As Major League Baseball prepares to (hopefully) get its 2020 season off the ground, the KBO rolls along into July with the first-place Dinos looking as strong as ever.
Here’s a look at the week that was and what’s ahead in the KBO.
ESPN’s KBO Power Rankings
1. NC Dinos: 36-16 (Last week: 1) — After finishing June with a 14-10 record following an 18-5 May, the Dinos are off and running in July (4-1). NC capped the week with one of its wildest wins of the season, scoring six runs in the bottom of the ninth for a 7-6 victory over Kia.
2. Kiwoom Heroes: 33-21 (2) — Kiwoom went 19-6 in June, tying for the most wins in a calendar month by a KBO team over the past five seasons, but lost three of five to close the week, falling four games out of first place.
3. Doosan Bears: 31-22 (4) — Doosan outfielder Kun-woo Park, who was hitting .190 on May 31, led KBO with a .444 batting average and a .484 on-base percentage in June.
4. LG Twins: 29-24 (3) — The Twins’ slump continued as they entered Sunday game against Samsung on a 3-11 slide. But LG rallied Sunday to beat the Lions for their KBO-high sixth win when trailing after seven innings. Samsung had been 25-0 when leading after six innings.
5. Kia Tigers: 27-23 (5) — The Tigers’ Sun Bin Kim had four straight three-hit games to take over the league batting lead (.378). For comparison, only two players in MLB had four straight three-hit games in 2019 (Charlie Blackmon and Ketel Marte).
6. Samsung Lions: 29-25 (6) — The Lions were a league-best 5-1 last week and are 19-11 since the start of June, trailing only Kiwoom (21-9) over that stretch.
7. KT Wiz: 25-28 (8) — The Triple Crown watch is officially on: Mel Rojas Jr. leads KBO in homers (19) and is second in RBIs (48, one behind Doosan’s Jae-Hwan Kim) and average (.374, four points behind Kia’s Kim). Rojas also leads the league in runs (47), hits (80) and OPS (1.146).
8. Lotte Giants: 24-27 (7) — After improving to 17-15 on the strength of a six-game winning streak, the Giants have been headed in the wrong direction, going 7-12 to slip to the back of the middle tier of teams.
9. SK Wyverns: 16-37 (9) — The Wyverns’ Seung-won Moon led KBO with 34 strikeouts and a 1.39 ERA in June, but he lost his first start of July, allowing four runs (two earned) in five innings Wednesday against Samsung.
10. Hanwha Eagles: 13-40 (10) — The Eagles snapped a five-game losing streak by beating Doosan on Saturday. Hanwha is 3-3 on the season against the Bears, by far its best record against any opponent. The Eagles have no better than a .333 winning percentage against any other team.
(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: Actually, here’s one thing that didn’t happen — fans were not allowed to attend games. This past weekend had been a target date to open KBO stadiums to spectators, and while South Korean health officials are satisfied with protocol proposals for inside the parks, according to ESPN KBO contributor Daniel Kim, they are worried about getting people in and out of the games, including the use of public transportation and having about 7,000 people entering and exiting a stadium at the same time.
One thing to watch this week: Two teams that seem most likely to challenge the Dinos, at least in the short term, square off when Samsung faces Kiwoom beginning Tuesday. Then NC meets the fading Twins over the weekend, with LG in desperate need of a turnaround to stay anywhere near contention.
Highlight of the week: Is this KBO or “The Matrix”?
MyKBO’s Slide of the Day featuring LG’s Jung Keun-woo pic.twitter.com/f3JNdmZ0iK
— Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO) July 2, 2020
Bat flip of the week:
MyKBO’s Home Run Bat-Flip of the Day featuring Seo Geon-chang pic.twitter.com/Bum5RlpSFG
— Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO) July 4, 2020
Viral moment of the week:
Park Jong-hun just killed a man. 👻🪦
Cause of Death: Rising Slider pic.twitter.com/tLYSzNELvA
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 5, 2020
KBO on ESPN broadcast schedule
(All times ET)
5:30 a.m.: LG Twins vs. Doosan Bears
5:30 a.m.: KT Wiz vs. Kia Tigers
5:30 a.m.: LG Twins vs. Doosan Bears (ESPN2)
5:30 a.m.: NC Dinos vs. LG Twins
5 a.m.: Doosan Bears vs. Lotte Giants
4 a.m.: NC Dinos vs. LG Twins