Samsung Lions’ blue-blooded ace Won Tae-in led the team to back-to-back wins and a three-game midweek series sweep. Won Tae-in himself won his fifth consecutive start and continued his quest for a career-high.

Won started Game 5 of the 2024 Shinhan SOL Bank KBO League 2024 against the Doosan Bears at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul, South Korea, and pitched six innings of three-hit ball, striking out two and walking one (unearned). He earned his fifth win of the season in Samsung’s 4-2 victory.

“I actually wanted to pitch in the seventh inning, but manager Park Jin-man told me to stop,” Won said in the official postgame interview. “Normally, I would have said that I wanted to pitch a little longer, but today’s game was too hard in the fifth inning. I’m grateful because I know the seniors are throwing so well and the manager and pitching coach Jung Min-tae are trying to manage me,” he said.

Won threw a variety of pitches on the day, including a fastball that topped out at 150 mph and averaged 146 mph, as well as his signature changeup, cut fastball, and curveball, to shake up the Doosan hitters’ timing.

Won Tae-in was crisp from the start. He showed his good form by striking out three consecutive batters in the first inning: Jung Soo-bin, Heo Kyung-min, and Kang Seung-ho, Yang Ji, Yang Seok-hwan, and Kim Jae-hwan in the second inning, and Henry Ramos, Min-jae, and Cho in the third inning.

Won Tae-in’s self-described jade tee was his defense in the bottom of the fourth inning. With Samsung leading 1-0, he allowed leadoff hitter Jung Soo-bin to reach first base on a single and then kept his head down after getting the next batter, Heo Kyung-min, to ground out to first base.

Samsung’s first baseman McKinnon hit a slow grounder that bounced heavily off the bounds of Heo Kyung-min and made a clean throw to Won Tae-in at first base cover. At that point, Jeong Soo-bin, who was on first base, stole second and then third.

Won wasted no time in throwing to third base as the umpires pointed to third base. However, Won’s throw was way off and went into the bullpen on the third base side, giving Jeong Soo-bin an extra base and tying the game at 1-1.

Despite the outcome, Won believes his error was a blessing in disguise. He laughed that he was able to concentrate better after facing Jeong Soo-bin with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth inning. He then pitched a scoreless sixth inning and did his job.

“When I shouted at the end of the fifth inning after stopping the bases loaded, it was 토토 more of a reprimand than a roar,” Won said, “I could have won the game a little easier, but I got myself into trouble the hard way. I was so disappointed in myself that I really wanted to stop it, but I think that gesture came out without realizing it because I ended the inning without giving up a run.”

“At the end of the fourth inning, I didn’t expect Jeong Soo-bin to run directly from second to third base, and I thought I could catch him if I made the throw correctly, but I was in a hurry and made a mistake,” he said. “But after the mistake, the ball suddenly got faster. My fastball hasn’t been able to reach 150 kilometers lately, but after I made the mistake, I suddenly felt like I had a lot of speed. It’s like my dormant instincts were awakened,” he said with a laugh.

Won Tae-in also revealed his responsibilities as the oldest of the team’s domestic starters and Samsung’s ace. Since the start of the regular season on March 23, Won has been exceptional, going 5-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 40⅓ innings pitched in seven games.

If he keeps up his current pace, Won could easily surpass his 2021 season, when he went 14-7 with a 3.06 ERA in 26 games and 158⅔ innings pitched, his best performance since making his professional debut in 2019.

Won said, “I became the eldest brother of the main starting pitcher in Korea too quickly. My first priority is to break the losing streak and keep the winning streak going so I can put as little pressure on Lee Ho-seong and Lee Seung-hyun as possible,” Won emphasized.

“I felt my ball was good at the beginning of the season, but honestly, I think it can be better. I’m more advanced now than I was in 2021, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”


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