Choi Won-tae (LG Twins) succeeded in meeting the eight-win requirement for the season against his hometown team, the Kiwoom Heroes, in his first game since joining the team.
먹튀검증 Choi Won-tae pitched five innings of six-hit ball with two walks and five strikeouts against Kiwoom Heroes in the 2023 KBO League regular season at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on Wednesday, giving the Twins their eighth win of the season. He was unable to go the distance as the Kiwoom bats were relentless, but the run support and defence got the job done. His fastball topped out at 147 km/h and his two-seamer touched 146 km/h.
Choi Won-tae was acquired by LG in a major trade on 29 July. To acquire him, LG gave up big-league outfielder Lee Ju-hyung, pitcher Kim Dong-gyu, and a first-round pick in the 2024 Korean Baseball Organization draft. LG and Kiwoom faced off in a three-game series from the 1st to the 3rd, shortly after the transfer, but Choi Won-tae’s appearance was delayed until the 12th. Manager Yeom Kyung-yeop explained that it was “a courtesy to the traded player.”
The reunited team did not get along well. They had been with Choi Won-tae for so long that they were relentless in their harassment of him. Kiwoom got things started in the first inning when Kim Hye-sung reached on a grounder to shortstop. Ronnie Dawson followed with a double, and Kim Hye-sung tried to score but was thrown out at the plate. The next batter, Song Sung-moon, took advantage of Choi Won-tae’s four-pitch, 144km/h fastball for a two-run double to right field to take the lead from Choi.
However, his new team, LG, responded. LG tied the game in the first inning with a single by Hong Chang-ki and a double by Kim Hyun-soo.
LG’s Choi Won-tae. Photo courtesy of LG
With the game tied, Choi settled down. In the second inning, he struck out his former trade partner Lee Ju-hyung. He didn’t throw a single fastball in the inning, mixing in a changeup, curveball and slider before inducing a swinging strike with a slider in the low zone. He followed that up with a five-pitch at-bat against Lim Byung-wook, using only his changeup and no fastball to get two consecutive swinging strikes.
After retiring the side in order in the second inning and getting through the third without a hit, Choi gave up another run in the fourth. This time, he was hit by Kiwoom’s persistence. Kiwoom led off the inning with a double, but the reunited Lee Ju-hyung singled to open the door for Choi Won-tae. The next batter, Lim Byung-wook, was also hit twice by Choi’s change-up and drew a walk to load the bases. The persistent Kiwoom offence eventually gave up a run. Choi Won-tae gave up a single to Kim Tae-jin with runners on second and third to give Kiwoom the lead again.
However, LG’s bats were stronger and Choi Won-tae was able to pitch in support of the run to preserve the win. LG quickly regained the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning with an RBI double by Oh Ji-hwan and a sacrifice fly by Park Dong-won.
LG Twins’ Choi Won-tae earned his eighth win of the season against his hometown team Kiwoom on 12 December. Photo courtesy of the LG Twins
With the run support in place, all that remained to be done was to get through five innings. It wasn’t easy. In the top of the fifth, Kim gave up an infield single to Kim Hye-sung. The ball hit Choi Won-tae and bounced off the infield, where second baseman Shin Min-jae couldn’t handle it. Choi got the next batter, Ronnie Dawson, to ground out, but Kim Hye-sung stole second base to get him out.
A single would have blown the game-winning run, but Choi held on. After getting Dawson to swing at a change-up and miss, Choi struck out the final batter, Kim Hwijip, with two consecutive curveballs to shortstop to complete the five-inning shutout with just under 100 pitches.
The LG bats came through with the extra run. Austin Dean’s two-run blast in the bottom of the fifth gave LG plenty of run support for Choi, who finished the inning with a 5-2 lead.
Won-tae Choi handed the mound over to Duk-joo Ham in the sixth to close out the day. The game was still in progress with LG leading 5-2 at the end of the sixth inning.