Saturday, 18th May 2024

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‘Sweet Spring Rain’ KBO’s 3 million spectators, 6,295 spectators were not enough

It’s been an unusually wet spring this year. After all five games on Children’s Day were canceled due to rain on May 5, the last national holiday of May, Buddha’s Day, was also canceled due to rain in the Seoul metropolitan area.

The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) officially announced on May 15 that the regular season games of the 2024 Shinhan SOL Bank KBO League between Jamsil LG-Keum, Incheon SSG-Samsung, and Suwon KT-Lotte were canceled due to rain.

Heavy rain was forecast for the entire metropolitan area from that afternoon, and all three games in the capital city were canceled before 2:30 p.m. There were also some changes to the starting pitchers on Saturday. LG switched from Im Chan-kyu to Detrick Enns, Lotte from Na Kyun-ahn to Park Se-woong, and Samsung from Lee Seung-hyun to Connor Seabold.

As a result, the matchups on the 16th included Jamsil Ariel Hurtado (Kiwoom)-NS (LG), Incheon Seabold (Samsung)-Kim Kwang-hyun (SSG), Suwon Park Se-woong (Lotte)-William Cuevas (KT), Gwangju Dong-joo (Doosan)-Yoon Young-chul (KIA), and Daejeon Kyle Hart (NC)-Ricardo Sanchez (Hanwha).

The Gwangju matchup between KIA and Doosan and the Daejeon matchup between Hanwha and NC were sold out with 25,000 and 12,000 fans, respectively. The KBO League had 2,973,705 fans through 15 games, falling short of the 3 million mark by 6,295 fans.

As a result, the league fell one day short of reaching 3 million spectators in the shortest time since the 10-team system was established. If the club reaches 3 million on Saturday, it will beat the previous record, set on June 1, 2016, after 245 games, by 29 games (216).

It’s already on pace for history. The previous record for fewest games with 3 million spectators was 190 on June 6, 2012, when the eight-team system reached the mark. That’s 11 games shy of the previous record of 227 games set on June 11, 2011 (also with eight clubs). It was coming. Since reaching the 2 million mark on April 27 (148 games played), we’re just 68 games away from 3 million, which is faster than the 1 million to 2 million in 78 games.

By club, LG was the only team to surpass the 400,000 mark with a cumulative total of 410,603 fans at the end of the 15th. This was followed by KIA with 373,883, Doosan with 359,753, Lotte with 375,778, and SSG with 345,773, with five clubs totaling over 300,000 fans.

In terms of average attendance, LG topped the list with 18,089, followed by Doosan with 17,131, Kia with 16,991, Samsung with 15,423, Lotte with 15,544, and SSG with 15,000, with a total of five clubs having an average attendance of over 15,000.

In terms of percentage increase over the same period last year, KIA, the top-ranked team, saw the highest increase with a 72% increase in attendance. Hanwha 사설토토 came in second with a 65% increase and set a new KBO League record for consecutive home sellouts in a single day (17 games), starting with the last home game of the 2023 season and continuing through the first 17 home games of the 2024 season.

In front of sold-out crowds in Gwangju and Daejeon, the home team’s fortunes were mixed, with KIA winning 8-4 in Gwangju to end Doosan’s 10-game winning streak. With the win, KIA improved to 26 wins and 16 losses, keeping them within 1.5 games of second-place NC (24 wins and 17 losses), which defeated Hanwha on the same day.

Kia out-hit Doosan 14 to 8 in total hits. Na Sung-beom led the team with five hits, three doubles (one home run) and four RBIs. Na Sung-beom returned to action for Jamsil LG Electronics on March 28 after spending about two months rehabbing a hamstring injury sustained during an exhibition game in March. His batting average dropped to 0.08 in the first nine games as he struggled to adjust. However, he returned home and launched his first home run of the season the previous day (Nov. 14), and then started a two-game homerun streak.

Na Sung-beom hit a four-pitch slider from Choi Won-joon over the wall in right-center field with one out in the bottom of the third inning with Kia trailing 1-0. In the bottom of the fourth inning, with the bases loaded and two outs, Kim Myung-shin doubled to left field off the new pitcher. That left Doosan starter Choi Won-joon with the loss, allowing four runs on seven hits (one home run) and one walk in 3 1/3 innings while striking out four.

Choi Hyung-woo and Kim Sun-bin also had strong performances. Choi Hyung-woo went 2-for-5 with a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth inning and two RBIs, while Kim Sun-bin went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and nearly tripled his batting average (.296). These are the two hottest veterans in May. Choi Hyung-woo is batting .474 (18-for-38) with three home runs, 11 RBIs and a 1.339 OPS in 11 games in May, while Kim Sun-bin is batting .379 (11-for-29) with two home runs, three RBIs and a 1.040 OPS in eight games to lead the KIA lineup.

Park Chan-ho had a multi-hit game, including a game-tying two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning. Seo Gun-chang and Hong Jong-pyo, who were also in the starting lineup against the left-hander, went 1-for-5 and 1-for-3 with two RBIs and a walk, respectively, highlighting the depth of the KIA lineup. Kia starting pitcher James Nail picked up his fifth win of the season (1-1) with five innings of five-hit ball, three walks, five strikeouts and three runs.

Doosan’s winning streak came to a halt in the ninth inning as they were unable to capitalize on the Kia bullpen of Kwak Do-gyu (1⅓ innings), Jang Hyun-sik (⅓ innings), Choi Ji-min (1⅓ innings), and Jung Hae-young (1 inning).

Hanwha fell short in front of its home fans, losing 1-16 to NC in a rain delayed 7th inning. Foreign pitcher Felix Peña’s injury was a major factor. Peña was replaced in the top of the second inning, when Hanwha was down 1-3, after trying to catch a hard hit ball by Son Asub with his hand. The pitch hit him in the right wrist of his throwing hand, forcing him to be replaced.

Hanwha then fell apart. Seo Ho-cheol singled to left-center to put runners on first and third, Park Gun-woo doubled over the center field fence, and Matt Davidson followed with an RBI single up the middle to make it 6-1. After scoring one run in the third and one run in the fourth, Hanwha surrendered eight runs in the seventh inning alone, resulting in a 15-run defeat. The team’s bats also failed to support the mound, totaling just six hits.

For NC, starting pitcher Shin Min-hyuk earned his third win of the season with six innings of five-hit ball, striking out six and walking one. At the plate, Son Asub went 4-for-6 with a home run and one RBI, while Park Gun-woo went 2-for-5 with a double and four RBI. Davidson, Kwon Hee-dong, Kim Sung-wook, Kim Joo-won, and Do Tae-hoon also had multi-hit performances, as the team pounded out 20 hits without a home run to maintain its 1.5-game lead over Kia.

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