After a dreadful Monday that featured absolutely zero KBO games, the league returned from their off day in spectacular fashion. Several strong pitching duels, a few high-scoring affairs, and of course: an extra-innings walk-off bomb. Lotte lost their first game, pushing the Heroes into first place with their fourth win in a row. After a late-innings bullpen implosion, the Wiz are tied for last place with the struggling Wyverns, who lost their fourth straight. Oh, and obviously bat flips:
The Lotte Giants may have lost the game but they won the bat flip competition pic.twitter.com/NZvnArGYSN
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) May 12, 2020
Miss some of the action from last night? Click on the links below to watch!
Let’s take a look at the top performers from the day:
Preston Tucker (RF, Kia Tigers): 1-2, 2B, R, 2 BB. In a pitching battle that wasn’t decided until the final inning, Tucker pulled out a clutch double to lead off the top of the ninth and was later batted in with a sacrifice fly from Yeong-seok Jang to provide the winning run. In a game with little offense to show, Tucker reached base on three of his four plate appearances. Through the first seven games of the season, Tucker has been on fire, with a slugging near 1.000 and a batting average just under .500.
Jared Hoying (RF, Hanwha Eagles): 2-4, 2B, RBI. The Eagles’ lone run was batted in by Jared Hoying, former Texas Ranger. Hoying smacked a double to right-center to score teammate Yong-kyu Lee, and was promptly called out trying to leg it into a triple. The Eagles have struggled in the early goings of the season, with a lot of the pressure on Hoying batting out of the third spot, but perhaps the foreigner’s second extra-base hit of the season can get things going for the 30-year-old.
Sung-woo Jang (C, KT Wiz): 2-4, HR, R, RBI, BB. This game had several strong performers, with the Wiz collecting 14 hits over the course of the game. Jang hit a solo homer in the sixth to solidify KT’s lead (KT fans: maybe don’t keep watching after that). He also reached base with a hit and a walk. The primary catcher for the Wiz has had a strong (and rather uncharacteristic) start to the season, with an OPS north of 1.000—don’t expect the 30-year-old to keep up this pace, but it’s a welcome sight for downcast KT fans.
Suk-min Park (3B, NC Dinos): 3-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. This one was a no-brainer—Park hit two solo homers in this game including the walk-off winner in the bottom of the tenth. The Dinos third baseman really improved his plate discipline last season and it’s paying off—he saw an OPS increase in a year that featured offensive declines across the board. He’s picked up where he left off in 2020 with an impressive display of power. The 34-year-old looks to be an integral part of the surging Dinos, who are now tied for second in the league.
Jae-hwan Kim (LF, Doosan Bears): 4-4, HR, 3 R, 4 RBI, BB. Kim batted in the first run of the game in the top of the first with a single to RF and the Bears never looked back. In a game where Doosan exploded for 11 runs, Kim contributed to more than half of them. He reached base in all five of his plate appearances, including a towering two-run bomb into the stands of left-center field for his third homer of the season. While he still struggles with strikeouts, the 31-year-old former league MVP has had a red-hot start to the season—there’s a reason he’s in the cleanup spot for the Bears.
Hoon Jung (DH, Lotte Giants): 3-4, SB, RBI, BB. Jung reached based on four of his five plate appearances, throwing in a stolen base in the second for good measure. He also smacked an RBI single in the 5th, though it wasn’t enough for the Giants to keep their undefeated season in place. The 32-year-old infielder has never been an offensive juggernaut but he’s had a strong start to the year over the Giants’ first six games.
Hyun-soo Kim (LF, LG Twins): 4-5, 2B, 3B, R, 3 RBI. Poor Nick Kingham. The Twins scored nine runs in their game against the Wyverns (eight of them falling in the first four innings to Kingham), and three of them are thanks to Kim. The hard-hitting left fielder is an offensive stud for LG, and finished a homer shy of the cycle with a double and triple that each plated in a run. Kim has hit under .300 only once in the last decade, with a decent touch of power and impeccable plate discipline. This season has started no differently, and we can expect more of the same from the 32-year-old as the 2020 season unfolds.
Dong-min Han (RF, SK Wyverns): 2-3, 2B, HR, R, 4 RBI. The Wyverns’ slide continues with their fourth straight loss, despite Han’s best attempts to keep them in it. The right fielder knocked in four of the Wyverns’ five runs with both of hits going for extra bases, including a two-run jack to right in the second inning that gave SK the lead for a brief time. Han has been one of the lone bright spots for the Wyverns this season, with today giving him his league-leading fourth HR.
