KO Punch that pops when you stand on the edge of a cliff

KIA predicted the biggest crisis this season as it played against Gwangju SSG on the 10th. This is because starter Will Crow was excluded from the entry on the day due to injury. During the game, Jeon Sang-hyun, a key bullpen, was replaced after being hit by Herredia’s hit. He also gave up the victory, signaling his absence for a while.

The schedule added to the sense of crisis. Doosan and NC, which had been trailing each other by a gap of two to 2.5 games, were set to hold three consecutive games on Tuesday. Kia, which remained lacking the core of its starting pitcher and bullpen, played without even Kim Do-young due to severe enteritis from Friday, when it was holding the three consecutive games against Doosan.

KIA had one win, one draw, and one loss with Doosan. It was three consecutive games in which Yang Hyun-jong, James Nail, and Yoon Young-chul, who were the most reliable starters, were involved. The draw was on the 16th, the last day of the three consecutive games. KIA moved to Changwon early in the morning with its pitchers tied 7-7 in 12 extra innings for 4 hours and 40 minutes until 11:10 p.m.

The consumption of the draw was too great. All of the must-win pitching teams struggled in a row. On the first day of the match against NC, which has to start with alternative starters, these key bullpens, except for Jeon Sang-hyun, could not throw.

KIA, however, took all three consecutive games against NC. Even though starter Kim Geon-guk went down after one inning due to hamstring pain, the team won the game. Kim Sa-yoon (one run allowed in three innings) pitched well, and when the score was tying 3-3, left-hander Lee Joon-young took charge of the eighth inning after pitching Kim Do-hyun to block two innings until the seventh inning. In the meantime, the batting lineup exploded, and in the top of the ninth inning, Na Sung-bum’s two-run homerun was added to lead the game 7-4, and Jeon took the mound as the closing pitcher of the ninth inning. Jeon, who returned to the game against Doosan on Tuesday, took a three-out strikeout to perfectly protect his win and announce his recovery.

Hwang Dong-ha, a substitute starting pitcher, pitched five hits and two runs in five innings to secure his first win since his debut. After returning to the lineup on the day, Kia Tigers’ 7-2 victory came on Sunday with three hits and two RBIs, and its bullpen blocked the ace Yang Hyun-jong’s good pitching of one run in six innings, and Lee Woo-sung sealed the victory with a solo shot in the top of the ninth inning, taking all three consecutive games.

On Monday, the first day of the three consecutive NC games, Kia thought it would have to give up the game, but when intermediate pitchers other than the must-win group threw better-than-expected pitches, Kia expressed its desire for victory and seized the game with the explosive power of troubleshooter Na Sung-bum. On the two days from Friday through Sunday when substitute starters took the mound, KIA batters scored 14 points, seven points apiece. After securing the three consecutive games, Kia pushed NC to the third place by four games, outpacing second-ranked Samsung by three games. Despite the crisis, the team has regained more leeway.

KIA also won the match against LG in Gwangju on April 10, when starter Lee Eui-ri voluntarily stepped down after 1.1 innings due to elbow injury. It swept all three consecutive games and won six consecutive games until the next three games against Hanwha. This is an opportunity for KIA to remain at No. 1 on April 9.

The crisis continued. In the match against SSG on April 16, closer Jung Hae-young was hit by Choi Jeong for a walk-off home run after tying his 467th career home run, but the next day, Kim Do-young and Kim Sun-bin hit three home runs and won the game due to explosion of batters, regaining the mood immediately. On April 28, when Na Sung-bum returned to the mound and walked as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning, Kim Do-young reversed the mood with a critical bunt hit with no outs and runners on the first and second bases.

KIA has been No. 1 since April 9. It is a close call, and even though several teams are following suit, they do not give up their seats. Although the team does not place much importance on the ranking due to the season’s remaining, its ups and downs are meaningful to Kia.


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