In the second half, KIA gradually improved their performance and restored their 5% win rate, but they were unable to gain any momentum. It’s a boring 5th place battle, and a 5th place battle. A 4-6 loss to Samsung Electronics in Daegu on the 20th dropped their winning percentage back below 5% (48 wins, 49 losses, and 2 draws).
Considering that the bats have been hitting relatively well, KIA’s struggles stem from its starting pitching. While Thomas Pannoni and Lee Yi-ri have been pitching well in their own right, Mario Sanchez and homegrown ace Yang Hyun-jong have been less than stellar of late. The losing streak isn’t long, but it’s been a major reason why the winning streak hasn’t been as long. It’s been especially painful to see the seemingly ever-present Hyun-Jong Yang struggle.
In the first half of the year, Yang pitched 90⅓ innings in 16 games, going 5-5 with a 3.79 ERA. Despite his ups and downs, he was still committed to the team, trying to pitch as many innings as possible. In the first half of the season, when KIA’s pitching staff was jagged and Lee’s innings were hard to digest, his performance was not bad, but in the second half, his stamina seemed to drop.
In the last three games of the season, he pitched 16⅓ innings, but went winless with two losses and a 7.71 ERA. It was even worse for Kia when he was washed out by the rain in a lucky no-hitter against LG Electronics in Gwangju on August 8 (8 runs and 6 earned runs in 2 innings). After another lucky break on the 15th against Kiwoom (7 runs in 5⅔ innings), KIA made a decision. They decided to skip a rotation and give him a break.
While the “ten days” period was clear, it was an uncomfortable situation for KIA, which had struggled all season with a viable sixth starter, to have to use a substitute. KIA chose right-hander Hwang Dong-ha (21). A 2022 seventh-round pick (65th overall) out of Inseong High School, Hwang was still unfamiliar to KIA fans. He didn’t make a first-team appearance last year, and didn’t make his debut until May 30 of this year.
After his call-up, he stayed for about a month and appeared in eight games, but his ERA of 5.11 was unimpressive. However, based on his experience in the first team, he steadily rotated in the second team’s starting rotation and was considered the most prepared starter in the second team. As a result, he was given the opportunity to pitch against Samsung in Daegu on the 20th in Yang Hyun-jong’s place. It was his second start in the first team.
In the end, it was successful. Although his pitching wasn’t perfect, he battled against the Samsung lineup with grit and left a mark. In 4⅔ innings, he gave up three runs on four hits (two home runs). He only walked one. For a replacement starter, he pitched above and beyond what you would expect from a second-year pitcher. I give him a passing grade for his performance, but also for his ability to overcome difficult conditions.
He got through the first inning, the most difficult inning for a pitcher. After the second inning, he gave up a double to Koo Ja-rook, but he got Kang Min-ho to ground out to third base to end the first inning. Most importantly, he was aggressive in attacking the strike zone with his pitches. Out of nine pitches in the first inning, he only threw one ball. In the second inning, he kept all three batters’ pitches in the infield.
There was a bump in the road. In the top of the third inning, there was a sudden downpour. It took a whopping 88 minutes and 1 hour and 28 minutes for the rain to stop and the field to be cleared. Normally, a pitcher’s shoulders get cold after waiting this long. It’s common to make a substitution to prevent injury. That’s what Samsung did with Won Tae-in. They were forced by the rules to face only one batter and immediately replace him. However, KIA kept Hwang Dong-ha in the game.
There may have been a bullpen situation, and there may have been a desire on the bench to see Hwang a little longer. Even under these difficult conditions, Hwang Dong-ha pitched with determination. After a scoreless third inning, Hwang gave up a solo shot to Kang Min-ho in the fourth and a solo shot to Oh Jae-il in the fifth, but he lasted 4⅔ innings and gave KIA the momentum to catch up. The KIA fans applauded and encouraged Hwang Dong-ha as he walked off the mound, even though he didn’t have the winning pitch.
Hwang’s fastball wasn’t a hard-hitter – according to Trackman, his four-seam fastball topped out at around 145 kilometers per hour – but he proved that he had power and knew how to target the strike zone. He might get hit, but at least he had enough pitches to leave you with the expectation that he wouldn’t self-destruct with a walk.메이저사이트
Once Yang Hyun-jong returns, Hwang Dong-ha will either go back to the bullpen or continue to learn the ropes with the second team. But the season is just beginning. KIA will call up Lee Yi-ri, Choi Ji-min, and Choi Won-jun for the Hangzhou Asian Games. Lee is a starter. With the most games left in the league, KIA will likely continue to rotate its starting rotation, and will need another starter to fill Lee’s void. With Hwang Dong-ha pitching on the 20th, it could be argued that he has drawn a number for the spot.
Otherwise, Kia manager Kim Jong-kook is also thinking about how to fill the void. “I’m even thinking about Plan C,” Kim said. A number of options are being considered, including bringing up a second-team starter and holding a bullpen day for the bullpen situation. Hwang Dong-ha has emerged as a viable option. It’s a silver lining for KIA in the loss on the 20th.