Welcome to the Korean baseball blog!
What better time than the playoffs to get this rolling.
For the past six months, 8 teams have battled to gain one of the 4 playoff births. Now, it’s time for Korea’s second season to begin! Hanwha! Samsung! Ryu! Yong! Tonight on MBC!
Okay, a quick primer for those of you new to Korean Baseball, here’s how the playoff system works. The top four teams in an 8 team league go. The 3 and 4 seeds play a 3 game series for the right to play the second place team in a best of 5. The winner of the second series plays the top seed in a 7 game series for the championship. The Samsung Lions are the two time defending champs. This year, they limped to the finish and barely made the playoffs as the 4 seed. Hanwha bounced around the league standing all year before a strong final month earned them the 3 seed.There is legit bad blood between Samsung and Hanwha. It’s spilling over from last season’s playoffs which featured a fairly intense series that almost boiled over when some pitches missed the catcher’s glove and hit batters.
This game features not one, but two pregame hype shows. Normally, we’re lucky to get lineups before the first pitch, but today we get actual pregame. The two managers held a joint press conference to smooth over any hard feelings from last year. It’s about 50 steps away from Creed/Drago at the beginning of Rocky 4.
The Hanwha manager is sitting in the dugout wearing John Lennon glasses. His goal is to set the international record for most ridiculous glasses worn by a manager in a playoff setting. The current record holder is Tony La Russa.
The pitching matchup for tonight is Hanwha’s Ryu Hyon Jin vs. Samsung’s “Downtown” Jamie Brown. Ryu is probably the best young pitcher in the KBO. He’s got a devastating circle-change that he uses as his out pitch. He also mixes in an above average fastball and breaking stuff that’s above league average. Brown is your typical foreign journeyman. He won’t overpower any big leaguers any time soon, but his stuff gets by in the KBO. Ryu was 18-7 in 30 starts with a 2.94 ERA and 178 K’s in 211 innings. Brown ended the regular season with a respectable 12-8 record with a 3.33 ERA and 68 K’s in 162 innings.
5:59- Natonal Anthem along with a shot of a guy singing while wearing a bright orange Hanwha jersey on top of a long-sleeve plaid shirt. Yikes.
6:03- Samsung leadoff man Shin Myung-Chal takes the first pitch for a ball before grounding out weakly. One down.
6:05-Park Han-Yi gets a seeing-eye single for the first hit. You can officially cancel the postgame show.
6:07-A misplayed pop fly in right field puts runners on first and second with one out. The right fielder is mediocre slugger Jacob Cruz and the second baseman is a Korean guy. I’m guessing Jacob didn’t have time to find “I’ve got it” in his pocket dictionary.
6:09-DH Shim Jung Su steps in against Ryu. We’ve got a pitcher with wild hair facing off against a power hitter with glasses. It’s an 80’s baseball challenge! Shim is caught swinging at the circle change.
6:13-Shot of the crowd looking unimpressed, then realizing they’re on TV and half-heartedly banging their stix together. Come on Hanwha! This is October baseball!
6:15-Strikeout #2 looked a lot like Strikeout #1. Swinging at the change.
6:20- A video montage of Samsung left fielder, Yong Jun-Hyuk almost killing himself trying to catch baseballs at the warning track. Yong is a very good ballplayer, he’s finishing his 16th season with Samsung. He also collected his 2,000 hit and holds most of the career hitting records for Samsung, but that doesn’t make him a solid left fielder. When the ball goes out to left, it’s an adventure.
6:21- Foreigner Battle! Jacob Cruz vs. Jamie Brown. Cruz is caught staring at strike three.
6:25 – Great catch at the wall robs Samsung of a double. He caught the ball, then he caught the wall, rolled around for a minute. Stood up, waved to the fans and was followed back to his position by cheers. It’s a Joe Pepitone special or for younger readers, it’s a “Derek Jeter.”
6:33 – K #3 for Ryu, swinging at the change.6:34 – K #4, again swinging.
6:39 – 1st hit for Hanwha, a RINGING double by Lee Bum Ho.
6:44 – Hanwha draws first blood on a line drive single. 1-0, Eagles. Jamie Brown looks like he’s two steps away from a “Gonna be here a while” moment.
6:47 – I would comment on the commercials, but this is Asia. Just assume that all commercials either feature a giant squid, a boy band or a woman that is SHOCKED that a product she purchased actually worked.
6:56 – Samsung managed another hit, but failed to score. This inning featured 38 year old left fielder, Yong Jun Hyuk busting his ass to attempt to beat a throw. He didn’t make it, but it’s nice to see a vet like Yong, in a league like this that still cares. He was maybe four levels away from Tom Berenger at the end of Major League.
