PITTSBURGH -- Jung Ho Kang has gotten right to the bottom of his MLB bucket list in the opening two games of the Pirates-Reds series. And Aroldis Chapman has neither disappointed, nor overmatched him.
In fact, Kang is a lifetime 1.000 hitter against the Reds' fireballer. He followed up a walk he'd drawn Tuesday night with a double in Wednesday night's 3-0 loss. It was a leg double after he smashed a grounder off shortstop Kristopher Negron's glove, but a hard-hit ball nonetheless.
"He's getting better with experience," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of the Korean infielder. "A lot of good things are happening."
Four months ago, before boarding the plane that would bring him to the land of baseball opportunity, Kang had been very specific about one of the things he most looked forward to.
"I can only be a great player if I can hit Chapman," Kang had said at Seoul's Incheon International Airport. "I want to see for myself how hard he can pitch."
He got his first look Tuesday, all 102 mph of it.
Asked about that experience in one of his first one-on-one, English-speaking interviews, Kang at first had a one-word response: "Fast!"
After that opening 102-mph fastball, Chapman slowed down to Kang. His next five pitches nudged the radar to "only" 101, 100, 101, 99 and 101.
The volume of pitches alone tells you that Kang stood his ground well. He wound up drawing a walk on a 3-2 pitch.
Hurdle, aware of Kang's months-old anticipation to see Chapman, was "looking forward to it as he was."
"I thought he managed the at-bat very well," Hurdle had said prior to Wednesday's rematch. "He's never seen 102 before, so I know that was a new experience, and he managed the at-bat very professionally."
Using his hands to help illustrate his memory of the at-bat, Kang said, "I swing at inside [he fouled it off], then away, I let go."
"He can be a free swinger," Hurdle said of the Korean infielder, "but he laid off [high pitches] and took some good swings.
"It's a challenge for him, because he's seeing higher quality pitching on a nightly basis than he's seen before."
Major League pitching depth clearly is Kang's most difficult task as he goes about being the first position player from the Korean Baseball Organization to play in the big leagues. The KBO has its marquee pitchers, but they aren't all Hyun-Jin Ryu.
And when you get into a Korean bullpen, you don't get a Chapman at the end of it.