It seems like a lifetime ago that they were once battling for the lead. Ace Kim Kwang-hyun, 35, had his best start cut short as SSG Landers’ postseason hopes hang in the balance depending on this week’s results.

SSG lost 0-3 to KT Wiz in a regular-season road game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League on Wednesday at SSG Landers Field in Michuhol-gu, Incheon, South Korea. The loss narrowed their lead to two games over the sixth-place Doosan Bears (62 wins, 2 draws and 55 losses), who defeated the Hanwha Eagles 8-3 on the same day.

This week was seen as a watershed moment for SSG, as it would determine their farming this season. Starting with a meeting with KT, the team will play five games in a row against two fall baseball rivals who both call Jamsil Baseball Stadium home. They will play a three-game series against the sixth-place Doosan Bears on Sept. 13 and 14 and a doubleheader against the first-place LG Twins on Sept. 16 and 17. A losing streak could push them out of the top five. “The hitters have improved as a whole,” said SSG manager Kim Won-hyung, “but the starters were bad last week, so this week we need them to perform well. I hope they will pitch innings with some responsibility.”

First up was ace Kim Kwang-hyun. Kim pitched six innings of four-hit ball, two walks, five strikeouts, and one earned run to earn his 12th quality start of the season (six or more innings pitched and three or fewer earned runs allowed). He was matched by Wes Benjamin, who pitched eight innings (103 pitches) of one-hit ball, including a 7⅔-inning perfect game, with eight strikeouts and no walks. The combination of a 149 mph fastball and a 130 mph slider that sliced through the left-hander’s body took the wind out of KT’s sails early in the game. Additionally, a sharp pitch on the edge of the strike zone was the driving force behind the 0S 3B swinging strikeout.

He did his job as a starting pitcher by not letting a bad situation get to him. Kim Kwang-hyun, who had earlier drawn a walk in a 12-pitch battle with Kim Min-hyuk, gave up a single to Park Byung-ho that went all the way to the left field fence, scoring a run. With his pitch count at 104, he had reached his limit and could still have runners on first and third. However, Byeong-dae’s grounder to third was caught and he made a running throw to first for the out. It was a Gold Glove-level defense, as even a head-first slide by the quick-footed Choi was useless.

In total, Kim threw 109 pitches (34 fastballs, 33 sliders, 25 changeups, 17 curves) for six innings, minimizing the burden on the bullpen going forward. It was also the first quality start by a homegrown pitcher in five games since Aug. 31 against the Kiwoom in Incheon, while also erasing a four-run outing in 3⅔ innings in the previous game (Sept. 6 against Daejeon Hanwha). Again, the starting pitcher was Kim Kwang-hyun.

Other than Kim Kwang-hyun, homegrown starters who struggled to last even five innings became the main reason for SSG’s fall in the second half. You have to go all the way back to July 29 against Hanwha in Incheon to find a quality start by an SSG homegrown pitcher other than Kim Kwang-hyun. Jong-hoon Park earned the win with six innings of three-hit ball, striking out seven and walking none, and since then, no homegrown starter has recorded a quality start in the first 45 days.

This season has been one of those seasons where every team in contention for the postseason has a strong one-two punch, and the performance of the bottom of the order has often been the difference between winning streaks and losing streaks. Even KT head coach Lee Kang-cheol, who has the strongest starting lineup among the 10 teams, said in a pregame interview, “In the past, after losing three games, there was a saying that it would take a month to make up for it, but nowadays it only takes a week. That means everyone is strong, and if you have one bad start, you can go down. Each team’s 1-2 starters are good enough to go anywhere, so I think it’s leveled out.”먹튀검증

Of SSG’s 44 quality starts this season (tied for sixth in the league), Kirk McCarty (13), Kim Kwang-hyun (12), and Ronis Elias (9) account for 77.3 percent. They are followed by Oh Won-seok and Park Jong-hoon with four appearances each. Even the bullpen trio of Ko Hyo-joon, Noh Kyung-eun, and Seo Jin-yong have shown signs of fatigue, so SSG will need Kim Kwang-hyun and the rest of the homegrown starters to step up.

Leave A Comment

Recommended Posts