“Shortstop is a very difficult position, and Chan Ho must feel very sorry for him.” Too many ‘clutch errors’? But one man believes in them.

The Kia Tigers have lost seven straight one-run games and three straight to start June. The team’s batting hasn’t been clicking in scoring position, and the defense has been making clutch errors at crucial times. There are also voices of disappointment about the shaky defense of KIA’s main shortstop Park Chan-ho. However, KIA head coach Kim Jong-kook expressed his confidence in Park Chan-ho.

On June 14, KIA lost to the Gochuk Kiwoom Heroes 2 to 3. With their recent three-game losing streak, KIA remained in sixth place in the league with 25 wins and 30 losses on the season.

During the three-game losing streak, the team’s offense struggled. The pressure on the team’s bats grew as they suffered seven consecutive one-run losses in June.

Before the game, KIA manager Kim Jong-kook said, “I think the players are feeling a lot of stress as the one-run losses are becoming more frequent in June. They are more concerned about the fact that they have to score runs in this opportunity. So we had a meeting to focus on playing and not worrying about the result. I may not be able to bunt in the center field, but if the situation comes up in other spots, I will be able to bunt.”

Contrary to Kim’s wishes, KIA wasted an early scoring opportunity in the first inning. In the top of the first inning, Kia had runners on first and third after singles by Choi Won-jun and Choi Hyung-woo, but Ko Jong-wook flied out to left field.

After Shin Bum-soo ended the inning with a bases-loaded single in the top of the second, KIA had another chance to take the lead in the top of the third. After a leadoff single by Kim Kyu-sung, a sacrifice bunt by Ryu Ji-hyuk, and a single by Choi Won-joon, KIA had runners on first and third with one out when Socrates hit a grounder to second base.

However, the lack of a follow-up hit would ultimately prove to be KIA’s undoing. In the bottom of the fourth inning, IA starter Anderson gave up a triple to Lee Jung-hoo and then an RBI single to Russell to tie the game.

KIA failed to capitalize on a bases-loaded opportunity in the top of the fifth inning when Ryu Ji-hyeok doubled and was stranded at second base.

Eventually, KIA surrendered the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Anderson gave up a leadoff triple to Kim Hye-sung in the bottom of the sixth and then a sacrifice fly to right field to Lee Jung-hoo.

After back-to-back triple plays in the top of the seventh and eighth innings, KIA had one last chance to rally in the top of the ninth. Trailing 안전놀이터 2-1 in the top of the ninth, KIA brought in pinch-hitter Kim Sun-bin with runners on second and third after Lee Chang-jin walked, Lee Woo-sung singled, and Park Chan-ho laid down a sacrifice bunt.

However, Kim was stranded after hitting a straight line drive to the first baseman. The next batter, Kim Kyu-sung, was hit by a pitch to end the game.

Not only the team’s batting, but also the team’s defense leaves something to be desired. In particular, Park Chan-ho, the main shortstop, has been making clutch errors lately, leading to crucial runs. On the 13th, Park’s error in the bottom of the first inning against Gochuk Kiwoom led to the winning run.

With 10 errors this season, Park is second in the league in shortstop errors (NC’s Kim Joo-won is first with 14). While the shortstop position itself has a high number of errors, Park Chan-ho’s mistakes have been the most common in recent years, leading to crucial runs.

Manager Kim Jong-kook was well aware of Park’s recent ‘clutch errors’. “Shortstop is a very difficult position. There are a lot of balls coming at you, and there are a lot of difficult balls coming at you. Recently, when (Park) Chan-ho made a mistake, there was a high probability that it would lead to a decisive run. When things are going well, the pitchers protect us, but when things don’t go well, that’s when we give up another run,” he said with a bitter smile.

Nevertheless, Kim Jong-guk has a lot of faith in his ‘main shortstop’ Park Chan-ho.

He said, “Chan-ho himself must feel very sorry. I also played infield defense during my playing days, but when a mistake leads to a run, I feel really sorry for the whole team. I feel especially sorry for the pitcher. Chan-ho feels the same way, so I keep telling him to focus a little more in important situations. I didn’t intentionally make the mistake, so it’s okay,” he said.

After a hot May (batting .381), Park has cooled off again in June (batting .231). Park needs to get back to his May form and avoid making “clutch errors” as much as possible so that he can perform like a “starting shortstop”. Kim Do-young, a long-term injury, is expected to return within a month. The KIA shortstop position is not a sanctuary, so it will be interesting to see if Park Chan-ho can rebound in the face of fierce internal competition.

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