“My balls will help me in big games” 17-win ace smells fall, PS miracle of two years ago repeats itself
The 17-win ace smells like an autumn must-win. Just as Mario becomes Super Mario when he eats a mushroom, Lee Young-ha (26, Doosan) becomes a must-win card when he smells autumn. It’s a proven fact that was confirmed two years ago during Doosan’s miracle journey.
Lee Young-ha pitched the final game of the season (Game 16) of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League against NC at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Nov. 12, tossing three innings of two-hit ball, striking out three and walking none to improve to 5-3 on the season. It was the pitch that kept the team’s fourth-place chase alive.
With two outs in the third inning and a 2-1 lead, Lee took over the baton from starter Jang Won-jun. He got Park Gun-woo to fly out to center field to end the inning.
In the fourth inning, with a 6-1 lead, he put on a strikeout show. After retiring the leadoff man Jason Martin on an eight-pitch walk, 바카라사이트 he struck out Park Han-yeol on a three-pitch swinging strike and Oh Young-soo on a six-pitch walk.
With a 9-1 lead, the fifth inning was a crunch time. Two batters later, Park Joo-chan walked, Kang Seung-ho made a throwing error at second base, and Son Ah-seop singled to right field to put runners on first and third. Park Min-woo worked into a 2B-1S unfavorable count, but used a fastball to induce a foul fly to left field.
Lee was still on the mound in the sixth inning with a 9-1 lead. He retired the first two batters he faced, Park Gun-woo and Martin, and was replaced by Lee Byung-hun after giving up a single to left to Park Han-yeol. He threw 49 pitches. Lee struck out the next batter, Oh Young-soo, to end the inning.
Lee said after the game, “I liked it today. I had a lot of thoughts when I was throwing, but I just looked at (Yang) Wi-joon’s mitt and threw it, and it led to a good result.” “I think it was more about the mindset and mentality. It was a game I had to win somehow. I was thinking about winning before the game, and that helped me a lot on the mound,” he said of his victory.
The three innings were not expected at all. Neither did the 49 pitches. “When Jang Won-jun used to start, he had a little bit of a crisis in the beginning and then pitched well in the middle and late innings, so I thought he would pitch four innings today and I would relieve him for one or two innings, but he went up earlier than I thought. Fortunately, the team was winning by the time he came down and the bats were scoring a lot of runs after I came up, so I felt comfortable.”
“After the fifth inning, I was really tired and my coach told me to throw a little bit more because he was going to give me a break, but the sixth inning was really hard. My legs were shaking and I couldn’t throw,” he laughed, adding, “I got greedy at the end and got hit. It would have been nice to throw more. My shoulder was fine, but my body was struggling,” he added.
Lee’s record this season is 5-3 with a 5.68 ERA in 35 games. He missed spring training due to a school violence trial, but was acquitted and returned to the first team in June, and has been an all-around performer in the bullpen, including long relief, chase, and closer roles. He was able to join the Doosan bullpen immediately thanks to his diligent personal training during the trial.
Lee said, “I’m happy that many of my goals have been realized this year. I paid special attention to my ball movement and control, and it worked out well. “The bad things happened because I didn’t prepare well from the beginning. I’m looking forward to doing better next year,” he said, reflecting on an eventful season.
“I think this time of year is for me to prepare for next season. When I’m on the mound, of course I’m going to throw hard, but I’m thinking a lot about what I need to do to improve next season.”
Young-ha experienced a 17-win ace leap to the title in 2019, but the next three years were a struggle as she bounced back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen. There were times when she found her groove. In the 2021 postseason, she joined Hong Gun-hee in the fall rotation and led a miraculous journey from the Wild Card Series to the Korean Series.
“I’ve thrown a lot of pitches here and there, so I can throw anywhere. It’s my advantage,” he said, “and if I go to fall baseball, I’ll be more focused. I’m confident because the ball I have is better than others. If I use it well as a weapon, I think it will help the big game team.”
He is also optimistic about Doosan’s prospects in the final standings, as the team is only 0.5 games behind fourth-place NC. “Our members have been fighting for a lot of positions,” said Lee Young-ha, “not only for first and second place. Not only have they fought for first and second place, but they’ve also fought for second and third place. I think that experience will serve us well,” he said, dreaming of a happy ending.