SSG can’t blame ‘Choi Ji-hoon’s absence’ alone for a 9-point loss in a two-hit slump

The SSG Landers, who started left-handed ace Kim Kwang-hyun, suffered a nine-run loss in the first game of a three-game weekend series.

SSG lost 1-10 in an away game against the Doosan Bears of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on 안전놀이터 April 25. The team had closed to within 0.5 games of second-place KT Wiz with a win at home against the NC Dinos the day before, but this game pushed the gap between second-place KT and third-place SSG back to 1.5 games.

Against Kwak-bin, SSG brought out a different lineup than the previous day. The biggest change was the absence of starting outfielder Choi Ji-hoon, who had pounded out three hits in the 24th game to lead the team to victory. “Choi Ji-hoon suffered a slight knee injury at second base (while running),” SSG coach Kim Won-hyung explained before the game. It was unclear if he would be able to play.

Prior to this game, Park Sung-seong had gone 3-for-9 with a .333 batting average against Kwak Bin this season. Although Park Sung-seong had gone hitless in the previous day’s NC, the coaching staff had high hopes for his strong performance against him.

SSG, looking to win their third straight game, didn’t get off to the best start. The bats went scoreless in the first inning, and Kim Kwang-hyun gave up a double and an infield single to table setter Kim Tae-geun and Kim Jae-ho, respectively, before Jose Rojas singled to open the scoring. Although they minimized the damage, they couldn’t feel good about surrendering the lead.

The gap between the two teams slowly began to widen. While SSG was unable to capitalize on a leadoff single by Jeon Eui-san in the top of the third, Doosan added a run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Kim Tae-geun with one out. In addition, Kim Kwang-hyun gave up five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, making the score 0-7.

Given the starting matchup, the game was in Doosan’s favor early on. After the big inning, Kim Kwang-hyun turned the ball over to the bullpen as he struggled with four innings, nine hits, one walk, and seven runs (six earned).

The batters were unable to get to Kwak-Bin even after the midway point of the game, and in the top of the seventh inning, Han Yoo-seom’s single to right field put runner Kim Kang-min at second base, but he was tagged out on a pinpoint throw home by right fielder Kim Tae-geun, nullifying the scoring opportunity.

Kim Joo-on, the fourth pitcher to appear after Lee Kun-wook (two scoreless innings) and Lee Irene (one scoreless inning), gave up three runs on two hits and two walks with one strikeout in ⅓ inning. Han Yoo-seom’s RBI single in the top of the ninth was enough to save the day.

Given Choi Ji-hoon’s absence and the absence of foreign hitter Guillermo Heredia, SSG wasn’t at 100 percent, but they weren’t out of the game either. More games like this won’t do the team any favors. Can they show a different side on the 26th with Loenis Elias in the starting lineup?

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