The more things change, the more they stay the same in the KBO. The NC Dinos came storming out of the gate and, despite a series of challengers, continue their run atop the league’s standings — and the ESPN Power Rankings.
Here’s a look at the week that was and what’s ahead in the KBO.
ESPN’s KBO Power Rankings
1. NC Dinos: 32-14 (Last week: 1) — The Dinos took two of three from both the Wiz and Bears to hold steady at the top of the KBO heap. Six-year MLB veteran Aaron Altherr continues to heat up; he’s hitting .321 with seven homers and 24 RBIs in 23 games this month.
2. Kiwoom Heroes: 30-18 (4) — Kiwoom continued its climb, going 5-1 for the week to improve to a league-best 18-6 for the month. The Heroes’ surge included a win Thursday in which they trailed the Twins 5-0 entering the seventh inning and went ahead on a Byung-ho Park grand slam in the ninth, then back-to-back shutouts of Kia, the Heroes’ first two shutout wins of the season.
3. LG Twins: 27-20 (2) — The Twins’ momentum was stopped cold by a seven-game losing streak, but LG can hope it changed course with back-to-back shutouts of the Wyverns over the weekend. Chan-heon Jung went the distance Saturday to improve to 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in six starts.
4. Doosan Bears: 28-19 (3) — The Bears were blanked in the rubber game of their series with the Dinos, losing 5-0 to NC’s Drew Rucinski, leaving Doosan 3-3 for the week.
5. Kia Tigers: 24-21 (5) — It was an odd week for the Tigers, who played only four games because of back-to-back rainouts and were shut out by Kiwoom twice over the weekend.
6. Samsung Lions: 24-24 (6) — A 4-2 week pushed the Lions back to .500, and one reason for their turnaround is the pitching of Jung-hyun Baek, who pitched six shutout innings in Saturday’s win over Lotte. Baek has a 1.50 ERA over his past four starts after posting a 14.79 ERA in his first three.
7. Lotte Giants: 22-23 (7) — Lotte’s Ah-seop Son is hitting .405 (15-for-37) in his past nine games to push his season average to .347, fifth in KBO.
8. KT Wiz: 21-26 (8) — The Wiz logged one of the season’s most eye-opening wins Thursday, crushing the first-place Dinos 19-6 in a game started by no less than Chang-mo Koo, who had a KBO-leading 0.82 ERA going in. Mel Rojas Jr. continued his tear, boosting his league-high home run total to 17, 11 of which have come in June.
9. SK Wyverns: 14-33 (9) — File this one under “all for naught.” The Wyverns snapped a seven-game losing streak with their first shutout win of the season Thursday, then matched that with a 7-0 win over the Twins on Friday. (SK had a KBO-high 19 shutout wins last season.) But LG then turned the tables on the Wyverns with back-to-back blankings over the weekend.
10. Hanwha Eagles: 12-36 (10) — The Eagles’ miserable season was summed up with the ending of Wednesday’s game against Samsung. Hanwha held a 2-1 lead with two outs in the ninth and a runner on second before closer Woo-ram Jung tripped and fell mid-pitch and had to leave the game. The ensuing sequence went wild pitch, walk (on a close pitch), single (tying the game), E6 (continuing the inning), walk-off single for the Lions. It looks even worse than it sounds:
They entered the 9th with a 2-1 lead. Then with two outs:
-Closer trips and gets hurt
-Game-tying RBI single
— Connor Newcomb (@ConnorNewcomb_) June 24, 2020
(Selected by Joon Lee, Alden Gonzalez and Dan Mullen)
The week that was and what’s ahead
One thing to know that happened last week: The same thing that’s been happening all season — the Dinos ruled. One by one, would-be contenders have fallen by the wayside as NC keeps hold of a three-game lead over the pack. Now it’s the Heroes’ turn to try to topple the Dinos.
One thing to watch this week: KBO is taking steps toward allowing fans to attend games, perhaps as soon as this weekend. Teams have been told they can begin selling tickets and are waiting for guidelines from South Korea’s CDC, according to ESPN contributor and KBO insider Daniel Kim. The allowed capacity is expected to be around 20% to 30%, depending on the size of the stadium, and numerous protocols likely will be in place, including social distancing, wearing of masks and closed concourses. Still, this should be a positive step and could provide a blueprint for MLB.
Highlight of the week: Not much could be sweeter than belting a ninth-inning, go-ahead grand slam after the other team intentionally walks the guy batting before you. Just ask Kiwoom’s Byung-ho Park.
Turns out choosing to face a guy who has 3 HR in his last 3 games with the bases loaded in the 9th was not a great idea by the #LGTwins.
— Connor Newcomb (@ConnorNewcomb_) June 25, 2020
Bat flip of the week:
MyKBO’s Home Run Bat-Flip of the Day featuring Samsung’s Koo Ja-wook pic.twitter.com/I0cjvoUfCz
— Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO) June 28, 2020
Viral moment of the week: Not sure what can be said here other than … yikes!
Pitch Out of the Day pic.twitter.com/Mzz5d9HDPk
— Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO) June 27, 2020
KBO on ESPN broadcast schedule
(All times ET)
5:30 a.m.: Doosan Bears vs. Kiwoom Heroes
5:30 a.m.: Hanwha Eagles vs. Kia Tigers
5:30 a.m.: Doosan Bears vs. Kiwoom Heroes
5:30 a.m.: LG Twins vs. Samsung Lions
4 a.m.: Kiwoom Heroes vs. KT Wiz
4 a.m.: LG Twins vs. Samsung Lions