Spare a Streak?
It seems like it’s been one step forward and two steps back with this 2011 Lotte Giants team. Actually, this week, it was two steps back and then one step forward. Frustration is never good for boys of summer.
The mighty Lotte offense struggled against some really mediocre pitching this week – every offense is going to have days like that. Baseball is game that is as luck based as it it is skill based. In basketball, the more skilled player or team should win. In baseball, a pitcher can make a bad pitch and get a lazy pop up or throw the perfect pitch, in the perfect spot and get tagged for a homer. There are going to be days when the best offense has a problem scoring runs. On days like that, the pitching and defense need to pick up the slack and keep the game close. Lotte has struggled with pitching and defense for years. The constant pitching meltdowns and mental errors in the field have really derailed what, on paper, could be one of the best teams in Asia.
Also, non-Korean pitcher Brian Corey is on the outs with the powers that be. After suffering through a usage pattern that would make most relievers tear their hair out, Corey started to struggle and has been demoted to the Futures League. Supposedly, Lotte’s overseas scouts have already started looking for a replacement and a decision will be made on Corey’s future in the next ten days or so.
If Lotte is looking for a scapegoat for their struggles, it’s not Brian Corey. It’s probably manager Yang Seung-ho, because it’s clear that he doesn’t understand how to manage a bullpen at the professional level. Yang does do some good things with the daily lineup, but his misguided “re-imagining” of the Lotte lineup in April cost the Giants a lot of games.
The best bullpens are usually the most stable. Pitchers tend to pitch better when they know what their role is. Granted, the arms in the Lotte ‘pen are not even close to the best in the league, but they’ve been shuffled around all year. It’s hard for a pitcher to find any consistency when his role keeps changing.
Recap of the Week
Lotte started the week by turning a 5-0 lead into an 8-5 loss in the first game against SK. Starter Goh Won-joon was solid until he tired in the seventh inning. Lotte gave up the lead almost as soon as Goh was pulled and let SK pile it on.
Goh threw 6 ⅓ innings of four run baseball. He gave up four hits and three walks while striking out seven.
Lotte’s struggles continued in the second game of the series. SK starter Gary Glover simply handcuffed the Lotte offense for six innings and the SK bullpen kept the lid on any come back attempts as the Giants fell 4-1.
The real concern here is not the loss. Lotte starter Ryan Sadowski had to leave the game in the third inning after suffering a hip/leg strain. It sounds like Ryan should be back for his next start on Tuesday. Reliever Jin Myeong-ho took the loss, but he actually looked competent in his 3 ⅔ innings of work. Jin gave up one run on five hits and one walk while striking out four. He saved the mediocre pitching for later in the week.
Lotte turned to ace Jang Won-joon in the final game of the series and he delivered. The Giants needed him to put zeroes on the board and keep the relievers on the bench. Jang threw eight innings of two-run baseball. Jang gave up eight hits, four walks and a hit batsman while striking out seven. He recorded nine outs via the ground ball.
First baseman Lee Dae-ho hit a RBI single in the first inning and second baseman Jeong Hoon blasted a three-run homer in the second inning to put Lotte up 4-0. The Giants piled on with another three-run rally in the fifth inning to take a 7-0 lead.
Lotte DH Hong Seong-heun went 2-4 with a walk, a double, two runs scored and a RBI as the Giants won 7-2.
Lotte traveled to Seoul to face the Nexen Heroes over the weekend and dropped the first game of the series 8-1 in embarrassing fashion.
Starter Song Seung-joon was pummelled for seven run on seven hits and two walks during three innings of “work” and the Lotte offense struggled against mediocre starter Moon Seong-hyeon and the Nexen bullpen.
Second baseman Jeong Hoon blasted a solo homer for Lotte’s only run of the game. Jeong has blasted three homers and drove in seven runs over a five game stretch from 6/12-6/17 while spelling regular second baseman Cho Seong-hwan. Cho has been missing time with various bumps and bruises.
It was more of the same on Saturday as Lotte again struggled against a mediocre Nexen starter. This time it was Kim Seong-tae that looked like a world beater for a day as Lotte fell, 7-3.
Rookie starter Kim Myeong-seong made his first start of the 2011 season and was it ever forgettable. Kim was battered for three runs on six hits and one walk during his 2 ⅔ innings. Things didn’t get much better when Jin Myeong-ho was called in for some long relief work.
The Lotte offense put the team on its shoulders for the third and final game in the series as the Giants won, 10-4.
Lotte starter Goh Won-joon was really wild. When I write that he was wild, I mean, the fans sitting in the first three rows behind home plate where lucky they weren’t unconscious by the time he was pulled. Goh gave up six hits, five walks and hit two batters while giving up four runs over five innings.
It appeared that Lotte would fall into the same pattern of the previous few days, but the Lotte offense exploded for seven runs in the fifth inning and tacked on a little more insurance in the ninth inning to keep the game out of reach.
Jeon Joon-woo got a rare start at third base and went 2-5 with two doubles, one run scored and one RBI from the lead off spot. Park Jong-yoon started at first and batted second. Park went 2-4 with a double, a walk, one run scored and one RBI. Catcher Kang Min-ho lead the charge by going 2-5 with three RBIs and a run scored. Kang’s day included a two-run single that capped the seven-run rally.
Reliever Lee Sang-yeol shocked everyone and threw 2 ⅔ innings of scoreless relief to earn his third save of the season in the blowout.
Lotte gets a favor from the schedule makers this week. First up, Lotte gets to face the struggling Doosan Bears at home. The start to Doosan’s season has been so rough that their manager resigned last week. After the series with the Bears, the Giants will head to Daejeon to face Karim Garcia and the suddenly resurgent Hanhwa Eagles. Their offense might be improved, but they still have the worst pitching staff in the KBO. Other than ace Ryu Hyeon-jin, Hanhwa doesn’t have much on the mound.
You can read Matthew's blog, True Stories of Korean Baseball, where he follows the entire KBO each week.
Photo courtesy of Osen News
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