The Kia Tigers’ “big pitcher” Yang Hyun-jong has collapsed again. With no wins in his last four starts, Yang remains at five wins on the season and his chances of reaching double-digit wins for the ninth consecutive year have dimmed. It’s time to take a breather, but it’s too early to hang up the ace title just yet.
On August 15, Yang made a start against the Gwangju Kiwoom Heroes, allowing seven runs on six hits (one home run), five walks, and four strikeouts in 5.2 innings on 112 pitches.
Looking to get back into the top five, KIA took on the bottom-ranked Kiwoom Heroes that day to try and rack up some wins. Most importantly, it was a day for Yang Hyun-jong to rebound from his poor second-half performance.
Yang gave up a leadoff double to Kim Hye-sung in the top of the first inning, but retired Dawson and Kim Hwi-jip on consecutive pitches to keep things fresh.
In the top of the second, after Song Sung-moon’s leadoff single was misplayed by the third baseman, Yang was hit by a single up the middle by Lee Won-seok. With runners on first and second, Yang induced three consecutive grounders to the outfield to prevent a run from scoring.
After three scoreless innings, Yang Hyun-jong had a moment in the fourth inning. After giving up a single and a double to Lee Won-seok and Jeon Byung-woo in the top of the fourth, Yang gave up a straight-up walk to Kim Dong-heon to load the bases.
Yang then gave up a walk to Kim Jun-wan and a full count of eight pitches. After giving up the lead, Yang faced Kim Hye-sung with the bases loaded. Yang’s second pitch, a 141 km/h fastball, was caught by Kim Hye-sung’s fierce swing, leading to a 120-meter solo home run. For a moment, the tide of the game shifted in favor of Kiwoom.
After a triple play in the top of the fifth, Yang Hyun-jong started to falter again in the top of the sixth. After a full-count battle with Kim Dong-heon, Yang gave up another walk. After giving up a single to Kim Jun-wan, Yang eventually gave the ball to Kim Ki-hoon and was removed from the mound. Kim gave up back-to-back singles to Kim Hye-sung and Dawson to load the bases. Yang’s total runs allowed in the game increased to seven.
6G without a QS, is it time to take a break?
KIA started a late rally with two runs in the bottom of the sixth and four runs in the bottom of the seventh, but they were unable to recover the momentum they had lost due to the large number of runs allowed. With the 6-9 loss, KIA dropped its second straight and remained in sixth place in the league with 45 wins, two draws and 47 losses on the season. They now trail the seventh-place Lotte Giants by 0.5 games.
Most painful of all was the struggles of Yang Hyun-jong, who desperately needed a rebound. In his last six starts, Yang hasn’t lasted more than six innings. His last quality start was nearly two months ago (six scoreless innings against KT on June 24). Recently, his fastball velocity has dropped significantly, and he often struggles to overpower hitters with his pitches. A straight ball to Kim Dong-heon in the top of the fourth inning after avoiding a head-to-head battle was a key moment.
Ultimately, the veteran pitcher, who prepared for the WBC earlier this year, may need a break. Kia manager Kim Jong-kook also recently wondered about the timing of Yang’s rest. After throwing 112 pitches in his 15th start, it’s possible that Yang could skip two starts this week.먹튀검증
Of course, it’s still too early for Yang to relinquish the title of homegrown ace. The same goes for his ninth straight year of double-digit wins. Sooner or later, Yang will need to return to the “big pitcher” we know. Only then can Kia’s return to the top five become a realistic goal.