Have the Lotte Giants found their first foreign ace in three years?
After a nightmarish June and July, the Lotte Giants are starting to turn things around in August. At the center of it all is pitcher Aaron Wilkerson, who joined the team as a replacement.
The last Lotte outfielder to be a full-season ace was Dan Straily in 2020. Back then, Straylor pitched a dominant 15-4 record with a 2.50 ERA in 31 games and 194⅔ innings pitched.
He was right up there with Raul Alcantara (Doosan Bears), who won a Golden Glove that same year. Alcantara started 31 games (1 complete game) that year, going 20-2 with a 2.54 ERA in 198⅔ innings pitched. His value to the team was immense, given the strength of Doosan, who won the Korean Series with the NC Dinos, and Lotte, who finished seventh.
Straylor wore a Lotte uniform through 2021, the second half of 2022, and the first half of 2023, but he didn’t have a season to match 2020. Adrian Sampson, Anderson Franco, Glen Sparkman, and Charlie Barnes were the pitchers who passed him by. Then there’s Wilkerson, who replaced Stratley this season.
Sampson had personal issues with his father in the aftermath of COVID-19, and ultimately was unable to repay Lotte for their generosity. Franco and Sparkman had good fastball command, but their pitches and mental issues kept them from being 1-2 starters. Barnes has shown flashes of league ace quality on a month-to-month basis, but he hasn’t been able to do it consistently.
Wilkerson, for one, has only pitched four games. He’s not the type of pitcher to overpower hitters and take them down.
However, Wilkerson’s stability is something else. In his KBO debut on July 26, he pitched five innings of two-run ball against Doosan to earn his first win. He only needed 76 pitches.메이저사이트
On the first day of August, he pitched six innings of three-run ball against the NC Dinos for his first quality start (six or more innings and three or fewer earned runs). If it weren’t for a disappointing defense by Ahn Kwon-soo in the middle innings, the number of runs would have been lower.
Against the SSG Landers on the 6th, he pitched seven scoreless innings in a hard-fought pitching battle with Kirk McCarty. Although he didn’t get the win for the second straight game, his fastball tempo and steady command were enough to earn the team’s trust.
Lotte manager Larry Sutton called for a Wilkerson-Barnes rotation on four days’ rest as the game of August. On that first day, Wilkerson satisfied his manager with another six-inning no-hitter. It was his 14th consecutive scoreless inning.
With two outs in the top of the third, Kim Do-young singled and then walked to put runners in scoring position, but Wilkerson didn’t falter. In the top of the fourth inning, Choi Hyung-woo and Choi Socrates hit back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second, but Hwang Dae-in struck out Lee Woo-sung. In the sixth inning, he showed his skill by picking off Choi Hyung-woo at first base.
If Lotte, which has slipped to the seventh spot in the standings and a -6 win-loss margin, is going to pull off an “August comeback,” Wilkerson will be the spearhead.