Friday saw a lot of excitement in the late innings of games, as the Korean Baseball Organization continues to be an excellent distraction from the current lack of baseball stateside. Four of the five games ended up being determined by 2 runs or less, with the Doosan Bears late offense over the Samsung Lions being the only exception. Elsewhere, saves were picked up by the Hanwha Eagles, Lotte Giants, and Kia Tigers, with the deciding plate appearance for those Kia Tigers being a bases-loaded HBP!
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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:
Kim Moon-ho (1B, Hanwha Eagles): 2-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI Kim got started quickly in the Eagles’ 5-3 win on Friday, ripping a 2 run homer in his first plate appearance. He wasn’t done there either, adding a solo shot in the 5th inning. The #2 hitter in the Eagles’ lineup had entered Friday hitting well over .400, but his two dingers were the first two of the season for Kim. If Kim stays in a power groove and maintains his impressive hit tool as well, the 32-year-old will be an absolute force.
Noh Si-hwan (SS, Hanwha Eagles): 2-4, HR, 2 RBI This is Noh’s second straight day getting recognized here, but that’s what happens when you follow up an impressive first start of the season with another impressive game the next day. The 19-year-old hit his first homer Thursday and added another on Friday when he shot a ball over the wall in left field, filling in admirably at shortstop after injuries to other infielders have thrust him into the lineup. After how he has hit in his first two starts, the youngster might not only continue receiving reps but may also find himself moving up from the bottom of the lineup.
Park Chan-ho (SS, Kia Tigers): 2-5, R, SB. The Tigers won a nail-biter on Friday, and Park makes the list by being the only one of their regulars to pick up multiple hits. Park led off the game with a single and then stole second base, before coming around to score and give Kia an early 1-0 lead. His teammate, Yoo Min-Sang receives an honorable mention here as he pinch-hit in the 6th inning of this game, with the score tied 1-1, with bases loaded and 2 outs and his heroic HBP ultimately was the deciding run in this 2-1 game.
Park Kyung-soo (2B, KT Wiz): 2-3, 2B, BB, 3 RBI. KT’s man at the keystone had an impressive game on Friday, as Park reached base three times and drove in three runs. The 36-year-old vet wasted no time in this one, picking up all three of his RBI early. With one out and the bases loaded in the top of the first inning, Park laced a ball into the left-center gap for a double to give the Wiz an early lead. While Park’s team ultimately would lose this one when former, his own performance was excellent.
Fernandez Jose Miguel (DH, Lotte Doosan Bears): 3-4, HR, BB, 6 RBI. That’s not a typo, Fernandez had six RBI on Friday. Fernandez was an absolute force in the Bears’ 12-7 win, reaching base 4 times and leading the charge. Fernandez did the damage both early and late in this one, with a two-run single in the 3rd inning, a sac fly in the 5th, a 425-foot homer coming to lead off the 8th inning, and his two-run double in the 9th that sealed the win. Fernandez entered Friday with monster offensive numbers, and could absolutely have a chance to be an asset offensively in the MLB if there is a 2020 season.
Ryu Ji-hyeck (3B/SS, Doosan Bears): 4-5, 2 R, RBI. Any time that a team’s 9-hole hitter has 5 plate appearances, you know they had a good offensive day. When that 9-hole hitter has 4 hits himself, you know they had a really good day, and that was the case for Ryu’s Bears. Ryu’s 4 singles were the most hits any player had in this one. The utility infielder entered this one with only 7 plate appearances total, but if he continues to hit like this, he may force his way into more regular playing time.
Koo Ja-wook (OF, Samsung Lions: 2-3, BB, R, RBI. The Lions ran into an offensive buzzsaw in the Doosan Bears Friday, but Koo was one of a handful of strong offensive performers for the home team. Koo’s two hits were both singles, but with his base on balls he reached in three of his four opportunities, drove in a run, and came around once to score himself in a well-rounded offensive performance.
Min Byung-hun (DH, Lotte Giants): 2-5, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI. Min was one of the multiple Giants to have a strong game Friday, but he earns this recognition because of when he did his damage. In the 6th inning of this one, and with The Giants trailing 5-4, Min came up with the bases loaded and nobody out and promptly launched a bases-clearing double that ultimately was the game’s deciding hit.
Son Ah-seop (OF, Lotte Giants): 3-3, 2 R, 2 BB, SB. Son was another one of the Giants who were in the zone Friday, as he reached base in all five of his plate appearances. On top of his three hits, scoring multiple runs, and drawing multiple walks, Son picked up his first stolen base of the season as well in the 5th inning of this game. The walks are impressive, as Son’s batting eye has him among the league leaders in walks now through the first few weeks of the season.
Park Dong-won (DH, Kiwoom Heroes): 2-4, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB. The Heroes can’t have been happy with the outcome of their game Friday, but Park was one member of the team who hit exceptionally well in the losing effort. Park launched his fourth homer of the season in the fifth inning of this one and came around to score three times. Serving as the designated hitter instead of catching must have been a load off his legs!
– Nick Bucher
Yang Hyun-jong (Kia Tigers): 6 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 5 K, 1 BB. After allowing an unearned run in the first, Yang settled down nicely with six shutout innings en route to a Tigers win. Yang is now finding his groove, allowing only four earned runs across his last 18 innings with 15 strikeouts to four walks, lowering his season ERA to 3.43 on the season. The veteran had a 2.29 ERA and 1.07 WHIP across 184 2/3 IP last season so this recent groove seems durable.
Odrisamer Despaigne (KT Wiz): 7 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 3 K, 0 BB. What a frustrating result for the Wiz – relinquishing a 5-2 advantage entering the bottom of the eighth inning to eventually lose the game. Despaigne was an integral part of creating that initial lead, however, throwing seven innings of one-run ball. In his second straight one-run outing, Despaigne has only allowed two runs over his last fifteen innings and is seemingly settling into the KBO.
Warwick Saupold (Hanwha Eagles): 6 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 4 K, 3 BB. Unlike the first two pitchers in this debrief, Saupold allowed his highest number of earned runs in an outing this season, giving up a grand total of… three runs. Despite generally having a clean night, emotions did boil over a little bit, as Saupold barked at the home plate umpire upon the conclusion of the fourth inning. Nevertheless, Saupold continues to be the ace of the staff, guiding the Eagles to an impressive win against the NC Dinos.
Jung Woo-ram (Hanwha Eagles): 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 3 K, 0 BB. Jung closed out Friday’s victory for the Eagles with a dominant outing, collecting his fourth save this season. In the process, Jung was able to keep his third-place spot on the saves leaderboard, keeping Tigers closer Moon Kyung-chan in fourth. The veteran closer now has 169 saves in his career and will look to get many more this season.
Saturday’s Key Matchup
Raul Alcantara (Doosan Bears) vs Yoon Sung-hwan (Samsung Lions): Doosan rebounded from a Thursday loss to the Dinos to beat the Lions today, as the Bears will look to win the series tomorrow and possibly enter a tie with the Twins for the second spot in the standings. Alcantara will take the ball for the Bears where he’ll try to replicate his seven-inning nine strikeout outing last time out. The Lions will send out veteran Yoon Sung-hwan, who will try to bounce back after a terrible season debut in which he gave up six earned runs and eight hits over two innings.
— Jai Correa
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)