William Cuevas, the KT Wiz’s No. 1 starter with a 100 percent winning percentage, has fallen apart.
Cuevas started Game 1 against the NC Dinos in the best-of-five playoffs of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO Postseason at KT Wiz Park in Suwon on April 30. His final line was three innings, six hits (one home run), two walks, two strikeouts, and seven runs 토토사이트(four earned).
In playoff history, the team that wins Game 1 has a 78.1% chance of advancing to the Korean Series (25/32, best-of-five, excluding the 1999-2000 doubleheader). For KT, which is aiming to regain the top spot after two years, it was a highly important game as it was the first game to advance to the Korean Series, and they put out ace Cuevas as the starting pitcher.
Cuevas returned to the KBO in the middle of this season as a replacement for foreign pitcher Bo Schuler. He is the club’s much-anticipated number one starter and ace. With a 12-0 record in 18 games this year, an ERA of 2.60 in 114⅓ innings, 100 strikeouts, and a WHIP (walks allowed per inning) of 1.04, he has established himself as the league’s winningest pitcher and the team’s win fairy.
In fact, KT was in eighth place in the league (26 wins, 2 ties, and 33 losses) on June 17, the day Cuevas joined the team, but has been on an upward curve ever since. They finished second in the league (79 wins, 3 draws, and 62 losses) to complete the miracle and earn a direct playoff berth. KT head coach Lee Kang-cheol praised Cuevas on several occasions during the season, and he had a positive impact on the team.
In the postseason, Lee continued to trust Cuevas. Speaking to reporters before Game 1 of the playoffs, he said, “Cuevas is an ace pitcher, so no matter which team comes up, I was thinking of him as the first starter of the series,” and showed high expectations.
Cuevas was confident, too. “I’m a little bit more confident about tomorrow’s game because I don’t have any soreness, I’m in good shape,” he told reporters at the team’s training session the day before. I feel like I can give a better performance,” he said, adding, “As the coach said, the postseason is not tomorrow. I’m going to have to be a little more careful and focused on the mound because I can’t afford to make any mistakes. One mistake can send me home,” he said.
On the day, Cuevas faced an NC lineup consisting of Son Asub (designated hitter), Park Min-woo (second baseman), Park Gun-woo (right fielder), Jason Martin (center fielder), Kwon Hee-dong (left fielder), Seo Ho-cheol (third baseman), Oh Young-soo (first baseman), Kim Hyung-joon (catcher), and Kim Joo-won (shortstop). The NC bats were hot, combining for 40 hits and 32 runs in three semifinal games against SSG Landers, including one wild card game against the Doosan Bears.
Cuevas struggled against the NC bats in the first inning. He struggled against the top of the order of Son-Aseop, Park Min-woo, and Park Geon-woo, who ranked first through third in batting average among active players with at least 1,000 regular-season games played, with Park Geon-woo (1167 games), Son As-seop (1974 games), and Park Min-woo (1162 games) batting .326.
In the top of the first inning, Cuevas gave up a hard-hit single to Son and then a double to left-center by Park Min-woo to put runners on second and third. He struck out Park on a swinging strikeout to give himself some breathing room, but gave up a sacrifice fly to Martin for a 1-0 lead.
The second run came in the top of the second inning. A four-seam fastball to the leadoff hitter, Oh Young-soo, was hit for a 120-meter solo shot over the left field fence. The score was 0-2.
In the top of the third inning, Cuevas was unable to stop the NC bats. Hwang Jae-gyun, the third baseman, mishandled a high fly ball by Park Min-woo, putting a runner on first base. Park then hit a two-out double to center field to make it 0-3. After getting Martin to ground out to the second baseman, he gave up an RBI single to Kwon Hee-dong to make it 0-4.
Meanwhile, KT started to chase. In the bottom of the third inning, Moon Sang-chul took advantage of Pedi’s two-seam fastball and hit a 115-meter solo shot over the right field fence. The score was 1-4, but Cuevas still couldn’t break out of his slump. He walked leadoff hitter Kim Hyung-jun on a full count and then dropped a sacrifice bunt by Kim Joo-won to put runners on first and second with no outs.
A wild pitch put runners on second and third. Cuevas gave up an RBI single to Son Asub to make it 1-5. The KT bench did not stand still. They sent Uhm Sang-baek to the mound to replace Cuevas. Uhm worked out of the jam with runners on first and third. Cuevas still had runners on base.
Uhm walked the first batter, Park Min-woo, to load the bases. He then gave up a sacrifice fly to Park Gun-woo for a 1-6 run. The run was scored by Cuevas, who left the bases loaded.
Following Uhm Sang-baek, KT sent Lee Sang-dong to the mound with runners on first and second. Lee got Martin to fly out to left field. The next batter, Kwon Hee-dong, induced a fly ball to center field after 11 pitches, but the outfield couldn’t catch it. Hee-dong Kwon hit a triple, but an error allowed two more runs to score.
The aftermath of Cuevas’ early exit was devastating. By the end of the fourth inning, KT had used two bullpen pitchers and the lead had grown to seven runs. In the remaining innings, would KT be able to mount a comeback and take game one?