The KIA Tigers finished the week with three wins and two losses despite a losing series against Lotte. On 4 June in Sasik, KIA shook off the nightmare of a second straight loss in Sasik with a 6-0 victory over Lotte, thanks to a six-run sixth inning and the effective combination of Lee Yi-ri and Lim Ki-young.
The win brought Kia back to within one game of the fifth spot.안전놀이터
When we met in Gwangju on the 30th of May, the key KIA officials were looking at the current situation positively. Of course, everyone knows that the team is not a championship contender, but there are positive elements.
Firstly, the emergence of Shin Bum-soo as a catcher has given the team a boost. Although he collapsed in the Lotte game, Choi Ji-min went on a 17-game scoreless streak, establishing himself as the best left-handed bullpen in the 10 clubs. Yoon Young-chul is now on everyone’s radar as a strong Rookie of the Year contender. He’s practically a one-two punch. Long man Im Ki-young is still there, and the trio of Park Chan-ho and Ryu Ji-hyeok are in good shape. Most importantly, Lee Yi-ri is coming alive. Lee made two appearances this week, both of which resulted in wins.
Of course, there are a number of things to be disappointed about. Firstly, the use of two mercenary pitchers (Anderson and Medina) is disappointing.
But that’s unavoidable. KIA has not yet considered replacing them. Han Seung-taek is also not yet a favourite of manager Kim Jong-kook or the fans. Socrates and Choi Hyung-woo are doing a great job, but the destructive power of the centre-field batting line-up is limited to just two. In addition, the first base line, which is supposed to be backed up by the offensive power of Kim Seok-hwan, has become a source of frustration for the fans, as the defence, not to mention the offence, has become shaky.
However, what is positive for KIA is that in the big picture, the pillars are upright. Catcher (Shin Beom-soo), shortstop (Park Chan-ho + Kim Do-young), centre fielder (Socrates), third baseman (Ryu Ji-hyuk), closer (Choi Ji-min), middle reliever (Lim Ki-young), and domestic starting pitchers (Lee Yi-ri, Yoon Young-chul, Yang Hyun-jong) are settling in. The team is not falling apart at the seams.
Lee Woo-sung, Kim Seok-hwan, Byun Woo-hyuk, etc. can certainly influence wins and losses, but they are not the centrepiece. As long as the bones are upright, there’s always room for improvement. That’s why Kia is currently performing better than expected at nearly 5 per cent.
Choi Won-jun returns on 12 June, and Na Sung-beom and Kim Do-young will return as early as the end of June (early July at the latest). Anderson and Jeong-Hae-young, who are currently cooling their heels at Futures, are also resources that can be positively expected to benefit from the influence of Seung-Rak School. Anderson is likely to start against SSG next week.
The rookies are also growing well. Kim Jae-yeol was a bit of a disappointment, but Kwak Do-gyu and Hwang Dong-ha showed clear promise. Kim Sun-woo, a rookie who was passed by the Commerce, is also worth a look if you’re in need of a catcher. On the sidearm side, Kim Chan-min is a good option to try out when Lim Ki-young tires.
He topped out at 151km in his last game against Sangsang.
Of course, that’s a long way short of what fans are looking for. But for a team that’s playing without its top prospect, a $10 billion-plus free agent centre fielder, a 30-save reliever for the second year in a row, and a mercenary first baseman, there’s a lot to like about KIA’s performance.
It’s not just about the present. They are playing with both the present and the future in mind.
KIA officials believe that if they can get through June, their time will come. Certainly, he says, there will be a chance for a fourth-place finish or better. KIA hosts league leader SSG in Gwangju next week. Many fans will be interested to see how they get over this hump.