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Hwang’s debut home run makes history

Giants’ third baseman is first Korean in MLB to do it; they won 5-3
June 30,2017
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Hwang Jae-gyun of the San Francisco Giants crosses the plate after hitting a home run in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at AT&T Field on Wednesday. [AP/YONHAP]
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Hwang Jae-gyun of the San Francisco Giants made his major league debut with a home run during a game against the Colorado Rockies at AT&T Park on Wednesday, leading to a 5-3 victory for the Giants.

Hwang, who got called up to the major leagues after playing 68 games for the Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday, became the first Korean major leaguer to hit a home run in a debut game. Also, Hwang’s home run allowed the Giants to make its first sweep of the game series this season.

Bruce Bochy, manager of the Giants, assigned Hwang as the Giants’ fifth batter, after Austin Slater and Brandon Belt. In every crucial situation the Giants faced, Hwang got up to the batters box and turned it into an opportunity.

Hwang made his first appearance in the batters box in the bottom of the second, when the Giants were losing 2-0. While the ball count was at 2-2, Hwang made his first hit against Kyle Freeland’s 137 kilometer (85 miles) per hour slider, but was out by Nolan Aredano, the Rockies’ third baseman.

In the bottom of the fourth, while the Giants continued their 2-0 loss, Hwang earned his first RBI in the major league, allowing the Giants to score their first run in the game.

That was just the start for Hwang, as he had a bigger hit in the bottom of the sixth. Getting in the batter’s box for the third time against Freeland, Hwang hit Freeland’s change-up at a speed of 143 kilometers per hour over the left fence while the Giants were tied 3-3.

Hwang became the Giants’ 12th batter and fifth rookie of the season in the MLB to hit a home run in their debut game. Most importantly, Hwang made history for Korean baseball, becoming the first Korean major leaguer in history to hit a home run and RBI in their debut game.

And Hwang’s power, which was recognized since the exhibition games, received attention once again. Hwang’s home run flew at a speed of 173.8 kilometers and went 127 meters. After the game, Hwang was selected as the MVP.

“It’s pretty unreal,” Hwang said through his interpreter Mark Kim, as quoted on mlb.com. “I don’t even know what I was thinking at the time, it just happened. Even right now, I can’t remember what I was thinking at the moment.”

Now, Hwang has increased his chance of remaining in the major leagues. Ryder Jones, who was called up before Hwang, still hasn’t had a hit in 16 major league games, and when it comes to batting power, Hwang is ahead of the Giants back-up infielders, Conor Gillaspie and Kelby Tomlinson.

Since the Giants are in need of a right-handed power hitter, once Hwang starts showing stable defense, it is very likely for him to stay in the major leagues for the rest of the season, and since Eduardo Nunez will be a free agent next year, and may be traded to a different team, Hwang is a much needed player.

“It was a special moment,” Bochy said as quoted on mlb.com. “You have your tough times in this game, but when something like this happens, it’s a special occasion, and you try and savor it.”

With Hwang’s performance, Bochy will be bringing Hwang along to their game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In addition, Bochy showed his intention of assigning Hwang as the Giants’ third baseman even after Nunez returns from an injury.

Up until two days ago, Hwang was ready to leave the team to become a free agent, where he was very likely to return to the KBO.

But he was given a shot and has opened up his career in the major league.

Meanwhile, Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers lost his chance of picking up his fourth win of the season against the LA Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on Wednesday.

BY AN HEE-SOO, KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]