Every defeat stings for baseball teams during a long losing streak, but for the Samsung Lions, their 10th straight "L" from Tuesday night probably hurt more than others.
They were three outs away from ending their skid at nine games, with veteran closer Oh Seung-hwan taking the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning against the KT Wiz to protect a 3-2 lead.
Just minutes later, the Wiz walked off with a 4-3 victory, courtesy of back-to-back solo home runs by Bae Jung-dae and Anthony Alford.
The loss dropped the Lions to 35-49 for the season, 8.5 games out of the fifth and final playoff spot.
Both the losing streak and Oh's collapse were of rare variety.
This is only the second losing streak of 10 or more games in Lions franchise history, and the first since their 10-game slide in 2004. Oh allowed back-to-back home runs for the first time since his rookie season in 2005.
During this 10-game losing streak, the Lions' relievers have a collective 10.84 ERA. They've allowed 49 earned runs on 51 hits, including 11 home runs and 34 walks, in just 40 2/3 innings.
But Oh's recent struggles in closing out games are of particular concern.
Oh is the career leader in the Korea Baseball Organization with 357 saves. Even into his late 30s, Oh has been as close to being a sure thing as any reliever in this league.
But Oh, who turns 40 on Friday, has been anything but in three outings so far in July.
Last Wednesday, Oh came on in the top of the ninth with the score tied at 9-9 against the LG Twins and served up a go-ahead solo home run to Yoo Kang-nam for a 10-9 loss.
Three days later, with the Lions leading the SSG Landers 9-5 in the top of the eighth, Oh walked three straight batters. He was charged with three earned runs in 1 1/3 innings.
To put this in perspective, Oh hadn't walked more than one batter in any game this season until that disastrous showing. He had issued just three free passes in his first 21 1/3 innings of 2022.
Tuesday was the low point for both Oh and the Lions. Oh has already given up three home runs in July, after holding opponents to just two home runs from April to June, a span of 30 innings over 29 games. Oh carried a 2.40 ERA into this month, and that number now sits at 3.90.
As the losses pile up, pressure has been mounting on third-year manager Huh Sam-young, who has demoted four of his nine coaches to the minor leagues and brought up four new faces, a swap that hinted at his desperation.
When it rains, it pours for the Lions, with even more bad news coming from the pitching side. Right-hander David Buchanan had his scheduled start pushed back by a day to Thursday because of some discomfort in his right wrist. A team official said Buchanan, who is 6-6 with a 3.36 ERA in 17 starts, should be good to go Thursday.
Buchanan, too, has had some adventures on the mound of late. He has allowed 16 earned runs in his past 14 1/3 innings on 26 hits, including three homers. His ERA ballooned from 2.30 to 3.36 in that span.
Jang Pill-joon is slated to take Buchanan's spot Wednesday for his first start since October 2020. (Yonhap)