Lotte Giants right-handed pitcher Na Gyun-ahn (25), who had his best month of the year in April when he was named the KBO’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), cooled off a bit in May, pitching a no-hitter to lead his team to victory.
Na took the mound against the NC Dinos at Busan’s Sajik Stadium on May 23 and was flawless, throwing six innings and 86 pitches with five hits, one walk and five strikeouts.
Na lowered his ERA from 2.76 to 2.45.
His fastball topped out at 147 kilometers per hour, and he threw 39 of his 86 pitches, nearly half of them for strikes.
He threw 30 fastballs, 12 curves, and four cutters.
After going 4-0 with a 1.34 ERA in the month of April, Na went through an adjustment period in May, going 1-1 with a 5.87 ERA in three games.
On this day, however, he dazzled the NC batters with his fastball, forkball, and curveball and did not allow a run.
Na Gyun-an, who had a seven-batter hitting streak until the top of the third inning, gave up a single to NC’s No. 8 hitter, Kim Joo-won, and two batters later gave up a walk to Son Asub, but retired Park Young-bin.
The fifth inning was the most critical as Lotte scored two runs in the fourth to take a 2-0 lead.
Na Kyun-ahn gave up a leadoff double to Yoon Hyung-joon and a single to left to Seo Ho-chul, putting runners on first and third with no outs.
Yoon’s shot hit the top left field fence and almost became a home run.
Kim Joo-won followed with a wild pitch, putting runners on second and third with one out and a chance to tie the game.
With the tying run at the plate, Na Gyun-an induced a forked ball to Kim Joo-won at third base and caught Yoon Hyung-joon at home plate to turn the game into a one-out, two-run game.
He then threw a decisive forkball to Do Tae-hoon and Son As-seob to get back-to-back strikeouts and end the fifth inning scoreless.
Na Kyun-ahn, who usually doesn’t show much emotion on the mound, showed his joy by pumping his fist in the air after striking out Son.
Son, on the other hand, who struck out swinging, laughed in disbelief and stomped to the dugout.
Na Gyun-an, who lasted through the sixth inning, was relieved in the seventh, and Lotte held on for a 2-0 victory and their fifth win of the season.
The most crucial pitch of the game was a forked ball that Son struck out swinging.
“I told him (Son) before the game that I was going to throw a forkball,” said Na Gyun-an after the game, “and that’s when I threw the pitch I was thinking of and it came out swinging. I wanted to catch it unconditionally, and since he was my older brother, I wanted to catch it even more, but it came out naturally,” he explained.
“Coach Bae Young-soo told me, ‘Throw as if you’re only giving up one run,’ but I focused on each batter, so I was able to keep the game scoreless,” he smiled.
Another senior who helped Na get through the fifth inning without allowing a run was catcher Yoo Kang-nam.
On Kim Joo-won’s grounder to third base with runners on second and third, Yoo chased down Yoon Hyung-joon to make the tag.
In the process, he slightly buckled his knee and fell, taking him out of the game from the next inning.
“I kept seeing that Gangnam wasn’t feeling well, so I looked at him and he gestured to me, ‘Don’t worry about it, do what you want to do.’ That helped me focus on the situation,” says Na. That helped me stay focused in that situation,” he said.
Na turned to pitching in 2021 and is attempting to become a 10-win pitcher for the first time this year.
Already halfway to his goal with five wins, he says, “I don’t think about personal records. I just think about every game to do what I can,” he said, adding, “My only goal is to pitch full-time, and the rest will follow.”
Na blamed being analyzed by hitters for his poor performance this month. 메이저놀이터
“I think they prepared more than I did, and that’s what I lacked,” he said, adding, “I have one more game in May, and I will prepare well.”
Thanks to Na Gyun-ahn’s steadfastness on the mound, Lotte has moved away from being mockingly referred to as “Bomde,” and is now on the threshold of early summer as a top-tier team.
“First of all, I don’t lose the atmosphere. Even if we’re losing, it’s like we’re going to turn it around,” he said, analyzing, “I think the hitters are focused in the second half of the game because the pitchers in the middle are throwing really well.”