“No worries, he’ll do his thing one day.”
Those were the words of LG Twins manager Yoon Kyung-yeop in reference to Hong Chang-ki, who has been in a slump since the fall.
Hong, who was selected by LG in the third round (27th overall) of the 2016 KBO Draft, batted .297 (1415-for-420) with 10 home runs, 142 RBIs and 50 stolen bases in 435 career games until last year. In particular, in the 20221 season, he batted .328 (4th) with 103 runs scored (2nd) and a .456 on-base percentage (1st), earning his first Golden Glove.
This season, Hong continued to swing the bat with aplomb. In 141 games, he batted .332 (174-for-524) with one home run, 65 RBI, 109 runs scored, 23 doubles, and a .444 slugging percentage. The slugger’s performance helped LG go 86-2 and 56-1 in the regular season, the first time in 29 years that the club has won the title since 1994.
However, he hasn’t been smiling since the fall. He started Game 1 of the Korean Series against the KT Wiz as the leadoff hitter and right fielder, but went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. In Game 2, he started in the same position and drew a walk and scored a run in the bottom of the third inning, but was unable to produce a hit. He finished the game 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.
In fact, Hong’s postseason struggles are not unique to this year. He played in three games in the 2020 season, including the wild-card game and the semifinals, and didn’t get a single hit. In 2021, he played in three semifinal games but went just 2-for-14, and in the 2022 playoffs, he went 1-for-11 in four games. If you include his performance through Game 2 of this year’s Korean Series, he’s batting .067 (3-for-45).
One good thing is that Hong doesn’t seem to be in bad shape. In his final at-bat of Game 2, with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning, he took advantage of KT right-handed reliever Son Dong-hyun’s four-seam, 143-kilometer fastball for a hit that nearly cleared the gap between first and second base. Unfortunately, the ball was caught by the opposing second baseman Oh Yoon-seok, but it was a good indication of his current hitting form.
His manager’s faith is also strong. “I only said one word to (Hong) Chang-ki before Game 2. I said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. If we play different baseball today, the series will be over. You have to keep doing what you’ve been doing and eventually you’ll find the answer. (If you keep looking for a different path, baseball gets twisted.” LG manager Yoon Kyung-yeop said after Game 2, “I don’t have any worries (about Hong Chang-ki). He will do his thing one day. There are a lot of games left, so I think he will find his own form.” He expressed his confidence. 무지개토토
For LG, Hong’s presence in the lineup is essential. Whether she’s on or off the field changes the offense and the mood of the batters. If she can bounce back, it will be a huge boost for LG, which is looking to win its third consecutive title (1990, 1994) and its first in 29 years since 1994.
Meanwhile, Park Dong-won, who went down 2-3 in Game 1, bounced back in the eighth inning of Game 2.