The defending champions SSG Landers fell into a four-game losing streak at home, as their bullpen collapsed after blowing a hard-fought one-run lead, putting a red light on their second-place hopes.
SSG fell 6-8 in the 13th game of the season against the KIA Tigers of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at SSG Landers Field in Incheon on Wednesday. They surrendered all three of their weekend wins to KIA and dropped their fourth straight.
SSG struggled with starter Oh Won-seok on the day, giving up five runs on seven hits with four walks and four strikeouts in six innings, but the team battled KIA thanks to an explosive batting lineup. Choo Shin-soo’s solo home run in the first inning after falling behind 0-2 and Cho Hyung-woo’s three-run blast in the second inning after falling behind 1-4 tied the game.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, designated hitter Choi Jung came to the rescue. Trailing 4-5, Choi hit a two-run home run to make it 6-5. As the league’s team home run leader, it looked like she was going to break the losing streak.
However, they were unable to overcome KIA’s firepower on defense in the top of the eighth inning. Ko Hyo-jun, who had been on the mound since the top of the seventh inning, got the leadoff hitter Socrates to fly out to left field, and then Kim Sun-bin singled to load the bases.
The SSG bench made a gamble here, bringing in closer Seo Jin-yong early. Noh Kyung-kyung had already used his card in the top of the seventh inning, so there was no one in the bullpen they could trust with a tight situation late in the game.
However, Seo couldn’t stop KIA’s momentum. He gave up a single to Hwang Dae-in to put runners on first and second, and promptly gave up an RBI single to Kim Tae-gun to tie the game at 6-6 and erase SSG’s lead.
Seo Ji-yong was in trouble again with runners on first and second. He gave up an RBI single to Koh Jong-wook, who came in as a pinch hitter, to make the score 6-7. Park then got Chan-ho Park to ground into a second baseman-first baseman double play to end the inning, but the tide had already turned in favor of KIA.
SSG switched pitchers to Lee I-roon at the start of the ninth inning with the score 6-7. Lee prevented any further runs and tried to mount a comeback in the final at-bat of the ninth inning.
However, Lee also failed to fulfill the expectations of the SSG bench. In the top of the ninth, Lee gave up a solo home run to KIA’s leadoff hitter Kim Do-young, making the score 6-8. SSG’s final offense in the bottom of the ninth also ended scoreless, extending their losing streak to four games.
SSG’s team ERA in the second half is 6.55, the worst among the 10 teams. It is also far from the league average of 4.69. Compared to the first half of the season, when SSG was second in the league with a 3.31 ERA, it feels like a completely different team.
The biggest problem is the lack of performance from the team’s anchor, Ko Hyo-joon. Born in 1983, Ko was 3-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 39 games and eight saves in the first half of the season, doing a good job of handing over the ninth inning to closer Seo Jin-yong with the lead.
However, after the All-Star break, SSG’s back door was left wide open as Ko Hyo-jun struggled to a 1-3 record with a 7.04 ERA in 20 games. Noh Kyung-eun, born in 1984, has struggled in the latter half of the year with a 2-4 record and 3.32 ERA in 19 games, but with no promising young pitchers emerging, the defense hasn’t been able to keep up. The team is also dealing with the loss of left-hander Kim Taek-hyung, who played a crucial role in the KBO’s first-ever wire-to-wire title last year.
SSG manager Kim Won-hyung is also worried. Before the game against KIA on the 3rd, he said, “The bullpen pitchers need to be strong. The pitching staff, which is the most important part of the team, continues to look bad. We keep getting caught up in the late innings,” he sighed.스포츠토토
“Kyung-eun Noh and Hyo-joon Ko are tired. Both pitchers are older and have a big role in the team.” “Right now, Choi Min-jun is also down to the second team because his pitching has dropped. There are things he needs to do, but he’s not in the best shape right now. We’ll have to check his condition in 10 days.”