Kiwoom and LG both took revenge in the Saturday KBO slate, edging out their opponents in pitchers’ duels as the Heroes hold onto second place. Meanwhile, the marquee weekend matchup between NC and Doosan was tied 3-3 going into the bottom of the eighth, when the Bears poured on nine runs to make a statement win over the first-place Dinos. Hanwha’s offensive struggles continue, letting down yet another solid pitching performance. And the Samsung Lions continue their slow but determined crawl into relevance, rising above .500 and moving just one and a half games behind the fifth-place Kia Tigers with their rout of Lotte.
Miss some of the action from last night? Click on the link below to watch!
Let’s take a look at the top performers from the day, brought to you by Dylan Burris and Jai Correa:
Lee Jung-hoo (RF, Kiwoom Heroes): 1-4, 3B, 2 RBI. With two outs and runners on first and second, Lee Jung-hoo blasted a grounder past the first baseman and into the right-field corner, plating both runs and notching a triple for himself in the process. It was his only hit of the game (Kiwoom managed just five on the day) but it was enough to push the Heroes into the win column against the fifth-place Tigers. At just 21 years old, Lee has already established himself as one of the young offensive phenoms of the KBO, and he’s taken the opportunity to get even better this season, finding his power stroke and already topping his HR count from last season.
Hwang Jae-gyun (3B, KT Wiz): 1-1, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, SB, 3 BB. Despite Mel Rojas Jr. smashing his league-leading 17th homer of the season, the star today for the Wiz was their 32-year-old third baseman, Hwang Jae-gyun, who finished a perfect 1-1, walking thrice to stuff the stat sheet for KT. Hwang did it all, walking in his first three appearances to score twice, adding a stolen base in the second inning. He capped it off in the ninth with his only hit of the day: a 360ft two-run blast to right field to put an exclamation point on the win for the Wiz. Hwang has struggled this season, posting his worst slash line since 2010 (along with 26 strikeouts to just six walks, which he boosted to nine after today’s performance), but this could be the type of game to break him out of that slump.
Lee Chun-woong (CF, LG Twins): 3-3, 2 RBI, BB. Lee did what he does best, reaching base on all four plate appearances and knocking in two of the Twins’ three runs. The 31-year-old has minimal power but functions well as the Twins’ leadoff hitter, with a walk rate only slightly below his strikeout rate. He hasn’t quite found his groove this season, posting the lowest slash line of his KBO career, but he’s still a valuable contributor to the LG lineup.
Aaron Altherr (CF, NC Dinos): 1-4, HR, 2 RBI. Altherr has spent much of his time batting near the bottom of this devastating Dinos’ lineup, despite posting an OPS over .900 in his first KBO season. Altherr hit fifth today and came through with a two-run blast in the seventh inning to tie the game at three runs apiece before Doosan came alive for a nine-run eighth inning to put the game away. Altherr has posted similar numbers to his standout 2017 MLB season with the Phillies, where he finished with a .272/.340/.516 slash line over 412 PAs. He came into today’s game slashing .291/.367/.568 and hit his 11th home run on the season, good for fourth-most in the league.
Kim Jae-hwan (LF, Doosan Bears): 1-3, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Also hitting his 11th home run of the season was Bears’ left fielder Kim Jae-hwan, who kicked off the scoring in this game with a two-run shot in the bottom of the first. After dominating the KBO from 2016-2018, posting an OPS over 1.000 in all three seasons and culminating with an MVP season in 2018, Kim slumped in 2019, with his OPS dropping to .804 and his power numbers seeing a significant decline. He’s looking closer to his MVP self this season, with an OPS nearing .900 and already just four home runs away from his 2019 total.
Lee Sung-gon (1B, Samsung Lions): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. With Tyler Saladino’s back issues flaring up, Lee has earned a spot back in the starting lineup for the Lions and has delivered, collecting eight hits over ten plate appearances over his last four games, adding two homers and a stolen base in that stretch. He finished a triple shy of the cycle today, smashing a solo homer in the second inning and adding on an RBI single in the third. He led off the sixth with a double and came around to score. He’ll be expected to shoulder a lot of the burden with Saladino out of the lineup.
Jung Chan-heon (LG Twins): 9 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 6 K, 2 BB. Jung Chan-heon gave the Wyverns the business, throwing a complete game shutout to end the Twins’ seven-game losing streak. After he walked two men in the second, Jung then went on to retire the subsequent 21 men he faced before allowing a single with one out in the ninth inning. Since allowing three earned runs in each of his first three outings, Jung has given up only two runs in 22 2/3 innings with 21 strikeouts and five walks since, lowering his ERA to 2.56.
Eric Jokisch (Kiwoom Heroes): 8 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 5 K, 1 BB. In another superb outing, Jokisch showed why he’s one of the best pitchers in the KBO. The Heroes’ left-hander retired the first 20 men he faced before allowing a double to Preston Tucker in the seventh. Despite only throwing 91 pitches and allowing two baserunners across his eight innings, Jokisch was yanked and not given the chance to complete the game – otherwise, we’d have another complete game shut out to talk about. Jokisch will take a superb 1.42 ERA into his next outing – not too far behind the ERA leader Koo Chang-mo at 1.37.
Baek Jung-hyun (Samsung Lions): 6 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 6 K, 3 BB. Baek Jung-hyun followed up teammate Won Tae-in’s great start yesterday with an even better outing. The Lions starter encountered few issues over his six innings, where most of his trouble came in the fourth after he walked two men then allowed a single, but Dixon Machado was thrown out at second to end the frame. Baek had a rough start to the year allowing 16 runs in his first 14 innings but has restored order since yielding three earned runs over his last 18 innings pitched.
Kim Min-woo (Hanwha Eagles): 5 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 8 K, 4 BB. Your winner of the most strikeouts in Saturday’s action was Kim Min-woo – against the fourth-highest scoring offense in the Wiz no less. Kim had Wiz hitters in fits over his five innings, using his fastball, curveball, and splitter to get all of his eight strikeouts. The Eagles right-hander has been inconsistent at times with a 5.16 ERA, but he also has 48 strikeouts in his 45 1/3 innings this season – good for seventh on the leaderboard with Aaron Brooks and Park Jong-hoon.
Today’s #KBO K leader was Kim Min-woo of the Hanwha Eagles
Man, did he have that CB working today. pic.twitter.com/zlgwM9WAMH
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) June 27, 2020
Kim Min-woo, Filthy Splitter…getting the pirouette. 🩰 pic.twitter.com/UaeKBQA0IL
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 27, 2020
Sunday’s Key Matchup
Drew Rucinski (NC Dinos) vs Chris Flexen (Doosan Bears): The Dinos and Bears will face off in the rubber game of this series after blowouts by each team in the first two games. Rucinski has been fantastic for the Dinos this season, providing an excellent complement to Koo Chang-mo on the starting staff. While he has a 2.67 ERA and 1.15 WHIP on the season, Rucinski faced the Bears earlier this season and garnered his fewest number of strikeouts in an outing this season with 3 – the outing was still a success, allowing two earned runs over six innings. Chris Flexen will take the ball for the Bears, rebounding with eight strikeouts last time out after only attaining 13 in his previous 21 innings pitched (four starts). Another reason for optimism is Flexen’s success against the Dinos in his outing against them on May 20th – eight innings, one run, and ten strikeouts. This should be one heck of an encounter.
— Jai Correa
-graphic by Justin Paradis