In a matchup of two players who have faced each other plenty of times in the KBO, Kim Ha-seong (28, San Diego) smiled with a cool home run. With the home run machine in full swing, the first big thing in the history of the Asian Beasts is starting to come into view. The only problem is the team’s performance.
Kim hit his 16th home run of the season in the first inning of Game 1 of a doubleheader against Arizona at Petco Park in San Diego, California, on Aug. 20 (KST), batting first and third. It came 15 games after he hit his 15th home run of the season on Aug. 3 against Colorado.
In fact, the day’s schedule was chaotic. Hurricane Hillary was expected to hit Southern California around the 21st. In response, Major League Baseball’s office decided to move some of the 21st games to the 20th to play doubleheaders. San Diego’s game against Arizona was one of them. In fact, a hurricane “invading” Southern California at this time of year is enough of a weather event. The players were forced to play an unscheduled doubleheader.
With the game starting earlier than expected, the first game was a tough one for San Diego, as they gave up two runs in the first inning. But it was Kim who changed the course of the game. In the first inning, Kim took advantage of a 90.8-mph (146-kilometer) two-seam fastball from Arizona starter Meryl Kelly that was relatively centered, spun his bat like a thunderbolt and crushed it over the left-center field fence for a leadoff home run.
The Arizona second baseman is no stranger to the KBO, having spent four years with SK (now SSG) from 2015 to 2018. After signing a four-year contract with Arizona in 2019, he became known as a “reverse export myth” for his success. Kelly and Kim have faced each other a total of 29 times in the KBO, with Kim being the weaker of the two, but once he reached the majors, he was able to hit for extra bases and even hit a home run against Kelly. Kim laughed at the start of the day.
San Diego tied the game in the first inning with a home run by Ha-Sung Kim and a solo shot by Manny Machado. But that was it. With no more runs scored, the Dodgers lost the mid-game power struggle and dropped the most important game of the doubleheader, 4-6. Waldron, who started the hastily scheduled doubleheader in relief, struggled with five runs in five innings, and the offense couldn’t make up for it.
Kim Ha-soo also failed to add a hit or a walk in his remaining four at-bats, including one strikeout. The offense was largely silent, with Machado going 2-for-2 with two RBIs. Kelly, on the other hand, settled down after a two-run first inning to earn his 10th win of the season in 5 1/3 innings of three-run ball.
The next two games were must-wins for San Diego. Meryl Kelly and Darvish Yu were originally scheduled to start on the 20th. Kelly started Game 1 and Darvish started Game 2, meaning Arizona had two alternate starts, but the San Diego bats went silent and the trusted Darvish struggled, giving up four runs on nine hits in five innings.
Kim Ha-seong also started at first base, but was unable to fulfill his role as a leadoff man, going 0-for-3 with a walk. The batting order was in trouble. The 1-4 star lineup of Kim, Tatis Jr, Soto, and Machado combined to go 0-for-13. Bogaerts had one hit and one RBI and Cronenwirth had two hits, but the entire lineup was held to five hits.
Kim, who played both games of the day with no turnovers, totaled eight at-bats with one hit and one walk. His batting average dropped from 0.281 to 0.278, breaking the double digits. This is the first time since August 1 that his batting average has fallen below 0.280. His on-base percentage also dropped three runs, from 0.372 to 0.369. However, the home run in his first at-bat of Game 1 was a positive.
Kim already has 27 stolen bases. Rule changes and an increase in base size this year have made stealing easier, and the speedy Kim is taking advantage. After totaling 18 stolen bases in the previous two years, he’s already surpassed that mark in a single season. He also has 16 home runs, and is now four away from the 20-20 club.
If he can stay injury-free and continue his current home run pace, Kim is on pace for a final home run total of around 20. While there has been a slight dip in his long ball pace over the last month or so, there is still a chance that this graph could trend upward. If so, he could become the third Asian player to join the 20-20 club, joining Shin-Soo Choo and Shohei Ohtani.
Shin-Soo Choo made his first big breakthrough in 2009 with 20 homers and 21 doubles while playing for Cleveland, then followed it up with 22 homers and 22 doubles in 2010. He did it again in 2013 with 21 homers and 20 doubles while playing for Cincinnati. However, despite reaching the 20-homer plateau four times since then, he has yet to rejoin the 20-20 club as his stolen base numbers have declined with age.
The most recent Asian player to reach the milestone is Shohei Ohtani, who had a phenomenal 46 home runs and 26 doubles in 2021. This year, he has 43 homers and 17 doubles and is a strong candidate to join the 20-20 club. However, neither Shin-Soo Choo nor Ohtani have ever hit 20 home runs and 30 doubles. If Kim adds four more home runs and three more steals, he will become the first Asian player to do so. It’s well within reach.스포츠토토
Still, it’s the team’s record that keeps them from smiling. Arizona was a district rival, and a rival in the wild card race. Before this game, they had a three-game lead. A doubleheader sweep would have put San Diego within one game of Arizona, but a pair of disastrous doubleheader losses pushed the gap to five games. Currently, San Diego is seventh in the wild card race. They are 5.5 games behind the third-place Chicago Cubs, and things are looking increasingly bleak.