Kang collects first big league hit after being robbed twice
Pirates infielder hit two balls hard earlier, but fell victim to great defense
MILWAUKEE -- Jung Ho Kang's first Major League hit was a soft line drive to center, but no one could deny that he had it coming after twice being robbed by Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez earlier in Sunday's game.
"I'm happy I got it," Kang said following the Pirates' 10-2 victory over the Brewers -- speaking both of the hit and the ball he'd hit, which postgame was in his locker.
"I really wanted that first hit -- and I could have had it earlier."
Leading off the seventh inning, Kang poked Kyle Lohse's two-strike pitch just out of the reach of shortstop Jean Segura's lunge, finally giving him an average after six hitless at-bats.
Kang was making his second straight start, this time at third base to give Josh Harrison a break. On Saturday night, he had started at shortstop and struck out twice and grounded out to short.
On Sunday, he led off the second and sent a hot smash off Ramirez's glove. Ramirez recovered the ball and his throw barely nipped Kang to first base.
In the fifth, Ramirez's thievery was more spectacular. He had to dive to his left to snare Kang's smash into the hole, and regained his footing in time to again throw him out.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle sees daily improvement and adjustments in Kang's play, not to be minimized given the transition he is trying to make, the extent of which can't be assessed by outsiders.
"He's playing a different game, Completely, from what is played in South Korea," Hurdle said. "The [pitch] velocity, the spin [of breaking pitches], the way pitchers go after him.
"He can play. We just have to get him in some kind of a rhythm. He's learning every day. He still expects to be an impact player and help, and he will. We just have to find a way to keep him in some kind of rhythm."
Kang's every swing is being closely watched in his native country. He is the first former Korean Baseball Organization position player to appear in a Major League game. Everything else he does -- like get a hit -- goes on his list of firsts.
He's got a big one coming Monday: First game in PNC Park. Since signing with the Bucs in January, Kang has been in Surprise, Ariz.; Bradenton, Fla.; Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Milwaukee. On Monday, he will finally be Pirate in PIttsburgh.
"Yes, I'm looking forward to that very much," Kang said.