Kim Jae-yoon (33-KT Wiz) has established himself as one of the best closers in the KBO.
On the 25th, Kim made a relief appearance against the Lotte Giants in the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at Sajik Stadium. He pitched the bottom of the ninth inning to preserve his team’s 3-1 lead.
Kim Jae-yoon battled through a back-and-forth game. He got leadoff hitter Lee Jung-hoon to ground out to third base, but the next batter, Yoo Kang-nam, singled up the middle to load the bases. Kim Jae-yoon then got Han Dong-hee to ground out to third base to get some breathing room, but gave up a walk to Noh Jin-hyuk on a full count to put runners on first and second.
Lee Jung-geun, one of Lotte’s hottest hitters of late, came to bat. With a 2-2 count, Kim Jae-yoon threw a five-pitch slider that he hit into the left-field bleachers to give his team the win. The final score was one run on one hit and one walk. It was his 23rd save of the season and 160th of his career.
“My pitch count was getting high 메이저놀이터, and if it got any longer, I was going to lose my strength, so I tried to make it quick. I was able to get a good count, and even though the ball didn’t go the way I wanted it to at the end, I think I did a good job,” Kim said after the game.
“I thought I was good at controlling my condition, but I think I’m having a little bit of a slump because I’m losing a little bit of my stamina, so I’m trying to recover more and rest a lot these days. It’s hard because it’s the end of the season,” he said of his save.
In the last game (April 24 against the Suwon KIA Tigers), Kim Jae-yoon pitched his worst game of the season. He took the mound in the top of the ninth inning with the game tied 3-3, but gave up four runs in ⅔ of an inning to help his team lose 3-7. It was his first four-run outing of the season and his first four-run game since April 3 last year against Suwon Samsung Electronics, but he got back on track a day later to earn a meaningful save.
“I gave up a lot of runs and the team lost, but I thought it was just one game and prepared for my next appearance. I’m also a person who easily forgets (bad things),” Kim laughed.
With the save, Kim became the eighth pitcher in KBO history to reach 160 saves. Above him are legendary pitchers such as Oh Seung-hwan (391 saves), Son Seung-rak (271 saves), Lim Chang-yong (258 saves), Kim Yong-soo (227 saves), Koo Dae-sung (214 saves), Jung Woo-ram (197 saves), and Jin Pil-joong (191 saves). Kim Jae-yoon has joined their ranks of recognized legends.
“As for my goal, I want to get over 200 saves if possible, and I think that (the 160-save mark) is just a passing phase. Of course, it’s great to accumulate a lot of saves, but I think it’s a process that will pass, so I’m happy with it for now.” “Compared to my first save, I feel like I’ve gotten to know my opponents a little better. “I think I know the hitters a little bit better than I did in my first save. I’m always in big situations, so the nerves are the same, and the experience (gained) is different.”
KT has been the best team in the league in the second half of the season. With a 23-6 record in the second half of the season (0.793 winning percentage), the team leads the league in winning percentage.
Kim Jae-yoon, who is at the center of it all as the endgame king, said, “The team’s ranking keeps going up, and of course, we’re looking at the top (as a goal). However, the players are working hard and doing well so that we can end the season on the highest possible level. The fans have been coming to the stadium a lot, and I’m grateful for their support, and I hope they will continue to support us until the end,” he said.