(Premier12) S. Korean starter Yang Hyeon-jong walks tightrope in win vs. U.S.

November 12, 2019

 South Korean starter Yang Hyeon-jong had the term “scattering hits” down to an artform in an Olympic baseball qualifying game in Japan on Monday.

Yang gave up 10 hits but just one run in 5 2/3 innings against the United States in the Super Round at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12, as South Korea took the game 5-1 at Tokyo Dome.

Yang struck out seven and walked two. In two starts in the tournament so far, Yang has held his opponents to one run in 11 2/3 frames.

Yang Hyeon-jong of South Korea pitches against the United States during the teams' Super Round game at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12 at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo on Nov. 11, 2019. (Yonhap)
Yang Hyeon-jong of South Korea pumps his fist after striking out Jake Cronenworth of the United States to end the fifth inning of the teams' Super Round game at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12 at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo on Nov. 11, 2019. (Yonhap)

Yang Hyeon-jong of South Korea pitches against the United States during the teams’ Super Round game at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12 at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo on Nov. 11, 2019. (Yonhap)

Yang got into trouble from the get-go on Monday, loading the bases with one out on a sequence of double-walk-single.

Yang dug deep and fanned the next two batters, first Jake Cronenworth with a changeup and then Brent Rooker with a fastball. The left-hander threw 28 pitches in the first alone.

South Korean designated hitter Kim Jae-hwan spotted Yang a 3-0 lead with a three-run homer in the bottom first,

The U.S. hitters again created traffic in the second inning, with back-to-back two-out singles by C.J. Chatham and Jo Adell. On Adell’s single, a throwing error by shortstop Kim Ha-seong let the runners move to second and third for Alec Bohm, who grounded out to Kim to strand the runners.

Yang had his first three-up, three-down inning in the third. After a walk and a single with one out in the fourth, Yang induced a 4-6-3 double play ball off Chatham’s bat to kepp the Americans off the board.

More trouble brewed in the fifth for Yang, who gave up consecutive two-out singles to put men at the corners.

But Yang struck out Cronenworth for the third time in the game, freezing him with a 0-2 fastball.

After bending for five innings, Yang finally broke in the sixth, as Brent Rooker led off the frame with a solo home run to deep left field to cut the deficit to 3-1. Yang struck out the next two batters and looked poised to limit the damage to a run, before Chatham and Adell hit a single and a double.

That was it for Yang, and right-hander Lee Young-ha came on to strike out Alec Bohm to keep it a 3-1 game.

South Korea tacked on two runs in the bottom seventh, and three relievers after Yang made the lead stand with 3 1/3 shutout innings.

Yang said he wasn’t as sharp as he had been against Australia, but he achieved his goal of minimizing damage.

“I wanted to allow as few runs as possible, and thankfully, my teammates scored some runs early,” he said. “I didn’t want to give up any home runs, but that pitch (to Rooker) was a mistake.”

The U.S. hit 10 homers in three Group A games earlier this month. Yang said he was too wary of trying to keep the ball in the park against the Americans, which led to some control issues.

“Once we went up, I tried not to put too much pressure on myself and make sure the U.S. wouldn’t eat into our lead,” he added. “The key for me is to treat every start as the same.”

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