I knew it would be good, but I didn’t expect it to be this good. The KIA Tigers are feeling the effects of signing Kim Tae-gun (34) more than they could have imagined.
KIA defeated the KT Wiz 7-0 in a regular-season road game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at Suwon KT Wiz Park in Jangan-gu, Suwon, on Aug. 8. With the win, KIA, which has won four straight, jumped to seventh place, two games behind the fourth-place NC Dinos and Lotte Giants.
The victory was a complete game shutout against national ace Ko Young-pyo (32). Prior to the game, Ko was the lowest strikeout pitcher in the league with 0.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Taking the mound for KIA was Lee Yi-ri (21), who had the worst strikeout rate in the league at 7.94 strikeouts per nine innings (pitchers with more than 30 innings pitched), a matchup that was far from a sure thing.
Lee got off to a shaky start. In the first inning, he threw 11 fastballs against Kim Min-hyuk-Bae Jeong-dae, a table setter, resulting in a walk and a strikeout. Against Hwang Jae-gyun, he mixed up his slider and changeup. The slider was not bad. In the end, he struck out swinging. In Jang Sung-woo’s at-bat, Lee Yi-ri’s throwing error put runners on first and third, but he was able to get Moon Sang-chul to ground out to short with a seven-pitch fastball-slider combo to end the inning.
After testing his conditioning and pitches with a variety of pitches up, down, left and right, Kim’s pitch mix began to change. He abandoned his fastball-oriented pitches. He reduced the number of pitches he threw to batters with a one percent batting average, such as Jang Jun-won in the eighth inning and Lee Sang-ho in the ninth inning, and quickly accumulated outs with his changeup. When he faced Oh and Jang in the bottom of the second inning, he went straight to the mound to break up the rhythm. As a result, Lee had his best outing of the season, going five innings (99 pitches), allowing three hits, two walks, and striking out eight.
With Lee’s batting average hovering around zero, KIA began to realize the impact of their starting catcher and the effectiveness of Kim Tae-gun’s signing. It’s no wonder he’s been nicknamed “Taegun Mama” by fans just four days after his arrival. After only four games, KIA has already posted the second-best ERA in the league with a 2.00 ERA, which is especially impressive considering that the starting rotation of Yoon Young-cheol, Yang Hyun-jong, Kim Gun-guk, and Lee Yi-ri has no foreign pitchers, unlike the first-place Doosan Bears (1.75 ERA), who have two foreign pitchers.
Kim Tae-gun is also a force to be reckoned with at the plate. He started off the game against the Incheon SSG Landers, which he joined an hour before the start of the game after being traded on the fifth, with a sacrifice fly. Since then, he’s had a hit in every game with every runner in scoring position, making him a new stealer in the four-game winning streak. Kia fans quickly became accustomed to the smiling veteran, who was often seen hugging Kia pitchers between games and casually asking opposing batters how they were doing.
Kim was aware of this atmosphere. “I’ve heard a lot of people say that I look like a player who used to play for KIA,” he said recently in Suwon. I think the fans are saying that because I won the game, so I’m glad,” he laughed, adding, “Home seems to have its own energy, so I’m going to enjoy it a little more and try to do well.” He also looked forward to meeting the home fans.안전놀이터
In recent days, the KIA has jumped into the fall baseball competition in earnest, replacing both foreign pitchers within a day of filling the bullpen. The replacements are set to make their debuts one after the other, and with the return of captain Kim Sun-bin (34) in Game 8, the team is close to full strength.
“We’ve won all of our games since I’ve been here, and we’re close to the end of the first half, so if we finish in a good mood, I think it will be a springboard for us to move up (to the top of the standings),” Kim said, adding, “I believe that if we all do our job, we’ll do better in the second half.”