The KIA Tigers are in an uphill battle for the top five and have 19 remaining games, the most of any of the 10 teams. They have a doubleheader against the Changwon NC on Sept. 27 and a doubleheader against KT in Suwon on Oct. 4. There are still more regrouping games to come. The starting rotation is a mess and substitutions are often needed.
This week, KIA had seven games in a row, including a doubleheader, and had to use an alternate starter against the Changwon NC on Oct. 26. Manager Kim Jong-guk chose Kim Gun-guk (35) again as a substitute. Prior to this game, Kim had appeared in four games (three starts) with a record of 8.31 (8 earned runs in 8⅔ innings) without a win or loss. His most recent start was on April 10 against LG Electronics, where he gave up five runs in 4⅓ innings. It was his first start against NC.
Before the game, when asked about the difficulty of bullpen days due to the tight remaining schedule, manager Kim Jong-guk said, “We have a doubleheader, so bullpen days are not easy. I think it would help the team a lot if the substitutes could last at least four innings.”
However, Kim lasted more than four innings. On top of that, the opposing NC starter was the league’s most dominant ace, Eric Peddy, who has been called an “ecosystem disruptor. Peddie had won 19 games before this day and was looking for his 20th win.
Pedi was as strong as expected. But Kim Gun-guk was also more solid than expected. Peddie pitched a perfect third inning to shut down the KIA bats, but Kim also pitched a two-hit shutout until the third inning. He got out of the jam with a bases-loaded walk.
The Tigers got on the board first against Peddie in the top of the fourth inning. With runners on first and third, Socrates reached on a fielder’s choice and scored. No runs were scored. Kim Gun-gook came to the plate in the bottom of the fourth with the lead. He gave up a leadoff double to Park Gun-woo. However, he worked out of the jam with the bases loaded and no outs. After giving up an infield single to Kim Han-byul in the bottom of the fifth inning, Coach Seo Jae-ng came up to relieve Kim. It was the signal for a substitution. Kim went 4⅔ innings, allowing one run on five hits with four walks and two strikeouts. Although he didn’t complete five innings and didn’t qualify as the winning pitcher, it was as good as it gets. Just being able to match the 19-win ace was enough to earn him a round of applause.
He kept the NC hitters in check with 19 fastballs (up to 147 km/h), 33 sliders, 12 forkballs, and 7 curves. Without Kim, Kia became cohesive. After limiting Pedi to the sixth inning, the bats came together in the seventh for a five-run big inning based on focus and operational baseball. It was the first game after Na Sung-bum and Choi Hyung-woo suffered season-ending injuries side by side. KIA won as a ‘one-man team’ and Kim Gun-gook was at the center of it.
After the game, head coach Kim Jong-guk praised Kim. “We expected it to be a difficult game with the other team’s ace on the mound, but he was able to even the score until the fifth inning and win the game today,” Kim said. “Although he didn’t get the win, he did his job 100%.” “Even though I didn’t get the win, I did my job 100%,” said Kim.토토사이트
After the game, Kim explained his strategy, saying, “I took a pitching design today with the idea of pitching my best every inning rather than trying to throw a long inning, and I’m satisfied that (Kim) Tae-gun had a good lead and pitched well today.”
“The team is in a difficult situation right now, but we all talked before the game about helping each other out where we are lacking, and I think we won today because of that,” he said. “I’m grateful that the manager gave me the opportunity to start, and I will prepare well for my next start so that the team can win.”
For Kim, KIA is his fifth team. He was a highly touted prospect who was drafted by Doosan with the sixth overall pick in the 2006 second round, but was released due to an elbow injury. He resolved his military issues and played for the independent Goyang Wonders before rejoining the NC Dinos in 2013. He moved to KT in the second round of the 2014 draft before being traded to Lotte in 2017. Aside from a one-game appearance in 2007, he was never given a chance in the first team. He returned to the first team in 2018 and was an all-weather pitcher until 2021. He was eventually released by Lotte in 2021.
However, he didn’t find a team for another year. He never let go of the ball even in desperate situations, and his strong showing in the Try-Out Baseball Tournament caught the eye of KIA, and after a tryout, he ended his wilderness career and began his professional career with the fifth team.
Kim’s pitching became KIA’s savior in a desperate situation.