Does the blood of an ace really flow through Na Kyun-an (24, Lotte Giants)? He shows up whenever the team is in trouble and turns the atmosphere around.
Na Gyun-an took the mound as Lotte’s starting pitcher in the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO league home game against KT Wiz at Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan on the 9th.
It was a climb under difficult circumstances. Since the match against Doosan in Jamsil (2-0 win) on the 2nd, Lotte has failed to win a single game and has fallen into a three-game losing streak. In particular, with the return of the ‘Busan Seagull’ cheering song, the losing series was confirmed by dropping the first two games in the highly anticipated home opening series.
However, Na Gyun-an has already properly shown the aspect of a ‘crisis stopper’ this season. Lotte, who failed to maintain a 5-point lead in the opening game (against Doosan in Jamsil on the 1st) and was defeated in the end, won the next day. The main character was Na Gyun-an, who had a good fight with 5 hits, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts and no runs in 6⅔ innings. And he was chosen as the savior to end the team’s crisis this time. 스포츠토토
Before the game, Lotte coach Larry Sutton (53) expressed anticipation, saying, “I hope today’s victory will be an opportunity to change the atmosphere again.”
Na Kyun-an’s pitching shone from the beginning. At the beginning of the first inning, he was hit by Kang Baek-ho, but he prevented the crisis by striking out No. 4 Park Byung-ho on a swing. After ending the second inning with a tripartite throw, he brought two outs to first and third bases with a double, wild throw, and walk in the third. But again, he caught Anthony Alford on a fly ball to end the inning.
From the 4th episode, Na Kyun-an’s strikeout show shone. He struck out Jang Seong-woo and Hwang Jae-gyun in the 4th, Park Kyung-soo and Cho Yong-ho in the 5th, and Kang Baek-ho and Alford in the 6th. Formidable batters came out one after another, but Na Kyun-an showed no sign of faltering, turning them all into a behemoth during one round of the batting order.
He also helped Na Kyun-an on defense. In the early 7th inning with 2 out on 1st base, Park Kyung-soo’s batted ball went straight through the middle left. However, center fielder Kim Min-seok succeeded in catching it on the warning track after capturing the point of the falling ball.
The batting line, which had not been able to score a single point until the 6th inning, gave Na Kyun-an a scoring support from the 7th inning. At the end of the 7th inning, Lotte scored three points by tying Hwang Seong-bin and Kim Min-seok’s timely hits and Jack Rex’s sacrifice fly. In the 8th inning attack, he added 2 points and won 5-3, giving Na Kyun-an the starting win.
On this day, Kyun-an Na recorded 4 hits, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts and no runs in 7 innings. The season ERA remained at 0. After the opening, he played well in two consecutive games, establishing himself as Lotte’s second starter in name and reality. Catcher Yoo Kang-nam, whom he worked with that day, also raised his thumb and praised Na Gyun-an’s pitching.
Coach Sutton said after the game, “Na Kyun-ahn has done it again. It’s amazing how great pitching can break a losing streak when needed.” He gave a high evaluation, saying, “I achieved quality starts in two consecutive games, and there was no gap in control and ball mixing.”
Na Kyun-an expressed his feelings after pitching, saying, “It’s not that I didn’t feel pressure because I was in a losing streak, but I tried to throw only my balls from the mound.”
As a starting pitcher, he did not forget his sense of taking care of his teammates. Na Kyun-an said, “(Yoo) Kangnam hyung led well and gave a big reaction, so I was able to get the command today.” He also expressed his gratitude, “At the end, I thought ‘It was a big deal’ at the plate with senior Park Kyung-soo, but (Kim) Min-seok caught it well and kept the atmosphere.”
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