1st MLB loss lifts weight off shoulders of Cardinals’ pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun

May 17, 2021

 St. Louis Cardinals’ pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun didn’t lose a decision in eight appearances as a rookie last year, and he’d been a perfect 1-0 in his first five starts this year, while his team won all five games.

But the pressure to keep that streak alive had been weighing on the South Korean left-hander. That run came to an end against the San Diego Padres in San Diego on Sunday (local time), as Kim took the loss in the Cardinals’ 5-3 defeat.

After giving up four runs — one earned — in only 3 1/3 innings, Kim said as disappointed as he was with the loss, he was also relieved that he no longer has to worry about winning every game.

“Even pitchers with 300 wins have lost 150 games, and for me, that first loss was long overdue,” Kim said in his postgame Zoom call. “From now on, I will just go out there and enjoy the game, and not think about the pressure that comes with the winning streak. I think I am going to win a lot more than I lose.”

Kim cruised through the first three innings, giving up only one single while striking out three, but things fell apart in a hurry in the fourth inning at Petco Park.

Kim issued three walks, including one to countryman Kim Ha-seong with the bases loaded. A 2-0 St. Louis lead quickly turned into a 4-2 deficit, with Kim walking in two runs and reliever Genesis Cabrera allowing two inherited runners to score.

Kim has yet to get past six innings or throw more than 88 pitches in any start this year. Kim has repeatedly talked about wanting to pitch deeper into games and has so far failed to live up to his word.

“I keep getting pulled with relatively low pitch counts, and it’s my fault that I haven’t earned the trust of my manager (Mike Shildt),” Kim said. “I gave up three walks in the fourth inning alone. I would have made the pitching change if I were the manager myself.”

Kim admitted he lost his focus in the fourth inning when pitches that he thought were strikes got called balls instead.

Also during that inning, Manny Machado reached on an error to begin the rally. On Jake Cronenworth’s grounder to second, Machado collided with second baseman Tommy Edman for the force out. Edman fell to the ground and didn’t have time to make the throw to first to complete the double play. Kim said he felt Machado should have been called for an interference on Edman and it should have resulted in an automatic double play.

Kim admitted to feeling a big puzzled that Shildt didn’t come out to argue the call.

“Ultimately, I blame myself for letting things like that affect my rhythm,” Kim said. “I’ve been walking a lot of batters lately, and I need to improve my fastball command.”

The game also featured an all-Korean duel between Kim and the Padres’ shortstop Kim Ha-seong, who batted seventh. The pitcher struck out the batter in their first meeting in the third inning. Ha-seong got the better of the pitcher by drawing that bases-loaded walk and chasing him from the game.

Kwang-hyun claimed he had “no special feelings” about pitching to a Korean player in the majors for the first time.

“I was only thinking about keeping hitters in the bottom of the order from getting on base,” Kim said. “In recent games, those guys were getting on base a lot for San Diego, and hitters at the top of the lineup were driving them in. I didn’t want to face the top guys with runners on base.”