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Hanwha Eagles drop 13th straight, reach new low in KBO

All Headlines 11:29 April 15, 2013

SEOUL, April 15 (Yonhap) -- The numeral 13 is considered an unlucky one in many cultures, including in South Korea, and the country's top baseball league is no exception.

The Hanwha Eagles on Sunday lost their 13th straight game to start the 2013 season in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), setting the record for the longest slide to start a season. The Lotte Giants lost 12 in a row to begin the 2003 season, but they're now out of the record books after the Eagles were blanked by the LG Twins 8-0 at home in Daejeon.

The Eagles gave up a run after just two pitches in the top of the first inning Sunday, and that was really the microcosm of their frustrating season.

LG's leadoff man Oh Ji-hwan hit a double off Hanwha starter Kim Hyuk-min on the first pitch of the game. Then on the next pitch, Lee Dae-hyung put down a sacrifice bunt, but Kim's wild throw to first allowed speedy Oh to score.

Lee Jin-young hit a sacrifice fly later in the first inning to make it 2-0. And those two runs proved to be more than enough, as LG's Woo Kyu-min threw a five-hitter for the first complete game shutout of his eight-year career.

A lot would have to go wrong for a baseball team to lose 13 consecutive games. The Eagles have been as complete a disaster as there can be in the sport.

In the three-game series against the Twins, the Eagles gave up 19 runs and scored just two. Counting three earlier games against the Samsung Lions from last Tuesday to Thursday, the Eagles have allowed 40 runs in their past six contests. Opponents are batting .315 off Hanwha pitchers this season.

Their offense has done little for the hapless pitchers, with the KBO-worst 32 runs scored in 13 games. As a team, the Eagles have just one home run, by Kim Kyung-eon. Other than Kim, 37 different players have hit a long ball this season.

The Eagles have hit into the KBO-worst 14 double plays, two of which came with one out in the second and the fourth innings of Sunday's game. They've drawn the fewest walks, with 30, and have struck out the most, 106 times, which have translated into the league-low .308 on-base percentage.

After their ninth straight loss last week, Hanwha players and coaches all got buzz cuts, a common practice for South Korean pro sports teams in a funk, as they tried to show solidarity in the face of adversity.

Yet the team has lost four more games in a row after the haircuts. Now within sight is another dubious record: the KBO's longest losing streak at any point in a season. The Sammi Superstars, a former incarnation of the Nexen Heroes, dropped 18 straight games in 1985.

In an almost cruel twist of fate, the Eagles lost their 13th straight game only hours after their former No. 1 starter, Ryu Hyun-jin, won his second Major League Baseball (MLB) game for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Making his third big league start, Ryu gave up three runs and struck out nine in six solid innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks, as the Dodgers won 7-5. He improved to 2-1 and has a 2.89 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.

Ryu even went 3-for-3 at the plate with a double and two singles, leading cynical fans to quip that Ryu would fit in perfectly in the heart of the feeble Eagles' order.

The Eagles last winter posted Ryu in a silent auction for interested major league clubs, and the Dodgers won the bid with around US$25.7 million, and later inked him to a six-year deal worth $36 million.

The Eagles accepted the Dodgers' bid money, which was a transfer fee of sort, but the team's front office hasn't spent the money on any major player acquisition.

Manager Kim Euong-yong was seen leaving the dugout before the end of Sunday's game. Afterward, he had little to say to the press, only telling reporters, "We'll prepare hard for our next game."

This has been a humbling season for the manager Kim. He is the all-time leader in managerial victories with 1,476 and has won the league-best 10 KBO championships with two different franchises, nine with the Haitai Tigers -- now the Kia Tigers -- and one with the Samsung Lions. Kim had last managed in the KBO in 2004, taking the Lions to the Korean Series, where they lost to the Hyundai Unicorns. He later served as the Lions' president before returning to the dugout for this season.

In his 22 previous seasons as a manager, Kim had only four losing seasons. His longest losing streak prior to 2013 had been 10, while with the Lions in 2004, but that club bounced back to put up the second-most regular season wins, with 73.

The Eagles will host the expansion NC Dinos for three games starting Tuesday night, but this will be no walk in the park for Hanwha.

The Dinos ended their own losing streak at seven games last Thursday and won two of their next three games against the SK Wyverns, the league runner-up in 2011 and 2012.

The Eagles will try to give Kim his first regular season victory since October 2004.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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