Mariners’ Lee Dae-ho hitless in 1st MLB start

The Seattle Mariners first baseman Lee Dae-ho went hitless in his first Major League Baseball start Tuesday in Texas.

Playing first base and batting eighth against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Lee went 0-for-2 and stranded three men. Seattle won 10-2.

In his big league debut the previous day, the 33-year-old South Korean struck out in a pinch-hit appearance.

Lee started opposite of his childhood friend Choo Shin-soo, a veteran outfielder for the Rangers. It marked the first time two South Korean position players for opposing teams started in the same major league game.

With left-hander Martin Perez on the mound for the Rangers, Lee, a right-handed batter signed on as backup to left-handed Adam Lind, got the nod in the M’s second game of the season.

Lee grounded into a double play in his first at-bat in the top second. He came to the plate with one out and men at first and second but hit a weak grounder to second baseman Rougned Odor, who started the inning-ending 4-6-3 twin killing.

In his next at-bat, with two outs and a man at first in the top fourth, Lee lined out to center field.

With a man at first with one out in the top seventh, Lee was lifted for pinch hitter Luis Sardinas.

Lee signed a minor league deal with the Mariners in February after successful stints in both Korea and Japan. He then made the team’s 25-man roster after batting .264 with a home run and seven RBIs in 24 spring training games.

He was the regular season MVP in the Korea Baseball Organization in 2010 and was the Japan Series MVP last year.

Choo, batting second and playing right field, didn’t have a hit but got on base three times in five plate appearances.

He was plunked by Hisashi Iwakuma in his first plate appearance in the bottom first. In the bottom third, Choo came up with a man at second with one out but hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Kyle Seager, who made a fine grab falling to his left.

Choo led off the fifth inning with a walk, moved to second on a single and stole third. He was stranded there, as Ian Desmond popped out to second.

Choo drew another walk to start the bottom seventh with the Rangers down 4-2, but his teammates again failed to bring him home.

In the bottom ninth, Choo was called out on strikes for a 0-for-2 night.

The Mariners blew the game wide open with three home runs in the six-run eighth for the comfortable victory.

Elsewhere in the majors, St. Louis Cardinals’ reliever Oh Seung-hwan, also in his first big league season, tossed his second consecutive scoreless inning.

He struck out the side in the bottom of the sixth against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. With the score tied at 5-5, the South Korean right-hander struck out Jordy Mercer with a 1-2 slider.

Oh then struck out pinch hitter Matt Joyce looking on a 2-2 fastball, clocked at 94 miles per hour.

Facing John Jaso next, Oh got his third strikeout of the inning with a 93-mph fastball on a 0-2 count. Oh needed just 12 pitches.

Oh was lifted for pinch hitter Kolten Wong in the top of the seventh.

The Pirates went on to beat the Cards 6-5 thanks to Mercer’s game-winning hit in the bottom 11th.

Oh made his big league debut on the Opening Night Sunday, giving up two walks but also striking out two in one scoreless inning.

The right-hander is the KBO’s all-time leader in saves with 277, and picked up 80 more saves in two seasons in Japan before joining the Cardinals in January.

Also on Tuesday, another South Korean player, Choi Ji-man, made his big league debut for the Los Angeles Angels.

Hosting the Chicago Cubs, the long-time minor leaguer entered the game in the top of the ninth as the defensive replacement in left field. He didn’t have a ball hit in his direction and didn’t have a chance to bat in the bottom half of the inning, as the Angels lost 6-1.

Choi, 24, joined the Seattle Mariners system out of a Korean high school in 2010 and had 335 games in the minors through last year. He signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles in November, but the Angels later claimed him in the Rule 5 Draft in December.

The Angels had to keep Choi on their 25-man roster or offer him back to the Orioles for US$25,000.

Choi, who bats left and throws right, batted .209/.321/.328 in 28 spring training games with two home runs, 11 RBIs and 11 walks.

He has mostly played first but can also play left field, giving the Angels some defensive flexibility and also a left-handed bat off the bench. (Yonhap)