Nightmares for Kim could haunt SoxTo nail the coffin of their opponents, the Boston Red Sox have brought in Kim Byung-hyun from the Arizona Diamondbacks. It’s no secret that the Red Sox made their move while eyeing their division rivals, the New York Yankees, whom they trailed by just one game as of Wednesday.
Having watched Boston’s three-game series with the Yanks in Beantown, I must confess to worrying whether Kim will be enough for the Red Sox in their quest for that elusive World Series championship (their last one was in 1918). Either the Yankees will stand in the Red Sox’s path or vice versa, that’s for sure.
Kim is well-known for his meltdown as a Diamondback during the 2001 World Series against the Yankees, when he gave up two game-winning home runs; his team still managed to win the World Series.
For a pitcher to bounce back from such an experience ― Kim tallied a record 36 saves for the Diamondbacks the following season ― is no easy task. Kim possesses mental strength, there’s no doubt. In his last three appearances against the Yankees, however, it seems that some traces of that two-year-old nightmare linger.
One loss, one win and a save are all Kim has to show for in his last three appearances against his eternal enemy. The way it happened should put some doubt in the Red Sox’s mind when Kim gets called up against the Yankees for the next make-or-break situation.
The game played on Saturday clearly demonstrates the problems Kim grapples with.
Kim took to the mound in the eighth inning, with two outs and a runner on second base in a 4-3 lead situation, but immediately gave up a hit to Yankees left-handed pinch hitter Karim Garcia, who drove in Nick Johnson on a single to tie the game.
Kim threw a scoreless ninth but it could have gone on much longer had it not been for the spectacular catch by Johnny Damon. Thanks to a single from lefty David Ortiz, Kim came away with the win.
Kim gave up a single in each of the two innings that he threw. The impression I got when Kim gave up one to Garcia and to Derek Jeter in the ninth was that he still needs to fine-tune his judgment when the count’s in his favor. Against Garcia he got hit with an 0-1 count while against Jeter, he had a 0-2 count working in his favor.
As a closer, being aggressive is a good mentality but that doesn’t mean you have to pull off a strikeout. With an 0-1 or 0-2 count a pitcher can toy around with the batter and waste pitches or start to set up a sequence to get the batter out. Especially with a talented lineup like the Yankees’, if the count is in a pitcher’s favor, he ought to think twice before throwing. Having the hitter deep in the hole does not mean a pitcher can automatically challenge the batter and throw another strike or blast the batter with a fastball because these guys will be ready for it.
A much better idea is to expand the strike zone and move the ball around the plate. Kim should throw against the Yankees as he does against any other team. The way he throws now seems a bit emotional at times.
by Brian Lee
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