Hae-min Park (CF, Samsung Lions): 1-2, 2 SB. Not the most impressive stat line ever, but in a game where the Lions didn’t have a single extra-base hit (and only six hits total), Park set himself apart by stealing two bases in the third inning. The speedster swiped 60 bases back in 2015, but has steadily declined in the years since with only 24 last season. With minimal power, plate discipline problems, and a batting average that leaves a bit to be desired, the 30-year-old wants to prove he can still contribute offensively along the basepaths.
Dong-won Park (C, Kiwoom Heroes): 2-3, HR, R, RBI. Park didn’t seem to get the memo that this was supposed to be another pitching duel as the only player in the game to collect multiple hits, both of them for extra bases. He hit the game’s only homer in the second inning and threw in a double in the eighth for good measure. After posting a solid .813 OPS in 2019, Park seems to be winning the primary catcher job from 34-year-old Ji-young Lee and today’s performance sure doesn’t hurt.
Kim Min-woo (Hanwha Eagles): 7 IP, o R, 0 ER, 1 H, 8 K, 3 BB, 101 pitches. Kim was the outstanding pitcher of the day, taking a no-hitter into the seventh en route to a one-hit, seven-inning effort on Tuesday. He walked the first batter of the game but then took control, sending the batters down in order in four of the next five frames. It was his first start of the year after a relief appearance against the SK Wyverns on Day Two in which he gave up three earned runs on two home runs in 4 ⅓ innings, though he did not figure in the decision. Coming into the game, Kim sported a lifetime 6.85 ERA and last posted an ERA below 6.50 in 2015. Maybe it was a fluke, maybe it was a turn for the better, but Kim’s performance for the win is a great reason for the Eagles to celebrate.
Min-woo Kim of the Hanwha Eagles also had 8:
Love watching this dude’s delivery and how it messes with a hitters timing. Not to mention the elevated heaters and slow curves. pic.twitter.com/KbVU4J8b10
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) May 12, 2020
Eric Jokisch (Kiwoom Heroes): 6 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 H, 7 K, 0 BB, 83 pitches. Jokisch put up a sparkling performance for the Heroes, handling the Lions for six innings, allowing just an unearned run due to an error by the centerfielder that put the leadoff batter on second base to start the game. While he encountered some trouble in the first three frames, he cruised through the second three without allowing a baserunner to earn the win. The lefthanded American took a step up from his previous appearance on Day Two, in which he threw five innings of one-run ball striking out four while giving up five hits and one walk, and has continued the success he saw last year with Kiwoom when he went 13-9 with a 3.13 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 141 strikeouts and just 39 walks in 181⅓ innings pitched.
Aaron Brooks (Kia Tigers): 7 IP, 1R, 1 ER, 7 H, 4 K, 0 BB, 90 pitches. Another North American makes today’s list, as Brooks put up a solid performance for the Tigers opposite Kim Min-woo. Brooks faced the minimum three batters through the first three frames but found trouble in each of the next three before sending the Eagles down in order in the seventh to end his outing; he allowed his lone earned run in the sixth inning on an infield single, a balk and a double. The 30-year-old right-hander is off to a great start to his KBO career after allowing just one earned run on five hits in 5⅔ innings with six strikeouts on Day Two in a no-decision against the Kiwoom Heroes.
Ben Lively (Samsung Lions): 6 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 H, 4 K, 1 BB, 94 pitches. One final former major leaguer rounds out our list today, with Ben Lively of the Lions giving a great effort in the losing cause. Despite taking the loss, he kept his team in the game for six innings, allowing a solo home run in the second and the second run in his final inning off a leadoff double and a follow-up single — though he managed to finish the inning without allowing further damage. The outing turned out much better than his previous start on May 6, in which he gave up four earned runs on six hits, three walks, two home runs and a hit batter while striking out six.
Wednesday’s Key Matchup
Jang Shi-hwan (Hanwha Eagles) vs. Lee Min-woo (Kia Tigers): Hanwha’s Jang won his first start of the season on May 7, tossing six innings allowing two earned runs on nine hits, a walk and two hit batters against the SK Wyverns. Kia’s Lee was not quite as fortunate, getting stung for four earned runs on five hits and three walks while striking out four in 5⅔ innings. The 32-year-old hight-hander Jang has not posted a season with an ERA below four since 2015, while 27-year-old righty Lee carries a career 5.75 ERA and 1.68 WHIP in 117 ⅓ innings pitched over three-plus season entering Wednesday’s matchup.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)