The Kiwoom Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization were the favorites heading into the season.
This was thanks to their top-notch starting lineup.
They had the best pitcher in the KBO, Ahn Woo-jin, Eric Yokishi, who had won 10 or more games for four straight years, Choi Won-tae (now with the LG Twins), who had a three-run ERA in 26 games last year, and big leaguer Ariel Furado (27).
However, Kiwoom’s starting rotation began to disintegrate in June. One by one, they were lost to injuries and trades.
Yokishi was lost to injury in June, and Choi Won-tae was acquired via trade in July.
On top of that, veteran starter Chung Chan-heon recently underwent surgery for a back injury.
On the second day, the news came like a bolt from the blue. Ace Ahn Woo-jin underwent a medical examination that revealed an elbow ligament injury.
Ahn will undergo elbow ligament splicing surgery (Tommy John surgery) in the near future. There’s no guarantee he’ll be back this season, let alone next.
Despite the mess, Kiwoom hasn’t completely fallen apart.
Thanks to Hurado, their only remaining starter.
Despite the departures of his starting teammates, Hurado has been quietly throwing his own balls to keep Kiwoom’s front door open.
This was the case in a home game against KT WIZ on March 3 at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul.
Furado pitched a near-perfect game to boost the team’s morale.
Hurado allowed just one hit to the KT bats before handing the ball over to Yoon Seok-won in the bottom of the seventh inning. He struck out eight.
Furado’s pitches were outstanding.
His fastball averaged 146 kilometers per hour, slightly below his normal velocity, but he used a razor-sharp changeup to keep the batters in check.
In the fourth inning, with a 2-0 lead, he struck out Byung-dae Choi, Anthony Alford on a foul fly to first base, and Byung-ho Park on a grounder to shortstop.
In the fifth and sixth, he retired back-to-back batters with one strikeout each, and in the seventh, he walked Byun and Alford before turning the ball over to Yoon.
The high pitch count (99 pitches) prevented him from challenging for a no-hitter, but he pitched a perfect game to lead his team to a 7-0 victory.
Kiwoom has now won four straight games thanks to Furado’s comeback. Hurado’s performance was crucial as the team’s mood could have been dampened by Ahn Woo-jin’s injury setback.
“I have a history of surgery (Tommy John surgery in 2021), so it’s important that I don’t hurt myself and continue to throw well,” Furado said after the game. “I threw a lot of pitches, so I didn’t get too hungry.”
“I had good command of my pitches today, so I was able to get a lot of hits off of them,” he said.
“We’ve lost a lot of pitchers, including Ahn Woo-jin, but our young players play a big role in our team,” he said of the team’s recent string of injuries. “We’ll try to raise the atmosphere with the young players, just like our team colors.”
“At the beginning of the season, I just focused on my own play like the American style,” he said, “but in Korea, I realized that I had to analyze various players and situations to survive, so I asked for various advice, which is why I was able to continue my good form.”
With the win, Furado improved to 9-0 on the season and lowered her ERA to 2.72. 토토