BUSAN, South Korea- The KBO must have closed up shop the past seven days, for World Cup right? This week, the Taeguk Warriors had Argentina! You can't pay attention to baseball with Diego Maradona's $3000 suit, slightly silly pot belly, one kilogram diamond earring and eighty-seven pounds of hair gel looming.
Well, if you WERE watching baseball (judging by the attendance figures this week, you weren't), you would have seen the Giants lost four out of six. I guess they were distracted by the fact that they have three teams to root for in the World Cup. I picture the majority of the guys huddled around one of the flat screens in the Lotte clubhouse, Karim Garcia cheering while the Mexican team beat up on the French and Ryan Sadowski and Jerry Royster occasionally glancing up from their newspapers while the US drew with whichever "better-on-paper" European side they were playing.
Lotte opened the week with the Samsung Lions at Fortress Sajik. The Giants dropped the first two and settled for a tie in the rubber match. The Giants suffered bullpen meltdowns of epic proportions during the first two games. On Tuesday, Ryan Sadowski had to watch his quality start get melted down by a disastrous appearance from de facto closer Lim Kyeong-won. Sadowski held the Lions to three runs on five hits and three walks during his seven innings of work. The Giants held a 5-4 lead heading into the ninth when Lim was battered for five runs. It was every bit as embarrassing as it sounds. On Wednesday, the Giants jumped out to an early lead only to see Samsung take it back. Lotte did tie the game in the bottom of the ninth on a solo homer from Lee Dae-ho. The moon-shot from Lee was his second of the day and he finished 3-4 with four RBIs and two runs scored. Sadly, the bullpen blew up in the top of the tenth. This time it was Lee Jeong-hoon's turn to give up ridiculous amounts of runs in a really short time.
I'm really not sure what's more shocking. That the Lotte bullpen didn't meltdown again on Thursday or the Giants only hit one home run during a twelve inning game–the bullpen, definitely. DH Hong Seong-heun drove in a run with an single in the first inning and Lee Dae-ho added a solo homer in the fourth to give Lotte a 2-0 lead. Samsung answered back in the sixth inning with a pinch-hit two-run single that tied the game. Tied is how the game stayed. Lotte got six innings of scoreless relief out of its bullpen. Where were these guys on Tuesday and Wednesday?
The Giants carried a four-game winless streak into Seoul to face the LG Zombies. They would watch the streak swell to six before taking the rubber match on Sunday. The difference on Friday was pitching. LG ace Bong Jung-geun delivered a quality start and Lotte starter Song Seung-joon…didn't. Song didn't make it out of the fifth inning and was battered for seven runs on ten hits and three walks. Lee Dae-ho homered for the fourth time in three games and Karim Garcia added a solo homer, but there was little else for Giants fans to cheer for on Friday.
If Tuesday and Wednesday were Chernobyl level meltdowns, Saturday was a mere Three Mile Island. Lotte starter Jin Myeong-ho was chased from the game after the second inning and it was up to the Lotte bullpen to keep the Giants in the game. They almost pulled it off. Lotte took an 8-7 lead into the eighth inning, but reliever Kang Yeong-sik and "closer" Lim Kyeong-won turned that lead into a 9-8 deficit. The two combined to allow three hits and two walks during the late inning rally. Lee Dae-ho did bash a grand slam in the fourth inning for his fifth homer in four games to take a share of the league lead in home runs.
The 2010 KBO home run title is shaping up to be an entertaining race and three Giants are in the running. Lee Dae-ho is tied with Hanhwa left fielder Choi Jin-haeng for the lead with 20 homers. Karim Garcia is sitting in third with 18 and he's followed by Hong Seong-heun with 16. Lee finished the game 2-4 with five RBIs and a run scored. Hong Seong-heun chipped in with a 2-4, one walk, one homer, two RBI and three run effort.
The Giants got back into the win column on Sunday for the first time in over a week. This time, the Lotte offense mounted a late rally to put the game away. I'm guessing they didn't want to leave another game in the hands of the Lotte bullpen. I'd like to say Ryan Sadowski turned in another quality start, but Ryan struggled on Sunday. This was his first rough start since giving up five runs in 4 2/3 innings on April 20th. Sadowski pitched into the seventh inning, but he was tagged for five runs on thirteen hits and two walks. Ryan only managed to strike out two Zombies. He didn't get much help from the embattled bullpen. Ryan left the game in the seventh with a 6-3 lead and runners on second and third with no outs. Kang Yeong-sik promptly gave up a basehit and allowed both runners to score to cut the Lotte lead to 6-5. The Giants piled on in the late innings with a pair of two-run homers from second baseman Cho Seong-hwan and catcher Kang Min-ho in the top of the ninth inning. Hey, it was time for someone else to suffer from a bad bullpen.
The Giants will head to Masan to play the Hanhwa Eagles from Tuesday through Thursday and then return to Fortress Sajik to battle the hated SK Wyverns over the weekend. The Giants look to improve their 3-4 record against Hanhwa and their 1-8 record against the Wyverns. Even after this week's rotten turn of events, the Giants are still in fifth place and only 2 1/2 games in back of the Samsung Lions and KIA Tigers for third place, but they are mere percentage points away from sixth place. The LG Zombies are right at their heels.
You can check out Matthew's popular blog, True Stories of Korean Baseball, where he follows the entire KBO throughout the week.