KIA Tigers left-hander Lee “Young Gun” Lee made up for his absence from the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games baseball team with his best pitch of the season.
Lee started the second game of a doubleheader against the NC Dinos of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at Changwon NC Park on July 27 and pitched seven innings of three-hit ball, walking one and striking out three. He earned his 11th win of the season in the team’s 6-1 victory. His pitches were flawless.
Lee cruised from the start of the game. After a scoreless first inning, he retired the batting order of Jason Martin, Seo Ho-cheol, and Yoon Hyung-joon in order in the second inning on nine pitches, and in the third inning, he walked Park Dae-on in the first inning before inducing a double play on the next batter, Kim Han-byul.
Lee gave up a single to Park Geon-woo in the bottom of the fourth, but Martin’s grounder to short kept the scoreless streak alive, and in the fifth, after a leadoff single by Seo Ho-chul, Lee retired the next batter, Oh Young-soo, on a wild pitch. In the bottom of the inning, Kim Sung-wook singled straight to third base, and the offense scored four runs in the top of the fifth.
Lee, who fulfilled the requirement of a winning pitcher, completed his task by striking out two consecutive batters in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings to end NC’s chase. It was the second seven-inning game of the season for Lee, and the first time he has thrown a “seven-inning no-hitter” since May 19 against the Gwangju Kiwoom Heroes. Lee also made it to the seventh inning without exerting much effort, throwing just 77 pitches.
After performing above expectations in the months of April and May, Lee was confidently named to the final roster for the Asian Games, but on April 22, the Korean Baseball Organization selected outfielder Yoon Dong-hee (Lotte Giants) in his place, citing Lee’s blister condition.
At the time, there was a lot of controversy over Lee’s drop. While the KIA team maintained that there was nothing wrong with Lee’s physical condition, the national team decided that Lee was unable to pitch normally before the tournament. In fact, there were times throughout the season when Lee was sent down or rotated out after less than five innings, and the blisters on his fingers were the reason he was sent down after only 4⅓ innings against the LG Twins in Gwangju on the 9th.
However, some suspected that the result of the game against the Hanwha Eagles in Daejeon on the 21st, just before the national team was called up, may have influenced the decision. Lee struggled in the first inning, giving up five runs (four earned) on two hits and three walks with three strikeouts, and national baseball team manager Ryu Jung-il was on hand to watch Lee pitch.
The national team denied that the change was made for “performance” reasons. Speaking to reporters on March 23, Ryu explained the reasoning behind the change, saying, “I saw that Lee Yi-ri had a blister two weeks ago, and the trainer in charge kept watching him. On the 21st (against Hanwha in Daejeon), I heard that Lee was going to start, so I went to see him, but he didn’t last two innings. I saw the blisters afterward.”토토사이트
“Lee is the best left-handed pitcher in Korea. He’s our best left-handed pitcher, and he’s supposed to start one game against Taiwan or Japan, but in my eyes, with this blister, I was worried about whether he could throw more than 70-80 pitches as a starter. Since he is a starter, I didn’t think he could throw more than 80 pitches, so I decided to replace him.”
KIA emphasized that Lee was feeling well enough to continue rotating, and indeed, after his poor performance against Hanwha on April 21, the team maintained its plan to rotate him normally without moving him to the second team or skipping a turn. As a result, Lee pitched seven innings of “salty water” and gave the team a valuable win.
There’s no turning back now. All Lee can do now is stay healthy for the rest of the season and live up to KIA’s expectations. The third-year pitcher’s dreams of making the national team again following the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) have been dashed, but his 2023 season is far from over.