The KBO had a little bit of everything on Friday, with pitchers duels, extra innings, and lots of comeback wins. Koo Chang-mo dominated, as the league-leading NC Dinos won behind his nine strikeouts in seven innings of one-run ball. The Dinos picked up a game in the standings on the LG Twins, who dropped to 2.5 games back following their blowout loss the Doosan Bears, who now are only 4.5 games behind the Dinos themselves. Elsewhere, the Kiwoom Heroes and Kia Tigers each had a come-from-behind victory as well to maintain their fourth and fifth place spots in the standings, and the KT Wiz battled back from an 8-0 deficit and walked off the Lotte Giants in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Worth revisiting if you somehow missed it yesterday, our fearless leader Alex Fast made his national broadcasting debut during the featured KBO game on ESPN Thursday and was magnificent. Alex’s appearance began during the bottom of the fifth inning, and it is highly suggested you check it out on the ESPN app if you haven’t already done so.
And hearing him do Baltimore accents for their recent draft picks had me dying. ? pic.twitter.com/3Y1bmMjkCV
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) June 18, 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, brought to you by Nick Bucher and Jai Correa.
Preston Tucker (OF, Kia Tigers): 4-4, HR, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI. The former MLB journeyman was locked in on Friday, finishing just a triple shy of the cycle. Tucker came to the plate in the fifth inning with Kia trailing 3-0 and socked his 11th homer, a three-run blast that tied the game. The lefty is now among the league leaders in long balls and RBI and has a season-long OPS approaching 1.100. Tucker has been a force all season long for the Tigers and is currently in the midst of a nine-game hitting streak.
Mel Rojas Jr. (OF, KT Wiz): 3-5, HR, 2 R, RBI. Rojas has been one of the most dominant offensive forces in the entire KBO, and Friday was no different. The outfielder hit his 13th homer of the season and collected two more hits in KT’s come-from-behind victory. Rojas’ 425-foot bomb to center field in the third inning got the Wiz on the scoreboard in this one, making it 8-1 in a game they would go on to win 9-8 in extra innings. For the season, Rojas leads the KBO in total bases, and he currently is riding an eight-game hitting streak and has at least one extra-base hit in seven of those eight games.
Jeon Jun-woo (OF, Lotte Giants): 3-6, HR, R, 3 RBI. Despite the Giants ultimately losing this one, Jeon accounted for one of the team’s multiple strong offensive performances and picked up three hits. In the first inning, Jeon’s eighth homer of the season opened up an early 3-0 lead for Lotte and started a rally where the Giants scored seven runs in the inning. With his strong showing Friday, Jeon raised his batting average over .300 for the season and is riding a 12-game-hitting streak.
Ju Hyo-sang (C, Kiwoom Heroes): 1-1, 2 RBI. Ju got an opportunity to play hero on Friday when he was announced as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning. The 22-year-old came to the plate with the Heroes trailing 1-0 and bases loaded with one out in the ninth inning, and promptly claimed some glory by singling into the right-center gap that scored two runs and gave Kiwoom a dramatic walk-off win. This was just Ju’s sixth plate appearance of the year, but he likely has earned himself more opportunities to contribute moving forward after Friday’s heroics.
Park, Yong-taik (DH, LG Twins): 4-5, 2B 2 R, 2 RBI. By the time most people turn 41, they are well past their baseball performance peak, if they’re even still playing. Nobody seems to have shared this with Park, however, as the 41-year-old designated hitter for the Twins picked up four hits, scored twice, and drove in two runs. He doesn’t have much power anymore, with just a single home run combined in 2019-2020, but the wily vet still hits for a high average in the heart of the Twins’ lineup.
Lee Chung-woong (OF, LG Twins): 2-2, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB, HBP. The Twins couldn’t score enough to beat the Bears Friday, but it certainly wasn’t Lee’s fault. The center fielder led off for LG and was phenomenal at the plate, reaching base in each of his four at-bats, while driving in three runs and scoring twice himself. The 31-year-old has been on a heater, and with his multi-hit game Friday, he now has multiple hits in four of his past five games.
