Doosan Bears’ Yang Ji Woo started at catcher and batted third in the team’s eighth home game of the season against the Hanwha Eagles of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Sunday, going 2-for-4 with a double, a home run, a stolen base, two RBIs and a run scored to spearhead a 6-3 comeback win.
The first at-bat was certainly a disappointment. In the bottom of the first inning, Yang put runners on first and second with no outs. Yang lined a 124-kilometer curveball from Hanwha starter Moon Dong-joo, and the ball sailed straight into left field. What looked like a home run was fouled off for too much deflection, and Yang was unable to capitalize as he retired the side in order.
However, her second at-bat was not a bad at-bat, and good things followed. In his second at-bat of the fourth inning, Yang lined a single to right field off Moon Dong-joo to open the floodgates and put the team in scoring position. It was only a matter of time before he was unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
Yang Ji, who singled to right field in his third at-bat, came through in his fourth at-bat as the “fixer”. With his team trailing 1-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning, the bases were loaded, and this time he didn’t waste the opportunity. Yang smashed the second pitch from Hanwha’s Kim Bum-soo, a 149-kilometer fastball, to bring home two runners and tie the game. The play didn’t stop there.
After stealing first base, Yang struck again, this time hitting the “huh” in the Hanwha battery. Yang stole second base with a 0B-2S count, but Hanwha’s new pitcher, Kang Jae-min, threw a late throw to first base, but Yang was able to get to second base with plenty of time to spare. With runners on first and third, Yang stole second and third, and Yang Seok-hwan hit a game-winning RBI single, giving Doosan a 6-3 win and clinching the series.
Yang’s steal was arguably the highlight of the game. “(Kim) Dae-hyun was on third base, and I thought about the defense, so I stole it,” Yang said after the game. It didn’t turn out to be a double steal, but I think (Yang) Seok-hwan hit a double to win the game.”
Yang’s play came with a “game plan” on the bench. The plan was for Yang Ji to steal first base and get caught in a double play, allowing Kim Dae-hyun, the third baseman, to come home. But it turned out to be for the better, as Kim didn’t stop running, and Yang Ji was able to take second base without being caught by the throw.
“The plan was not to run when the pitcher throws the ball, but to run when he’s holding it and at an awkward time when he’s about to throw it,” Yang said, “and then suddenly I panicked. I was supposed to be caught (in a double play), but I just went in,” he smiled. Asked if the pause before he stepped on second base was what prompted the throw, he said, “Yeah, it was. I can’t steal (bases) unless it’s like this,” he smiled.
Yang recently made an interesting bet with Kang Min-ho (Samsung Lions). It’s about who has more stolen bases at the end of the season. During a recent game against Samsung, Kang Min-ho saw Yang Ji’s two stolen bases on the scoreboard and made the first move. Currently, Kang Min-ho has four stolen bases, narrowly ahead of Yang Ji with three. 메이저놀이터
“In the last game, Minho’s brother looked at the scoreboard and said, ‘You have two stolen bases, I have two,'” he said. “It was 2-2, and I already have four. I’m going to have to step it up.”
As for who is the fastest and slowest among the catchers, Yang Ji said, “(Park) Se-hyuk is the fastest. (Choi) Jae-hoon was also fast. Jae-hoon was similar to Se-hyuk when he was younger.” “On the other hand, I’ve seen two players who are slower than me. (Yoo) Kang-ki hasn’t played with me, (Kim) Tae-gun is really slow, and (Heo) Do-hwan’s brother was a rival of mine, and NC’s (Kim) Hyung-joon is also slow,” he explained.
Yang added another stolen base on the day, putting him just one away from 50 for his career. When asked about his stolen base goal, Yang said, “I don’t have a big ambition,” adding, “I think I’m one away from 50. I’m surprised that I have 50 stolen bases,” he said. It remains to be seen who will have the last laugh in the competition between Kang Min-ho and Yang Ji.