Eagles ace sets record with 17 strike-outs

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Eagles ace sets record with 17 strike-outs


Ryu Hyun-jin

Burly star pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin gave the lowly Hanwha Eagles something to smile about Tuesday night, setting a single-game strikeout record of 17 against the LG Twins in their match in Chungju, North Chungcheong.

Pitching a complete game, the 23-year-old left-hander allowed only five hits and one home run on 124 pitches, bringing the last-place Eagles a 3-1 victory.

He overpowered the opposing batters from the early stages of the game with a combination of fastballs, change-ups and curveballs, and a top pitch that clocked in at 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour.

There were stretches when Ryu was simply unhittable, striking out four consecutive batters between the first and second inning and five consecutive batters between the sixth and eighth.

He also struck out the entire starting lineup of the LG Twins.

The only smudge on an otherwise overpowering outing was the sixth-inning solo home run he gave up to veteran outfielder Lee Byung-kyu.

In setting the new record, Ryu surpassed three others who were tied for most strikeouts in a single game, with 16: the Lotte Giants’ Choi Dong-won, the Haitai (now Kia) Tigers’ Seon Dong-ryeol and the Kia Tigers’ Lee Dae-jin.

Ryu is currently leading the league in strikeouts, with 61, and is second only to the SK Wyverns’ Ken Kadokura in wins and ERA, with five wins, two losses and a 2.18 ERA.

“Since the stadium in Chungju is smaller, I tried to avoid giving up big hits. I just followed my catcher’s lead,” Ryu said in a post-game interview.

“My goal is to reach the double-digits in the win column and lower my ERA.”

Ryu joined the KBO after graduating from Dongsan High School in 2006 and immediately made a name for himself in the big leagues.

Boasting a fastball that clocked in at 140 kilometers per hour and good command of his pitches, Ryu posted a remarkable record of 18 wins, six losses, 204 strikeouts and a 2.23 ERA.

He ranked first in wins, strikeouts and ERA that year.

Ryu went on to win the top rookie and Most Valuable Player honors.

The only other pitcher in the history of the KBO to post the most wins and strikeouts and lowest ERA in a single season was the Tigers’ Seon Dong-ryeol, who achieved the feat four times in his career.

Ryu’s strong season is good news for the national team, which is looking to send its top players to the Guangzhou Asian Games in November.

Although Japan has stated it would not send its top professional players to the Asian Games, the competition is being taken more seriously here, as players such like the Cleveland Indians’ Choo Shin-soo can earn an exemption from the mandatory two-year military service with a gold medal.

Ryu was instrumental in Korea’s gold medal winning performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, in which he shut out the Canadians 1-0.

He went on to hold the Cubans to two runs in eight and one-third innings to help Korea win the gold.

At the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Ryu pitched three scoreless innings against Taiwan.

By Jason Kim, Kim Hyo-kyung [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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