SUWON, South Korea, Teams generally don't expect much out of their No. 4 starting pitcher in a postseason series. If he can give them a solid four or five innings and hand things over to the bullpen before the game gets out of control, teams would gladly take it.
On Saturday, the LG Twins were bracing themselves for a potential bullpen day with left-hander Kim Yun-sik on the mound, uncertain what they were going to get from the 23-year-old in his Korean Series debut.
And Kim defied pregame expectations, holding the Wiz to one run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings. The Twins won comfortably by a score of 15-4 to grab a 3-1 lead in this best-of-seven series.
They can capture their first Korean Series title in 29 years with a win Monday night.
This is the Twins' first Korean Series appearance since 2002. And Kim became the first Twins starter to pick up a Korean Series win since Ravelo Manzanillo on Nov. 4, 2002. Kim was just two years old then.
LG Twins starter Kim Yun-sik celebrates after completing the bottom of the fifth inning in Game 4 of the Korean Series against the KT Wiz at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov. 11, 2023.
Kim retired the first nine batters he faced. The Wiz had their first base runner when Bae Jung-dae drew a leadoff walk in the fourth, while Moon Sang-chul broke Kim's no-hitter bid with a one-out single in the fifth.
Neither of the runners came home, however, as Kim kept Wiz hitters off balance with an effective mix of four pitches.
Kim threw 37 four-seam fastballs, 27 changeups, 17 curveballs and four sliders. He threw 59 of his 85 pitches for strikes.
Kim's fastball topped out only at 144 kilometers per hour, but he didn't need to blow by hitters when he could induce one soft groundout after another.
The Twins needed Kim to eat up as many innings as possible, after taxing their bullpen the past two games. On Wednesday, the Twins turned to seven relievers to get 26 outs after starter Choi Won-tae couldn't get out of the first inning. Two days later, they once again used seven pitchers out of the pen for the final 5 1/3 innings.
LG Twins starter Kim Yun-sik pitches against the KT Wiz during the bottom of the first inning in Game 4 of the Korean Series at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov. 11, 2023.
And the game on Friday went for over four hours and ended just past 10:30 p.m. It was a quick turnaround for the 2 p.m. game Saturday, giving those relievers precious little time to rest and get ready for another outing.
Kim came within an out of completing six innings. But after Kim allowed back-to-back hits -- a double by Kim Sang-su and an RBI single by Hwang Jae-gyun -- the Twins didn't want to take any chances.
The bullpen didn't have to do as much work as in earlier games. And with the Twins up 5-1 when Kim left the game, the stress level was decidedly lower for the relievers on Saturday.
The Twins' batters also put their bullpen teammates at ease with an offensive explosion, turning that 5-1 lead into a 12-1 advantage with a seven-run seventh inning.
They ended up winning 15-3, just the kind of blowout where a starting pitcher's performance can be forgotten. But Kim enjoyed a day to remember on the cool autumn afternoon, putting his club on the brink of a long-awaited championship.
Though this is Kim's first Korean Series, he has pitched in each of the past three years, which Kim said helped him stay calm and composed before Saturday's outing.
"My goal today was to keep the other team scoreless, whether I got to pitch two or three innings only," Kim said. "I just took it one pitch at a time."
Kim said it would have been nice had he been able to finish the sixth inning, but he had no issues with the time of the pitching change.
"I guess the coaches felt I had hit a wall at that point," Kim said. "At least we had a decent lead, and it wasn't such a stressful situation for our bullpen."
Kim is unlikely to pitch again in this series, which will end Wednesday if it goes the full seven games. And that suits him just fine.
"I am going to be a big cheerleader in the dugout," Kim said with a smile.
Source: Yonhap News Agency