“The bat is a bonus…” Lotte’s Yoo Kang-nam emphasizes the role of the catcher even in the final at-bat

“I think of the bat as a bonus. My goal is to give up as few runs as possible when I’m out there.”

That’s what Yoo Kang-nam, the catcher who led the Lotte Giants to victory, said.

Lotte won 6-5 against the Kiwoom Heroes of the 2023 KBO Baseball League at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Guro-gu, Seoul, on Sunday. With the win, Lotte extended its winning streak to three games and secured a three-game weekend sweep, improving to 26-15 and closing to within one game of the leaders, the LG Twins (29-1, 16-1). They are just half a game behind the second-place SSG Landers (28 wins, 1 draw, 16 losses).

Yoo Kang-nam hit the game-winning hit against Gocheok Kiwoom on July 27 to lead Lotte to victory. Photo (Gocheok Seoul)=Cheon Jeong-hwan Reporter
Yoo, who started as the No. 8 hitter and catcher, made his presence felt at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI, including the game-winning hit, before being replaced by pinch-hitter Lee Jung-geun in the top of the eighth inning.

After a grounder to second base in the third inning and a foul fly to first base in the fifth, Yoo’s bat came alive in the top of the seventh inning with both teams tied at 0-0. With runners on first and second after back-to-back singles by Noh Jin-hyuk and Han Dong-hee, Yoo took a 142-kilometer fastball from left-handed reliever Kim Jae-woong and smashed a two-run double to right-center field. He then came home on a double by pinch-hitter Ahn Kwon-soo.

With momentum on his side, Yoo added another hit in the top of the eighth. One out later, he took advantage of a three-pitch, 146-kilometer fastball from right-handed reliever Kim Jun-hyung for a two-run double to left-center field to end the game.

After the game, Yoo said, “I had a lot of regrets at the plate before that (in the third and fifth innings). I wasn’t satisfied. I hit the pitch I expected and it worked, so I went out with the idea of swinging when the pitcher threw it with the hitting point in front of me.” “Before that, I hit a fastball and got an out, which could have been a burden, but I said, ‘I don’t know,'” he said, reflecting on the circumstances of his game-winning hit.

Yoo, who made his professional debut with the LG Twins in 2011, is a hard-hitting slugger who has hit .267 with 103 home runs and 447 RBIs through the 2022 season. From 2017 to 2021, he drew double-digit arches every year.

However, this season, his first year with Lotte, he hasn’t been as successful at the plate. Including today’s game, he is batting .239 with one home run and 12 RBIs.

Nevertheless, Yoo emphasized the catcher’s defense. The catcher’s ability to lead the pitchers is an important factor that can make or break a team’s year.

“I’m not hitting right now, but I thought, ‘Let’s focus a little more on the ancillary things and try to do a good job. If I focus on that (hitting), I might not be doing well and I might not be leading well. I think the bat is a bonus,” he said. “Right now, I’m just happy that we’ve been able to move up (the team ERA) a little bit from the bottom. We were in the low five’s and now we’re in the low three’s. We’re trying to be careful to reduce our team goals against average. I try to prepare and run the game meticulously.”

“My goal is to give up as few points as possible when I’m out there,” said Yoo Kang-nam, adding, “It’s only when we don’t have a lot of points that we think, ‘Let’s do it.’ That’s what we’re focusing on. We want to keep (the players) demoralized as much as possible and keep them to a minimum. We have a lot of young players, so if we concede a lot of goals, it can definitely break (their will).”

True to his word, Lotte’s team ERA, which was poor at the start of the season, has dropped to 3.95 with 28 games remaining. This is largely due to the stabilization of the starting pitching staff. Barnes, who was the starter against Kiwoom, as well as Dan Streeley and Park Se-woong, who had been up and down, have all been pitching well recently.

“Our starting pitching staff is in a phase where they’re coming back up, so we’re trying to focus on that,” Yoo said. “It’s a good result, so I think we’re preparing more meticulously until the end. I’m proud of myself for getting good results. I think I need to prepare more like the first time without losing my mind.”

Lotte’s recent surge has seen them threaten the top of the standings, and this has been driven by a ‘team first’ mentality that puts the team before the individual.먹튀검증

“The players are trying to work as a team,” said Yoo Kang-nam. (Ahn) Chi-hong-i called a meeting when we were struggling a bit in the game, and he conveyed to us the idea that everyone wants to get a hit, but let’s try to bat as a team to advance one more base. The juniors also recognized that. I think the players are focused and playing baseball as one, and it’s paying off.”

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