TORONTO -- Hyun Soo Kim has come a long way. Since declining the Orioles' request to option him to Triple-A Norfolk at the start of this season and hearing jeers on Opening Day at Camden Yards, Kim has turned himself into one of the team's most consistent -- and popular
TORONTO -- Hyun Soo Kim has come a long way. Since declining the Orioles' request to option him to Triple-A Norfolk at the start of this season and hearing jeers on Opening Day at Camden Yards, Kim has turned himself into one of the team's most consistent -- and popular -- players.
On Wednesday night, Kim came through with the biggest hit of his young big league career, delivering a lead-changing, pinch-hit two-run home run with one out in the ninth inning of the Orioles' 3-2 win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
In the race for the second American League Wild Card spot, the Orioles remained one game ahead of the Tigers, who rallied for a rain-shortened win over the Indians on Wednesday, and two games up on the Mariners, who routed the Astros.
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The homer, hit off Toronto closer Roberto Osuna, was Kim's sixth of the season and was relatively unlikely, leaving the park with an exit velocity of 92.9 mph and a 25-degree launch angle, according to Statcast™. On 91 previous batted balls with similar traits this season, batters hit .143 with zero home runs. At 95.7 mph, Osuna's fastball tied for the hardest pitch he has thrown that was hit for a home run in the Statcast™ era.
Pinch-hitting for Nolan Reimold, Kim sent the ninth pitch he saw from Osuna into the O's bullpen. Also scoring was Michael Bourn, who had stolen second base moments earlier as a pinch-runner for Jonathan Schoop.
"When I was up at bat, I expected Michael Bourn to steal second," Kim said through his interpreter. "I tried to hit the ball after that. After he stole the base, I tried to hit as accurately as possible so I could bring in Bourn. It just happened to be a homer."
Asked where that homer ranked in his baseball career, Kim said it was No. 1.
"It's hard to describe; it's such a good feeling," Kim said of crossing the plate and approaching a dugout of ecstatic teammates.
Kim, who said he embraces key spots as a pinch-hitter, is batting .305 on the season.
"Couldn't happen to someone better," Orioles starter Chris Tillman said of Kim. "It was priceless, him coming in the dugout with a big smile on his face. Not a better guy for that to happen to."
Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.