Lions roar to life with a balanced approach

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Lions roar to life with a balanced approach

Relying on a balanced team consisting of speed, a strong bullpen and solid starting pitchers, the Samsung Lions are hot on the tail of the SK Wyverns in the Korea Baseball Organization league standings.

The team has managed to put together a record of 25 wins and four losses in its past 29 games - despite lacking a starting pitcher with at least 10 wins and a slugger with 20 or more home runs so far this season.

The Lions have relied on strong teamwork rather than a select number of players. Although its pitchers haven’t put up record-breaking numbers this season, they are performing well when the team’s hitters are struggling. Additionally, the offense has come alive when the pitching is weak.

With a record of 59 wins, 38 losses and one tie, the Lions now sit in second place in the standings and are five games back from the SK Wyverns. The Lions can make up some significant ground starting today as they kick off a three-game series with SK.

“Samsung’s surge is scary. It looks like it will be tough to win the league title with 82 wins this season. I think we will need at least 90 wins,” said SK manager Kim Sung-geun last week. “Samsung is the most balanced team in both pitching and batting.”

Despite the strong play of his team this season, Samsung manager Seon Dong-ryeol has kept his expectations modest. “Eighty wins and a second-place finish is our goal,” Seon said on Sunday. “I’m not concerned at all about catching up to SK. I’m more worried about Doosan closing the gap on us.”

The Doosan Bears are currently two-and-a-half games behind Samsung.

Some of Samsung’s success this year is tied to its ability to close out games. Its bullpen boasts a perfect 40-win record when leading a game after the fifth inning.

“In baseball, strong pitching is the most important aspect of the game,” said the team’s Japanese batting coach, Hitoshi Taneda. “Pitchers have to protect the lead by giving up the least amount of runs in order for us to win games, and Samsung’s bullpen is very strong.”

In addition to a solid bullpen, the inclusion of Jang Won-sam and Cha Woo-chan to the starting rotation has helped as well.

“During our win streak, our starting pitchers did not give up a lot of runs,” said coach Jang Tae-soo. “Even if our starting pitchers did not pick up a lot of wins, they limited the opposing side to a run or two, which allowed us to win games in the late innings.”

Samsung’s offense has also come to life this season with the emergence of young players like Cho Dong-chan (24 steals), Lee Young-wook (26 steals) and Kim Sang-su (22 steals).

“If we threaten the opposing team with quick players, the opposing pitcher will toss more fastballs rather than breaking balls,” said Seon. “It’s a big help to the other batters on our team.”


By Han Yong-seob [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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