Giants are Still Looking for .500

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BUSAN, South Korea — When it rains it pours. That saying is rarely meant to refer to the weather, but it could say that for both the Lotte offense and the Lotte pitching staff this week.

When the Giants’ pitching staff and defense gave up runs, they gave up bunches. When the Lotte offense scored runs, they embarrassed their opponents. The two opposing forces managed to balance each other out this week as the team went 3-3.

The Giants are now five games in back of the Samsung Lions for the fourth and final playoff spot. Lotte currently owns a 26-28-3 record.

Things could be worse. The team could have gone into a tailspin and forced their manager to resign before July. Or the team could feature a collection of players that, well, simply aren’t KBO level baseball players. Thank the baseball gods that Doosan or Hanhwa don’t play in Busan.

Lotte started the week out with a critical three-game set in Daegu against the rival Samsung Lions. The Giants promptly dropped the first two games in embarrassing fashion. It’s hard to decide which was worse. Tuesday’s 9-1 loss or Wednesday’s 12-4 loss.

Lotte managed to save a little face on Thursday by beating up on Samsung’s Jang Won-sam and the shallow end of the Samsung bullpen. Lotte actually lead 13-2 at one point. The 13-7 finals makes the game sound closer than it really was.

Lotte blasted five homers before the seventh inning including a grand slam from struggling DH Hong Seong-heun.

Ryan Sadowski enjoyed the run support and cruised to his third W of the 2011 season. Sadowski threw six innings of two-run baseball. Ryan gave up five hits, one walk and a hit batsman while striking out three.

After the rough treatment on the road, Lotte returned to Fortress Sajik to play host to Karim Garcia and the Hanhwa Eagles.

Lotte battered Hanhwa ace Ryu Hyeon-jin and knocked him out of the game in the third inning. Lotte built a 7-2 lead, but watched the Eagles make the game close with some late inning heroics from backup infielder Jeon Hyeon-tae. Jeon hit a two-run homer during a three-run rally in the ninth inning that cut the Lotte lead to 7-6. Thankfully, the Giants were able to record the final outs while still holding on to the lead.

Lotte dropped the second game of the series, 9-3 thanks to some mediocre pitching from starter Lee Jae-gon. The 23-year old Lee may one day develop into a competent starter in the KBO, but he’s given up more homers this year(6) than strikeouts(5). Not good.

Lotte took the series on Sunday with a 17-2 outburst that had Hanhwa fans(well, the one they kept cutting during the broadcast) in tears. Lotte rallied for seven runs in the first inning and never looked back. Lotte had 28 baserunners on Sunday.

Lee Dae-ho and Kang Min-ho both enjoyed four RBI afternoons. Little used backup infielder Jeong Hoon made his third start of the 2011 season and went 3-4 with a homer, a HBP, two runs scored and two RBIs.

The Giants had an enjoyable week with a few dizzying high, but the same low lows still showed up. Relief pitching and defense are still big problems for the Giants.

The defense is what it is. Lotte can’t do much to change the fact that they’re not very good at catching the baseball.

The bullpen has been a much stranger issue because I’m almost convinced that manager Yang Seung-ho simply can’t manage a professional bullpen.

His use of Brian Corey alone has been maddening. Yang threw Corey out on Thursday with an eleven run lead. I understand that Corey’s been off for a few days with the two blowouts on Tuesday and Wednesday, but there was no reason to use a closer in that situation or leave him out to get shelled for five runs.

For most of May, Corey was the only reliable arm in the bullpen and he was leaned on heavily to carry the bullpen. Now he’s struggling.

Lim Kyeong-wan has been the best reliever to date, but he’s rarely allowed to finish an inning and tends to come in against lefties only. It makes sense, he’s dominated lefties, but he’s been solid against right-handed batters and showed some ability in closing last year.

They’ve also refused to give Lee Myeong-woo an extended look in the ‘pen. The 29-year old lefty has shown promise in the bullpen. Seven years ago, but hey, every one in the KBO has to do their military service sometime.

To be completely fair to Yang, he hasn’t had much to work with. He’s got  two relievers in his entire bullpen that he can count on to not do something embarrassing, but his use of them and his continued reliance on Kim Sa-yul has made some wonder about his ability to run a professional club.

Lotte will head north this week. During the week the Giants will battle the first place, defending champion SK Wyverns in Incheon. The Giants will then spend the weekend in Seoul battling the  Nexen Heroes.


You can read Matthew's blog, True Stories of Korean Baseball, where he follows the entire KBO each week.

 

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