Stock outperforms Rucinski in KBO pitching matchup that fizzled

SEOUL-- One American ace prevailed over the other in a highly-anticipated pitching matchup that didn't live up to the hype Tuesday.

Robert Stock pitched the Doosan Bears to an 8-4 victory over the NC Dinos at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul by holding the opponents to a run on five hits in six innings. Stock, who struck out four and walked two, improved to 3-0 for the season and lowered his ERA from 2.13 to 2.01. The Bears have won all five of Stock's starts.

Stock's counterpart, Drew Rucinski, suffered through his worst game of the season, allowing five runs -- two unearned -- on eight hits in five innings. Both the run total and hits were Rucinski's season highs, and it was also his shortest start of 2022. He had given up just one run in 27 innings in four starts before Tuesday.

Rucinski came in with the an ERA of 0.33, the best in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), and it rose to 1.13. He dropped to 2-2 for the year.

Both starters had a shaky first inning. Stock threw 15 pitches against the first two NC batters of the game, with Son Ah-seop prevailing in a 10-pitch battle with a single and Park Kun-woo striking out on five pitches. Stock then got Nick Martini to bounce into an inning-ending double play.

Rucinski took the hill wearing the uniform of his American rotation mate, Wes Parsons, after forgetting to pack his own road jersey. Leadoff Kim In-tae ambushed him on the first-pitch fastball. With two outs, Kim Jae-hwan's single through the hole on the right put runners at the corners. But Rucinski escaped the jam by getting Heo Kyoung-min to ground out to third.

After Stock got three quick outs in the top second, Rucinski blinked first in the bottom half of that inning.

After retiring the first two batters on four pitches, Rucinski gave up three straight hits, including an RBI double by Park Sei-hyok and a follow-up single by Kim In-tae.

On Kim's hit, a blooper into shallow left, left fielder Nick Martini failed to grab the ball cleanly. Park, never a speedy runner, scored easily from second, and Martini at least would have made things more interesting at the plate with a tidy play.

Stock promptly pitched himself into trouble in the top third. A double and an infield single, followed by a steal, had runners at second and third for Son Ah-seop, who then hit a fielder's choice grounder to shortstop to cut the lead in half at 2-1.

Rucinski had his first three-up, three-down inning in the third but fell apart in the three-run fourth inning.

Rucinski walked Kang Jin-sung to begin the inning, only the second free pass he'd issued all season. An Jae-seok then hit a pop up to shallow center for what should have been the inning's first out, but shortstop No Jin-hyuk never looked comfortable as he backpedaled and failed to make the grab.

Martini picked up the ball and made a quick but errant throw to second. The ball bounced off second baseman Seo Ho-cheol, and then two runners were aboard.

Rucinski didn't help himself. After fielding Kang Seung-ho's sacrifice bunt attempt, Rucinski made a wide throw to third base that skipped into the foul territory as Kang Jin-sung scored to make it 3-1 for the Bears.

Two batters later, Kim In-tae poked a single through the drawn-in field to bring home two more runs.

Staked to a 5-1 lead, Stock pitched around a two-out single in the fifth. He issued two straight walks with one out in the sixth but ended that rally with a double play ball off the bat of No Jin-hyuk.

That wound up being Stock's final play this night.

Stock touched 156 kilometers per hour (kph) with his four-seam fastball. The fireballer offered 62 fastballs, along with 21 sliders, 18 changeups and four curveballs. Of his 105 pitches, 70 were strikes.

Stock didn't have any noticeable dip in his fastball velocity in later innings. His final pitch of the night came in at 153 kph.

Stock said his biggest goal was to establish himself as a starting pitcher in the KBO and thanked his manager, Kim Tae-hyoung, and the coaching staff for helping him along the challenging path.

It is still early in the season and Stock, a longtime reliever in the United States, has answered all questions about his ability to pitch multiple innings as a starter.

"So far, I feel great. It's still the first month of the season," he said. "I am going to continue to work hard to make sure I stay healthy."

His wife, Sara, was in attendance for the first time in Stock's young KBO career. The couple are expecting their first child in September, and Robert said he couldn't wait to become a father.

"I love having my wife in the stands, supporting me. I want to pitch well for her and for the team," he said. "I am just full of excitement and love (about having a child). We just went and saw the baby on ultrasound for the first time. Everyone who has the experience knows how special it is, and I can't wait to have the same experience."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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