The roar of the returning national ace makes Alcantara’s separation pain go away

“We want to keep the rotation so we can challenge for the top spot again, and we have a good team atmosphere right now, so when the new foreign pitchers come, we want to do well and move up.”

Returning national ace Kwak Bin (25), who led the team to third place, shared his thoughts on the first half of the season. On April 4, Kwak-Bin started against the Lotte Giants in Jamsil and threw six innings of two-hit ball on 97 pitches with five walks and five strikeouts to earn his seventh win of the season. With the 6-3 win, Doosan improved to 46-39-2 on the season, moving up one spot from fourth to third place. They finished the first half of the season 0.5 games behind the second-place LG Twins and four games behind the first-place KIA Tigers.

Prior to the game, Doosan made the decision to part ways with starter Raul Alcantara. Doosan requested a waiver from the KBO and announced that it had signed right-hander Jordan Balazovic as its new foreign pitcher. Balazovic signed for a total of $250,000 and chose to come to Korea.

Alcantara re-signed with Doosan for a total of $1.5 million this year, but went just 2-2 with a 4.76 ERA in 12 games, with 64 strikeouts and 34 walks in 64 1/3 innings. After being sidelined for over a month with an elbow sprain in late April, he hasn’t been able to get back to his best since. Doosan manager Lee Seung-yeop has been saying since Alcantara complained of elbow pain that he needed to make a drastic decision, and the club has been looking for a foreigner to replace Alcantara since May.

A Doosan official said, “The club decided that we needed a strong No. 1 starter to do more than just make the postseason. Rather than wait for Alcantara’s rebound, we wanted to strengthen our pitching staff by signing a new foreign pitcher.”

Kwak Bin pitched like an ace, something that Alcantara hadn’t shown the day before. Alcantara had been knocked around for six runs in two innings against Lotte on March 3, and Doosan was forced to use seven bullpen arms in the aftermath, making it difficult for the team to fully utilize its bullpen. It was important for Kwak-Bin to go the distance, and he did, throwing six scoreless innings and proving to be Doosan’s most reliable starter right now.

His fastball topped out at 155 mph and averaged 152 mph, and he was aggressive with his arsenal of pitches, which included a fastball (29), slider (25), curve (23), and changeup (19).

Kwak roared through each inning, striking out batters in order. His last outing of the first half showed how badly he wanted the win. He struck out Reyes on a fly ball to right field with the bases loaded in the third inning, struck out Jun-woo Jeon on a wild pitch with runners on first and second in the fifth inning, and struck out Choi Hang on a wild pitch with runners on second and third in the sixth inning, sending the Jamsil home fans into a frenzy.

Lee said, “Kwak-Bin highlighted the first half with another six-inning no-hitter. He proved his growth by closing out the inning without faltering even in a crisis situation.”

“I was the one who played the last game of the first half, and I’m really glad I won. I was really nervous because Wilkerson was my opponent. He’s a really good 먹튀검증가이드 thrower, and he had a really good June, so I knew I had to keep him within two runs to win, and I think it worked out.”

“There was some talk of bad luck (in the beginning), but I just hung in there, and I thought, ‘Whoever goes up, goes up,’ and I think that’s why I kept getting good results,” Kwak said of his seven wins in the first half.

He benefited from a 10-day break from June 18 to 27. Kwak was 1-2 with a 5.91 ERA in 21⅓ innings pitched in four games in June, and Lee gave him 10 days off because he felt his stamina had dropped. Upon his return, he lived up to expectations, throwing six shutout innings in two consecutive games.

“In the end, it was good to have a break, but it’s a bit unfortunate because I think this situation might happen again next year and I have to go through the process to improve. The result was good, so I think it’s okay. I don’t think I missed any games due to injury, I just missed one for rest, so I’m thankful that I kept the rotation, and I think I did a good job (in the first half),” he said honestly.

Talking about the responsibility of being an ace, Kwok Binh brought up Alcantara, whom he didn’t get to say goodbye to. “When I heard that Alcantara was leaving on my way to work, my heart was really, really broken. I saw him briefly in the locker room after throwing yesterday’s game, and I felt really bad. Alcantara is such a hard worker, he has such a great personality and he’s such a good thrower, and to see him go down with an injury. I’ve been injured myself, so it hurt. But now I’m just trying to accept the situation and not feel like I have to do anything,” he said.

He vowed to do his best to lead the team to the top spot in the second half of the season. “I want to keep the rotation so that we can challenge for the first place again, and the team atmosphere is good right now. We have new foreign pitchers, so I want to do well and go up. I want to go up, and I want to ride the good atmosphere and see if we are strong in the fall. I want to play fall baseball,” he said encouragingly.

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