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Kim returns with superb outing in opener

@anne__rogers
September 14, 2020

After Cardinals starter Kwang Hyun Kim walked Orlando Arcia in the fourth inning of the first game in Monday’s doubleheader, he called his interpreter, Craig Choi, out to the mound so he could talk to catcher Yadier Molina. Pitching coach Mike Maddux and athletic trainer Chris Conroy came running out,

After Cardinals starter Kwang Hyun Kim walked Orlando Arcia in the fourth inning of the first game in Monday’s doubleheader, he called his interpreter, Craig Choi, out to the mound so he could talk to catcher Yadier Molina.

Pitching coach Mike Maddux and athletic trainer Chris Conroy came running out, too, in fear of an injury. Attention to Kim was heightened Monday as he made his first start since being hospitalized with a kidney ailment.

Kim shook his head, waved his hands and smiled. He was all good.

And the lefty was good in more ways than just his health in the Cardinals’ 2-1 loss to the Brewers in Game 1 on Monday at Miller Park. Kim shut out the Brewers for seven innings -- which would have been enough in the seven-inning doubleheader, except that the Cardinals were also shut out until Tommy Edman lined an RBI single up the middle in the eighth inning.

Box score

The Brewers came back in the bottom of the eighth when they loaded the bases against relievers Ryan Helsley and Austin Gomber, spoiling Kim’s day but not taking away what he was able to do for the Cardinals.

Kim is only the third Cards pitcher since at least 1901 with four straight games of five-plus innings pitched and zero earned runs. The last was Bob Gibson (5) in 1968 and the only other was Paul Derringer (4) in 1931. The last MLB pitcher to do it within a single season was Chris Sale in 2018.

Kim is also the first National League pitcher to have four straight starts in a season in which he threw at least five innings while allowing three or fewer hits and no earned runs (since they became an official stat in the NL in 1912).

“I am satisfied with my performance today but unfortunately our team lost, and that’s one thing I’m not satisfied with,” Kim said through Choi.

With two outs in the top of the sixth inning, former Cardinal Jedd Gyroko doubled, and the Cardinals intentionally walked Keston Hiura to put two on, and the Brewers were close to snapping their scoreless streak that was then at 20 innings. But second baseman Kolten Wong made a slick defensive play on a ball up the middle, flipping it to shortstop Paul DeJong at second base for the force out.

Kim completed the seventh inning with six pitches. He finished his outing with three hits, three walks and six strikeouts, relying on command and confusion. He threw his 90 mph fastball 52 percent of the time, while dropping in his 88 mph slider (31 percent) and 70 mph curveball (13 percent) to keep the Brewers off balance.

“[Maddux] said the Brewers hitters were weak with the inside fastball, so that’s why I threw a lot of inside fastballs,” Kim said. “They were weak contacts, and some of the bats broke as well. Nothing special, just following the game plan.”

When Kim went to the emergency room with severe abdominal pain on Sept. 4, it was diagnosed as a renal infarction (blockage of blood flow to the kidney), and the Cardinals were concerned for his health. So was he, after searching online about his symptoms. After a doctor told him good news, that he’d likely be able to pitch again, Kim said his mood turned around.

He was sent back to St. Louis to rest, and over the past week has worked his way back on the field while being cautious. He’s taking a blood thinner for medication to help the ailment, so Kim needs to avoid any contact that would make him bleed or bruise.

But he wanted to get back to game action, and the Cardinals needed him, too. They pegged him for Monday’s start while well aware that there would be risk involved. Even though Kim has had to deal with a similar injury before while in the Korea Baseball Organization -- blood flow blockage in the calf -- he said he doesn’t feel at risk while pitching.

“Don’t worry,” he said in English before switching back to Korean. “I’m confident with my body. No need to worry unless something really bad happens. But no need to worry about my body.”

Kim brought needed relief to an overworked bullpen, despite the Cardinals still having to use Helsley and Gomber for the bottom of the eighth inning. Monday was Kim’s longest outing of the year by innings and by pitch count at 87.

“The timing wasn't great when it happened but his timing for return is definitely appreciated,” manager Mike Shildt said before Game 1. “I’m encouraged by how he felt the last three days. He’s really responded well to things.”

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.