St. Louis Cardinals' starter Kim Kwang-hyun braved rain to beat the Chicago Cubs for his third consecutive victory, giving himself a strong foundation to build upon in the second half of his sophomore campaign.
Kim tossed six shutout innings against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Saturday (local time), helping the Cardinals to a 6-0 win.
Kim, who gave up five singles and struck out seven, improved to 4-5 while lowering his ERA from 3.39 to 3.11.
The South Korean left-hander earned his first win of the season on April 23 and then didn't pick up his second victory until June 30, with 10 starts in between. He has now collected three straight wins while extending his scoreless streak to 15 innings.
This was Kim's 15th and final start of the season before next week's All-Star break. Kim missed time at the start of the season and again in June with lower back issues, but he seems to have put those problems behind him.
"Baseball is such an unpredictable sport, and you never know how hitters are going to attack you from one game to the next," Kim said. "I'll just try to keep up this momentum in the second half and have more to smile about in the future."
The Cardinals spotted Kim a 1-0 lead in the top of the first thanks to Matt Carpenter's two-out single, and Kim pitched around a pair of one-out singles in the bottom of the inning, killing the Cubs rally with a double play ball by Javier Baez.
Kim got another double play to finish off the second inning, off the bat of Ian Happ, as the Cubs continued to put some traffic on the base paths. In the third, Kim allowed a single and a walk with two outs, though Anthony Rizzo could only manage a flyout to right field.
Baez led off the fourth with a single against Kim and then reached second on a wild pitch. Kim then dug deep and retired the next three batters to strand Baez. After fanning Happ with a 3-2 changeup, Kim turned to face the center field scoreboard and pumped his fist in celebration.
"That's just how I play. I always show a lot of emotions on the mound," Kim said. "My Korean fans are familiar with it. I've tried to change it, but it hasn't worked. I always love pitching, and it shows on my face."
The Cardinals were still clinging to a 1-0 lead at that point, and they broke the game wide open with three home runs in a five-run fifth inning.
First, it was Paul Goldschmidt leading things off with a solo blast. Tommy Edman followed that up with a two-run shot for a 4-0 lead. And Paul DeJong joined the party with a two-run homer of his own that opened up a 6-0 lead.
Kim responded with his first three-up, three-down frame in the bottom half of the fifth. In the sixth, Baez's two-out single amounted to nothing for the Cubs, which didn't get any extra-base hit off Kim.
Genesis Cabrera took over the mound to start the seventh inning, and he and two more relievers took care of the final three innings.
Kim threw 93 pitches, 62 of them for strikes. His changeup was particularly effective, as Kim generated seven whiffs on 11 swings with that pitch.
Kim has mostly been a two-pitch guy, relying heavily on his fastball and slider but said he's been working to develop an effective third pitch to complement the two. He had thrown the changeup only about 10 percent of the time before this game and offered it 16 percent of the time (15 out of 93 pitches) against the Cubs.
"Before the game, I sat down with (catcher Yadier) Molina and talked about how I should try to keep my fastball and changeup low in the zone against some power hitters for the Cubs," Kim said. "I didn't shake him off once all game. I think I gained some confidence with my changeup after this game." (Yonhap)