Lotte Giants hit, pitch their way to 3rd placeThe Lotte Giants surged into third place with better hitting and pitching, but it’s too early to assure their sixth consecutive postseason berth as the mid-table competition in the Korea Baseball Organization is wide open.
The Samsung Lions beat the Giants, 5-3, on Sunday, ending the Busan franchise’s five-game winning streak.
The Giants went 13-9 with a draw in 23 games between May 1 and Sunday, the third-highest winning percentage in the nine-team league that month. The Giants are 23-21-2 and 5.5 games behind the Lions and the Nexen Heroes, who are tied for first place.
It was a significant improvement from April, when the Giants were in sixth place with a 9-11 record. The Giants’ leading starters, Song Seung-jun (3-2), Chris Oxspring (6-3) and Shane Youman (6-2), pitched only five and two-thirds innings on average in April, but they lasted through seven innings for most of last month’s games.
Their hitting also improved. The Giants, who lost free agent sluggers Hong Sung-heun and Kim Joo-chan after the 2012 season, had four homers and a .336 slugging average in April. But, they improved to nine homers and a .361 slugging average last month. The team recorded 108 walks last month, up from 86 in April, as they got better at selecting pitches.
The Giants will seek to reduce their deficit with the two league leaders as they face the Kia Tigers beginning today and LG Twins beginning Friday. Manager Kim Si-jin, however, will have to push the Giants to stay ahead of the other teams with the seventh-place SK Wyverns only three games behind the Giants.
In particular, the LG Twins, who have gained momentum with a five-game winning streak, their first since 2010, could mount a strong challenge. The Twins are seeking their first postseason appearance in 11 years. They will square off against their Seoul rival, Doosan Bears, beginning today.
By Moon Gwang-lip, Yu Byung-min [firstname.lastname@example.org]