In two weeks, we’ve lost four of our top hitters. The triple-setter is gone, and the center field lineup is bare. It’s hard to figure out the lineup right now. But then they meet the KBO’s best ace.
KIA will play a four-game series against NC in Changwon from the 26th to the 28th. It’s a doubleheader on the 27th, and after the 17:00 game on the 28th, they travel to Seoul for a 14:00 game against Kiwoom on the 29th. Then, on the 30th and the 1st of next month, they will play a two-game series in Incheon against fifth-place SSG.굿모닝토토
This is the start of a 12-game road trip. After that, they have three home games and some canceled games during the rest of the season, but it’s more likely that the outcome of this season’s farming will be decided or outlined in the next 12 games over the next two weeks. With such an important schedule, KIA traveled to Changwon under the worst possible circumstances and in the worst possible atmosphere.
Still, the baseball continues. First, they need to play well in the four-game series against NC. The starting pitcher for the first game is no slouch. It’s Eric Pedroia, the best ace in the KBO. He’s 3-0 with a 0.42 ERA in three starts in September. Will the KIA lineup, which is missing four starters, have a chance against Pedi?
Choi Hyung-woo and Na Sung-beom, who make up the center of the batting order, are out of the lineup, and two other players besides Socrates Brito are up for grabs. With Kim Sun-bin, Lee Woo-seong, Ko Jong-wook, and Byun Woo-hyuk in the lineup, the bottom of the order is weakened. There is a possibility that Park Chan-ho could return to the starting lineup, but it’s up in the air. It’s also unclear who will be paired with Kim Do-young as a tablesetter. Choi Won-jun’s absence also looks big.
Even Choi has been relatively strong against Pedi this season, going 3-for-8 with a .375 batting average and a 1.000 OPS. Park Chan-ho is 1-for-4 with a .250 batting average, and Na Sung-beom and Choi Won-joon are 1-for-5 with a .200 batting average, but the void of Choi Hyung-woo seems too big. It’s likely that the lineup will eventually be customized for Pedi.
What’s more, Pedi will likely be studying this game. This is because of the Gwangju game on August 31. In that game, Peddie was dominated by a complete game KIA lineup, giving up seven runs on eight hits with three walks and three strikeouts in three innings. It was his most runs and fewest innings pitched in a game since joining the KBO.
At the time, the KIA lineup was playing very well. The entire team was on an upward trend. It was a 180-degree change from now. Also, Pedi’s command was off that day. His cutters, two-seamers, and sweepers were undercutting and often going in the middle of the plate, but he was still able to overcome them, and the KIA batsmen were never going to miss a pitch.
Pedi went on a tear after that, winning 19 games and lowering his ERA to 2.13. He has about three games left. He’s going for 20 wins, a sub-1 ERA, and 200 strikeouts (181 Ks). It’s been 26 years since Kim Hyun-wook achieved 20 wins and a 1:1 ERA, but only Sun Dong-yeol achieved 20 wins, a 1:1 ERA, and 200 strikeouts in 1986. With the record in sight, it’s likely that Pedi’s cohesion will improve.
Pedi is 2-1 with a 3.71 ERA and a .239 batting average against KIA this season. He is also 9-1 with a 1.21 ERA in 10 home games. KIA even has a temporary starter, Kim Gun-guk. In many ways, this game should be a one-sided affair in favor of NC. However, the baseball is round and you never know where it will bounce. If KIA can seize this game, they have the potential to turn the overall trend to the upside.