‘8-4, 0.32’ Cuevas says rejoining team is ‘a stroke of genius’

KT swept a three-game series against Hanwha to stay in second place.

KT Wiz, led by manager Lee Kang-cheol, pounded out five hits, including a home run, in a 3-0 victory over the Hanwha Eagles in the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon on Tuesday.

KT, which has won 10 consecutive games, starting with a three-game series against the Kiwoom Heroes on July 11 and ending with a three-game series against Hanwha, cut its lead over the first-place LG Twins, who lost 1-2 to the SSG Landers on the same day, to seven games (58-2-46).

KT broke open a 0-0 tie in the top of the seventh inning with a leadoff solo home run by Moon Sang-chul and a timely double by Choi Jae-dae to drive in the winning run. On the mound, it was the starting pitching that proved decisive, as Park Young-hyun, who closed out the eighth inning, earned his 25th hold and Kim Jae-yoon, who secured the ninth, recorded his 22nd save with seven innings of three-hit, 11-strikeout ball. William Cuevas, the “returning big-game pitcher,” has won seven games in 11 since returning to KT.

Foreign pitchers fail to meet expectations for the fourth year in a row

The KBO allows new teams to have four foreign players in their first two years in the league. The NC Dinos, who joined the first team in 2013, succeeded in advancing to fall baseball in their second year with Charlie Shreck, Eric Hacker, and Ted Weber, who combined for 29 wins in 2014. However, KT, the 10th club to join the first team since 2015, had the benefit of having four foreign players in 2015 and 2016, but failed to get out of last place for three consecutive years until 2017.

KT’s first three foreign pitchers were right-handers Phil Irwin and Chris Oxspring, and left-hander Andy Sisco. However, only Oxspring, who went 12-10 with a 4.48 ERA, completed the season, while Irwin went 1-7 with an 8.68 ERA and Sisko went 6-2 with a 6.23 ERA. KT brought in Justin Jermano, one of the mainstays of the 2011 Samsung Lions championship, as a replacement for Irwin mid-season, but Jermano also failed to live up to expectations, going 3-6-4.93.

Kt replaced all of its foreign pitchers with Travis Banwart, who played for the SK Wyverns in 2016, and newcomers Johan Pino and Sugar Ray Marimon. However, Banwart, who finished the season with a 6-13 record and 5.95 ERA, fell far short of expectations, while Marimon (6-4, 5.23) and Pino (2-3, 7.15) were dropped. Marimon’s replacement, Josh Lowey, also struggled with a 3-6, 6.30 record, but former Heroes pitcher Ryan Peabody was re-signed after posting a 4.16 ERA in 12 games for KT.

In 2017, KT, which entered its third year in the first team, lost the benefit of having four foreign players in the rookie league and re-signed Peaband along with new face Don Roach to form a foreign one-two punch. Despite going just 8-10 due to KT’s weak offense, Peabody made 20 quality starts in 26 games, topping the league in that category with a 3.04 ERA. Roach, on the other hand, barely made it through the season with 165 innings pitched, finishing with a 4-15 record and a 4.69 ERA.

After re-signing Peabody, the league’s saltiest pitcher in 2017, for $1.05 million, KT signed “legendary foreign pitcher” Dustin Nippert, whose contract with the Doosan Bears fell through after the 2017 season. However, in his eighth year in Korea, Nippert no longer had the command of his prime, posting an 8-8 record with a 4.25 ERA. Firband also failed to replicate his 2017 form, finishing with a disappointing 8-8, 4.30 record.

28 innings of one-run ball in four games in August

After declining to re-sign Niepert and Peaband after the 2018 season, KT turned to Latin America and signed Dominican Republic native Raul Alcantara (Doosan) and Venezuelan Cuevas for the 2019 season. The new one-two punch of powerful fastballs and steady pitches worked well, combining for 24 wins in 2019 and giving KT a 5 percent winning percentage for the first time in five years. However, KT opted not to re-sign Alcantara after the 2019 season, opting instead to re-sign Cuevas.

In 2020, KT’s new one-two punch of Cuevas and Cuban-born Odrisamer Despaigne combined for 25 wins in the regular season and led KT to its first-ever fall baseball appearance. Cuevas, who is in his third season with KT in 2021, struggled with a father injury during the season and was limited to nine wins in the regular season. However, he pitched seven scoreless innings in the first-place game against Samsung and 7.2 scoreless innings in Game 1 of the Korean Series against Doosan to help KT win its first Korean Series title.

However, Cuevas suffered an elbow injury after appearing in just two games last year and left the KBO after saying goodbye to fans at a home game on May 18. After playing in the Mexican League and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ minor leagues, Cuevas returned to the KT uniform on June 9 as a replacement for Bo Schuler, who was struggling with a 1-7 record and a 5.62 ERA. At the time of his signing, there were many skeptics who wondered if bringing back Cuevas, who was struggling in the minors, would help the team’s performance.

However, two months after Cuevas took the mound in a KT uniform, no KT fan would argue that it was a bad decision. In 11 appearances since his return this season, Cuevas has made eight quality starts and is 7-0 with a 2.81 ERA, helping KT move into sole possession of second place in the standings. Against Hanwha on the 20th, Cuevas completely shut down the Hanwha bats with three hits and 11 strikeouts without allowing a walk to earn his seventh win of the season.안전놀이터

After posting a mediocre 3-3 record with a 4.58 ERA in seven games in July, Cuevas earned four wins in four starts in August with a dazzling 0.32 ERA in 28 innings pitched. It’s a testament to Cuevas’ focus that he’s been pitching better and better as the race heats up. And as Cuevas continues to be a big-game pitcher, KT’s goal of winning a second Korean Series title is becoming clearer.

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