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Rookie starter in KBO thanks veterans for late rally in victory

All News 19:04 June 11, 2020

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, June 11 (Yonhap) -- LG Twins' rookie starter Lee Min-ho had done his job, with seven solid innings in which he held the SK Wyverns to just one run on six hits and struck out seven.

But when he left this Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) game on Thursday, the score was tied at 1-1 at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. Whether he could come away a winning pitcher was entirely out of his hands.

After SK reliever Seo Jin-yong retired the first two batters in the bottom seventh, Lee appeared to be on his way to getting a no decision. But then Seo walked the next batter to give the Twins and Lee some hope.

Cleanup hitter Roberto Ramos stepped up and delivered a two-run homer, setting off a wild celebration in the Twins dugout. No one was more excited than Lee.

Lee Min-ho of the LG Twins pitches against the SK Wyverns in the first game of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season double header at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on June 11, 2020. (Yonhap)

"When I saw Ramos hit that home run, I thought to myself, 'This could do it,'" Lee said after the Twins held on to win 3-1. Lee improved to 2-1 for the season.

"I want to thank my teammates for making me a winning pitcher," he said. "The guys never gave up and tried so hard to win this one for me."

Fresh out of high school, Lee, still two months from his 19th birthday, has been pitching with confidence and poise that belies his age. After making two relief appearances to start the season, this was Lee's third career start. In his three starts, spanning 19 1/3 innings, his ERA is a tidy 1.40.

On Thursday, Lee gave up a run in the first inning on two hits but settled down quickly. He pitched around one-out singles in the second and the third, and then recorded three-up, three-down innings in the fourth and the fifth.

Lee got into trouble in the sixth. He allowed two singles to start the inning, and a double steal put runners at second and third with two outs for Jeong Jin-gi.

Jeong did Lee a favor by swinging on the first pitch and flying out to right field.

Lee recorded two quick outs in the seventh and then hit Jung Hyun with his 110th pitch of the game. Lee had a visit from his pitching coach Choi Yil-yeon but stayed in the game, and two pitches later, retired Ro Soo-kwang on a grounder.

In this file photo from June 2, 2020, Lee Min-ho of the LG Twins pitches against the Samsung Lions in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

The bullpen took care of the rest, with left-hander Jin Hae-soo retiring one batter he faced and Jung Woo-young recording a five-out save.

Lee touched 148 kilometers per hour (91.9 miles per hour) with his four-seam fastball, and also threw curve, slider and splitter.

He set a career-high with 112 pitches and seven strikeouts on Thursday. He hit a batter but didn't walk anyone.

"Other than the hit-by-pitch, I am mostly pleased with this start," Lee said. "I am especially satisfied that I didn't issue any walks. I just followed the lead of my catcher, Yoo Kang-nam, and I want to thank him for calling a great game."


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