Kia Tigers’ Na Sung-beom was removed from the game in the top of the sixth inning after committing a boneheaded play. There was no apparent injury. It was a strong message from manager Lee Bum-ho.

Na Sung-beom started in right field and batted third in the seventh game of the 2024 Shinhan Bank SOL Bank KBO League against the Lotte Giants at Gwangju-Kia Champions Field on Friday, but he didn’t make it to the end of the game.

Kia has been dwarfed by Lotte this year. Against Lotte at Sajik Stadium in Busan on March 21-23, Kia suffered its first ‘sweep’ of the season. It was the first time since the 10-team system began that the first-place team was swept by the last-place team. Lotte, on the other hand, had set the record. As a result, Kia was hungry for revenge at home.

When asked about the sweep at Sajik, Lee Beom-ho said, “I think any team has to focus on every game. There are no strong or weak teams in the KBO right now. A strong team can become a weak team and a weak team can become a strong team depending on which players are in the starting rotation. We have to put everything into each game,” he emphasized.

“In our first home opener of the season, we beat Lotte, but we lost to them on the road. We talked about it in the meeting because it was our first sweep of the season. I think the players are aware of that. I think they’re going to play a good game,” he said, giving them his full trust. However, the game didn’t go as the coach had hoped.

The previous day (April 4), Kia sacrificed its first complete game of the season to Lotte starter Aaron Wilkerson. The Kia bats struggled against Wilkerson, collecting five hits but failing to score a single run and striking out nine times. The mound was also shaky. Lim Ki-young, who was making his first start in a long time, gave up a lead in the first inning, and then gave up five runs (five earned), including a three-run homer to Yoo Kang-nam in the second inning, which set the tone for the game to become unwinnable.

Kia was in a situation where they had to break their losing streak against Lotte somehow, but their performance on this day was even more disappointing. Hwang Dong-ha pitched a scoreless second inning to even the score, but Victor Reyes and Son Ho-young gave up back-to-back RBI singles in the third inning to take the lead. However, as the 사설토토 score was not big enough, the team had enough chances to make a comeback in the middle and late innings, but a series of cold plays came up.

After giving up the lead, Kia had runners on first and second with one out in the bottom of the third inning, but they were unable to capitalize as Na Sung-beom retired the side in order. The bigger problem came later. In the bottom of the fifth inning, with runners on first and second, Hwang Dong-ha induced Reyes to fly out to right field. Na Sung-beom caught the ball with no trouble, but suddenly, there was no follow-up play. He misread the out.

Na Sung-beom made a replay, but the mistake was too late. LOTTE coach Ko Young-min made a strong arm turn as soon as Na realized the boneheaded play, and Ko Seung-min, who had been sprinting from the time he tagged up to third base, accelerated and slammed home. The score widened to 0-3. It was a simple mistake of an out, but it showed a significant lack of focus on the game.

In response, the KIA bench moved. In the top of the sixth inning, the team removed Na Sung-beom and brought in Lee Chang-jin, a move that could be considered a “punishment” substitution as he had no physical problems. Na Sung-beom is the highest-paid player on the team, but he made no exception in front of the bonehead play. It was a strong message from coach Lee Bum-ho to the entire squad, not just Na Sung-beom.

Kia managed to pull within two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning right after Na was replaced. However, the one run he gave up was too much. Kia was unable to turn the one-run game around and gave up a total of six runs from the seventh to the ninth inning, falling to Lotte 3-9 for the second straight day. It was the first time in 2478 days since July 21-August 23, 2017 that Kia lost five straight games against Lotte. The loss also clinched the three-game midweek series against Lotte.

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