After tumultuous series, the Eagles make the wrong kind of history
With a 2-8 loss to the NC Dinos on Sunday, the Eagles have set a new club record for the longest losing streak, now at 14 games. Unsurprisingly, the Daejeon-based team is now solidly at the bottom of the table, 3.5 games behind the ninth-rankled SK Wyverns.
The Eagles started their losing streak with a 0-3 loss, also against the Dinos, on May 23.
In a dramatic turn of events, Eagles' manager Han Yong-duk lashed out on Saturday — when the losing streak was at 12 games — telling four of the team's eight coaches to pack their bags and go home. As a result, the Eagles ended up playing — and losing — Saturday and Sunday's games with just four coaches.
On Sunday, after the 14th consecutive loss, Han resigned.
Han’s contract was supposed to expire at the end of this season. He was appointed manager in October 2017 and spent a tumultuous two seasons at the helm of the club. In 2018, Han became the hero of Daejeon, leading the Eagles to a third-place finish in the regular season, allowing them to advance to the postseason for the first time in 10 years.
In 2019 the Eagles fell back down, ending the season in ninth place.
The Eagles' 14-game losing streak might be a new club record, but its not the worst the KBO has ever seen. Back in 1985, the now-disbanded Sammi Superstars went 18 games without a win. The Eagles aren't there yet, but if things don't turn around soon they could end up passing that record this week.
Among the clubs that are still active in the KBO, the Lotte Giants and the Kia Tigers have both had 16 game losing streaks, the Giants back in 2002 and the Tigers in 2010.
The Eagles will need to pick up a win in their three-game series against the Giants starting Tuesday if they want to stay out of the history books. The team will play under caretaker manager Choi Won-ho for the rest of the season. Choi, who is the Eagles' Futures League manager, is expected to bring in a new team of coaches.
The Eagles aren't the only team with an unexpected change in personnel.
After Sunday's game, the Doosan Bears traded utility player Ryu Ji-hyuk for Tigers' pitcher Hong Geon-hui.
The trade came as quite a surprise, as Ryu had been batting 0.417 throughout 20 games this season. He even appeared on Sunday against the Tigers, picking up a hit in the Bears 3-2 victory.
Although Ryu was a popular player, he is unlikely to leave a significant gap in the Bears' offense, as the team is currently ranked third in the league for batting, at 0.301.
What the Bears do need is better pitching. Despite being No. 2 in the league, the Bears pitchers are ranked eighth with a team ERA at 5.28. Strong batting and some good starts from Raul Alcantara and Yoo Hee-kwan has kept the team in contention, but the Bears are definitely in need of a stronger bullpen. Hong has a 6.00 ERA in 10 appearances so far this season with the Tigers.
In terms of starting rotation, the Bears’ made another surprise decision ahead of Tuesday’s game against the top-ranked NC Dinos. As Lee Yong-chan is currently out with an injury, manager Kim Tae-hyoung chose rookie pitcher Cho Je-young as starter.
This is expected to be Cho’s debut in the KBO. He’s played seven games in the Futures League and throughout seven games, he’s picked up a win, a loss and a save with a 5.40 ERA.
The Bears’ three-game series against the Dinos will be interesting to watch as they are the top two teams in the league, but the Dinos still have quite a lead as they are four games ahead of the Bears.
The Dinos enter the series on a five-game winning streak, facing the Bears on a four-game winning streak. Further down the table, the Giants seem to be heading back on track as they swept their weekend series against the KT Wiz.
The Kiwoom Heroes won their series against the LG Twins with two wins and a loss on Sunday. The SK Wyverns also won their weekend series against the Samsung Lions, but finished their weekend with a loss on Sunday.
Despite an unusual start to the season, there are signs that things are starting to stabilize. Over the last 10 games, the four of the top five teams from last year — the Bears, Wyverns, Heroes and Dinos — have the exact same record at seven wins and three losses, even though the Wyverns are still stuck down in ninth place.
Starting Tuesday, the KBO will continue its season as the Twins host the Wyverns at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul, while in Suwon the Wiz play the Tigers. Over in Daegu, the Lions will face the Heroes. The Bears and Dinos will play in Changwon, while the Eagles and Giants face off in Busan. All games will start at 6:30 p.m.
BY PARK SO-YOUNG, KANG YOO-RIM [email@example.com]