7:02 – Foreigner Battle #2 – This time Brown gets Cruz to ground out to end the 3rd.
7:09 – K #5 for Ryu. This time staring at the fastball.
7:10 – Kim Jae Gol at the plate. He is quite possibly the worst athlete in the history of sports to have his named chanted at a sporting event. He plays the field well enough, but his bat is painfully anemic. In 11 years in the KBO, he has hit exactly 12 homeruns while batting a robust .231. His career slugging percentage is only two points higher than his career OBA. Sitting at .297 and .295 respectively.
Korean names are awesome for chanting. “Kim Jae Gol! Kim Jae Gol! Kim Jae Gol!” If his name were say, oh, Andy Gonzalez, it wouldn’t have quite the same impact.http://www.baseball-reference.com/g/gonzaan01.shtml
7:13 – Kim Tae Gyun leads off the inning with a blast into left-center. 2-0 Hanwha. Brown doesn’t seem at all surprised by any of this. He’s a got a “Yeah, pretty much” face going on right now.
7:16 – Double barrel action in the Lions bullpen. It’s the 4th inning! Not exactly a leap of faith from the Samsung manager.
7:19 – Controversy! A 3rd strike is ruled a foul ball! The Samsung manager is too stunned to move. He looks like someone just told him the restaurant was out of kimchi. It doesn’t matter anyway.
7:26 – The Lions go down quietly in the 5th inning. Yong Jun Hyuk is determined to hit a two-run homerun with no one on base.
7:30 – Leadoff double for Hanwha followed by a perfect bunt. Runner on 3rd with one out.
7:31 – A shot of two salarymen with Hanwha banners is shown. The funny part? The banners are upside down.
7:32 – 2 strikes on Ko Dong Jin, the Hanwha center fielder and leadoff man. Samsung is almost out of this jam. Spoke too soon. Sac fly to deep center. 3-0 Hanwha.
7:42 – 80’s Challenge round 2: Full count…..oooooh. Ball Four. Take your base. Shim’s glasses saw through the sideburns of Ryu and advance to first.
7:45 – 1st and 2nd with no one out. Ryu looks like he’s running out of gas. His pitching coach raves like my friend, Jason during a Sox game. “Here’s the pop up to the 2nd baseman,” followed by an eye-roll when he actually does it. Lots of hand waving and thigh slapping.
7:47 – Sacks packed with Lions. Ryu doesn’t look all that wobbly, I get the feeling he’s getting out of this…
7:51 – Lazy fly ball to right. One down. The pitching coach is now using the, “Blank Stare of Doom.” I think if Ryu gives up a hit, this guy will throw punches. Everyone in the dugout has moved at least twenty feet away from him. I can just imagine the conversation, “We better get some Pocari(Gatorade). He gets like this some times, time to be shufflin’ down the road.”
7:53 – 3-1 count. Foul Ball. 3-2. Swings at the change. K #7 for Ryu. He’s got a lot of composure for a guy who just turned 21. Then again, these guys aren’t exactly the ’07 Tigers or for that matter the ’03 Tigers.
7:57 – 2-2 pitch. Ball three….and the batter stares at strike 3. He was praying for a walk. “Please, please, please. Let it bounce in the dirt, let the ump blow the call, just please don’t put it near the plate…..damn.”
8:02 – Foreigner battle #3. Cruz wins this time with a line drive basehit.
8:08 – Turn out the lights. 2 run bomb for Hanwha to make it a 5-0 deficit. You can close the book on Brown. He deserved better.
8:15 – To the surprise of me, Ryu is out for the 7th. He’s over 100 pitches, labored through the last inning and Hanwha has a 5-0 lead, but let’s send the kid out for another. They must have zero faith in their bullpen.
8:18 – Ryu goes through them like a hungry Korean businessman through cigarettes. K #8.
8:20 – Base hit for Samsung. Fake rally time! That’s all for Ryu. Final #’s, 6.2 innings, 8 k’s, 0 runs. He was the difference tonight for Hanwha.
8:34 – Shot of Ryu in the dugout. He appears to be wearing a terry cloth t-shirt and attempting to smile while the insane pitching coach is critiquing his performance. “Yes, coach. Yes, coach. Ah, I see coach.” Meanwhile, he’s thinking, “Man, I hope he finishes before the nightclubs close.”
8:48 – One, two, three inning for Hanwha. On to the top of the 9th. It’s last gasp time for Samsung.
8:54 – 1-2-3. No balls left the infield. A Hanwha win and a commanding 1-0 series lead. On to Daegu for Game 2. Hopefully I’ll be in attendance and able to offer a full recap.