Kuk Hae-Sung (OF, Doosan Bears): 3-5, 2 R, 3 RBI. The Bears scored 18 runs on Friday and did so with a balanced attack. Despite not hitting a single home run, the Bears had four different players drive in three runs, and Kuk’s three hits led the team. Kuk’s 2020 season looks significantly better after Friday’s showing, as he entered the game holding a disappointing .077/.200/.077 slash line in five games.
Koo Chang-mo (NC Dinos): 7 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 9 K, 0 BB. We had to wait an extra day but it was well worth it as Koo Chang-mo kept doing his thing. For an eighth straight start, the Dinos ace dotted his fastball, bent hellacious sliders, and ran splitters off the edges to again give up only one or fewer earned runs. Even though he served up a home run for a second straight start, it’s remarkable to see Koo’s artistry on the mound, his body in sync with exactly what he wants to do – a rare yet necessary combination for stardom as a pitcher. Koo will take a 6-0 record with a 0.81 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 9.98 K/9, and 1.80 BB/9 into his next start.
Today, Koo Chang-Mo:
– Recorded 9 K’s
– Extended his quality start streak to 8
– Kept his ERA below 1 (0.82)
– Gave up 1 ER or fewer for the 8th consecutive time. pic.twitter.com/Hxo3flEZyl
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) June 19, 2020
Moon Seung-won (SK Wyverns): 6 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 4 K, 2 BB. Moon Seung-won and Han Hyun-hee were locked in a pitcher’s duel with Moon outpitching Han, though the Wyverns would blow the game in the ninth. Entering this start, amongst qualified starters, Moon had the seventh-lowest FIP at 3.55 while also having the eighth largest positive differential between ERA (4.28) and FIP at 0.72. With 9.22 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9, you can see why Moon’s predicted ERA is so low – but with a bloated .336 BABIP, the ERA also seems understandable. After starting the season slowly, Moon is now on a roll, allowing only five earned runs over his last 26 2/3 innings with 27 strikeouts.
Han Hyun-hee (Kiwoom Heroes): 7.2 IP, 1 ER, 7 H, 5 K, 1 BB. On the other side, Han has also suffered from poor luck entering this start. Han had a 5.12 ERA and 4.09 FIP – the fourth-largest positive differential of 1.03. Why is his ERA so high? Well, Han’s got the second-highest BABIP amongst qualified pitchers at .370. Since he only strikes out under seven men per nine innings, Han does not have the ability to control the game himself, relying on batted ball suppression for success. Up until today, that had not manifested. However, against the Heroes, Han was able to record 13 ground ball outs with his five strikeouts – finally, some good luck.
David Buchanan (Samsung Lions): 5 IP, 2 ER, 8 H, 7 K, 2 BB. The only difference between this start looking like Buchanan’s previous four starts was Preston Tucker, who was a one-man wrecking crew for the Tigers. Outside of a home run for Tucker, Buchanan once again pitched well with his past five starts each allowing a measly two earned runs or fewer. While he hasn’t struck out too many (6.16 K/9), Buchanan is taking an improving 3.62 ERA and 1.21 WHIP into his next outing.
Saturday’s Key Matchup
Warwick Saupold (Hanwha Eagles) vs Lee Jae-hak (NC Dinos): The pitching matchup of Satuday’s slate will come from the Eagles and Dinos – a battle of David versus Goliath. For the Eagles, Warwick Saupold will take the ball. After his complete-game shutout on Opening Day, Saupold struggled, giving up 21 earned runs over the next six starts – 37 IP. The good news? Saupold seems to have righted the ship with a six-inning scoreless start against the Bears last time out – though, the test will be difficult tomorrow against the Dinos. For those Dinos, Lee Jae-hak will be on the mound and he hasn’t been very good this year with a 5.35 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. While Lee has largely struggled, his best start of the season came against the Eagles a couple starts back, giving up a meager run over seven innings. Against a weak Eagles offense, a repeat of that performance should not be out of the realm of possibilities.
— Jai Correa
-graphic by Justin Paradis