BUSAN, South Korea — The Giants opened the season at home against the lowly Hanhwa Eagles. The Giants were tasked with starting their season against Hanhwa ace Ryu Hyeon-jin. The Lotte lineup wound up getting the better of Ryu. The big lefty was pulled after only 4 ? innings of work and was tagged for five runs as the Giants beat the Eagles, 6-0. 2010 MVP Lee Dae-ho needed exactly two at bats to remind everyone why he won the triple crown. It was Lee’s solo homer that wound up chasing Ryu from the game.
Bryan Corey made his regular season debut on Opening Day and made the most of the opportunity. Corey threw seven shutout innings and only allowed seven hits and zero walks. Corey struck out seven during his start.
The success against Ryu didn’t carry over to the second game with Hanhwa. The Lotte offense was unable to solve Hanhwa starter Ahn Seung-min or closer Oneli Perez. Lee Dae-ho accounted for all of the Lotte offense as he hit his second homer of the season as the Giants fell 3-1.
After the series with Hanhwa, the Giants headed to Daegu for a series with the hated Lions. Lotte ruined Samsung’s home opener by pummelling the Lions 10-3. Third baseman Jeon Joon-woo went 2-3 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored. Shortstop Hwang Jae-gyun finished 3-3 with a double, a homer, a steal, four RBIs and two runs scored. While the rest of the lineup brought the pain, Lee Dae-ho struggled. Lee finished the game 0-4 with a walk and a strikeout.
Lotte looked to win their first series of the season, but dropped the second game with Samsung, 1-0. Starting pitcher Song Seung-joon was the tough luck loser. Song tossed seven innings and only gave up the one run. He allowed four hits and struck out nine. The Lotte offense only manage five hits and none of them went for extra bases. Lotte was stuck with another series split as the rubber matched was washed out.
Giants' catcher, Kang Min-ho (47), celebrates his first dinger of the season with Lee Dae-ho
The Giants continued on the road over the weekend and headed to Seoul to battle the Nexen Heroes. The Giants thought they were in for an easy series against one of the weaker teams in the KBO.
They were wrong.
The Giants found themselves shut out for the second straight game when they opened the series. Nexen starter Brandon Knight handcuffed the Lotte offense for 7 ? innings of shutout baseball. The Giants were held without an extra base hit for the second straight game.
The ghosts of 2010 returned during the second game of the series with Nexen. Lotte starter Lee Jae-gon 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 failed. The Lotte ‘pen was tagged for nine more runs as the Lotte losing streak stretched to three games and the Giants fell, 12-6.
The good news from this game was that the Giants scored six runs. Second baseman Cho Seong-hwan went 1-3 with two walks, a homer, two RBIs and two runs scored.
The Giants got back on the right track in the rubber match with the Heroes as the Giants won, 5-1. The Lotte offense roughed up Nexen starter Kim Yeong-min early and often. Lotte scored all five runs in the first two innings. Lee Dae-ho went 2-3 with a double, a walk, two RBIs and one run scored. Catcher Kang Min-ho hit a two-run homer during the Giants four-run first inning.
Starting pitcher Jang Won-joon threw six innings(83 pitches, 52 strikes) of one-run baseball. Jang gave up only four hits and two walks while striking out six. Lotte has three wins and Jang has two of them. He might be in for a big year.
The only bad news to come out of Busan this week was the status of Ryan Sadowski. Ryan was shut down towards the end of training camp with “elbow pain” and his first start of 2011 keeps getting pushed back due to a “conditioning issue.” Ryan is scheduled to make his first start on 4/13 against the Doosan Bears.
This week, Lotte will return home to Fortress Sajik from Tuesday through Thursday for a series with the Doosan Bears. The Giants will head back to Seoul over the weekend for three games with the LG Twins.
You can read Matthew's blog, True Stories of Korean Baseball, where he follows the entire KBO each week.