“AG is AG”: Korea’s Team First, Doosan’s Streaking Stopper Kwak-Bin ‘Sick but Not Dead’

“I wanted to pitch until the seventh inning, but I couldn’t, so I was very disappointed.”

Having already thrown 93 pitches, Kwak-Bin (24-Dusan Bears) volunteered to pitch the sixth inning, a heavy responsibility for an ace to take some of the pressure off the bullpen. In the end, he did his part, and the result was a decorated victory.

Kwak-Bin took the mound for the visiting Kiwoom Heroes in the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea, and pitched six innings, scattering 109 pitches and allowing one run on three hits with three walks and six strikeouts.

After Kwak-Bin was sent down, the bats came alive in the top of the seventh inning and the bullpen held on to the lead to earn their sixth win of the season (2-2). The win lowered his ERA from 2.63 to 2.50.

It was a crucial win for a team that has lost seven of its last eight games and four straight. They lost the fifth spot and their five-game winning streak was broken.

Of course, we couldn’t put too much on the line. Kwak-Bin, who returned from the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) with his national team before the season, had been on fire early in the season before being scratched from the first-team roster twice due to back injuries.

It was his third game back, but coach Lee was cautious: “I hope there are no injuries. He can’t pitch well every time. I need him to go at least five innings. If he gives me a quality start, he’s done his job as a starter,” he said. “If he doesn’t deviate regardless of the result and throws six innings consistently, he’s done his job. I don’t want to put too much pressure on him.”

But it was clear that it was a game he wanted to win. “I think we’re holding up better than we look, but we’ve lost four in a row, so the mood is definitely down,” Lee said, adding, “I hope we can use today as a day to turn it around.”

Jang Jae-young didn’t get much help from his counterpart as he pitched five innings of one-run ball. Kiwoom’s batters were relentless in working the count against Kwak Bin. By the fourth inning, he had given up three walks and thrown 81 pitches.

“When I get the leadoff hitter, I feel like the inning is easy, but when it doesn’t go well, I always give up a walk,” Kwak said after the game. “A lot of runs are scored because of the leadoff hitter’s walk, so I tried to focus on that, but I gave up a walk again today.”

In the fifth inning, he gave up a double to Lim Ji-yeol but didn’t allow any other batters to reach base, but a wild pitch tied the game. After throwing 93 pitches, Kwak-Bin returned to the mound in the sixth inning and finished the day with 109 pitches, including an easy triple play. His fastball topped out at 153 kilometers per hour.

The victory came with the responsibility of an ace. “I gave up a run in the fifth inning, but the ball wasn’t bad and I still had energy. They asked me if I could pitch in the sixth inning, so I said yes,” he said. “The bullpen pitched a lot this week, so I wanted to go to the seventh inning, but I wasn’t able to, so I was very disappointed.”

He was also selected for the Hangzhou Asian Games in September. With military service on the line, it’s a very important event for Kwak’s career. You’d think he’d have that in mind, but you’d be wrong. “I wanted to throw more, but I’ve already missed a lot,” he says, “The Asian Games are the Asian Games. Of course, it would be great to go and win a gold medal, but during the season, the team comes first, so I’m not thinking about that.”

The team has the second-most wins in the league and has the best ERA in the league despite not going the distance. Still, there are things he’d like to work on. “I realized today that you have to get every hitter you can get,” he said, “and I think I got hit a lot because I was trying to get a strikeout on my own in a very favorable count and it kept going 2-2 3-2. In the last KIA game, I only got one strikeout, but even then, I threw with the mindset of catching a fastball and trying to win, but (today) I was greedy, so I think that’s what happened.”

He was grateful for the experienced lead of his catcher, Yang Ji, but also found something to learn from it. “It’s not that I pitched well, but there were so many things that I thought, ‘You’re going to do this (sign) here?’ I believed in it, and it always turned out well,” Kwak said. “I can’t just rely on him until I retire, so I’m learning one by one, feeling and learning, thinking that I should do it when I do it, and I’m learning little by little.”스포츠토토

Kwak Bin, the streaking stopper, also expressed his pride in the team, which has been in a slump. “We’ve always been bad at this time of year,” he said, “but if we hang in there, we’ll be strong in the fall, so I hope we can hang in there and win some more games and become a team that can definitely turn the tables in the fall.”

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