Lee throws KBO’s first perfect game

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Lee throws KBO’s first perfect game

Busan Lotte Giants pitcher Lee Yong-hun threw a perfect game against the Hanwha Eagles in the Future’s League, becoming the first pitcher in Korean Baseball Organization history to achieve the record.

Although it was a minor-league game, Lee didn’t allow any Eagles batters on first base at the Daejeon Baseball Stadium on Saturday, helping the Giants clinch a 7-0 win. With the perfect game, Lee is now 10-4 with a 2.83 ERA in the Korean minor league.

“It was a minor-league game, but I feel great that I became the first pitcher in Korea to achieve such a great record,” Lee said in an interview with Ilgan Sports, the JoongAng Ilbo’s daily sports newspaper.

Since the KBO season first started in 1982, there have been only 10 no-hitters, but no pitchers have thrown a perfect game in either the major or minor KBO leagues - that is, until Lee took the mound on Saturday.

In Major League Baseball, 20 pitchers have thrown perfect games, while only 15 have earned the prestigious mark in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league.

On Saturday, Lee collected 10 strike outs, nine ground-ball outs, six infield outs and two outfield outs from 27 batters. In his 111 pitches, Lee effectively mixed up 146-kilometers-per-hour (90-miles-per-hour) fastballs with breaking balls like his sliders and curveballs. In fact, the right-hander struck out all three Eagles hitters in the bottom of the ninth to seal and celebrate his achievement.

“I had a knee problem before this game, so I tried to pitch without putting more power,” Lee said. “Apparently my strategy worked and had a good control.”

Lee made his professional debut in 2000 with the Daegu Samsung Lions after graduating from Kyungsung University. He collected nine wins in his rookie season, but was soon plagued by injuries and slumps which forced him to leave the club.

In 2002, Lee was traded to the Incheon SK Wyverns and the following year was traded again to the Giants, but failed to get into any of those clubs’ major-league regular rotations. The pitcher has compiled 34 wins, 44 losses and one save with a 5.70 ERA in his 163 games in the KBO’s major league.

However, with his extraordinary performance, Lee may get another chance to shine with the first team. He had pitched in two games for the Giants in April, but earned a disastrous 21.60 ERA. “We will include Lee in the first-team roster on Monday,” the Giants manager Yang Seung-ho said yesterday.

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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