In the third week of the season, trends begin to present themselves. The Samsung Lions and SK Wyverns and languishing at the bottom of the table. For Doosan, it is not the team’s record that is drawing attention, but their designated hitter’s ruthless tear through KBO pitching. The Dinos fell but remain the class of the KBO. I finally highlight some quality pitching, as well as a few swings-and-misses that will surely make you feel better about your ability to hit a 90mph fastball.
table after week three (May 19-24)
I’ll just go ahead and say it. It’s not looking good for the Wyverns. The biggest drop here is Lotte. After a wild week two, they were swept by the Tigers 2-9, 0-6, 1-6. They rallied to take two of three back home against Kiwoom, but a 2-4 week would give 2 games of space to the Dinos and drop them to the bottom half of the table.
Kia, on the other hand, won five straight to start the week before being walked-off by the Wyverns on Sunday. Oddly enough, it was not due to the hot hand of two-time FBC Player of the Week Preston Tucker, who went hitless in his last four games of the week, only amassing one run batted in.
I suppose I have focused a little much on hitting in the first two editions, so here is Preston Tucker himself, dumbfounded by an absolutely perfect curveball.
That ball came from the hand of Lotte’s Se-woong Park, who has had a rather mediocre-to-poor start. Still, this is a gorgeous form that sometimes even Major Leaguers can stuggle to achieve.
In terms of pitching as an artform, I’ve always adored the beauty of submarine pitching. Take a look at Jong-hoon Park of the SK Wyverns, and then tell me how the hell someone is supposed to hit that thing.
Okay, so I’m aware that not every pitch thrown will be perfect. Park has given up 20 hits and a pair of homers so far this season. Still, there’s a visceral elegance to a submariner’s action. For more on that, let’s turn to the YouTubes.
GAME OF THE WEEK: NC Dinos @ Doosan Bears, 5/20. Highlights – If the Dinos are going to win the league, they will have to go through the Bears. My first two games of the week were wars of attrition, high-scoring bouts of feverish glory and momentary bliss. This week’s game saw three runs scored.
In the bottom of the first, Jose Miguel Fernandez walked. You see, Fernandez has a hit in all but two games this season. He has 72 official at-bats and 36 hits. I’ll do the math for you on this one- that’s a .500 batting average. This game was one such that did not result in Fernandez registering a hit. Still, his intimidation factor led to an early opportunity.
Jae-il Oh grounded into a fielder’s choice, eliminating Fernandez at second. There’s a literal 50/50 chance that the Dinos could have retired both Bears, but instead, the speedy Oh stood at first. Jae-hwan Kim slapped a double to deep left-center. Oh took off on contact, beginning a 270-foot journey home, beating the throw by more than a modest margin. Doosan assumed the lead.
The fourth inning brought about two fantastic highlights. The first came courtesy of Eui-ji Yang, who tied the score in a considerably quick fashion.
That’s one of those dingers where the outfielder jogs a bit for no reason other than to get the blood moving in his legs.
The very next batter was to pay the price of Yang’s bomb. Now, for those unfamiliar with KBO, some of these guys give more than everything they’ve got on some swings. You might think- how does that make any sense? Well take a look at Suk-min Park’s attempt at making contact with a Chris Flexen fastball…
I can’t poke fun at Park here. In my slow-pitch softball days, I most definitely went for broke like this at least once or twice. Still, the game was tied after four. It remained that way through the fifth, sixth, and seventh. The Dinos were at bat in the eighth inning, Chris Flexen still on the mound for Doosan, when the facade began to crack. In one of the strangest hits you’ll probably see this year, Jin-sung Kang tapped an infield single to short off of the absolute end of his bat.
The situation became uncomfortable for Doosan. Kang was subbed for a pinch-runner in Sang-ho Lee. Rightfielder Hee-dong Kwon laid down a sacrifice bunt to put Lee on second. Myung-gi Lee flied out to center, so leadoff hitter Min-woo Park was intentionally walked to create a force out at every base. Sang-ho Lee at second, Park at first. Into the box stepped Aaron Altherr, most recently of the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. At 6’5″ tall, he’s a rather imposing figure in the KBO. Even a base hit out of the infield would score Lee, potentially winning the game for the Dinos.
Chris Flexen struck out Aaron Altherr, preserving the tied score. He would leave the game after that at bat. It was his tenth strikeout.
The game would go to extras. In the bottom of the eleventh inning, Soo-bin Jung led off with a walk. Sang-ho Chung moved him over to second on a sacrifice bunt to the pitcher.
The Dinos intentionally walked Kun-woo Park to propose the inning-ending double play. After all, Park scoring wouldn’t matter. The risk of scoring of two is negated by the need to prevent the scoring of one. Se-hyuk Park pinch-hit for Yoo-chan Lee, and it was a decision that would prove to be the deciding factor.
A very nonchalant stroll home for Jung ended the game. The Dinos may have the best record in the game, but they no longer had their win streak. The Bears prevented a downward slide toward inadequacy. The NC-Doosan rivalry got another riveting chapter.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Jose Miguel Fernandez, DH, Doosan Bears. Listen… he’s been unconscious all season, but this week he steals the award away from a quick-floundering Preston Tucker. Fernandez had 13 hits and drove in eight runs. He ran his OPS to a staggering 1.308 on the season. In those two games wherein he did not register a hit, Fernandez still walked twice each time. Fernandez just produces, and despite Doosan’s rocky week, he is potentially having a season for the ages.
In other news, (and local if you live near me) Indianapolis, Indiana’s own Mel Rojas Jr. completed a rare feat on Saturday, hitting home runs from either side of the plate.
The next day, Roberto Ramos of the LG Twins walked-off Rojas’s Wiz with a grand slam, down 7-5 in the ninth with one out.
Back to the Bears, and an incredible heads-up defensive play by Joo-hwan Choi.
How about a batflip of the week? Here’s Jamie Romak of the SK Wyverns absolutely beaning the ass outta the baseball and adding a garnish of grandiosity.
And for good measure, how about one more full-body swing and a miss, this time by Dong-won Park of the Kiwoom Heroes.