SSG Landers is in trouble. But there is one last bulwark, Seo Jin-yong (31). Seo “Jin-yong” Seo, who has virtually reserved the Salvation King, continues to defend his team.
The defending champions SSG are in trouble. They were tied for the lead with the LG Twins until the middle of the season, but as of the 11th, they are in fifth place (62 wins, 2 draws, and 54 losses). They have plummeted since August, with a winning percentage of just 0.387. They are two games behind the second-place KT Wiz, who have a direct playoff berth at stake. However, they are also only three games behind the sixth-place Doosan Bears, leaving them with no guarantee of fall baseball.
Still, SSG has Seo Jin-yong. Since the start of the season, he’s saved a whopping 33 save situations. Even when he’s left runners on base, he’s always been able to shut down the back door. He was nicknamed “Mr. Zero. SSG coach Kim Won-hyung also said, “I’m very grateful to Jin-yong.”
On March 27, Seo’s record was finally broken. He allowed the tying run to score in the ninth inning of a 5-4 win over Doosan. It was his first blown save of the season. Fortunately, he didn’t allow the tying run to score, and SSG won the game 8-5. However, he was unable to protect a three-run lead against KIA on the 3rd and suffered his first loss of the season.
However, Seo Jin-yong did not fall apart. He pitched two scoreless innings in the 11th inning of an 8-8 extra-inning tie against KT in Suwon on April 9. He didn’t get a win or a save, but he was able to preserve the tie and prevent KT from closing the gap. The next day, he pitched the ninth inning to preserve a one-run lead, 6-5, and help the team snap a three-game losing streak. It was his best performance of the season.
Seo, a second-year closer, knows the fate of the closer. “No matter how well you pitch, you can’t have a blown save. Honestly, I don’t think about it much. It’s hard to lose a game, but it’s not a big blow. It’s just a good feeling to go out there and say, ‘I held on. It’s just a good feeling, like, ‘I made it through.'”
Unlike starters, bullpen pitchers don’t know when they’re going to throw. But closing is different. They usually come out when the team is winning, so they usually have a set time. Seo has created his own routine to keep his performance stable.
“If I have a 6:30 p.m. game on a weekday, I always eat at 4 p.m. and take my vitamins. If I don’t have a team meeting, I go to my sleeping room around 4:30 to rest. After watching the game for about three innings, I get a massage. I don’t do any special exercises, but I move around a lot and play catch to loosen up my muscles.”
It’s not until the sixth inning that things get serious. Tubing and stretching, waiting for instructions from the bench. If the pitching coach gives the green light, he throws out of the bullpen. “It depends on the situation, but these days, I go to the bullpen mound at the beginning of the eighth inning. This is because I can go up in the eighth inning.”
The final step is mental preparation. It’s a necessary step in order to stay calm under pressure. “When the fans shout my name or cheer me on, it makes me feel good,” says Seo, who fires up the moment he steps onto the mound. “No matter how strong the hitter is, I just throw with the thought of getting a strikeout,” he says.
Seo’s main weapon is the forkball. Thanks to his long fingers, he has a good grip on the ball. He works the count with a fastball in the high 140 kilometers per hour and then induces a false swing with a forkball that drops. It’s a weapon that opponents know is coming, but they can’t stop it. With runners on base, he can be a bit of an explosive pitcher, but he has faith in his pitches and pushes through.
His schedule after work depends on the outcome of the game. “If I pitched well, I watch the game video. On bad days, I don’t watch it. I only look at it when I’m trying to figure out what went wrong. I don’t want to leave a negative image.”
Seo Jin-yong is practically booked as the king of saves. He is nine saves behind second-place Kim Won-joong (Lotte Giants – 26). He has two more to go. Jae-hoon Ha, now a hitter, needs to break the club’s single-season record for saves in 2019 (36) and reach the 40-save plateau, which only five players in the KBO have achieved.스포츠토토
Seo said, “I heard Jae-hoon say that he wants his brother to break his record. I want to break it too, and I want to win the saves title, because then our team will win a lot,” he said. He also expressed confidence in protecting the back door for the first time in fall baseball. “Even now, I’m always nervous. It’s the same in big games. I’m going to go out there one batter at a time and give it my all.”