Kia Tigers’ living legend Yang Hyun-jong broke the record and led the team to its sixth straight win. The two-game winning streak wiped out the early second-half slump and promised fans ‘Gwangju Fall Baseball’.
KIA won the 11th game of the season against SSG Landers of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at SSG Landers Field in Incheon, South Korea, 10-2. The team continued its momentum from the previous day’s 13-3 victory over the NC Dinos.
Yang Hyeon-jong was the winning pitcher for KIA 먹튀검증. The right-hander pitched seven innings of two-hit ball, striking out three and walking none to earn his sixth win of the season. It was the second straight quality start for the right-hander, who threw six innings of five-hit ball with one walk and four strikeouts against the Hanwha Eagles last month.
Yang used a combination of his fastball, which touched 148 kilometers per hour, and his main weapon, his changeup, to get outs with ease. With the exception of two runners on second and third in the bottom of the fourth inning, he dominated the SSG bats.
With the win, Yang earned his 166th career victory. With his 164th start, he overtook Song Jin-woo (163) to become the KBO’s all-time wins leader.
Yang made KBO history 16 years after he earned his first win as a professional on Sept. 29, 2007, when he pitched five innings of one-run ball against the Daejeon Hanwha Eagles. Aside from SSG’s Kim Kwang-hyun (154 starts), no pitcher in the active roster will challenge Yang’s record for most starts in the next decade.
KIA also extended their winning streak to six games with Yang Hyun-jong. They increased their gap to two games over the sixth-place Doosan Bears, who had no game due to rain cancellation, and gave a green light to the fifth-place Mercury.
Yang Hyun-jong said after the game, “I didn’t think much about the record. I’m more happy that I won seven games this season and the team continued its winning streak than I am about the record for most starts.” “Catcher Kim Tae-gun’s lead was so good. I think the part where I quickly took the pitch by signing Kim Tae-gun’s autograph and saying okay right away was the part that brought the atmosphere to our side.”
Yang Hyun-jong was off the first-team roster for ten days last month, from the 16th to the 25th, to rest and adjust his pitching mechanics. Yang, who usually takes a strong sense of responsibility and never skips the starting rotation, needed a break after starting the second half of the season with a 3-2 record and a 7.71 ERA.
As it turned out, the ten days of recovery proved to be a great medicine. After returning to the first team, he won two consecutive starts and regained his confidence. It’s a big win for Kia, who are still in the hunt for a top-five finish.
Yang Hyun-jong said, “I was thinking that my pitching was not helping the team too much. I wanted to take a break, but coach Kim Jong-guk was considerate,” Yang said. “Watching the pitchers in the second team and the rehabilitation team made me reflect on myself. It also helped that I had a good time with my family for the first two or three days.”
Now, Yang and the Kia have their eyes on more than just fall baseball. Their recent six-game winning streak has propelled them to fifth place, with just one game separating them from fourth-place NC and 3.5 games in hand on third-place SSG. There’s plenty of reason to set the bar higher.
KIA made it to the postseason for the first time in four years last year, but lost to KT Wiz in the wild-card decider, ending their fall baseball campaign with a one-game loss. Since the opening of Gwangju Kia Champions Field in 2014, the only fall baseball games held there were Games 1 and 2 of the 2017 Korean Series, so the entire team, including Yang Hyun-jong, is thirsty for ‘Gwangju Fall Baseball’.
“Last year, we ended the season with an away game in the wild card deciding game. This year, of course, we want to play fall baseball, but we also want to enjoy the festival with Gwangju fans. We will do our best to move up to fourth or third place instead of fifth place.”
He also said, “KIA’s junior pitchers have very good skills and pitches. It’s important how well they throw their pitches in real life, and if they do the same as they did in training, I think our team can go even higher than they are now.”