SEOUL, Sept. 18 (Yonhap) — With their respective clubs trying to make the postseason, two South Korean starters in Major League Baseball (MLB) are expected to take the hill on the same day this coming weekend.
Kim Kwang-hyun of the St. Louis Cardinals will get the nod Saturday evening in the United States, or Sunday morning in his native country. Ryu Hyun-jin of the Toronto Blue Jays is expected to do the same, though he hasn’t been officially announced as the probable starter at the time of this article.
The Blue Jays will face the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, for the third game of a four-game series. The first pitch is 6:05 p.m. Saturday (local time), or 7:05 a.m. Sunday in Seoul. Ryu would be going on five days’ rest.
Kim and the Cardinals will be in Pittsburgh for the fourth game of a five-game set at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The first pitch will be 7:05 p.m. Saturday locally, and 8:05 a.m. Sunday in South Korea.
If Ryu’s start is confirmed, it will be the third time this season for the two left-handers to start on the same day, after doing so on Aug. 17 and Aug. 22.
Ryu is taking a 4-1 record and a 3.00 ERA into the weekend. For the most part, he has been just the type of front-line starter that the Blue Jays were hoping they were getting, when they signed him to a four-year, US$80 million contract in December.
He has performed better with an extra day’s rest this season; 3-1 with a 2.16 ERA in six starts on longer rest, 1-0 with a 3.94 ERA on four days in between. His previous start, against the New York Mets, came after five days of rest, and Ryu held the Mets to a run over six innings and struck out seven in a 7-3 win.
If Ryu has been very good at times, Kim has been virtually unhittable. Kim, who began the season as the closer, is 2-0 with a 0.63 ERA. But in five starts, Kim has a 0.33 ERA across 27 2/3 innings, with only one earned run surrendered. He hasn’t given up an earned run in 24 straight innings and has yet to allow more than three hits in any of his five starts.
Kim set career highs with seven innings pitched and six strikeouts in his last outing against the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday. He was hospitalized in Chicago with a kidney ailment earlier this month but showed no ill effects in his return. He has also pitched his way into the Rookie of the Year conversations.
Both clubs are hoping to reach the postseason, with the Blue Jays better positioned than the Cardinals despite their three-game losing streak.
Under the expanded format, the top two teams from each of the six divisions, plus the next two best teams in each league, will qualify for the playoffs. The Cardinals (22-24), the reigning National League (NL) Central champions, are in third place in the division behind the Cubs and the Reds. They trail the Phillies by 1.5 games for the eighth seed in the NL.
The Blue Jays (26-23), who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2016, are third in the American League (AL) East behind the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees.
The Yankees destroyed Toronto pitching to the tune of 19 home runs in their three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium this week, setting an MLB record for most home runs in a three-game series.
The Blue Jays are still holding down the second wild-card spot, 4.5 games ahead of the Seattle Mariners.
Aside from their team goals, Ryu and Kim will try to accomplish something that hasn’t been done since Aug. 24, 2005 — two South Korean starters collecting major league wins on the same day.
That day, Park Chan-ho of the San Diego Padres gave up one earned run in five innings against the Houston Astros in a 7-4 victory. And Seo Jae-weong pitched seven strong innings for the New York Mets in an 18-4 rout of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
On Aug. 17, Ryu picked up his second win of the season after holding the Baltimore Orioles to a run in six innings. Kim got a no-decision after 3 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Chicago Cubs in his first career big league start.
Five days later, Kim earned his first major league win after blanking the Cincinnati Reds over six frames. Ryu got a no-decision this time, despite giving up just one run over five innings versus the Tampa Bay Rays.
The two had been set to start together again on Aug. 27, but the Blue Jays’ game against the Boston Red Sox was postponed in players’ protest of racial injustice in the United States. The Cardinals played the Pirates in a doubleheader that day, and Kim started the first game and allowed one unearned run in six innings for a no-decision.