BUSAN, South Korea – In case you haven't noticed, judging by the attendance, the Lotte Giants are out of the cellar. This week was a tale of two series. Lotte looked like world beaters against the Nexen Heroes, but struggled against the 2009 Korean Series champion KIA Tigers. The Giants pitching, offense and defense were working in harmony(well, maybe not the defense) against the Heroes.
Lotte outscored the Heroes 21-9 during the series sweep. Only one of the games was really competitive. While most of the KBO rested due to the poor weather, the Giants used their 3-game sweep of Nexen to get them out of the league cellar. On Tuesday, the Giants battered the Heroes for 10 runs. Most of the offensive outburst could be attributed directly to Karim Garcia. Garcia continued his red hot start to the season by going 2-4 with a walk, 2 homers, 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored. Lotte starter Jeong Won-joon limited the Heroes to only two runs during his 6 2/3 innings of work. Jeong allowed five hits, one walk and one HBP while striking out six.
Lotte won again on Wednesday, but it took a walk-off single from catcher Kang Min-ho to beat Nexen 6-5. 2nd baseman Jeong Seong-hwan went 2-4 with a homer, one RBI and two runs scored. On Thursday Lotte rode a quality start from starting pitcher Seong Seung-joon to complete the series sweep. Song threw eight solid innings and gave up two runs. Song allowed six hits, two walks and one hit batsman while striking out nine. He got in trouble in the early innings, but settled down and managed to stick around for eight innings and give the bullpen a much needed day off. Karim Garcia slugged his KBO leading 7th homer in the 5-2 win.
Then the 2009 KBO champs, Kia, rode into Busan and left with two wins out of three games at Sajik. The Lotte bullpen suffered a complete meltdown on Friday night. With the game tied at four, reliever Lee Jeong-hoon stayed out for the 9th after throwing 1 1/3 innings of relief work already. Lee simply ran out of gas and the Tigers started spanking line drives all over Sajik Stadium. By the time the dust had settled in the 9th inning, Lotte was facing a 4-run deficit and one of the best relievers in the KBO in KIA closer Yoo Dong-hoon. Yoo gave up a pair of singles in the bottom of the 9th inning, but recorded the final outs before Lotte could really threaten.
Second baseman Cho Seong-hwan had a torrid week at the plate for the Giants. Jo went 9-14 with four runs, four RBIs and only one strikeout during his last five games. Karim Garcia hit three homers last week–unfortunately, those were the only hits Garcia recorded. Teams have gotten wise to Karim and started pitching around him. He drew nine walks last week alone.
The bottom-line is that a 4-2 week is something Lotte can build on. It was enough to get the Giants out of the cellar and they are now only one game in back of KIA for 5th place. This week, the Giants hit the road to battle the Samsung Lions in Daegu and the Doosan Bears in Seoul.
You can check out Matthew's popular Korean Baseball blog, True Stories of Korean Baseball, where he follows the KBO throughout the week.