After being sidelined by an unexpected injury, the ‘ace’ made his presence felt with clean pitching. Doosan Bears pitcher Kwak Bin made his final appearance of the regular season with a win.
Doosan extended its winning streak to two games with a 3-1 victory over the KIA Tigers in the final regular-season game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on Wednesday. Doosan ended the season with a 12-4 record against KIA, improving to 73-2 and 65-2.
Kwak-Bin Kwak’s performance on the mound was crucial. Kwak threw 109 pitches over six innings, allowing two hits, two walks, nine strikeouts and one run to earn his 12th win of the season. It was his second consecutive quality start after his last outing against the Gwangju KIA on March 18.
Kwak Bin, who was named to the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games team, was away for more than two weeks due to his national team call-up. After departing Hangzhou, China, he was unable to pitch normally as he felt bile in his back while preparing for the first group game against Hong Kong. Although he recovered, he was unable to pitch a single game and had to leave the tournament.
After returning to Korea, Kwak Bin focused on his recovery for a while and prepared everything for this day. Before the game, coach Lee Seung-yeop Dusan said, “He has a very slight case of bile, but I don’t think it’s something that will keep him out of the game. Today is the day that the team has prepared enough for (Kwak) Binyi, and Binyi said that he was fine today, so we prepared accordingly,” said Lee, who expected a strong performance from Kwak.
Kwak allayed fears with a 150km/h fastball in the top of the first inning and remained scoreless until the top of the third. In the top of the fourth, back-to-back singles by leadoff hitter Kim Sun-bin and Socrates put runners on first and third with no outs, but a sacrifice fly by Lee Woo-sung would be the only run Kwak-bin would give up on the day.
Kwak got Kim Tae-gun and Byun Woo-hyuk to ground out and strike out, respectively, in the top of the fourth inning to end the inning without further damage, and in the top of the fifth and sixth innings, he struck out two consecutive batters. In particular, he struck out nine batters to record his most strikeouts since August 1 against Hanwha (10).
After the game, Kwak Bin said, “Actually, after joining the national team, my balance was so good that I thought only good things could happen to me, but I think I forgot about that balance a little bit because I also had gallbladder symptoms. I think it’s been hard because I’ve been hearing bad things about the team and it’s been one game at a time whether we’re going up or down in the rankings. I think I pitched this game with a strong sense of ‘let me show you something,'” he said. “I honestly didn’t feel good at the beginning of the game, but my coach helped me and the batters scored runs, so I felt comfortable and it led to a good result.”
The fact that he threw more sliders (54) than fastballs (35) paid off to some extent. “Kwak Bin pitched well,” Lee said. Catcher Yang Yang-ji pitched six innings of one-run baseball with skillful ball placement.”
“My fastball wasn’t in the strike zone, and (Yang) Ji-won figured it out quickly, 안전놀이터so I asked for a lot of sliders, but my slider was in the strike zone really well, so I think I was bold and aggressive with my slider,” he said.
Not all is well. “To be honest, my gallbladder hasn’t completely healed, but I think it’s almost there now. I still feel a little bit of it, but it’s not to the point where I’m bothered by it,” he said, adding, “I think I was forced to go down after six innings because of the high pitch count in the first place.”
Kwak had a lot to say after finishing his first regular-season start following the Asian Games. “It was so hard, I felt so sorry for (Kim) Dong-ju and the other players,” he said, first expressing his sympathy for his teammates and then explaining the situation after the outbreak in China.
“I was warming up two hours before the first game of the group stage against Hong Kong, and I felt like I had diarrhea, so I told the trainer, ‘I want to try it, so why not,'” Kwak said. “In the training part, he said, ‘Don’t overdo it, take a break,’ so I rested that day, and the next day, pitching coach Choi Il-en told me to go out and play catch, so I thought I could throw if I rested a little bit. But that night, my fever went up to nearly 39 degrees because I felt sick,” he said. Aside from the gallbladder, there were other reasons why Kwak was not feeling well.
As reported in the media, Kwok Bin recovered after the Super Round.
“I woke up in the middle of the night, grunted to myself, took a ringer in the morning, and then took three injections to loosen my bile, but it didn’t get better. I got the shots on my day off, and I got some acupuncture to loosen up my muscles, and it worked. “I waited until the second game of the Super Round against China, and I pitched then. In the final against Chinese Taipei, I also loosened my arm from the second inning, but fortunately, the starter (Moon) Dong-ju pitched so well. In the second half, I thought it was right to leave it to him because we had a must-win group.”
After winning the gold medal without playing a single game, Kwak Bin returned home with a heavy heart, but he was encouraged by his teammates and seniors. He also learned something while preparing for the tournament.
“Every time I saw them, they said sorry. “I went to the World Baseball Classic (WBC) and the Asian Games twice this year, but I always felt that I was still not good enough. The pitchers from Taiwan and Japan were really good. I don’t think I’m that good yet, so I always feel humbled when I go back,” he said.
Having made up for his disappointment with his last appearance of the regular season, Kwak Bin is now determined to make a splash in the fall. “I feel like I’ve taken a little bit of pressure off, and if I’m selected for the next international tournament, I really want to show it,” he said. “I believe that if I rest well, keep this feeling, and pitch in fall baseball with strength, good results will come.”