5.1 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 5 K, 2 BB. Park continued his success and kept the Dinos at bay over five and one-third innings. The Bears right-hander used six groundouts and five strikeouts to accrue a majority of his outs, not allowing more than two men to reach base in a single frame. Unfortunately, Park did allow two men to reach in the sixth before he was pulled, with one of them scoring on a single from Dinos’ designated hitter Na Sung-bum. While the outing didn’t end as he’d like, Park has dazzled in his three starts this season with a 2.81 ERA and 0.94 WHIP.
Warwick Saupold (Hanwha Eagles): 6 IP, 3 ER, 7 H, 6 K, 1 BB. Even though the pitching line reflects a rather basic quality start, Saupold was able to get the win and the most number of strikeouts by a pitcher in Friday’s action. Furthermore, the line is bloated by a rough sixth inning in which the right-hander allowed five men to reach – four singles and a walk. After a lean stretch in the middle of the season, Saupold has now put together a string of good outings, allowing a measly three earned runs in his last 18.1 innings.
Saturday’s Key Matchup
Yang Hyun-jong (Kia Tigers) vs Eric Jokisch (Kiwoom Heroes): The best pitcher in Saturday’s games will be Eric Jokisch. The Heroes ace will take a pristine 1.63 ERA and 0.94 WHIP into tomorrow’s outing, looking to push his team closer to the first place Dinos. With the Tigers being the fourth-lowest scoring offense, you can likely assume another dominant outing from the left-hander. Yang Hyun-jong will toe the rubber for the Tigers, as he has the tough task of trying to match the brilliance of Jokisch. The veteran left-hander has posted a mediocre 4.88 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 2020, though that mostly comes from two outings in which he allowed six and seven earned runs, respectively. Before you discount his struggles, however, one of those aforementioned starts came last time out against the Lions, giving up seven runs on ten hits over four innings.
— Jai Correa
-graphic by Justin Paradis