His last outing was no fluke. Moon Dong-ju (20-Hanwha Eagles) continued his strong June with a second straight quality start (six innings or less).
Moon started the 2023 KBO League regular season game against the Doosan Bears at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on July 7 and pitched six innings of seven-hit ball, striking out five and walking one (unearned). It was his third quality start of the season and his second consecutive outing of at least six innings and a no-hitter, following his performance against the Kiwoom Heroes in Daejeon on April 1. He also lowered his season ERA from 4.00 to 3.53.
Moon Dong-ju was 1-2 with a 2.38 ERA until April. He was named Rookie of the Year, selected for the Hangzhou Asian Games, and his fastball hit a new Korean pitching record of 160.1 km/h (according to Sports2eye). However, after returning from the break, he suddenly struggled with an 8.22 ERA in May. Pitching difficulties caught up with him, resulting in 15 walks in four games and 15 and one-third innings.
What the fastball-throwing Moon needed was strikes, and he finally found them in June. He threw seven innings of two-hit ball with one walk and four strikeouts against Kiwoom on June 1. He threw a high 62 strikes out of 87 pitches. He was so aggressive that he threw only strikes to his first seven batters.
He proved that it wasn’t a one-off in the seventh inning. Moon Dong-ju was in trouble in the first inning. He gave up back-to-back singles to Jung Soo-bin and Kim Dae-dae, but he saw the strike zone and induced a double from Yang Ji with a 153 km/h fastball, and against the next batter, Yang Suk-hwan, he induced a swinging strikeout with each of his big curves, which fell from the top and bottom of the strike zone.
Once out of trouble, he settled down. Moon retired the side in order in both the second and third innings. He wasn’t as aggressive as he was against Kiwoom on the first day, but he saw the strike zone and threw strikes against veteran hitters like Kim Jae-hwan and Heo Kyung-min. Against Jung Soo-bin, he threw five straight fastballs after his initial curveball.
Not every inning was dominant. In the fourth and fifth innings, Moon faced trouble again. In the top of the fourth, he gave up back-to-back singles to Yang Ji and Yang Suk-hwan, but he got the next batter, Kim Jae-hwan, to ground into a double play to save the day, and then dropped two consecutive curveballs against Heo Kyung-min for a swinging strikeout to end the inning.
The first run of the fifth inning, with a 2-0 lead, was a result of bad luck. He gave up an infield single to Lee Yoo-chan two batters later. It could have been a hit, but it flew on an exquisite course and was not caught by shortstop Lee Do-yoon. Jung Soo-bin followed with a line drive that sailed over the shortstop’s head and into left field. Again, it was not a strong hit. And the defense didn’t help. Left fielder Jang Jin-hyuk hesitated, allowing Lee to advance to third, and Lee Do-yoon failed to catch the ball on the replay. Lee sprinted home to give Moon Dong-joo his first run of the game 메이저놀이터.
Moon took the mound in the sixth inning. A veteran batting order of Yang Ji, Yang Suk-hwan, Kim Jae-hwan, and Heo Kyung-min greeted him, but Moon was up to the task. He gave up a single to Kim Jae-hwan two batters later, but retired the other three batters on a fly ball, a swinging strikeout, and a ground ball to complete a quality start.
He threw 101 pitches. It was a career-high for Moon, who had never thrown more than 100 pitches in his career. Moon finished the day by handing the mound to “lightning fast” Kim Seo-hyun in the seventh inning with a 3-1 lead.