“I don’t know why I’m doing so well all of a sudden. Maybe it’s because I’ve been inspired by the coach’s Pohang spirit.”
These are the words of Doosan Bears relief pitcher Yang Ji-won. The man who led the Bears to a sweep on 8 July is not sure why either. Doosan went on an eight-game winning streak from 1 July against the Lotte Giants in Ulsan to 9 July against the Kiwoom Heroes in Jamsil. Doosan, which was in sixth place until June, has improved its season record to 41 wins, 36 losses and one draw, increasing its win-loss margin to +5 and solidifying sole possession of third place.
The eight-game winning streak is the longest under Lee Seung-yup. The last eight-game winning streak for Doosan was from 6 June 2018 against Gochuk Nexen (now Kiwoom) to 14 June that year against Daejeon Hanwha, an eight-game winning streak in 1851 days. Doosan won 10 games in a row during the above period until 16 June against Daejeon Hanwha. The 10-game winning streak is the longest in the club’s history.
The trend has continued in Pohang, which was Lee’s ‘promised land’ during his time with the Samsung Lions. Pohang is where Lee became the first KBO player to hit 400 home runs, and Doosan swept a three-game midweek series against Samsung in Pohang from 4-6 April, setting the stage for an eight-game winning streak. Coming from behind to win the first and second games of the series was a big boost. Lee says he no longer means much to Pohang as he’s no longer a player, but the victory was also a gift to coach Lee Seung-yup. This is why Yang said he felt “inspired by Pohang”.
With this kind of momentum, they could even wake up Miracle Doosan, who won the title in 2019. Doosan pulled off a miraculous late-season surge to overtake the top-ranked SK Wyverns (now SSG Landers), which they had led by nine games that year. In their 144th game, a 6-5 win at the NC Dinos of Jamsil on 1 October, Doosan matched SK’s winning percentage with 88 wins, 55 losses and one draw. Under the KBO’s rules at the time, first place was determined by head-to-head advantage, and Doosan’s nine-game lead over SK made it the first team in KBO history to finish first without a game in hand. They followed that up with a four-game sweep in the Korean Series against Kiwoom to win the club’s sixth and final overall title.
Doosan is now five games behind second-place SSG (46 wins, 31 losses and one tie) and 7.5 games behind first-place LG Twins (49 wins, 29 losses and two ties). That’s a lot of ground to make up, and it could be said that it’s already a two-horse race. However, Doosan has 66 games left in the season. If we look back to 2019, when they overturned a nine-game deficit, this year is more challenging. Coincidentally, SSG is their opponent in the final three-game series of the first half from the 11th to the 13th. Depending on the outcome of this series, they could either close the gap on second place or widen it.
Of course, the coaching staff and the composition of the squad are very different now. Compared to 2019, the roster is younger and more variable, but the likes of Kim Jae-ho, Yang Ji, Kim Jae-hwan, Heo Kyung-min, Jeong Soo-bin, Kim Kang-ryul, Lee Young-ha, Park Chi-guk and Kim Myung-shin, who led the Korean Series for seven consecutive years from 2015 to 2021 and experienced the Miracle Doosan first-hand, are still holding on.
“It’s my job to make them a strong team again,” said Yang-ji, who returned to the team this year after signing a 4+2 year, 15.2 billion won free agent contract with Chinjung Doosan, and has been a steadying presence at the top of the order as a safety net and fourth outfielder.
“I think the mood is a little bit brighter after the win. I think we can finish the first half of the season with a win before the All-Star break and start the second half on a high note,” he said, adding that his goal is a little more modest in the current standings, saying, “We need to focus on the last three games of the first half to add at least one win, and hopefully finish in the top five.”
Doosan’s pitching balance in July has been outstanding. Their team ERA of 1.85 is an impressive first. The starting rotation of Raul Alcantara, Brandon Waddell, Guk-Bin Choi, Won-Jun Choi, and Dong-Joo Kim has been solid, and the bullpen hasn’t given up a run. The bullpen has a 0.90 ERA in July. Kim Myung-shin has thrown a whopping eight scoreless innings in six games to earn a 1-4 record, while Hong Gun-hee, Jeong Chul-won, Lee Young-ha, Park Chi-guk, Choi Seung-yong, and Kim Kang-ryul are all solid.
The most encouraging thing is that the hitting has picked up. The team is batting 0.302 in July, second in the league with seven home runs. Among the mainstays, veteran Yang Yang-ji is batting .478 and Kim Jae-ho is batting .438. It’s also a positive that foreign-born Jose Rojas, who has struggled all season, is hitting .375 in July. Kang Seung-ho (0.314), Jang Seung-hyun (0.313) and Heo Kyung-min (0.308) have also been hitting well.메이저놀이터
Even Park Jun-young, the compensation player for Park Se-hyuk, who left the NC in free agency before the season, has been helping to boost the team. Park was called up to the first team for the first time on the 7th of this month and went 4-for-8 with a double, home run, and three RBIs in three games. Add in his solid third base defence and he’s definitely making a mark on Lee.
Lee gives all the credit to the players, saying, “They’re naturally good players. I’d like to think that their potential just came out a little bit later. We’ve been waiting a lot, and they’ve done a good job of preparing and not giving up.”
He stressed that there is no need to be happy about the eight-game winning streak right now, nor to be frustrated if it comes to an end one day. He believes that if they take it one win at a time, they will be able to laugh together at the end of the season.
“We have a lot of tougher times ahead,” Lee said. If we don’t get excited, don’t get complacent, and play the way we’ve prepared, we’ll have better results,” he said, adding that he hoped to enter the All-Star break with a smile on his face at the end of the first half.