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Week one KBO power rankings

Korean Baseball began their season last week. upload.wikimedia.org

Oh man, I didn't realize how much I missed Saturday baseball naps until I caught my first one of 2020. In May.

It's not because the KBO is boring, I just like my naps. In fact, week one was everything you could ask for to start off a baseball season (maybe with the exception of the 4:30 am start times, but beggars can't be choosers). We got late inning rallies and extra innings. We got walk offs and Grand Slams (which, in Korean, are referred to as "Grand Slams"). We got Boog Sciambi pointing out random knick-knacks in the background of his office to an un-amused Jessica Mendoza and if you watched via Twitch, you got those sweet sweet Korean commercials. If you like runs, the KBO's got runs. After 27 games, each match is averaging almost 11 runs per game.

I haven't even mentioned the bat flips. It's an art over there.

Week one is in the books, and I'm breaking down the entire league! Mainly because it's only ten teams.

1. Lotte Giants (5-0)

It's pronounced "loh-tay," by the way. However you say it, you're looking at an undefeated team that's averaging 7.2 runs per game. That's a pretty decent start considering that they finished last season with league-worst record of 48-93. There's still a lot of baseball to play, but at the moment they're one of only two remaining undefeated teams. Shortstop Dixon Machado stood out by batting .389 for the week to go with 3 homers and 8 RBIs, while former MLB pitcher Dan Straily has been brilliant with 15 strikeouts in 12 innings.

2. Kiwoom Heroes (5-1)

The Heroes began the season ranked at the top of ESPN's preseason power rankings and have lived up to the hype through one week of play. Aside from a wild 8th inning meltdown against the Kia Tigers, the Heroes have jumped out to a solid start for the season. Outfielder Lee Jung-Hoo has been on a tear, with a .421 batting average and 6 RBIs.

3. NC Dinos (4-1)

The Dinos may be number three in this week's power rankings, but they will forever be number one in the mascot power rankings. They swept the Lions in the beginning of the week, but split the rain-shortened series with the Twins. The Dinos have four everyday players currently batting over .300. Shortstop No Jin-Hyuk has been their standout at the plate so far with 2 home runs, 6 RBIs and a .333 batting average.

4. Doosan Bears (3-2)

The defending champs started the season off with a thud, dropping game one to the Twins 8-2. The first week has been a mixed bag of prolific offense and blowout losses. They capped the week off with a wild 11-inning 13-12 walk off victory. Pitching looks like a concern through the first week, but they be able to might make up for it at the plate. Designated hitter Jose Miguel Fernandez has an unreal .591 batting average through 22 plate appearances, followed by shortstop Kim Jae-Ho who's batting .421 so far.

5. LG Twins (2-3)

It's still early, but the Twins have some pitching kinks that need to be ironed out. After holding the Bears to only 2 runs in their season opening victory, LG has surrendered 5 or more runs in every game since. They capped the week off by handing the Dinos their first loss of the season thanks to a massive 7-run rally in the 8th. First baseman Roberto Ramos has paced the Twins with 2 home runs and a .450 batting average.

6. Samsung Lions (2-4)

After getting swept by the Dinos to start the season, the Lions recovered and won the following series against the Kia Tigers. Their pitching seems to be pretty decent, but they're not getting any help from their bats. Designated hitter Kim Dong-Yeop is one of the lone bright spots, batting .320 with 2 homers.

7. Hanwha Eagles (2-4)

After shutting out the SK Wyverns in their season opener, the Eagles have failed to hold their opposition to less than 4 runs per game. They were projected to be the worst team this season, and by all indications they are on their way.

8. Kia Tigers (2-4)

The Kia Tigers weren't good last year (62-80), and don't look to be much different this year after week one. Astros fans may recognize Kyle Tucker's older brother Preston roaming the outfield and crushing it at the plate (.476 BA, 3 HRs, 11 RBIs). There isn't much offense beyond Tucker though, and the pitching hasn't shown up for them either. They did finish the week with a pretty solid 12-3 win against the Lions, but that was a day after being dropped 14-2.

9. KT Wiz (1-4)

Oof. After being swept by the undefeated Giants, the Wiz suffered a heartbreaking 12-13 loss to the Doosan Bears to close out the week. They have the youngest pitching staff in the league, which can be identified by the opposition averaging 7.8 runs/game.

10. SK Wyverns (1-4)

Offense seems to come a long pretty easy in the KBO, unless you're a Wyvern apparently. SK is the only team so far to have been shut out more than once. Don't expect much to turn around.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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