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By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, June 8 (Yonhap) — The Kiwoom Heroes entered Thursday’s Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) game against the LG Twins ranked ninth in the 10-team league with a .247 batting average. The Twins carried a league-best .283 batting average and also led the league with 283 runs scored.
And then the Heroes went out and routed the Twins 13-0, pounding out a season-high 20 hits at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul.
Of course they did.
No. 2 hitter Kim Hye-seong and cleanup Addison Russell each enjoyed a four-hit game, as the Heroes scored in double figures without the benefit of a home run.
No. 3 hitter Lee Jung-hoo, putting his early-season slump further away from memory, went 2-for-4 with three RBIs. He’s batting .500 for June (13-for-26).
Lost in the shuffle amid this offensive outburst was a sublime outing by Heroes starter Choi Won-tae. The right-hander tossed seven shutout innings and struck out seven. He scattered five hits and didn’t walk a batter.
The Heroes greeted Twins starter Kim Yun-sik with four consecutive hits to open the game.
After two straight singles put runners at the corners, Lee Jung-hoo cashed in both with a double.
Lee couldn’t come home on a follow-up single by Addison Russell but scored the Heroes’ third run two batters later on Lee Hyung-jong’s sacrifice fly.
The Heroes blew the game wide open with a four-spot in the bottom fourth.
No. 9 hitter Kim Su-hwan opened the salvo with a one-out double for a 4-0 lead. Two batters later, Kim Hye-seong brought Kim Su-hwan home with a single, making it 5-0 Heroes. Lee Jung-hoo followed that up with an RBI triple to deep right field, and Russell cashed in Lee with a single, his third hit of the night, as the Heroes took a 7-0 lead.
The Heroes tacked on three more runs in the sixth inning for good measure, courtesy of Song Sung-mun’s two-run single and Lee Hyung-jong’s RBI double.
It was more than enough run support for Heroes starter Choi Won-tae, who improved to 4-3 on the season and lowered his ERA from 3.12 to 2.82.
“I knew the Twins had the best lineup in the league, so I had to focus extra hard,” Choi said. “I had plenty of run support today, and the defense behind me played great.”
Since getting roughed up for 10 runs in four innings against the Samsung Lions on May 4, Choi has held opponents to just four earned runs over the next 38 1/3 innings, for an ERA of 0.94. He has struck out 39 and walked eight over that span.
After Choi left the game, the Heroes added three more runs in the eighth, with Kim Whee-jip’s RBI single and Kim Jun-wan’s two-run double rounding out the scoring.
Russell had his first four-hit game in the KBO but didn’t get a chance to go for a fifth, as he was lifted for a defensive replacement to begin the top of the seventh.
Still, it was a nice bounce back after Russell went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts Wednesday.
“I am not going to lie. I did want another at-bat,” Russell said with a smile. “But I’m not going to question the manager on that call. So, I’ll take my break.”
Russell batted .342 in April but slumped to a .250 mark in May. He had been 4-for-19 for June before Thursday.
“Yesterday, it wasn’t a good day. I focused on the things I need to focus on today, and I had a great performance,” he said. “You’re not going to be a .300 hitter every month. It would be nice if you were, but when it comes down to it, it’s a grind.”
The Heroes moved to 23-33-1 (wins-losses-ties), while the Twins dropped to 33-21-2, still good for second place.
For the second time this season, every player in the Heroes starting lineup picked up a hit.