Lotte Giants’ new foreign pitcher Aaron Wilkerson became a fighter and saved the day for his team.
Wilkerson took the mound against SSG Landers in the regular season of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at Sajik Stadium in Busan on June 6 and pitched seven innings of no-hit ball with six strikeouts to lead the team to a 1-0 victory.
Wilkerson left the game with 95 pitches, but the bullpen of Koo Seung-min and Kim Won-joong completed the remaining two innings without allowing a hit to complete the team’s no-hitter. It is the third team no-hitter in the KBO’s 42-year history.
The LG Twins broke the record on October 6, 2014, against the Jamsil NC, and the SSG Landers broke it on April 2, 2022, against the Changwon NC. SSG’s record was completed in extra innings.
Wilkerson put SSG’s firepower to rest in the first inning with his main weapon, the cutter. SSG’s bats were coming alive with eight hits in Game 4 and 17 hits in Game 5, and Lotte was disarmed in front of SSG’s bats in each game. With the team in danger of losing the series sweep, Wilkerson took the mound.
Wilkerson came out swinging. From the first inning on, Wilkerson was aggressive and intimidating, throwing body cutters to lefties and body pitches to righties. As a result, he pitched a perfect game until the sixth inning. However, his pitch count was a bit high for a full nine innings.
In the sixth inning, he threw 81 pitches, and in the seventh inning, he gave up a walk to leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo, breaking his perfect record. The no-hitter changed the record. But Wilkerson wasn’t rattled after giving up the first run. He kept his emotions in check and pitched with a steady hand.
He walked leadoff hitter Shin-soo Choo and then sacrificed Ji-hoon Choi. He then got Choi Joo-hwan to fly out to center field, sending the runner to third. Runners on second and third, still in danger of scoring. However, he threw a changeup on a two-ball two-strike play against Choi Jeong and got a swinging strikeout to retire the side. However, in the bottom of the seventh, the bats failed to score against SSG starter Kirk McCarty and had to settle for a no-decision.
Wilkerson kept the SSG bats in check with a no-hitter that featured 28 fastballs (up to 148 kilometers), 21 cutters, 22 changeups, 14 sliders, and 10 curves.
Despite Wilkerson’s departure from the mound, LOTTE got the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning when Yoon Dong-hee hit a timely double over the right field fence, and Koo Seung-min and Kim Won-joong pitched the remaining two innings to complete the team no-hitter.
After the game, Wilkerson said, “We had the idea that we shouldn’t give up any runs to help the team win as much as possible. The more aggressive you are, the less time you have to play defense and the less tired your defense is going to be. So we tried to pitch fast and aggressive.”
Naturally, he was conscious of his perfect and no-hitter record. “First of all, you want to stay on the mound as long as possible, that’s the goal of any pitcher. “I gave up a walk in the top of the seventh, but I thought it was going to happen anyway. I had to face the next guy, so I tried to focus on the next guy and put it behind me. My goal was to finish with zero on the board. I wasn’t nervous,” he said.
After just three KBO appearances, he became part of league history. “It’s a great honor,” he said. Pitchers don’t go out there thinking they have to throw a perfect game. That’s why I think it’s an honor to be able to add my name to the team no-hitter record,” he laughed.
After the game, manager Larry Sutton said, “Wilkerson did a great job going the distance and pitching long innings when the team needed him. “He was coming off a personal no-hitter and as a manager, I wanted to keep the ball in his hand, but this was his second start of the week and he threw nearly 100 pitches in Korea, so I had to be realistic about the rest of the season,” Sutton said, explaining that he had to make a change.메이저놀이터
“After that, Koo Seung-min and Kim Won-joong did a great job in the bullpen to close out the game. In terms of batting, I would like to praise Yoon Dong-hee, who came in as a pinch hitter and scored the winning run with a double. We will use today’s victory to prepare well for next week’s game.”