Lefthander Kwang Hyun Kim had blanked San Francisco and Chicago for seven and then six innings, respectively, in his final two starts for the Cardinals before the All-Star break. That stretched his scoreless innings streak to 15 but he had even more incentive to continue that run Saturday night.
Kim, who will be 33 next Thursday, was pitching in front of his family from South Korea for the first time since he signed with the Cardinals before the start of the 2020 season and before the coronavirus pandemic hit. And he continued the run, stifling the Giants, who have the major leagues’ best record, for the second time in 12 days.
This time, Kim limited the Giants to three singles and no runs over six innings and rode a solo homer by Tyler O’Neill and Paul Goldschmidt’s third homer in three games, a two-run shot, to a 3-1 victory on Goldschmidt Jersey Night at Busch Stadium. The largest crowd of the season at Busch, 40,489, enjoyed the moments.
Kim’s wife, Sang Hee; 7-year-old daughter, Minjoo; 5-year-old son, Minjae; mother, and mother-in-law and agent arrived in St. Louis this past Tuesday for a visit which will last until Thursday after which the family must quarantine for 14 days in Korea, according to Matt Slater, a Cardinals special assistant to the general manager.
Slater was one of those responsible for Kim’s signing here and Kim noted Slater was also responsible for getting Kim’s family “great seats” for the game.
Kim’s family, which doesn’t speak English, wasn’t able to fly here last year because of the pandemic. Kim was apologetic that he couldn’t spend more time with them before Saturday’s game.
Speaking through his translator, Craig Choi, Kim said, “I focused more on the San Francisco Giants’ hitters and how their approach would be, compared to when I pitched on the road. I didn’t really have much pressure to do well in front of my family.
“I tried to be calm and not get too excited because I’ve been doing well for several games.”
This will be the final time his family will see him pitch here, though. Kim will pitch on his birthday against Chicago on Thursday night but his family will be leaving town in the daytime.
“I might have to go to the airport to say goodbye to them in the morning that day," he said.
Kim, who hasn’t given up an extra-base hit to the past 94 hitters he’s faced, since June 25, said after talking with catcher Yadier Molina before the game, decided to stay with the same “repertoire” that had worked in San Francisco. He said he then changed it the second time through the lineup.
After Genesis Cabrera escaped a seventh-inning jam created by Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos tossed an efficient eighth, All-Star Alex Reyes wrapped up his 21st save in 21 tries and 23rd in succession from the start of his career with a scoreless ninth.
That tied former Minnesota reliever LaTroy Hawkins for the most consecutive saves from the start of a career.
O’Neill’s 16th homer, his first since June 9, came off Anthony DeSclafani, in the second inning. Kim, meanwhile, recorded eight ground-ball outs in the first four innings as he headed for his fourth victory in his past four starts.
The Giants had two runners on base only once in the first five innings. In the fifth, the Cardinals chose to walk No. 8 hitter Thairo Estrada intentionally ahead of DeSclafani with two out. DeSclafani, who has one hit in 36 at-bats this season, complied by striking out for the 23rd time.
When he was lifted after 85 pitches through six innings, Kim had extended his scoreless streak to 21 innings, longest by a Cardinals lefthanded starting pitcher since John Tudor’s 23 in 1988 and 1990 (Tudor had been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in mid-1988 only to return two years later).
“I just pitch low and my control is getting better,” which results in “weak hits,” said Kim.
The Cardinals did nothing with DeSclafani after the second inning until Dylan Carlson ended a nothing-for-12 skid (six strikeouts) with a double to deep center to lead off the sixth. Goldschmidt followed with his 15th homer, a 409-foot drive to right and it was 3-0.
Goldschmidt went down for a low sinker that was slightly away. “I was just trying to hit something hard there,” he said. “The worst case (scenario) was to get Dylan to third but, luckily, I was able to get it out of there.”
The Cardinals' first baseman also had two singles for the night, giving him nine hits in his last 16 at-bats as he hiked his hitting streak to 12 games.
“It’s been a good two weeks and I’m going to just try to keep it going,” said Goldschmidt, who is hitting .270 now, his highest since April 10.
“He’s a pillar,” said manager Mike Shildt. “He’s an anchor to the lineup.”
Another pillar, Molina, blocked balls as well as Shildt has seen him as the Cardinals’ backstop moved into fourth place all-time in games started as a catcher at 1,991 and tied Hall of Famer Gary Carter at 2,057 for fifth place among catchers for games played.
Kim was headed to his apartment for a home-cooked Korean meal by his mother. Fermented cabbage soup and mackerel are among his favorite dishes.
“Normally when my family was not in town, I did the cooking and Craig did the dishes,” said Kim, smiling.
“Since we won today, I’ll be in a really great mood to have Korean home-made food tonight. My mother and I use the same oven but, for some reason, she makes (the mackerel) way better than I do.”
Besides a new chef in the kitchen, Kim joked that having his own youngsters running around cancels some of the “stomping” noise that the upstairs neighbors’ kids produce.
Kim said the hardest time without his family was the two months after spring training last year when there were no games before the season finally began in late July. “I just didn’t know what to do,” he said.
Shildt said, “I can’t imagine,” the emotions Kim was feeling on Saturday, relative to the bizarre, lonely season in which he started his big-league career.
Before he signed off for the night, Kim wanted to wish good fortunes for the people of Korea, where COVID cases are rising again.
“I have to do well,” said Kim, “They’ll look at me pitching and that’s the only way I can cheer (them up) and they will get through these difficult times.”
Kim also said he would like to remain a Cardinal after his two-year, $8 million contract expires. “I do want to play in the major leagues for several years with the Cardinals,” he said, understanding that the contract negotiations aren’t necessarily in his hands.