Weekly ReviewTenacious Eagles boost performance, popularity
The Hanwha Eagles were the worst team in the league three years running, but fans hoped things would change this season with the introduction of new manager Kim Sung-keun - nicknamed the “Baseball God” - and the signing of veteran players.
So far, so good.
The Eagles are currently tied for fourth after 12 wins and 10 losses, and it’s the first time in six years they’ve won more than 10 games in April.
The Eagles’ performance is somewhat mysterious because the team has a .259 batting average, eighth in the league, while team ERA is only 4.93, seventh in the league. The Eagles are also ninth in home runs, after players notched only 16.
But experts say that the Eagles now have something else: tenacity. In their 22 games, the Eagles have produced six come-from-behind wins, while three were collected from walk-off hits.
Exciting games mean that fans are flocking to the stadium. In their 12 home games in Daejeon, three were sold out, which ties them with the Doosan Bears for the highest number of sellouts this season.
Eagles games have also been hits for broadcasters. According to AGB Nielsen Korea, the four games in which the Eagles played have had ratings higher than 2 percent. The average rating for Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) League games was 1.01 percent last year.
Over the weekend, the Eagles swept a three-game series against the SK Wyverns, which was the first time since 2006 that they won all three games against the Incheon-based club.
While the Eagles are flying high, the Lotte Giants are also taking off.
The Busan-based club is third in the league table, having swept a three-game series against defending champion Samsung Lions over the weekend.
This was also first time since 2006 that the Giants won three games against the Lions.
The Eagles and the Giants will play their own three game series from Friday to Sunday.
But before they meet on the weekend, the Eagles will face the Kia Tigers, while the Giants clash with the Nexen Heroes from Tuesday to Thursday.
Player in Focus: Lee Dong-kul (Hanwha Eagles)
The Eagles pitcher Lee Dong-kul was drafted by the Samsung Lions in 2007, but until this season, he was largely unknown.
The right-hander played only 14 games and had 6.41 ERA with the Daegu-based Lions, and though he moved to the Eagles last year, things didn’t really change. The Dongkuk University graduate played eight games and recorded one loss with a 4.50 ERA.
But this year, Lee has already made headlines. Lee made his first appearance of the season on April 12, but he was ejected from the game after throwing intimidating pitches at Lotte Giants’ Hwang Jae-kyun. He later received a five-game suspension.
But Lee had his best day yet on Saturday against the SK Wyverns, collecting the first win of his professional career. The 31-year-old relief pitcher threw 2 and 2/3 innings and allowed one run, but as the Eagles won the game 7-6 with a walk-off hit, Lee smiled at his first KBO victory - nine years in the making.
Jung’s big-time gaffe costs Eagles game against Twins
The Eagles on last Tuesday lost 10-0 against the LG Twins in Seoul. While the game was disaster for the Eagles, what really let down the players was the bonehead play from catcher Jung Bum-mo in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Trailing 2-0, the Eagles pitcher Shane Youman had to face the Twins’ Lee Jin-young with the bases loaded and only one out left in the inning. Youman threw his sixth pitch, a ball.
Jung misunderstood the situation, thinking that Youman had gotten a strike and ended the inning. He tossed the baseball to the first baseman and then ran to the Eagles dugout.
But because it wasn’t a strike, the game was still in play. With Jung leaving the home plate, Oh Ji-hwan, the Twins runner on third base, scored, as well as Jeong Seong-hoon, the runner on second.
The Eagles first baseman noticed what had happened and threw the ball to Youman, who ran to cover the home plate, but it was too late.
Jung had another nightmare on Thursday against the Twins: The catcher couldn’t block four wild pitches, giving up two runs.