- Hoping for a turnaround with more games against lower-ranked teams
- Choi Jun-yong-Kim Won-joong have the hill to climb
- Park Se-woong and Na Kyun-ahn AG will have their work cut out for them
The Lotte Giants of the KBO have rekindled the flames of fall baseball with a three-game winning streak to end the season. What’s more, their remaining opponents are teams in general decline, so it’s possible that Lotte could make a dramatic run to the top five. However, with key bullpen pitchers such as Kim Sang-soo and Koo Seung-min effectively ruled out for the season due to injuries, the team is in desperate need of a “white knight” to fill the void.메이저놀이터
Lotte won 7-4 against Samsung Electronics in Daegu on April 17, with “Captain” Ahn Chi-hong hitting back-to-back home runs. With the win, Lotte has now won three straight games, starting with a victory over KIA in Gwangju on Nov. 13. With 58 wins and 64 losses (0.475 winning percentage) as of the 18th, Lotte has closed the gap on fifth-place KIA to five games. If Lotte can pull off the miracle of going at least 17-5 in their remaining 22 games, they could make the postseason for the first time in six years since 2017.
Based on Lotte’s performance thus far, it’s not a likely scenario, but it’s not impossible, as their remaining opponents are relatively respectable. Lotte will host Sajik Kiwoom on the 19th after the rainout on the 16th. This will be their last match of the season. Kiwoom is in last place in the league and has the worst team situation and atmosphere. Lotte leads the head-to-head record with 8 wins and 7 losses. The next day’s opponent, Hanwha, is also in eighth place. The same goes for SSG, who will play three games in a row this weekend. The once-leading ‘defending champions’ have been bogged down in a five-game losing streak and have plummeted to sixth place.
There is a prerequisite for Lotte to secure a win against them. It’s the emergence of a ‘superhuman’ who can give them a boost like never before. Like other teams, Lotte has been losing key players one by one due to fatigue as they approach the end of the season. Kim Sang-soo and Koo Seung-min, who have been playing as a must-win pair, are representative. Kim Sang-soo collapsed on the mound after failing to throw a single strike in his relief appearance in the NC on April 8. A medical examination the next day revealed a torn adductor muscle, effectively ending his season. Koo Seung-min, who last pitched against Kiwoom on May 15, is also out for the time being with shoulder inflammation.
On the pitching side, the loss of “homegrown aces” Park Se-woong and Na Kyun-ahn is significant, as they have been called up for the Hangzhou Asian Games (AG) and can only play until the 22nd before the national team is called up. The only pitchers Lotte can rely on are the foreign starting one-two punch and Choi Jun-yong and Kim Won-joong in the bullpen.
Fortunately, Lotte was able to find a “temporary superhuman” in Shim Jae-min. Shim, who switched from KT to Lotte this season, has been touted as a backup starter during the AG. In the last two selection mock tests, he pitched five innings and one run in each, earning a passing grade.
However, Shim cannot fill the void alone, which is a big problem for Lotte. Interim manager Lee Jong-woon is considering Lee Jin-ha as a backup starter. Fans are looking forward to Kim Chang-hoon’s performance in the bullpen. Kim has recently pitched well in the Futures League with an ERA of 0 in six innings in seven games. Kim has also made a “surprise” appearance in three games for the first team.
It will be interesting to see if Lotte, who surprised fans by taking sole possession of first place in the league at the beginning of the season, will be able to blow the whistle at the end of the season with the help of the youngsters.