I forgot for a moment because of Ryu Hyun-jin, there were 1.4 billion foreigners

Hanwha Eagles Felix Peña (34) proved why he is a good foreign pitcher from the first game of this season. He was hidden from the shadow of returning ace Ryu Hyun-jin (37), who showed off his presence once again, taking responsibility for his team’s first victory of the season.

Peña started the game against the LG Twins in the “2024 Shinhan SOL Bank KBO League” held at Jamsil Baseball Stadium on Sunday, and garnered six hits, one walk, four strikeouts, and two runs in six ⅔ innings, marking his first win of this season. The Hanwha Eagles won the game 8-4, avenging its previous day’s loss (2-8). He did his best to speed up to 151 kilometers in fastballs. He aggressively mixed his main weapon changeups with fastballs (44) and hitters from LG

Hanwha had quite a big internal injury that it lost to LG in its opening game of the season on Tuesday. The Hanwha Eagles signed an eight-year contract worth 17 billion won (approx. 7 million U.S. dollars) with Ryu in mid-April, promising the best treatment in KBO history, and Ryu joined the spring camp to improve his physical fitness. Of course, the task that the Hanwha Eagles expected from Ryu was to be the first starter. Both the Hanwha Eagles and the Ryu Hyun-jin desperately wanted to win their return game to Korea for the first time in 12 years after completing their challenge to the U.S. Major League, but not all of their hopes became reality. Ryu ended up losing the game by allowing only five runs (two earned runs) in three ⅔ innings.

Peña gave his team its first win in lieu of Ryu, proving why it is a blessing. Peña joined as a substitute during the 2022 season and re-signed again with a record of 5-4 in 13 games, 67 ⅔ innings, an ERA of 3.72, 32 games last year, 11-11, 177 ⅓ innings and an ERA of 3.60. The terms of his contract included up to $1.05 million (W1.4 billion), including a down payment of $200,000, an annual salary of $650,000 and incentives of $200,000.

Peña’s biggest strength is her steady sense of stability. Last year, Peña had 19 quality starts, ranking No. 1 in his team and No. 6 in the league. She also showed even overall performance by ranking sixth in innings, tying for ninth in multiple wins, tying for sixth in strikeouts, and 14th in ERA. If Ryu had not decided to return to Korea, Peña would have been the undisputed first starter this year.

LG’s batters, who boast outstanding contact capability, had difficulty hitting Peña’s ball. Peña continued to maintain the tight flow early in the game by hitting Park Hae-min, Hong Chang-ki and Kim Hyun-soo in the bottom of the first inning, and Austin, Oh Ji-hwan and Moon Bok-gyeong in succession in the bottom of the second inning.

While cruising, Peña got twisted in the bottom of the third inning. With one out, Moon lost a point as he got on base with an infield hit to the left of the second baseman. Second baseman Moon Hyun-bin did a good job of blocking the almost hit, but it was too far to throw the ball accurately. Then, Shin Min-jae had a hit to the right-center, making it one out and runners on the first and third bases. He held out until the third base with two outs while catching Shin Min-jae who was stealing the second base, but Park Hae-min hit a timely hit to the left, making it 0-1.

The batting lineup added one more point each from the fourth to the sixth inning to make it 3-1 and added strength to Peña’s shoulders. Peña completely cut off LG’s offensive flow by making poor hits again in the fourth inning, including Kim Hyun-soo, Austin and Oh Ji-hwan, and Moon Bo-kyung, Park Dong-won and Moon Sung-joo in the fifth inning.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, he failed to overcome his final crisis. Peña hit a right-handed double by Oh Ji-hwan, the leadoff hitter. He turned Moon Bo-kyung to left field and Park Dong-won to first baseman foul fly, but allowed Moon Seong-joo to hit in the middle, leading to a 3-2 run. Peña was replaced by Kim, who did not allow a follow-up hit and blocked additional runs. This allowed Hanwha to secure its victory as it ran away 7-2 in the top of the eighth inning with Roh’s timely hit and Chae Eun-seong’s three-run single.

Hanwha manager Choi Won-ho praised Peña’s pitching, saying, “I can’t help but praise him for his pitching. There were some runs, but he was unwavering and showed great performance as a starting pitcher.”

Peña said, “I was very focused on the mound today (on the 24th). I tried to throw all the pitches with strikes, especially the first pitch. I’m so happy that I won the first game. I think that’s the result of hard training with training coaches and pitching coaches.”

He expressed his special gratitude to catcher Lee Jae-won who worked well with his battery. Peña said, “Lee Jae-won’s seasoned lead and management of the game allowed me to pitch comfortably. I want to express my special gratitude. I said I would throw with confidence even before the game, but I was able to get good results because I was a really reliable catcher.”

I want to play baseball happily until the end of the season with my teammates.” Peña said, “I have not set any specific or personal goals. I just hope that all of my team members stay healthy and strong throughout the season and have fun playing.”

BY: 토토

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