Fundamentals emerge as key in KBO postseason

October 25, 2022

SEOUL, Oct. 25 (Yonhap) — In the bottom of the third inning of the LG Twins’ postseason game against the Kiwoom Heroes on Monday night, speedy outfielder Hong Chang-ki stood at first base after a leadoff single. He then made a rather bold decision to take off for second on a foul fly down the left field line.

As Kiwoom left fielder Kim Jun-wan dropped the ball on the exchange, Hong got himself into scoring position with ease. Hong promptly scored on Kim Hyun-soo’s RBI single.

Park Hae-min of the LG Twins (L) celebrates his single against the Kiwoom Heroes during the bottom of the first inning of Game 1 of the second round in the Korea Baseball Organization postseason at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on Oct. 24, 2022. (Yonhap)

Kim’s bobble wasn’t scored as an error, but it was an ominous sign of things to come for the Heroes, who committed two errors in that inning alone as a 1-0 Twins lead ballooned to 4-0. The Twins went on to win 6-3 to open the teams’ best-of-five postseason series in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).

It wasn’t clear if Kim Jun-wan lost the grip of the ball because he was surprised to see Hong running. Either way, Hong said he wanted to put some pressure on his opponents.

“It was a routine fly, and I was ready to return to first base if Jun-wan had made a clean catch,” Hong said before Game 2 at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. “But once he fumbled the ball, the momentum carried me to second base. Maybe I caught him by surprise. It worked out well for us, and I think it was good just to attempt that.”

It was small things such as this play that made the difference in Monday’s game. Whereas the Twins made some spectacular defensive plays, the Heroes ended up making four errors to shoot themselves in the foot.

“We believe a postseason series can be won or lost on defense,” Hong said. “We’ve been trying to focus on the fundamentals like fielding and baserunning.”

This season, Hong, a serviceable outfielder, moved from center field to right field to make room for Park Hae-min, a prized free agent acquisition for the Twins. Park has consistently rated as one of the KBO’s best defensive center fielders, and Hong said having Park to his right always puts his mind at ease.

Park echoed Hong’s sentiment that as the stakes get higher, the importance of making the fundamental plays grows.

“If we give up runs because of defensive miscues, that will just put more pressure on us at the plate,” Park said. “I know this is really cliche, but we have to play fundamentally sound baseball. In the postseason, we all have to stay focused on every little play. Even when the ball is not hit in my direction, I still have to keep an eye on any follow-up play I have to make.”