‘What if I hadn’t signed him’ A 6-inning, 5K no-hitter at 140 mph…there’s no other free agent like him

Kiwoom Heroes’ Chung Chan-heon (33) once again pitched powerfully.

On March 3, Jung started the game against SSG Landers in the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League at SSG Landers Field in Incheon, South Korea, and threw six innings with five strikeouts and no runs.

After striking out the side in the first inning, Jung walked Han Yoo-seom in the top of the second, but retired both Park Sung-hyun and Kim 메이저놀이터 Sung-hyun to end the inning. The third and fourth innings were again shutout. In the top of the fifth inning, Jung Chan-heon got Park Sung-sung to reach on an error at second base, but Kim Sung-hyun induced a groundout to short to get out of the jam. The sixth inning ended with another triple play.

Chung, who threw 80 pitches, was replaced by Won Jong-hyun in the seventh inning with Kiwoom leading 1-0. However, in the eighth inning, Kim Sung-jin gave up the tying solo home run to Jeon Eui-san, costing him his second win of the season. Kiwoom suffered a 1-2 shutout loss.

Chung used a slider (22 pitches), two-seam (20 pitches), curve (19 pitches), and fork (19 pitches) to attack the SSG lineup. His fastball touched 140 kilometers per hour, but the SSG batters struggled with his changeup, which had a lot of drop, and the SSG batters couldn’t get their timing right. Chung was dominant in his no-hitter, striking out four.

After declaring himself a free agent after the end of last season and not finding a team until the end of this year’s exhibition games, Chung finally got to play this season when he signed a two-year, $860 million contract with the Kiwoom organization. At the time of his signing, many congratulated Chung, but as the season progressed, he became more of a liability for Kiwoom.

Kiwoom had planned for Jang Jae-young to be their fifth starter this season. However, with Jang Jae-young and Lee Seung-ho struggling in succession, the door was opened for Chung. With a 1-3 record and a 3.62 ERA in five games (32⅔ innings pitched), Chung quickly established himself as an indispensable starter for Kiwoom.

“He gave up a lot of runs in the two games, but in the rest of the games, he’s been pitching like a first-rate pitcher,” said Hong Won-ki. This is very helpful for our pitching operation. In the last game against Lotte, he pitched after four days of rest for the first time since joining the team, and although he gave up a run, he did his job.”

Having become a key starter for Kiwoom, fans are eager to see if Chung can continue his good performance for the rest of the season.

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