Choo Shin-soo hits 3 HRs’ SSG defeats KT 5-2 to clinch series

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SSG Landers won the first game of a three-game series behind a strong pitching performance from left-hander Oh Won-seok and the contributions of “veterans” Choo Shin-soo and Lee Ji-young.

SSG, led by Lee Sung-yong, improved to 16-1-1 on the season with a 5-2 victory in the fourth game of the 2024 Shinhan SOL Bank KBO League against KT Wiz at SSG Landers Field in Incheon on Saturday. KT, on the other hand, failed in its bid for a fourth straight win, dropping its record to 10-1-19.

Starting pitcher Oh Won-seok earned his second win of the season, allowing two runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out seven in 5 1/3 innings. At the plate, Choo Shin-soo smashed three hits, including a home run, while Lee Ji-young was 2-for-3 with a double, one RBI and one run scored.

Starting lineups and roster changes for both teams

KT: Chun Sung-ho (2B)-Kang Baek-ho (C)-Mel Rojas Jr. (LF)-Moon Sang-cheol (designated hitter)-Byung-ho Park (1B)-Hwang Jae-gyun (3B)-Jo Yong-ho (R)-Ahn Chi-young (C)-Kim Sang-soo (Shortstop), starting pitcher Uhm Sang-baek

SSG: Choi Ji-hoon (center fielder)-Choo Shin-soo (designated hitter)-Choi Jung (third baseman)-Han Yu-seom (right fielder)-Guillermo Heredia (left fielder)-Park Sung-sung (shortstop)-Ko Myung-joon (first baseman)-Lee Ji-young (catcher)-Park Ji-hwan (second baseman), starter Oh Won-seok

KT placed Park Byung-ho in the No. 5 spot after he was scratched from the starting lineup for the midweek three-game series against the Hanwha Eagles on March 23-25. SSG needed to fill the void left by Kim Sung-hyun, who was diagnosed with a microfracture in his left wrist, and gave rookie Park Ji-hwan a chance to start.

SSG’s big inning breaks the tie after a tense pitching battle in the first inning

Both KT’s Uhm Sang-baek and SSG’s Oh Won-seok pitched well in the first two innings, keeping the first and second innings scoreless. It was in the third inning that the two teams began to mix it up.

KT rattled Oh Won-seok in the top of the third with a leadoff single by Kim Sang-soo. However, the next batter, Chun Seong-ho, struck out to end the threat. Second baseman Park Ji-hwan’s steady defense stood out. The next batter, Kang Baek-ho, struck out to end the inning.

After surviving the crisis, SSG had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the third inning. In the top of the first, Lee Ji-young led off with an infield single to the pitcher. Uhm Sang-baek, who was hit by a hard hit ball, escaped serious injury. Lee stole second base when Park Ji-young batted and stole second base.

With runners in scoring position, Choi Ji-hoon pulled a changeup from Uhm Sang-baek over the first baseman’s head for a two-run double to right field, scoring Lee Ji-young from second base. It was the first run of the game.

The next batter, Choo Shin-soo, completed the big inning with a two-run arch over the center field wall on a one-strike count on a 145km/h fastball from Uhm 사설토토 Sang-baek. It came 212 days after the first game of a doubleheader against the Doosan Bears at SSG Landers Field in Incheon on Sept. 27 last year. The distance was measured at 125 meters. The score was 3-0.

Hwang Jae-gyun strongly protests against ABS, throws helmet to show his frustration

In the top of the fourth inning, there was an unexpected turn of events. After Moon Sang-chul singled in the first inning, Park Byung-ho struck out, and Hwang Jae-gyun was ejected from the game after facing Oh Won-seok at first base in the second inning. After being called for a one-ball, two-strike count, SSG starter Oh Won-seok’s four-pitch, 146-kilometer/h fastball was in the zone, but catcher Lee Ji-young spilled the ball. ABS ruled it a strike. It was a strikeout.

Hwang Jae-gyun dropped his bat and threw his helmet on the spot, and umpire Lee Kye-sung immediately called him out. KT manager Lee Kang-cheol came onto the field and briefly protested to the umpires before heading to the dugout. Hwang is the first player to be sent off for protesting a ball call since the introduction of ABS this season.

Coaching staffs and players are facing some challenges in adjusting to ABS early in the season. The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) has been providing each stadium with in-ear receivers that allow players to see ABS calls almost simultaneously with the umpires since Sept. 23 to ensure fairness, but players’ complaints about ABS are still “ongoing.

Hwang Jae-gyun, in particular, expressed his frustration with the ball judgment during an away game against the Kiwoom Heroes at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on March 17 by showing the broadcast camera a tablet PC provided by the KBO. It seems that his frustration has been building up.

SSG defends lead until the end

SSG scored for the second straight inning in a chaotic atmosphere. In the bottom of the fourth inning, leadoff hitter Heredia led off with a single, and after Park Sung-hyun singled, Heredia stole second on a throwing error by Uhm Sang-baek, who tried to throw out first baseman Go Myung-joon at the plate. Facing Uhm Sang-baek at second base after Go Myung-joon’s grounder to first, Lee Ji-young singled to right to bring home Heredia from second. The gap between the two teams grew to four runs.

KT didn’t stand still either. In the top of the sixth, leadoff hitter Chun Sung-ho singled and stole second on an error by Heredia in left field. He advanced to third on a grounder by Kang Baek-ho and came home on a single by Rojas to give the team its first run.

That wasn’t the end of it. Moon Sang-chul, who faced Oh Won-seok at first base, hit a single up the middle to make it 1-3, and Park Byung-ho singled to left to score Rojas from third. The gap between the two teams narrowed to two runs.

However, KT was unable to capitalize on a strikeout by Jang Sung-woo and a ground ball by Choi Seong-ho with the bases loaded. The top of the seventh inning ended with a triple play, and Rojas’ single with the bases loaded in the top of the eighth was a setback.

Needing an extra run, SSG pressured KT in the bottom of the eighth with a leadoff single by Choo Shin-soo. Choi Kyung-mo, who entered the game as a pinch runner after Choi Jung’s walk, stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error by Kang Baek-ho. With the bases loaded, Han Yoo-seom singled up the middle to make it 5-2.

Moon Seung-won, who came into the game in relief to protect the three-run lead, gave up a leadoff single to Park Byung-ho in the top of the ninth, but got three outs without allowing a run to score to end the game.

Overall pitching performance for both teams

KT: Uhm Sang-baek 6⅔ innings, 7 hits (1 HR), no walks, 4 strikeouts (3 runs) – Jeon Jeon-joo ⅓ innings, 1 hit, no walks, 1 strikeout, 1 run (unearned) – Kim Min-soo 1 inning, 1 hit, no walks, 2 strikeouts, no runs

SSG: Oh Won-seok 5⅓ innings, 8 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts, 2 runs – Lee Iroe ⅔ innings, no hits, no walks, 1 strikeout, no runs – Noh Kyung-eun 1 inning, no hits, no walks, 1 strikeout, no runs – Cho Byung-hyun 1 inning, no hits, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, no runs – Moon Seung-won 1 inning, no hits, no walks, 1 strikeout, no runs

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