Gone are the days when the team was leading the KBO League’s excitement at the beginning of the season by taking the top spot in April and continuing its upward trend in May. After the end of spring, the heat began to set in, and the team plummeted. It’s a trend that the Lotte Giants would love to deny, but the reality is that this year is showing the same trend as last year.

Lotte’s downfall began on the 6th against KT in Busan. A matchup between the ‘aces’ of Ko Young-pyo and Park Se-woong. It was KT who came out smiling. While the first game was winnable, the results of the next two games proved fatal. After dropping the first game of the series, Lotte suffered a shocking ‘sweep’, 안전놀이터 falling to their knees in overtime in both games.

After their momentum was snuffed out, Lotte went 1-2 in a three-game series against the Samsung Lions and 1-2 against the out-of-sorts Hanwha Eagles. The three-game losing streak was obviously devastating, especially with a ‘nine-game road trip from hell’ ahead of them, and it was against SSG Landers that the mood was bound to hit rock bottom.

After dropping the first game against SSG, Lotte laid the foundation for the victory on the 17th, with ‘ace’ Park Se-woong pitching seven innings of one-run ball. However, with a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, the ‘must-win group’ of Kim Jin-wook, Koo Seung-min, and Kim Won-joong were unable to protect the four-run lead. For Lotte, it was arguably their worst game of the season, but the good news is that they were able to close out the series with a win.

However, the victory in the final game of the weekend’s three-game series didn’t turn the tide for the team. Lotte scored a total of six points in the three-game series against KT. They conceded 17. It was an unwinnable performance. The bats are slumping and the mound can’t handle KT’s offense, which is on the rise.

Lotte’s record in June has been abysmal. They are 3-12 in their last 15 games. They have lost five series in a row. While they still have a winning percentage of more than 5 percent, it wouldn’t be surprising to see it drop at any point. Lotte’s downward spiral began when injuries started piling up.

Ahn Kwon-soo, who was red-hot in April, underwent surgery for a bone chip in his elbow and has been out of the lineup since June 2. From there, the injuries began to pile up. In mid-June, Noh Jin-hyuk, the “5 billion shortstop,” and Jung-hoon, who was recovering his batting touch, went down with side injuries, leaving the outfield depth rapidly shallow.

Their absence was especially felt as Hwang Sung-bin, who is similar in style to Ahn Kwon-soo, who perfectly fulfilled the role of a table-setter based on his mobility, returned from injury and batted just .185 in June. The absence of Noh Jin-hyuk’s offense was also disappointing, especially since Lotte had recently been using the Noh-Jin-hyuk-Park Seung-wook combination.

The bats aren’t clicking, the mound is shaky, and there are plenty of other issues, but the biggest problem is that there isn’t much to point to as a turning point. The timing of injured players’ returns is unclear. Initially, Noh Jin-hyuk, whose injury wasn’t serious, was expected to return 10 days after being removed from the first team. However, that is no longer a guarantee. Head coach Larry Sutton was coy when asked about the timing of Noh’s return on Nov. 22.

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