Day four of the KBO is in the books! Friday’s action saw a couple offensive blowouts from the KT Wiz and NC Dinos, a couple strong pitching performances for wins from the Kiwoom Heroes and Samsung Lions, and a game between the Lotte Giants and SK Wyverns that saw a comeback to force extra innings!
Miss some of the action from last night? Click on the links below to watch!
Now let’s take a quick look at some of the day’s top performers, brought to you by Nick Bucher.
Byung-ho Park (1B, Kiwoom Heroes): 3-4, HR, 3 RBI. The former Minnesota Twins‘ hitter is dialed in right now, as he knotched three hits, including a tater in the Heroes’ 5-3 win Friday. If Park’s name seems familiar, that’s because he is—Park famously led the KBO in homers every year from 2012-2015, and then signed a four-year deal with the Twins in 2016. He struggled to make consistent contact in the States, and returned to the KBO following a 2017 season spent entirely in the minor leagues. He served as the cleanup hitter Friday and figures to continue to rake from the heart of the Heroes’ lineup.
Tyler Saladino (3B, Samsung Lions): 2-4, HR, 2 RBI. Another former AL Central player crushing it in the KBO! Saladino was drafted in 2010 by the Chicago White Sox and made it to the majors with the team from 2015-2018 before spending 2018-2019 with the Milwaukee Brewers. The versatile infielder was a big part of the Lions’ win on Friday, and his 4th inning dinger was absolutely crushed — 410 feet. It really had to have felt good for Saladino to get into one too, after hitting only 19 homers in the MLB over his five year career.
Mel Rojas Jr. (OF, KT Wiz): 4-5, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB. Rojas found himself in this article on Thursday, and was right back at it again Friday as the Wiz put up 12 runs of offense. After chipping in four more hits, a walk, and a long ball, he continues to be among the KBO league leaders in a number of offensive categories including batting average and RBI. The former minor leaguer never quite made it to the MLB in either of Pittsburgh or Atlanta’s systems, but is dialed in right now for the Wiz.
Sung-woo Jang (C, KT Wiz): 3-5, 3 RBI. When your team scores 12 runs like the Wiz did, there’s usually multiple notable bats in the lineup, and Jang was in his groove Friday. When the catcher came to the plate in the top of the 5th with the bases loaded, he proceeded to double into right field, scoring all three runners and picking up some nice RBI from the 8-spot in the batting order.
Chang-pyung Kim (2B, SK Wyverns): 2-4, 3 R, 2 SB, BB. Kim contributed in multiple ways Friday in the Wyverns’ extra-inning loss to the Giants, reaching base three times and scoring three runs. Kim also stole second base in both of the 4th and 6th innings, and is now up to five steals over the first four games of the year. Hopefully reaching base three times helps his bat get going as well, as he entered Friday with just one hit across his first three games.
Sun-Jin Oh (2B/SS, Hanwha Eagles): 2-3, HR, 3 RBI. With his team trailing 3-0 in the top of the 7th, Oh cam up to the plate with two outs and two runners on base. The infielder’s three-run homer in the 7th tied it up for the Eagles, who ultimately lost 5-3. Oh had only received one plate appearance through the Eagles’ first three games though, and seems likely to see more opportunities after his performance Friday.
Myung-gi Lee (OF, NC Dinos): 2-2, HR, 3 R, 2 BB. Lee had a phenomenal showing Friday, as the Dinos scored 13 runs. He got his game going early, hitting his first homer of the season in the 1st inning, and never let up, reaching base in each of his next three plate appearances. The second spot in the Dinos’ lineup is a good spot to be, as even when he was taken out of the game, Jin-sung Kang hit a two-run homer as his replacement.
Dae-ho Lee (1B, Lotte Giants): 2-5, HR, 3 RBI. The Giants’ cleanup hitter had his power stroke working Friday, hitting a RBI double into the right-center gap and following it up with another hard-hit ball to right-center the very next inning. The 37-year-old vet got more air under the second one, good for a two-run homer that pulled the Giants closer to the comeback victory they eventually earned in extra innings.
