The Lotte Giants have taken on the task of stabilizing their bullpen.
The mood in the Lotte dugout before the 28th game against the Kiwoom Heroes at 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 thoroughly prepare that part and prepare a strategy to win,” he said, adding that if he performs well in the three-game series, he could become the No. 1 player, and he expressed confidence that “that is the goal.”
However, Lotte’s good fortune was short-lived. After a six-inning, one-run shutout by starter Na Gyun-an and a five-run outburst from the bats, Lotte took the lead midway through the day, but the bullpen collapsed, resulting in a bitter 5-7 loss.
This wasn’t the only time Lotte’s bullpen struggled. The day before, 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 leadoff single to Lee Jung-hoo and a single to Kim Hye-sung in right-center field. 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 rebound by getting Russell to strike out swinging on a full count, but he immediately 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 vibes didn’t last long, however, as Kim Dong-heon immediately followed with a double to left field.
The LOTTE bench then called on closer Kim Won-joong. Kim Won-joong 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 Lotte’s 6-5 victory. After the game, Sutton said, “We need to readjust our game plan for the ninth inning.” It was clearly something to work on.
But once again, the Lotte bullpen was unable to rebound. Right-hander Kim Do-kyu, who took over for Na Kyun-an in the bottom of the seventh, faltered. He got leadoff hitter Kim Dong-heon to ground out to shortstop, but then gave up a double to Kim Hwi-jip in left field and a single to Lee Hyung-jong in right. The LOTTE bench immediately brought in left-hander Kim Jin-wook to put out the fire.
Fortunately, Kim walked the first batter he faced, Lim Ji-yeol, to load the bases, but he 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 center field to Kim Dong-heon. Kim Sang-soo then gave up a single to Kim Hwijip in right-center field to load the bases.
At this point, the LOTTE bench hesitated before turning to right-hander Yoon Myung-jun for the next pitch. The decision was based on the fact that closer Kim Won-joong had pitched back-to-back games on the 27th due to the bullpen’s poor performance, and that right-hander Koo Seung-min, who had planned 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 sailed just over the center field fence. He then gave up a double to Kim Hye-sung to right-center field and got Lee Jung-hoo to ground out to first base, but the momentum had already shifted completely to Kiwoom. 메이저놀이터
The bats went silent in the top of the ninth inning and Lotte had to face a bitter defeat, especially since a win would have allowed them to move into sole possession of second place, ahead of the SSG Landers, who did not play that day due to a rainout.
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 No. 1 LG. There will be a lot of interest to see if Lotte can turn things around against LG.