Um, Be Flexible, Mkay, KK?
It’s an understatement that Kwang-hyun Kim (KK)’s foray into MLB has had its unexpected twists and turns. It felt proper to pause to appreciate what he’s gone through to get to this point in US MLB, of course, with the backdrop of not knowing anyone or the language:
- In the off-season, he was told he’d compete for a starting role, but the bullpen was a possibility.
- Back in the Normal Timeline of Spring Training 1.0, he performed well.
- A few days before Opening Day, he’s told he’ll not just be a relief pitcher but the closer, as El Gallo gets the 5th spot.
- Of his 14 seasons in the KBO, Kim had all of 2 appearances in the playoffs as a closer, 10 years apart, 2010 and 2018.
- In March, COVID shuts down baseball. Kim understandably chose not to return to his wife and two young kids in Incheon for fear of not being able to travel back to the U.S.
- After months of long-tossing and eating Chick-fil-A with Adam Wainwright, Kim finally gets to pitch again.
- In his first appearance on July 24, he successfully (albeit shakily) got the save vs. the Pirates.
- On July 28, Miles Mikolas is shut down with a forearm.
- But Kim remains the closer and Daniel Ponce de Leon joins the rotation.
- On July 30, the Cards’ season did a record-scratch and was shut down due to their outbreak.
- Slow-forward to Aug 15, when the Cards began this 53 Games in 44 Days Gauntlet.
- So, uh, KK, we need you to start now, mkay?
- On August 17, he got his first start vs. the Cubs (doing fine, giving up 1 R in 3.2 IP).
- Tonight, he got his second start.
It was a lefty-lefty match-up, as the Reds sent journeyman Wade Miley out to the hill, an acquisition they made in the off-season. MIley started his journey, man in 2011 with the D-Backs, then tried, in order: Boston, Seattle, Baltimore, Milwaukee, and Houston, before renting in Cincy. Over those 10 years, he’s logged a hair over 1,400 IP, sporting a 4.25 ERA, with 7.2 SO/9; 3.2 BB/9; 1.0 HR/9.
This season hasn’t started well for Wade, as he’s thrown just 3.1 IP in 2 starts, giving up 6 H and 7 R.
FanGraphs Win Expectancy gave the Cards a little over a coin flip’s chance at the win, 56.2% to the Reds’ 43.8%.
The Bird’s-Eye View
Unlike some Cards’ games lately with a carousel of young, often wild relievers bloating pitch counts and game times, this game flew by, due to a combination of things:
- Kim worked fast; as is his wont
- He mostly threw strikes: 55 strikes of 83 pitches; 3 Ks; 0 BBs
- Got quite lucky: 5 of the 7 Statcast-defined Hard Hits (over 95 mph EV) went for outs
- Wide umpire’s strike zone: seemed the same for both sides
[Disclaimer: As an Ohio resident, I’m blacked out of Reds games, so I mostly took the word of Mike Shannon and Dan Rooney’s frequent comments of the umpire “liking to throw up that right hand.” GameDay tracking bore that out as well.]
Oh, and a shout-out also to the Cards’ defensive positioning (which I assume now is Jose Oquendo again?), as I believe I caught 4 instances of shifted/perfectly placed infielders who stopped batted balls that otherwise woulda been hits.
The Cards’ hitters slowly worked on Miley, getting a lone runner on base in each of the first innings but couldn’t make anything happen. But they broke through in the third with luck and speed, via back-to-back bloops from Harrison Bader and Kolten Wong that provided a second-and-third, one-out situation that Tommy Edman cashed in on with a 2-run single.
Bader used a tool other than speed that we haven’t seen him wield in quite a while to tack on a single run in the 5th, as he hit an opposite-field solo homer.
Those three runs were all the Cards’ pitching would need. Because KK was rolling along with a low pitch count, that also kept Shildt in the dugout and relievers in the pen, with the first reliever not entering until the 7th.
We were done with the first 4 innings in a single hour. The 7th inning started at about the 90-minute mark with Gant looking sharp in a 1-2-3 inning. Things slowed down, though, in the top of the 8th, as the Reds had something going with a walk and a single, which included two pitching changes. Gant walked the lead-off man, then Miller came in and got an immediate DP but walked another. So Gallegos came in, and if you read the title of this recap, you know he put out the fire.
The top of the 9th started at 9:27 CT, a mere 2 hrs and 12 minutes after game start. Gio Gallegos stayed in to close it down in 3 minutes, as the game was over and done at 9:30 CT on the dot.
Yo, that’s a cool 2:15 game-time total.
The Flight Path
Top of the 1st - A 1-2-3 inning, which was nice.
Kim went to a full count against Joey Votto, ultimately getting him to line a one-hopper to Tommy Edman, the shortstop shifted to the right of 2B for out 1.
Nick Castellanos then kind of half-swung at a low-and-away 1-2 fastball, lining out softly to Paul Goldschmidt at first.
