• August 20, 2023

10th to 2nd in 75 days, no team like this ever…KT’s ‘miraculous rebound’ surprises even the Steel Magic

There has never been a team like this in the KBO before. KT, which went from 10th to second place in 75 days, is writing a miraculous comeback story.

KT beat Daejeon Hanwha 5-4 in 10 extra innings on April 19. In the 10th inning, Choi Jae-dae led off with a double to left, stole second, and scored the game-winning run on Kim Sang-soo’s triple to right-center field. Closer Kim Jae-yoon, who came on in the ninth inning, pitched a two-hit, two-strikeout perfect 10th inning to earn the win.

On the same day, second-place SSG swapped places with KT as they fell to a 2-11 defeat against Munhak LG, their fifth straight loss. KT moved into second place, pushing SSG down to third. KT, which was in the bottom 10 until June 5, jumped eight spots in 75 days. Since the June 6 game against Sajik Lotte, which marked their breakthrough, KT has gone 39-16 in their last 55 games, with a winning percentage of over 7 percent (.709). The team has exploded with nine consecutive winning seasons, including four sweeps, starting against Gocheok Kiwoom on June 11. In the second half of the season, which began on March 21, the team went 20-5 for a whopping 8 percent winning percentage.

At the beginning of the season, KT was in a desperate situation due to a series of injuries. With the departure of Kim Min-soo (shoulder) and Joo Kwon (elbow), the bullpen pillars from a season ago, injuries to key players in the pitching staff continued after the start of the season, including Choi Soo-joon (elbow), Uhm Sang-baek (elbow), Choi Jae-dae (back of hand), Park Byung-ho (thigh), Hwang Jae-gyun (toe), and Lee Jong-ho (hip).

Choi Soo-joon underwent surgery in mid-May and is out for the season, while a physically exhausted Kang Baek-ho has been out of action since June. Even after the injured players returned, it was difficult for the team to regain its full strength for a while. By June 2, the team was 16-30-2 (.348 winning percentage) with a -14 win-loss margin, trailing the then fifth-place NC by 7.5 games.

But that’s when they hit rock bottom and started to climb. William Cuevas, who was brought in as a replacement foreign pitcher after releasing the struggling Bo Schuler, and second baseman Lee Ho-yeon, acquired in a trade from Lotte, injected new life into the bats. The five-man rotation of Cuevas, Ko Young-pyo, Choi Jeong-seong, Uhm Sang-baek, and Wes Benjamin has been steady, while closer Kim Jae-yoon and set-up man Park Young-hyun have completed the winning formula in the eighth and ninth innings. No. 1 overall in ERA since June (3.65). The return of Hwang Jae-gyun from injury and the revitalization of the batting order helped balance the batting order.

Once he got into the groove, he’s been climbing up the standings. After finishing the first half in seventh place, he reached the top five on July 25, just four games into the second half. On August 2, they moved up to fourth place, and on August 4, they moved up to third place before finally knocking off second-place SSG. Lee Kang-cheol, who is leading KT to its first championship since taking over in 2019, is also surprised by the team’s rebound. In the four years under Lee’s watch, the team has always made a fearsome comeback in the second half of the season, even after a poor start, but there has never been such a dramatic rise as this year.

“At the beginning of the season, I was like, ‘We’re going to lose,’ but now I’m like, ‘We’re going to win,'” Lee said. “Every year we’ve had a good second half, but I thought it would be really hard this time. But the players did it. The team came together around the seniors, who held the center when things got tough. The players are doing so well that I don’t have to do anything. When the atmosphere is this good, the coach shouldn’t try to do anything. You just have to give them the points,” he said.

Since the 10-team system began in 2015, the last two teams to finish in the top 10 were KT and Samsung, who finished 1-2 in 2021. However, it was very early in the season, with KT playing nine games and Samsung six. This year, KT was 10th through the first 50 games and one-third of the way through the season. 메이저놀이터

In the previous eight years, the top 10 teams after the opening 50 games all failed to make it to fall baseball. KT in 2015, NC in 2018, Lotte in 2019, and Hanwha in 2020 did not make it out of the final 10. Last year, NC came the closest to fall baseball with a 6th place finish, followed by Hanwha in 2016 in 7th, Lotte in 2021 in 8th, and Samsung in 2017 in 9th. Once you’re in last place after 50 games, it’s virtually impossible to rebound.

This year, however, KT is on a roll, going from 10th to 2nd place in 75 days. There has never been a team like this in the KBO before. As the team name suggests, they are working magic. With a season record of 57 wins, 46 losses, 2 ties (.553 winning percentage) and a +11 win-loss margin, KT will challenge Hanwha for its 10th consecutive winning series on the 20th. The KBO’s all-time record is 11 consecutive winning series. Samsung has won 11 consecutive series twice before, from April 22-May 9, 2005, and June 22-August 1, 2010.

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