“The texture is the best since 2017”
The KIA Tigers have been on a roll lately. With their win over SSG Landers in Incheon on March 3, the Tigers have now won eight straight games in a span of 751 days, the longest since August 13, 2021. As a result, the Tigers, who have been hovering between fifth and sixth place, have moved up to fourth place in 117 days, the longest since May 9, and are looking to make a run at the postseason.
During the winning streak, the metrics are naturally going to be good, but during the eight-game winning streak, KIA led the league with a team batting average of 0.337 and ranked second with a team ERA of 2.75. While the team’s balanced batting lineup was a direct result of their success, it was their firepower that shone the brightest during the winning streak. Even when they were losing, it felt like they could turn it around at any moment.
With an eight-game winning streak, the team’s mood is at its peak. The bats have been exploding, especially in the second half of the season. The bullpen is also solid. The only stumbling block is the starting lineup. Currently, KIA is without Mario Sanchez due to injury, and Lee Yi-ri, who recently returned from injury, had some disappointing results in his last outing.
Before the game was canceled due to rain on the 5th, head coach Kim Jong-guk said, “The team atmosphere is good overall. It’s also encouraging that we don’t have any injuries except for Mario Sanchez. However, I’m a little worried about the starting lineup due to Mario’s absence. (Lee) Eui-ri joined us last Sunday, but he needs to get up to speed a little faster. I don’t think there’s anything other than starting pitching,” he smiled.
“Right now, the guys have a lot of faith that they can win. The pitchers have the belief that ‘if I give a little bit, the batters can turn it around,’ and the batters seem to have the mindset that ‘if the pitcher doesn’t give up runs, we can win,'” he said. “Especially after beating Pedi, who is the best pitcher in Korea, I think (the bats) got a little bit of momentum and confidence.”
Even outside of the winning streak, KIA’s bats have been hot this season. With five games remaining, the team is batting .274, which ranks second out of 10 teams. Of course, KIA’s bats haven’t been hot all season. Rather, the team struggled at the beginning of the season, but with the return of Na Sung-beom and Kim Do-young from injury, and Park Chan-ho and Kim Sun-bin swinging the bats, the offense has exploded to a .306 average in the second half.
When KIA lifted the Korean Series championship trophy in 017, their team batting average was 0.302, the highest among the 10 teams. In 2017, there were a whopping 33 players with a batting average of over 3%, with Kim Sun-bin winning the title of “batting champion” with a 0.370 batting average, and KIA had six players with a batting average of over 3%, including Choi Hyung-woo (0.342), Lee Myung-ki (now NC, 0.332), Roger Bernardina (0.320), Ahn Chi-hong (now Lotte, 0.316), and Kim Joo-chan (0.309).
“The batting lineup was incomparably better back then,” he said, “but how does it compare to the recent trend? In 2017, we had a team batting average of 3%. But now we have younger players. It’s not as good as it was then, but it’s the best we’ve been since 2017 because we’re more cohesive.”스포츠토토
The good work of the team’s bats and pitchers needs to be backed up by the team’s record. If you don’t punch your ticket to the postseason, it doesn’t matter how good your numbers are throughout the regular season. Kim Jong-kook knows this, which is why he wants to rack up as many wins as possible before his players are called up for the Asian Games.
“I think we need to win four out of seven games to move up a little bit,” said Kim Jong-guk, who had to play seven games this week, including a doubleheader, even though the fifth game was canceled due to rain. But the important thing right now is not the standings. The gap in the middle of the table is not big. Until the Asian Games, we need to accumulate as many wins as possible in winnable matches.”
Realistically, KIA could make a leap to third place depending on the situation. However, Kim Jong-guk is not looking too far into the future. “We still have a month to go before the standings are finalized. Except for Kiwoom, the rest of the teams have around 20 to 30 games left, and I don’t think anyone will know the standings until after the Asian Games. I don’t think we’ll have a clear picture until early October,” he said, adding that they will give it their all in every game.