Matt Davidson, who received a bouquet of salami from his friends to honor his grand-slam heroics in Friday’s night’s game, grounded out sharply to Edman at short. Wonder what kind of bouquet that gets you?
Bottom of the 1st - A 2-out single did not become a rally.
Kolten Wong nailed a 2-2 cutter on a line (95 mph EV), but it was right at the left fielder Jesse Winkler for out 1. Tommy Edman had a more home-hum at-bat, popping out weakly to short. Paul Goldschmidt, continuing his good hitting lately, lined a single to left to keep the inning alive.
Canadian Strongman Tyler O’Neill worked a 3-2 count and hit a one-hopper to short, and Freddy Galvis went the short route, flipping to second to force Pauly G for out 3.
Top of the 2nd - Another clean inning, featuring KK’s first K.
Kim threw Eugenio Suarez three fastballs: the first two were strikes, and the third was a fly-out to Dylan Carlson in right. Phillip Ervin then grounded out to Matt Carpenter at third. Like against Suarez, Kim got ahead of Jesse Winker 0-2, but the batter battled, but Kim got his first K on the 8th pitch, a slider that dove under the middle-bottom of the zone and under Winker’s bat.
Bottom of the 2nd - A one-out single quickly became a three-out inning.
Against lead-offer Matt Carpenter, Miley got the call on a down-and-away change-up that barely kissed the strike zone, if at all.
Ageless wonder Yadier Molina got things going with an 0-1 single lined to left; however, DH Dexter Fowler next hit a tailor-made double play grounder 6-4-3 to abruptly end the inning .
Top of the 3rd - Reds copied the Cards by getting a harmless single.
Curt Casali led things off by skying a fly-out to Tyler in left for the first out. Freddy Galvis likewise hit a high one, just to the opposite field, and Carlson covered a lot of ground to ultimately catch it foul territory.
Kyle Farmer plowed a 1-0 slider, sending it on a line to left for a 2-out single. Votto did what Votto do, getting a full count. But with the runner going, Votto was rung up, as he watched a high slider cradle into the upper-outer corner of the zone for a called strike 3, which Joey didn’t like.
Bottom of the 3rd (In Play, Run(s)) - Two bloops, hustle, and a single got the Birds on the Board.
Dylan Carlson led off by sending a grounder up the middle that defensive positioning thwarted, as Farmer was already positioned behind the bag to begin with. He just had to range a little to his right to backhand it and throw Dylan out.
Next, on a 2-2 count, Harrison Bader blooped one down the right-field line that fell. Motoring out of the box, Tots had his eyes on 2B the whole way. On a bang-bang play, he just got his hand to the bag before the tag and was safe for a hustle double.
That flipped the order to Kolten, who mirrored Harry’s Texas Leaguer, flopping one down the left-field line that fell. Tots had to hold up to ensure it fell and advanced just to third, while Kolten made it second on a bad throw (but it was ruled a double), and the Cards were in business.
Now with 2nd and 3rd and 1 out, Tommy Edman came through, hitting a one-hop liner to Winker in right, scoring Bader and Wong, with Kolten making a daring (good) read on the ball to score, making it 2-0 Cards.
Miley then couldn’t find the zone against Pauly G, walking him on 4 pitches. TON then hit a grounder right over the 3B bag, but Suarez gloved it, stepped on the bag and flung it to first for a 5-3 double play.
Top of the 4th - KK was lucky, as 2 hard hits fortunately were just loud outs.
Nick Castellanos smoked a grounder (100 mph EV) to the 3B side of second, but Kolten was positioned right there to snag it and throw him out. Score another one for spray charts. Matt Davidson followed by also making loud contact, but it was a low liner at Tommy at short, who snagged it on the fly.
Suarez ended the inning by grounding out to Carpenter at third (not hard hit; 89 mph).
Bottom of the 4th - Another lone single ended with a lonely runner left on the bases.
Carpenter led off for the second time and struck out for the second time, this time swinging at a 1-2 curve below the zone. Yadi then grounded out to short for out 2 to get one session of 45 feet-worth of jogging in.
Dex then zipped an oppo-field single into right-center to give Dylan a chance. The youngster got the count full but struck out swinging, tipping a down-and-in cutter into the catcher’s mitt.
Top of the 5th - The first RISP against KK did not produce a R.
Ervin started things off by grounding out to Carpenter at third. Winker, however, hit a one-hopper to the wall in left for a 1-out double to bring up the tying run to the plate. Casali hit one on the nose (96 mph EV), but it was lined right to Carpenter at third, who gloved it for out 2. KK then got a very generous call on a 1-2 slider wide of the outer zone to close out the inning.
Bottom of the 5th (In Play, Run(s)) - Tots got his first tater!
Harrison Bader ambushed the first pitch he saw, sending a decent sinker out over the plate just slightly up to right for a homer to make it 3-0!
