Kia sweeps three straight upset wins over Samsung…first first-half lead in seven years

The Kia Tigers finished the first half in first place for the first time in seven years.

The Tigers broke a 3-3 tie in the top of the ninth inning with a five-run big inning and came from behind to win 8-3 against the Samsung Lions of the 2024 Shinhan SOL Bank KBO League at Samsung Lions Park in Daegu on Thursday.

Kia swept a three-game series against Samsung and Daegu. All three games were come-from-behind wins. Samsung, on the other hand, ended the first half with five straight losses.

With the victory, Kia finished the first half with 48 wins, 33 losses, two draws and a .593 winning percentage for the first time since 2017.

Kia has won the first half of the season six times (1989-1991-1993-2002-2011-2017), including its predecessor, Haetae. Of those, they won the regular season title four times, except for 2002 and 2011.

Of the 35 regular seasons (excluding 1999 and 2000, when the KBO was a single-elimination league) between 1989 and last year, the team that finished first in the first half has won the Korean Series 21 times, a 60 percent chance.

Kia rallied from a 1-3 deficit to tie the game 3-3 on Kim Tae-gun’s RBI single in the top of the fourth and Choi Hyung-woo’s RBI double in the top of the eighth. KIA scored five runs in the top of the ninth against Samsung closer Oh Seung-hwan.

Two batters later, with Kim Sun-bin doubling and Kim Do-young walking on a wild pitch, Park Jung-woo hit a two-run double over the right-field fence to make it 5-3. Hong Jong-pyo followed with an RBI single and Socrates Brito hit a two-run homer to right center to make it 8-3.

Kia’s third pitcher, Hwang Dong-ha, pitched 3⅔ scoreless innings with no hits and no walks to earn the save. On the other hand, No. 1 reliever Oh Seung-hwan took the loss, allowing five runs on five hits in ⅔ of an inning.

In Changwon, the NC Dinos defeated the SSG Landers 2-0 in extra innings thanks to Matt Davidson’s walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the 12th inning.
The pitching battle between SSG starter Kwang-hyun Kim and NC’s Kyle Hart shined. Kwang-hyun Kim struck out seven, walked two and allowed no hits over seven innings, including retiring 19 consecutive batters. Hart also struck out seven and held the SSG bats scoreless on three hits until the seventh inning.

The game came down to the 12th inning. After leadoff hitter Park Gun-woo reached on an error by SSG’s second baseman, the next batter, Davidson, put the game 야설 away with a two-run shot to left field. With his 26th home run of the season, Davidson took over the league lead in home runs.

At the Gocheok Sky Dome, the LG Twins defeated the Kiwoom Heroes 3-2 behind a strong pitching performance from homegrown ace Lim Chan-kyu. LG, which snapped a two-game losing streak, moved back into second place behind KIA.
LG starter Lim Chan-kyu pitched six innings of one-run ball on four hits to earn his fifth win of the season. Last-place Kiwoom, on the other hand, saw their six-game winning streak come to a screeching halt.

In Jamsil, the Doosan Bears edged the Lotte Giants 6-3 to finish the first half in third place.

Yang Ji-ji and Yang Seok-hwan, who had hit back-to-back grand slams the day before, led the way with back-to-back home runs. Yang hit a two-run homer to left in the fourth inning and Yang hit a solo shot in the fifth.

In Daejeon, the Hanwha Eagles snapped a three-game losing streak with a big 13-5 win over the KT Wiz.

Trailing 3-5 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Hanwha broke the game open with five runs on consecutive errors by the KT infield, RBI singles by Hwang Young-mook and Jang Jin-hyeok, and a double by Noh Si-hwan. They then added two and three runs in the sixth and seventh innings to seal the victory.

Meanwhile, 64,201 fans attended the game at five stadiums across the country. This brings the total attendance in professional baseball to 6,057,323 after 418 games, the fewest in the league’s history. This is the first time in the KBO’s 43-year history that the league has surpassed 6 million fans in the first half. The 2024 KBO League concludes its first half schedule with the All-Star Game at SSG Landers Field in Incheon on June 6, followed by the second half on June 9.

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