Hitters lit up Day 17 of the KBO like a Christmas tree, socking more than twice as many dingers as games played. Four of the five games had at least eight runs scored and three ran into double digits. When all was said and done the streaking NC Dinos (8-2 in their last 10 games) extended their lead atop the standings and now stand at 13-3. The KT Wiz (7-9) inched closer to .500 while Kia Tigers, Doosan Bears, and Kiwoom Heroes all added their 10th win of the year.
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Mel Rojas, Jr. (OF, KT Wiz): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI. Rojas has done nothing but mash since he got to the KBO in 2017 and he’s doing it again so far this year. This morning’s two dingers were his third and fourth on the young season and pushed his average to a plain mean .468. He now has nearly as many RBI (12) as strikeouts (13). Oh yeah, his homers came from opposite sides of the plate, too. He’s basically a human wrecking ball right now.
Na Joo-hwan (3B, Kia Tigers): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. Na has only gotten into 11 games so far and before this morning he scuffled to a .150 average with three singles. He notched his first two extra-base hits, doing so from the eight-hole in the lineup. He’s flashed doubles power with a little less homer pop in the past but this might be one of the stronger lines the 35-year-old could put up this year.
Kim Sun-bin (2B, Kia Tigers): 2-4, 2B, 3 RBI, BB. Kim’s reputation with the bat in KBO is as a sprinkler, dousing in little contributions everywhere through the course of the season. Like Na, this might end up being one of his stronger lines of 2020 when all is said and done. That said, his double last night was his fifth in 17 games, putting him on pace to push 2017’s career-high 34. Last night’s walk gave him 12, which is exactly how many times he’s whiffed so far. He’s basically a lock to keep that ratio going.
Jeong Jin-gi (RF, SK Wyverns): 3-4, HR, 2 R, RBI. Jeong was just about the lone bright spot for the SK Wyverns this morning bopping his first bomb of the year to cut the team’s deficit to two in the fifth inning. That was as close as the Wyverns would get, though. The shot was just the 14th Jeong has manufactured in 237 KBO games, so don’t pick this one to start a breath-holding contest or you might end up blue in the face with some egg to go with it.
Oh Jae-won (1B, Doosan Bears): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI. Oh is off to perhaps his most aggressive start in some time. His home run on Saturday was his third of the year through 16 games, which already matches the total he mustered through 98 games in 2019. He’s also only got one walk to eight strikeouts, providing his biggest K-BB rate to date. It’s early, but we might be seeing a change in approach from the veteran in his 14th season.
Jose Miguel Fernandez (DH, Doosan Bears): 4-5, HR, 3 R, RBI. Ya boi. Don’t. Care. Fernandez showed up in this space just yesterday, with a line that would make even your grandmother blush and bat her eyes. He’s back again after Saturday’s performance, which pushed his batting average for the year to a hilarious .500. He has more runs scored (18) and RBI (17) than games played (16). Global warming is a threat to the planet, sure, but have we considered what we can do to stop Jose Miguel Fernandez from burning it up all by himself?
Choi Joo-hwan (1B, Doosan Bears): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI. Choi came to life last night after posting a mostly pedestrian line through 14 previous games (.250/.321/.541). You can’t ignore that gaudy slugging percentage, though. His home run last night was his fourth already, which is as many as he popped last year in 87 games. There may be bop left in that bat yet.
Kim Dong-yeop (DH, Samsung Lions): 3-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB. Kim contributed all over in this morning’s games, doubling his home run total for the year en route to being the biggest threat in the box for the Lions. His walk was welcomed, as he now has just three on the year compared to 12 Ks. Kim’s line wasn’t enough to propel the team to a win, but it could be enough to help spark his overall play.
Park Byung-ho (1B, Kiwoom Heroes): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB. My guy must enjoy keeping things balanced. He went into Saturday morning’s games with two homers, nine runs scored, and nine RBI. Now he’s got four bombs, 11 runs, and 11 RBI. He added his 12th walk of the year for some whimsy. His batting average sits at just .210, and he has had KBO seasons where he’s thrown up some clunkers like that. Be on the lookout.
Lee Jung-hoo (CF, Kiwoom Heroes): 2-5, HR, R, 4 RBI. By the time Lee jacked his three-run shot in the eighth inning of this contest, Kiwoom was just pouring it on Lotte, with the score at 10-2. The 21-year-old may be breaking out in his fourth full KBO season. After today’s contest, his batting average sits at .380. He’s always good for a strong number there, but it’s looking like he has the power to go with it now. His homer was his fourth in 17 games. He hasn’t hit more than six in any of his three previous seasons. Pitchers beware.
Kim Ha-seong (3B, Kiwoom Heroes): 3-4, 2B, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB. Kim’s extra-base hits both came by the third inning, helping the Heroes jump out to a 4-0 lead early, which would set the pace for the entire game. This is the kind of line he seems to just churn out. You can pretty much set your watch to 20 homers and double-digit steals for the third baseman.
— Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO) May 23, 2020
– Tim Jackson
Drew Rucinski (NC Dinos): 8 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 9 K, 1 BB. Rucinski had everything working in an overpowering performance against Hanwha – perfect through the first four innings. He recorded nine strikeouts in total but had some dandies with his splitter and his fastball. In easily his best outing of the year, Rucinski hopefully has found the ’stuff’ necessary to continue his success.
Aaron Brooks (Kia Tigers): 6 1/3 IP, 3 ER, 7 H, 6 K, 3 BB. Brooks got the quality start and his first win of the season despite walking his first men of the year, allowing three in total. Even with the elevated walk and hit totals, Brooks was able to pitch effectively, recording eight ground ball outs and a beautifully spotted fastball for a strikeout. If Brooks’ rocky outings look like this, we should bet on Brooks being a dominant force for the rest of the season.
Kim Min (KT Wiz): 5 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 2 K, 7 BB. Can you believe that a pitcher can walk seven guys in one outing and still get the win? Kim accomplished just that against the Twins, additionally only allowing two hits and a run over nearly six innings. Although he has displayed better control in the past than last night, Kim walked nearly 10% of batters last season so clearly it should be a point of improvement.
Eric Jokisch (Kiwoom Heroes): 6 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 4 K, 2 BB. Jokisch only allowed two earned runs in this one, and since he only allowed one earned run in his previous three starts combined, we technically have to say that this was his worst start of the season. Entering the outing with a 0.53 ERA and 0.71 WHIP, Jokisch clearly has found another gear, improving upon his 3.13 ERA and 1.13 WHIP last season.
Sunday’s Key Matchup
William Cuevas (KT Wiz) vs Lim Chang-gyu (NC Dinos): The Wiz and Twins have played a hard-fought series this weekend, splitting the first two games – a surprise given their respective positions in the standings. In the rubber game, Cuevas, the former Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers pitcher, will start. Surprisingly, Cuevas has recorded nearly a strikeout an inning so far this season (16 K in 17 1/3 IP), so look for him to continue using his slider and curveball for whiffs. On the other side, Lim Chang-gyu has garnered 13 strikeouts in 12 innings with a 3.75 ERA and 1.08 WHIP – a promising start. However, for his career, Lim has pitched to a 5.06 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in eight seasons, making his recent success fairly unlikely to continue – we can hope otherwise though.
— Jai Correa
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)