Wong waited all the way to his second pitch, grounding out sharply (102 mph EV) to Votto for the first out. Edman hacked at the first pitch, hitting an even hotter smash of his own (106 mph EV) up the middle that the shortstop positioned there, gloved for out 2.
Goldy and TON then said let’s slow things down a bit here, each walking on 7 pitches. Carpenter, the only Cards’ strikeout victim to this point (twice), then at least struck wood, hitting a grounder into the shift at the 2Bman/Short-RFer.
Top of the 6th - A lead-off single went nowhere, thanks to a loud out and nice play by Dylan.
Kyle Farmer produced an infield single by hitting a grounder to Edman that he backhanded slickly in the hole, but his throw wasn’t in time to nab the runner. Kim then induced Votto to fly out to Tyler in left on a first-pitch, well-placed down-and-away fastball. Castellanos then flew out to Bader in left-center fo out 2. Dylan Carlson kept a 2-out rally from starting by making a nice running catch on a liner off the bat of Davison.
Bottom of the 6th - Reds’ righty Tejay Antone replaced Wiley for the Reds. I think he had dinner plans.
Antone made quick work of Yadi, striking him out on 3 pitches, two sliders then a sinker down and away. Next batter Fowler K’d as well, only lasting one more pitch than Yadi, swinging over a curve. Dylan then grounded out to first on his third pitch, for a very quick inning.
Top of the 7th - John Gant came in to relieve KK. He kept the strikes and outs flowin’.
Suarez got behind 1-2 then popped one into shallow center that Bader ran in to snag for out 1. Ervin followed with a towering fly-out to O’Neill on a change-up to notch the second out. Winker then was the inning’s last victim, out on a fly-out to left.
Bottom of the 7th - A 3 up, 3 down inning ended by a nice play.
Reds’ buzz-saw Antone got his fourth-straight K in the person of lead-off man Bader, getting him on a 1-2 slider that stayed up but hit the zone but Harrison watched get called as strike three. Wong followed by flying out to Winker in left.
Lastly, Edman got jobbed by a fantastic play by center fielder Ervin, who made a diving, rolling catch on a liner to end the inning
Top of the 8th - Gant stayed in—for four pitches. Miller helped, then hurt; then, Gio rescued.
Gant suddenly forgot how well the strikes worked in his last inning of work, walking lead-off man Casali on 4-straight pitches. Shildt couldn’t reward that behavior, so he immediately yanked him and brought in Andrew Miller.
Mike Shannon ordered up a double play on the first pitch, and on cue, Miller obliged him, getting a 5-4-3 DP on pitch one against Galvis. That was good, as next batter Kyle Farmer singled up the middle to keep the inning alive for the Reds.
Miller couldn’t find the zone against Votto, walking him on four straight to bring the tying run to the plate in the person of Castellanos. Yadi then went to the mound to buy time for Giovanni Gallegos to get a few more warm-up pitches in the pen.
Sure enough, Gio entered the game to end the guys-on-first-and-second threat. On a 1-2 pitch, Gio got Nick reaching on back-to-back sliders down and away beyond the zone for a big inning-ending/threat-ending strikeout.
Bottom of the 8th - A slight threat fizzled.
Goldy led off with his third walk of the night. Tyler then grounded to third, and Suarez got the force at second, but O’Neill out-ran the relay to first, staying away from the double play.
Lefty Cody Reed then replaced Antone to face Carpenter. On a 2-0 count, Reed broke off a wild pitch, allowing Tyler to advance to second for a RISP Insurance Run situation. Reed came back to get the count full, but flung a low slider that Carpenter ignored for a free pass to join Tyler, making it first and second.
Yadi hit a slow roller to short that was turned for double play to end the inning and take the Cards to the 9th without insurance.
Top of the 9th - Gallegos remained in to shut the door, and he did so quickly.
Gio first faced lefty-swingin’ pinch-hitter Shogo akiyama, who hit for Matt Davidson. Gio got him to fly out to Tyler in left on pitch 2. Suarez next hit a grounder to Tommy at short for out 2. For the Reds’ last hope, they brought in another lefty pinch-hitter, Mark Payton, batting for Phillip Ervin. Mark grounded out to Kolten for the easy final out.
Cards won, 3-0!!!
Bottom of the 9th - NOT APPLICABLE!!!
The Bottom Line
- Dear Mr. Manfred: All you need to speed up the game is a good pitching performance.
(And luck, and pitcher-friendly umps, and good spray charts.)
- KKs night: 6 IP; 0 R; 3 H; 3 SO; 0 BB. I’ll take that.
- The Reds did not get a runner past 2B all night.
- Cincy was 0-3 with RISP; the Cards were 2-5.
- The Cards had but 3 hard batted balls (over 95 mph EV): 2 were ground-outs and 1 was Bader’s homer. LOL
- Big surprise, but Kim was the WPA Leader with .311
- Yadi passed a Wizard to sit at third all-time in games played as a Cardinal. See?
- All you need is Tommy Ballgame: