The Lotte Giants have taken on the task of stabilising their bullpen.
The mood in the Lotte dugout before the 28th game against the Kiwoom Heroes at the Gocheok SkyDome was very good, and for good reason. The team had been on a roll lately. Prior to the game, Lotte was riding a three-game winning streak and had a record of 26-15, closing in on the first-place LG Twins by just one game.
When we met before the game, Lotte manager Larry Sutton was upbeat, especially about the three-game midweek series against first-place LG at Jamsil Baseball Stadium from the 30th to the 2nd of next month. I’m thinking of a thrilling game, a fun and exciting game. What I’m most looking forward to is that the other team will have a strong starting lineup. I will prepare a strategy to win by thoroughly preparing that part,” he said, and when asked by a reporter about the possibility of becoming No. 1 if he performs well in the three-game series, he said, “That’s the goal.” He expressed confidence.메이저놀이터
However, Lotte’s good fortune was short-lived. Despite taking the lead midway through the day thanks to a six-inning, one-run shutout by starter Na Gyun-an and a five-run batting performance, the bullpen collapsed, resulting in a bitter 5-7 loss.
It wasn’t the only time Lotte’s bullpen struggled. The previous day (27th), Lotte almost lost a close game against Gochuk Kiwoom due to a shaky bullpen.
Rewind to that game. With a comfortable 6-0 lead, Lotte brought in right-hander Jin Seung-hyun in the bottom of the ninth inning. He gave up a single to Lee Jung-hoo, the leadoff hitter, and a single to Kim Hye-sung in right-centre. He then walked Edison Russell on two consecutive pitches, and the Lotte coaching staff immediately went to the mound to settle him down.
Jin Seung-hyun seemed to bounce back by striking out Russell on a full count, but he promptly gave up a walk to the next batter, Song Sung-moon, prompting the LOTTE bench to make a pitching change to right-hander Yoon Myung-joon.
With the bases loaded, Yoon struck out the first batter, Lee Won-seok, on three pitches to keep the momentum going. The good feeling didn’t last long, however, as Kim Dong-heon gave up a double to the left-field fence.
The LOTTE bench then called on closer Kim Won-joong. He was shaky in his sudden appearance, giving up a walk to Lim Ji-yeol and a double to Lim Byung-wook, but he was able to hold on to the lead and preserve the 6-5 win for Lotte. “We need to readjust our approach to the ninth inning,” Sutton said after the game.
But once again, the Lotte bullpen was unable to rebound. Right-hander Kim Do-kyu, who took over from Na Kyun-ahn in the bottom of the seventh, faltered. He got leadoff hitter Kim Dong-heon to ground out to shortstop, but gave up a double to Kim Hwi-jip to left field and a single to Lee Hyung-jong to right. The Lotte bench immediately brought in left-hander Kim Jin-wook to put out the fire.
Fortunately, the right-hander walked his first batter, Lim Ji-yeol, to load the bases, but quickly got Kim Hye-sung to fly out to second base to trade one run for one out. The next batter, Lee Jung-hoo, followed with a fly to left field.
But in the bottom of the eighth, the real nightmare began. Right-hander Kim Sang-soo, who took over the baton from Kim Jin-wook, gave up back-to-back singles to Russell, Lim Byung-wook and Lee Won-seok to load the bases before giving up a sacrifice fly to centre field to Kim Dong-heon. Kim Sang-soo then gave up a single to Kim Hwijip in right-centre, leaving the bases loaded.
At this point, the LOTTE bench deliberated and chose right-hander Yoon Myung-jun as the next pitcher. The decision was made because reliever Kim Won-joong had been struggling in the bullpen on the 27th, and right-hander Koo Seung-min, who was scheduled to come in for the bottom of the ninth, would not be able to get five outs.
As it turned out, it was the worst handshake ever. Yoon struck out Lee Hyung-jong for the second out of the inning, but then gave up a four-pitch walk to Im Ji-yeol that just cleared the centre-field fence. He then gave up a double to Kim Hye-sung to right-centre before getting Lee Jung-hoo to ground out to first base, but the momentum had already shifted completely to Kiwoom.
The bats then went silent in the top of the ninth inning, leaving Lotte to face a bitter disappointment, especially as a win would have seen them move into sole possession of second place, ahead of SSG Landers, who were unable to play due to the rain cancellation.
The Giants were full of confidence before the game against Kiwoom, but their bullpen faltered for the second day in a row and their momentum took a dip. As mentioned earlier, their next opponent is first-place LG. A lot of eyes will be on Lotte to see if they can turn things around against LG.