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‘I can see the back of No. 1 KIA’s head’ No. 3 Doosan Pajuk’s 9-game winning streak

“The fans who traveled all the way to Gwangju to cheer us on were the reason we were able to continue our winning streak. We are always grateful.”

Doosan Bears head coach Lee Seung-yeop talked about the team’s nine-game winning streak. Doosan won 8-5 against the Kia Tigers in the 2024 Shinhan SOL Bank KBO League on Thursday at Kia Champions Field in Gwangju. Fifth-ranked Doosan quickly moved into third place with the win over leader Kia, improving its season record to 25-19. They are now seven games behind second-place NC Dinos (23-17-1) and 1.5 games behind first-place KIA (25-16).

It’s a turnaround that would have been unthinkable before April. Until April, Doosan was in sixth place with a 16-17 record and a 0.485 winning percentage. The loss of foreign one-two punchers Raul Alcantara and Brandon Waddell at the same time was a major setback for the team, which also struggled with domestic starters Kwak-Bin, Choi Won-Joon, and Kim Dong-Joo. The bullpen was overloaded with the aftermath of previous seasons, with Chung Chul-won and Kim Myung-shin, who had been the team’s top closers, and the batting lineup lacked a consistent, explosive center fielder except for Kang Seung-ho, who was on fire from the start of the season. At one point, the team fell as low as eighth place.

In May, Doosan became a completely different team. Doosan is 9-2 in May and in first place in the league. Alcantara is still out with an elbow sprain, but it’s encouraging to see Brandon back in the rotation and fulfilling his ace duties, and Kwak-Bin has fully regained his form. Choi Won-joon and Choi Jun-ho have also pitched solidly to keep the winning streak alive. In the bullpen, Hong Gun-hee, Kim Taek-yeon, Choi Ji-gang, Lee Byung-heon, Kim Kang-ryul, and Park Chi-guk have been outstanding.

The bats have also been the hottest in the league in May. Three of their main hitters, Yang Ji Woo, Henry Ramos, and Heo Kyung-min, have been on fire in May, with each posting a batting average of over .400. Kang Seung-ho, Cho Su-sung, and Kim Ki-yeon have also contributed to Doosan’s firepower.

Speaking about the team’s winning streak prior to the game, the coach said, “The moment we get comfortable, the crunch comes. We’re not going to let up on the reins. We’re on a winning streak, but we’re trying to win every game. We need (Choi) Seung-yi to come in in the second half, (Chung) Chul-won is in the second team, and Alcantara is not a powerhouse. We have a lot of veterans now, so we have to rotate them if they want to play a full year. It’s a lot to think about, but I think we’re better balanced than last year. I think we’re more balanced than last year, but I think we’re better than last year.”

Brandon was the starter. Brandon picked up his fifth win of the season (2-2), allowing two runs on six hits (one home run) and one walk while striking out three in six innings and 84 pitches. His season ERA rose slightly to 1.80 from 1.59, but he did his part to record his fifth quality start of the season. He threw a mix of fastballs (36), cutters (21), sweepers (17), changeups (9), and curveballs (1). His fastball topped out at 149 mph and averaged 145 mph.

Brandon tied the Bears’ all-time road win streak for a pitcher. It is his 10th consecutive road win, dating back to July 6 of last year against the Samsung Lions. The previous marks 토토 were set by Chul-Soon Park in 1982 (4 saves), Daniel Rios in 2007, and Dustin Nippert in 2011-2012 (10 consecutive starts). The league record is 16 consecutive wins by Samsung’s Kim Il-yung in 1985-1986.

The bats pounded the KIA mound with 15 hits, long and short. Kang Seung-ho, the No. 3 hitter, was the big hitter. He went 2-for-4 with two doubles (one home run) and three RBIs. No. 6 hitter Kim Jae-hwan also activated the home run gun, going 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. The rest of the center fielders, including Yang Ji-ji, Yang Seok-hwan, and Ramos, were evenly matched, demonstrating the power of the recently revitalized batting order. Tablesetters Jung Soo-bin and Heo Kyung-min both had multi-hit games.

Kang Seung-ho gave the team a 3-0 lead in the first inning with a three-run homer to left field with runners on first and second. Brandon gave up a two-run homer to Na Sung-beom in the second inning to make it 3-2, but the team added three runs in the fifth and two in the seventh to take an 8-2 lead.

The bullpen’s closing in the ninth was the only disappointment. With a six-run lead, Lee sent left-hander Lee Kyo-hoon to the mound in the ninth. Lee was called up to the first team for the first time this season on Nov. 11 and pitched one scoreless inning in relief against the KT Wiz in Jamsil on Nov. 12. Lee walked leadoff hitter Kim Sun-bin before giving up a two-run homer to Kim Tae-gun to cut the deficit to 8-4. Lee was replaced by Kim Myung-shin two batters later after giving up a single to Choi Won-joon. Kim walked Lee Woo-sung to put runners on first and second, forcing Doosan to bring in closer Hong Gun-hee. Hong gave up an RBI single to Choi Hyung-woo to cut the deficit to 8-5, but no more runs were allowed to end the game.

Lee said, “Today (Sept. 14), the bats were able to show their focus from the beginning and bring home the win. In the first inning, the table setters Jeong Soo-bin and Heo Kyung-min reached base and Kang Seung-ho hit a home run with a good swing to take the lead,” said Lee.

“Yang Ji-ji’s RBI single and Kim Jae-hwan’s home run in the fifth inning, which extended the lead from a one-run deficit, were also decisive. I would also like to praise Seok-hwan Yang and Ramos for their RBI singles in the seventh inning.”

On the mound, “Brandon went six innings without any major crises except for the second inning. He did his job perfectly with another quality start. Kim also played a big role, coming in in the clutch and making his presence felt with just five pitches.”

Doosan will look to close the gap on leaders KIA in the remaining two games of the series. On Friday, the team will try to extend its winning streak to 10 games with Choi Won-jun at the helm.

“We were able to continue our winning streak thanks to the enthusiastic support of our fans who traveled all the way to Gwangju. I’m always grateful,” he said, vowing to do his best to look upward.

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