It’s nearly a fortnight since I’ve seen any live sport as my regular monthly visit to Oman went on for a few days longer than it usually does and kept me there over the weekend. Whilst the trip to the construction site in the desert does give my liver a bit of a break, in truth it’s a fairly dull place to spend any longer than a day or two.
The highlights of each trip are usually my encounters with the camp dog. That’s a desert dog that hangs around the site rather than a canine with a liking for musicals or tightly fitting shirts. I try to take him some food from breakfast each day, sometimes Spam, occasionally mini-burgers, although this time he did better than normal with some lamb steak that I had saved for him after a barbecue night. He’s quite gentle for a dog that lives in the desert and rather than wolfing the steak down in one, he got me to break it into pieces for him. I’m not at all convinced that he’s cut out for living somewhere so remote and inhospitable. A bit like me really.
I don’t often have the opportunity to see much of Oman but on this trip I went out into the desert with a couple of workmates and had a look at some salt caves. They were inside a large crater caused by a meteorite and the cool air within them was a welcome contrast to wandering around in the forty odd degree afternoon heat
Anyway, back to Korea and the baseball. The mid-week series at Jamsil was between LG Twins and Nexen Heroes. Usually the visit of Nexen wouldn’t have been of much interest to anyone, they tend to spend most of their time near to the bottom of the table. This season though it’s different and Nexen are currently the form team. After recording 3-0 series victories over Samsung Lions and Lotte Giants last week, Nexen had extended their winning run to eight games by taking the first two games against LG Twins this week.
The latest win had propelled them to the top of the standings with a 60% win percentage,after thirty-six games. It’s the first time that Nexen had been in pole position since the days when they used to play in Suwon as the Hyundai Unicorns.
The prospect of seeing a ninth win in a row for Nexen would have been enough to tempt me along anyway. What made the fixture even better was that LG had decided to use Ben Jukich as their starting pitcher. Jukich’s winning streak isn’t quite up there with Nexen’s, but he had finished on the winning side on the last four times that he’d started. Someone’s run had to come to an end.
The main ticket office was quite busy as I arrived at Jamsil, so I nipped around the corner to one of the smaller ones. This also meant that I could buy some chicken that was being grilled on an outdoor barbecue rather than the usual fried stuff that may very well have been boxed a few hours earlier.
LG were batting in their first innings as I took my seat and they were already a run up. It didn’t take them long to extend their lead to three-nil. Nexen starter Jang Hyo Jun was getting hit all over the shop, although he wasn’t helped by some poor fielding from his colleagues. By the time that we had got to the end of the third LG were five-nil up and poor Jang had already thrown eighty balls, compared to the forty-one deliveries sent down by his opposite number Jukich.
Jang Hyo Jun survived until early in the fifth innings before being pulled without adding to the five runs he had conceded. By this time Nexen seemed to have picked up the pace a bit. They seemed sharper in the field and looked more likely to open their account with the bat.
Nexen’s Yoo Han Joon got his usual stick from the Twins fans whenever he came to the plate. I still haven’t found out what makes him so unpopular at Jamsil, but whatever it is, the home supporters love having a pop at him. In the fifth he was able to give them a bit back by getting the hit that allowed a team-mate home for Nexen’s first run of the evening.
In the sixth, Song Ji Man got to third with a slog that just failed to clear the wall but was sufficient to let one of the others get around for a run. A moment later, a team-mate’s sacrificial bunt enabled Song to get home too and it was five –three. Game on.
Jukich was pulled early in the seventh having given up three runs and four hits. He’d still thrown less pitches than Jang Hyo Jun who by that time had been off the park long enough to have showered, changed and picked up a pizza on the way home.
By the time we got to the ninth it was still five-three. LG brought Bong Jung Keun on to close it out and he managed it easily enough.
I couldn’t help but think that Nexen had wasted the opportunity for a ninth successive victory by fielding a relatively inexperienced starting pitcher. The game had seemed over at five-nil after three and whilst they made a decent fight of it, the five run start that they gave to LG was too much to pull back.
Despite the loss Nexen remained top of the standings, with LG’s victory moving them up into fourth position. Heady times for both teams.