Dixon Machado (SS, Lotte Giants): 3-5, HR, 2 RBI. The former Detroit Tigers‘ infielder has been seeing the ball well so far in the KBO. On Friday, Machado demonstrated that he’s got some ice in his veins when he stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 8th inning with the Giants trailing by a run, and whacked a homer to left field to knot the game up at 8-8. Machado’s Giants would go on to win the game 9-8 in the 10th inning, and are still unbeaten through the first four games of the season.
The KBO has already become very popular for their bat flips, and I have to admit I was prepared to see a good one here on the walk-off wild pitch that won the game for the Giants here in the 10th:
Lotte Giants win their home opener on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th and advance to 4-0 on the year! pic.twitter.com/MIGefGe44Y
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) May 8, 2020
Choi Chae-hung (Samsung Lions): 5 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 5 BB, 5 Ks. Choi Chae-hung carried over his late-season form from 2019, where he allowed one or fewer earned runs in his last three outings, as he continued his dominance in his 2020 debut. While Choi had shaky command in this one en route to five walks, those free passes did not hurt him as he was able to generate a double play and a strikeout to get out of jams. With two seasons now under his belt and at only 25 years old, look for Choi to build off his 4.81 ERA and 7.5 K/9 from last season.
Lee Seung-ho (Kiwoom Heroes): 6.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 3 Ks. Lee Seung-ho was masterful in this one, facing the minimum over the first five innings — using a double play to erase a single in the first — before encountering some trouble in the sixth and seventh innings. Lee did have the opportunity for a scoreless outing when taken out in the seventh. However, Heroes reliever Oh Ju-won served up a three-run homer and ended that story. While the then 19-year-old was a reliever in 2018, Seung-ho became a full-time starter in 2019 with a 4.48 ERA and 6.0 K/9 while putting together a great start to this season.
Moon Seung-won (SK Wyverns): 5.2 IP, 4 ER, 9 H, 1 BB, 7 Ks. In the most exciting game of the night, ended by the aforementioned Dixon Machado, it was Moon Seung-won who was flashy at times despite a high hit count. Moon was able to use his fastball, slider, and splitter to obtain the most strikeouts for any starting pitcher in Friday’s KBO action.
Yesterday’s KBO K leader was SK Wyverns RHP Seung-won Moon.
The righty was painting the bottom of the zone the entire game with a mix of fastballs and breakers. That last K is a real beaut, too. pic.twitter.com/G3F1L6IlkL
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) May 8, 2020
With a 3.88 ERA and a league eleventh best 1.13 WHIP, look for Moon to pitch even better over the course of the season.
Drew Gagnon (Kia Tigers): 5.1 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 5 Ks. The long time minor leaguer and former New York Met now finds himself with the Kia Tigers after a poor stateside showing in 2019 and subsequently being released. In his KBO debut, Gagnon faced a lot of hitters — only the third inning was of the “three up, three down” variety — but used some ground balls and two caught stealing from excellent work by Tigers catcher Han Seung-taek to avoid damage. Gagnon struggled with his fastball (.447 xwOBA) and curveball (.580 xwOBA) last season, while his changeup was easily his best pitch (.272 xwOBA). Look for Gagnon to overcome his sinking four-seamer and ailing performance by possibly increasing his changeup usage and garnering a better feel for his curveball to attain success in his first KBO season.
Tonight’s Key Matchup:
Han Hyun-hee (Kiwoom Heroes) vs. Kim Ee-whan (Hanwha Eagles): 26-year-old Han Hyun-hee will face off against 19-year-old Kim Ee-whan on Saturday. Hyun-hee is now in his eighth season with the Heroes with last season being his best, although entirely in a relief role — a 3.41 ERA and 1.21 WHIP across 58 innings — so we should probably expect Han to be an opener. Kim Ee-whan is now entering his sophomore season, after posting a 4.26 ERA and 1.66 WHIP in 38 innings as a rookie in 2019.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)