Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang returned to the lineup Friday night against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Let’s face it, the early-season Pirates of recent years haven’t been much to write home about. But having one of their key contributors from a 98-win season back in the lineup warranted more than just passing attention.
When Jung Ho Kang took his spot at third base for the first time in nearly eight months, the Bucco faithful were admittedly looking for a “solid” first outing against major league competition.
Two longballs would fit the bill of solid.
Kang looked rather pedestrian in his first two at bats back to the show, grounding into an around the hour double play in the second inning and popping out with the bases-loaded in the fourth. In his third at-bat, he found his timing. Kang cleared the Busch Stadium deck in both the sixth and eighth innings, paving the way for the Bucs’ 16 win of the season, they are now 4-0 against the Redbirds.
Somewhat lost in the Kang show was Francisco Liriano, who went seven innings and reached double digits strikeouts (10) to pick up his third win of the year.
So what does it all mean?
Well, before we all start salivating and thinking that the savior who is going to help us vanquish the juggernaut Cubs (or Cards) has finally returned, let’s all just take a step back. Having Kang back in the lineup is good…great even. But consistent multiple-homer games clearly aren’t a reasonable expectation.
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What Kang does bring in his return is proven (even after a rookie year cut short) power and reliability, which is an asset by itself but also in its secondary impact. Having Kang back on the field gives Clint Hurdle multiple options with his infield. John Jaso and David Freese will platoon at first while J-Hay, Kang, and Jordy Mercer bring versatility to the Bucs’ lineup card in the rest of the infield.
More critically, however, consider the impact of having one of the Bucs’ leaders from a year ago back in the mix, despite still navigating the language barrier, which is a testament to his performance and impression on this club.
Two-homer games won’t become the norm, we all know that. But starting to really feel like the Bucs again, like the team that flirted with 100 wins just a year ago, is very much within Jung Ho Kang’s capability to deliver.
So clear the deck Pirates fans, the Kang show has returned for the summer!