By Oh Sang-jin Reporter= Kiwoom Heroes ‘ace’ Ahn Woo-jin, 24, is set to rescue his team from a seven-game losing streak.
Kiwoom has named Ahn Woo-jin as its starting pitcher for the first game of the second half of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League against the Lotte Giants at Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan on 21 November. Lotte will counter with foreign pitcher Charlie Barnes.
After winning the Golden Glove last year, Ahn is arguably the best ace in the KBO and has been a consistent performer as Kiwoom’s number one starter this year. With a 6-5 record and a 2.44 ERA in 17 appearances in the first half of the season, Ahn ranked fourth in the league in ERA and first among Korean pitchers. He also ranked first in strikeouts (130) and third in walks allowed per inning (WHIP, 1.05).
Despite these performances, the six wins in the first half of the season was a disappointing result for both Ahn and Ki. This season, Ahn has the second-best run support minimum (3.45) behind teammate Ariel Hurtado (3.29). Last year (3.54, 2nd best), she still managed to win 10 games in the first half of the season and 15 games in the final season despite the lack of scoring support, but this year, the lack of scoring support has been even worse.
Ahn Woo-jin’s shoulders were even heavier as he made his first appearance of the second half. Before the end of the first half, Kiwoom lost ‘2.5 billion free agent bullpen’ Won Jong-hyun for the season, and the batting line-up lost Lim Ji-yeol and Shin Jun-woo to injury. On top of that, Edison Russell, who was still the team’s second-leading RBI hitter (42) despite his injury absence, was sent down rather than returning. New foreign batsman Ronnie Dawson will join the squad against Lotte on the 21st, but it is unclear if he will be able to make an immediate impact.
Amidst all the bad news, Ahn Woo-jin has been tasked with rescuing Kiwoom from the brink, which has lost seven straight games and slipped to ninth place. He threw a career-high 120 pitches in his last start of the first half, but the All-Star break gave him plenty of time to recover. After throwing 13 pitches in the first inning of the 15th All-Star Game, Ahn confirmed that he was in good shape with a fastball that reached 158.8 km/h (per Trackman).메이저놀이터
Their opponents in the first game of the second half, the fifth-placed Lotte, have been swept by the NC Dinos in the last two games of the first half. However, starter Charlie Barnes has been inconsistent this season, but his two starts against Kiwoom have resulted in one win and a 1.80 ERA (10 innings, 2 runs, 2 earned). It will be interesting to see if Ahn Woo-jin can avoid becoming “Ankrai” in his first start of the second half and save his team from a losing streak.