It was clear that we still had some work to do. But it’s also clear that he has shown signs of breaking out of his slump. This is the story of LG Twins foreign ace Casey Kelly.
Kelly took the mound for the Twins’ 2023 KBO home game against the Doosan Bears on Sunday at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul.
Kelly, who has worn LG’s 안전놀이터 pinstripes since the 2019 season, is a right-hander with a powerful fastball and a variety of pitches, including a curve, slider, and changeup. In 114 career KBO games (697 innings) through last year, he posted a 58-31 record with a 2.89 ERA, and in 2022, he won 16 games to become the league’s all-time wins leader.
However, Kelly has been up and down this year. In six starts in April, he went 1-2 with a 5.56 ERA. He seemed to rebound in May with quality starts (6 innings or less) in each of his five outings, but in his most recent start against the Doosan, on May 11 against the Hanwha Eagles (13-7 LG), he gave up six runs on four hits and five walks with one strikeout in 1.2 innings. The 1.2 innings was Kelly’s shortest outing since joining the KBO.
Kelly hasn’t been the same pitcher he once was. However, his manager was unwavering in his support. Before the game against Doosan, LG manager Yoon Kyung-yeop said, “(Kelly) needs to do well. Kelly is the key. Kelly and one domestic selection are the key to our team. Even if we go to the postseason, it’s the same. If Kelly comes alive, our starters can come alive,” and wished him well.
I wonder if he heard that from his head coach. Kelly wasn’t perfect on the day, but he pitched well enough to set the stage for a rebound.
In the top of the first inning, Kelly was in fine form. He got off to a good start, retiring Jung Soo-bin (fly to center field), Kim Jae-hwan (not out), and Yang Seok-hwan (strikeout) in order.
However, the top of the second inning was disappointing. He led off with a grounder to shortstop, but gave up a single to Hong Sung-ho and a double to Kang Seung-ho that landed in the right field corner, putting runners on first and third. From there, Kelly gave up a single to left field to Park Kye-beom and a sacrifice fly to left field to Heo Kyung-min for the second run of the inning. Seo got Ye-il Seo to fly out to left field to end the threat.
In the top of the third inning, they couldn’t avoid a run. They gave up a leadoff single to Jung Soo-bin. He then worked out of the jam against Kim Jae-hwan (shortstop fly) and Yang Suk-hwan (left fielder’s choice), but gave up a stolen base to Jeong Soo-bin to put runners on second and third. Shortly thereafter, a bound pitch hit catcher Heo Do-hwan in the neck, causing him to fall to the ground, and in the ensuing chaos, Kelly gave up an RBI single to Yang Ji. He struck out Hong Seong-ho to prevent any further damage.
In the top of the fourth, Kelly settled down. Kang Seung-ho and Park Kye-beom led off with a fly to center and a grounder to shortstop, respectively. Heo Kyung-min singled up the middle, but induced Seo Ye-il to ground out to first base.
The top of the fifth inning was also clean. Jung Soo-bin struck out the leadoff batter. The next batter, Kim Jae-hwan, gave up a single to right, but he struck out Yang 안전놀이터 Suk-hwan to get out of the jam. After Kim Jae-hwan stole second, he struck out Yang Ji for the second out of the inning.
In the top of the sixth, Kelly retired Hong Seong-ho and Kang Seung-ho on an infield fly and a grounder to shortstop, respectively. She then got Park Kye-beom to fly out to center field to end the inning with a triple play.
His final line was six innings, seven hits, five walks and three runs. His total pitch count was 97 pitches, and his fastball was measured at 149 kilometers.
Of course, with seven hits allowed, it’s hard to call Kelly’s comeback complete just yet, but the fact that he didn’t walk a single batter and lasted six innings was certainly encouraging.
Coming off the mound with his team trailing 2-3, Kelly ultimately suffered his fourth loss of the season (6-7) as LG was unable to tie the game and fell to 4-7. However, his pitching performance on the day was enough to ease the pain for manager Yoon Kyung-yeop.