In their first head-to-head showdown in Major League Baseball, Los Angeles Dodgers' South Korean starter Ryu Hyun-jin came out on top against Pittsburgh Pirates' third baseman Kang Jung-ho in LA on Friday.
Kang was 1-for-3 with a single and a strikeout against his friend at Dodger Stadium, as Ryu picked up his third win of 2019 in a 6-2 win.
These two 32-year-olds were All-Stars in the Korea Baseball Organization before they took their talents to the United States.
In December 2012, Ryu became the first player to jump from the KBO to Major League Baseball by signing a six-year deal with the Dodgers.
Then in January 2015, Kang became the first position player to make that leap from South Korea to the majors when he joined the Pirates on a four-year contract.
Injuries and other problems had intervened and prevented Ryu and Kang from facing each other over the past four years, even though they've both spent their entire MLB careers in the National League.
Ryu missed all of 2015 with a shoulder injury when Kang was an MLB rookie. Ryu was limited to just one start in 2016 because of elbow problems.
Ryu was back in the rotation in 2017, but then it was Kang who missed that whole season because of legal problems stemming from his drunk driving accident in Seoul.
Kang only rejoined the Pirates for the final regular season series of 2018 against the Cincinnati Reds.
Their first meeting materialized Friday when Kang, batting fifth, led off the second inning. Ryu threw a first-pitch strike with a fastball and got Kang to swing on a changeup. After a cutter missed the zone, Ryu offered another changeup at Kang, who fanned on the pitch for the strikeout.
Kang stepped up against Ryu with one out in the fourth and grounded out to third base after swinging on a 1-0 changeup.
The third time proved to be the charm for Kang. Ryu fell behind 3-1 and then Kang fouled off a changeup to get the count to full.
Ryu threw him a cutter and Kang lined it sharply to left field for his first hit against the left-hander.
Ryu pitched seven innings before turning things over to the bullpen. Kang ended up going 1-for-4 for the game.
Ryu, who held the Pirates to two runs in seven innings with 10 strikeouts, improved to 3-1 and lowered his ERA from 3.01 to 2.96.
Kang is now batting .176 with four home runs and eight RBIs.
During their KBO careers, Ryu also had Kang's number, limiting him to 5-for-30 with a home run. That lone homer came on Oct. 4, 2012, in Ryu's final KBO start before signing with the Dodgers.
This three-game series is the first of two between the Dodgers and the Pirates in 2019. The next three-game set between them will be in Pittsburgh from May 24-26. (Yonhap)