“The team was on a losing streak, so I took the mound thinking that I had to give up as few runs as possible in a crisis situation.”

Jang Hyun-sik (28-KIA Tigers) pitched in relief against the Kiwoom Heroes in the Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League 2023 at Gocheok Sky 메이저놀이터 Dome on Friday. He was the third pitcher on the mound with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning with his team leading 5-3.

It was certainly not an easy situation. The pressure was on, as the first batter he faced was Edison Russell (29), the center-four hitter in the Kiwoom batting order. Russell had the most finishes (five) in the opposition batting order and the highest on-base percentage (.429) amongst team batsmen with at least 200 runs.

The pressure was on, but Jang came through and got Russell out. On a 2-2 count, he threw a 147-mile-per-hour four-seam fastball for a groundout. The hard-hitting Russell was frozen by Jang’s perfect pitch.

Russell took the mound again in the bottom of the fifth inning. He gave up an infield single to leadoff hitter Lim Byung-wook, but got Lee Hyung-jong to fly out to shortstop and then retired Kim Dong-heon (groundout) and Kim Hui-jip (popup to center field) to end the inning. The final line: 1 1/3 innings, no runs on four hits, no walks, and two strikeouts. The team’s biggest threat of the day was overcome to secure the 8-4 victory. Individually, he picked up his first win of the season.

Kia head coach Kim Jong-kook also praised Jang’s performance. After the game, he gave Jang a thumbs-up, saying, “Especially in the bottom of the fourth inning, when we were down by two runs, Jang Hyun-sik handled the situation well without giving up any runs.”

Jang Hyun-sik was also pleased with his pitching. “The team was on a losing streak, so I went to the mound thinking that I had to give up as few runs as possible in a crisis situation. I was able to prevent the crisis by actively battling with the opposing batters,” he said.

“Today (Friday), my slider was working well, so I was able to keep the slider in the count and throw my fastball hard in a favorable count. It feels good to get the win and break the losing streak,” he said of his victory and performance.

Jang was plagued by injuries last year. After the season ended, he underwent a bone chip removal and bone sparing surgery on his right elbow. He worked hard to recover his body in the offseason and joined the first-team spring training camp to rehabilitate in a warm place.

Jang missed the start of the season, but joined the team in late April and has been a strong addition to the bullpen. In 19 games in 2023, Jang has been solid in the bullpen with a 2-2 record with two saves and a 2.65 ERA in 17 innings pitched. Fast-forward to his last 10 games, and he’s dominated opponents with a perfect 0.93 ERA in 9⅔ innings of two runs (one earned). The team is currently relying heavily on Jang Hyun-sik due to the departure of Jeon Sang-hyun (27) and Jeong Jung-young (22) from the JJJ trio.

Jang said, “My body is in good shape, and the trainers and coaches are taking good care of me, so I’m in good shape. I will do my best to help the team advance to fall baseball without any injuries this season,” Jang said of his intentions for the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, sixth-ranked KIA snapped a three-game losing streak with the win. The team won their head-to-head matchup with seventh-ranked Kiwoom to extend their lead in the standings to two games.

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