I went back and forth between overwork and fighting spirit. This is the story of Na Kyun-an (25, Lotte Giants), who allowed 3 runs, 11 hits, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts, and 8 strikeouts in 6 innings.
Na Kyun-an took the mound as a starter against the NC Dinos in the ‘2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League’ held at Sajik Stadium on the 12th.
안전놀이터From the beginning of the game, Na Kyun-an struggled with the NC batting lineup. He threw out runners on a single in every inning. He also conceded goals. In the top of the first inning, with 2 outs and runners on second base, Jason Martin hit an RBI double and gave the go-ahead run at 0-1. In the top of the second inning, with one out and runners on first and third base, Kim Joo-won was allowed a sacrifice fly, making it 0-2.
Na Kyun-an, who was shaken but did not collapse, held on and held on. In the top of the 5th inning, with no outs on first and third base, Park Geon-woo gave up a ground ball to shortstop, and in the meantime, he gave up a run to third base runner Son A-seop, widening the score gap to 0-3.
Na Kyun-an had already thrown 104 pitches by the top of the 5th inning, but the Lotte bench sent Na Kyun-an out in the top of the 6th inning as well. He got two early outs well, but then suffered consecutive hits from Son Ah-seop and Park Min-woo. At this point, Choi Young-hwan and Kim Jin-wook were warming up in the Lotte bullpen, but there was no movement on the Lotte bench. Lotte acting manager Lee Jong-woon, as well as pitching coach Kim Hyun-wook, just watched.
In the end, Na Kyun-an had to block it, and he threw a cutter to Park Geon-woo and ended the day’s appearance by throwing a fly ball to center field. Final performance was 6 innings, 122 pitches, 11 hits, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts, and 3 runs allowed. He threw 122 pitches over the limit, recording the highest number of pitches in a single game (previously 115 – against Ulsan Samsung Lions on the 6th). Beyond fighting spirit, it could even be seen as abuse.
First of all, what was important was whether there was any point in keeping the mound while Na Kyun-an threw 122 pitches. On this day, Na Kyun-an was attacked by the NC batting lineup from the start and gave up 11 hits, so there were even more doubts. He showed good condition and excellent pitch, and even if the opponent responded well, there is no excuse for receiving 11 hits. Even though he held on well as an ace, he was in fact like a time bomb who never knew when he would give up a large number of goals.
Also, Na Gyun-an did not collapse in an instant. He threw 104 pitches until the top of the 5th inning, so the standby players in the bullpen were warming up in time. Of course, they were probably exhausted after playing four consecutive games, including a double header last weekend, but they took a break a day ago (the 11th). There were many circumstances leading to a replacement, including a starting pitcher who was gradually losing ground and a relatively lively bullpen pitcher who was ready, but acting manager Lee could only see Na Kyun-an.
Acting manager Lee said before the game, “We have no tomorrow. We must do our best one game at a time, and then consider the numbers and probabilities (such as the probability of advancing to the postseason). Even if it is a 1% chance, we will do it until the end. We will continue to win today and tomorrow. “If you look, the odds will continue to increase. Rather than watching the opposing team, you have to do your best in the game you are playing,” he said.
As the saying goes, it is the duty of coaches and other professionals to do their best until the number of opportunities to advance to the postseason disappears. However, at the same time, it is the manager’s responsibility to utilize his players appropriately.
According to Lotte’s schedule, which continues until Sunday (17th), Na Kyun-an must play for the Daegu Samsung Lions four days after throwing 122 pitches. Shouldn’t we definitely take a look at Na Kyun-an’s helmet, which falls somewhere in the middle between hard work and fighting spirit?