The three-way tie between SSG, LG, and Lotte was broken two months after the start of the season. NC stepped into the gap.

After 11 days, SSG leads with 35 wins, 21 losses and one draw, while LG is second with 34 wins, 23 losses and two draws. However, the third place is not Lotte, but NC. With 31 wins and 24 losses, they are 3.5 games behind SSG and 2 games behind LG. They swept a three-game road series against LG from February 4-6, and then swept a three-game home series against SSG from September 9-11. This proved decisive. 7-3 in 10 games, including a recent five-game winning streak.

Lotte drops to fourth place. They’re 3-7 in their last 10 games. Fourth place with 30 wins and 24 losses. Of course, they’re only 0.5 games behind NC, so the standings could flip again in a heartbeat. What’s clear is that the peaceful (?) trifecta has been shattered, with NC threatening the top three.

NC has been categorized as a mid-to-lower tier team this season. They’ve been on a downward spiral since winning the overall title in 2020. It was also a club that was hit hard by the COVID-19 sulpan wave. In the last two rounds of free agency, Na Sung-bum (KIA) and Yang Ji (Doosan) left one after another. Sure, there have been free agent signings, but the S-class stars are the pillars of the team. There are no replacements for them.

Add to that the fact that the team has been without de facto foreign batsman Jason Martin and foreign pitcher Taylor Widener since the start of the season. Veteran Park Seok-min was lost to injury in mid-April. Homegrown ace Koo Chang-mo has also been sidelined twice with nagging injuries. Koo is still out as of now. Closer Lee Yong-chan was sidelined with a slump and a WBC drinking incident, and second baseman Park Min-woo was also sidelined with a nagging injury.

Nevertheless, since mid-May, the team has been steadily improving. First of all, Martin, Widener, and Park are back. Martin was up and down before and after his return, but in the last six games, he’s batting .391. Widener has been up and down, but as a result, he somewhat fills the void left by Chang-Mo Koo.

On the mound, ace Eric Pedroia is in the MVP race. He’s been the best pitcher this season. The resurgence of Lee Jae-hak has also been a big boost. Lee Yong-jun has also had a solid season, though he’s struggled lately. Choi Sung-young has also been solid, splitting time between starting and long relief. In the bullpen, Lim Jeong-ho, Ryu Jin-wook, Kim Jin-ho, and Kim Young-gyu have all performed above expectations.

At the plate, captain Son Ah-seop has been impressive of late. He batted .444 in five games last week. Do Tae-hoon and Seo Ho-cheol have 메이저사이트 also exceeded expectations, covering all infield positions except shortstop. In the outfield, Jeon Jae-hwan and Kwon Hee-dong have filled in nicely for the lackluster performances and injuries of the mainstays.

In addition, 21-year-old switch-hitter shortstop Kim Joo-won is on track for a full-time challenge. Transfer catcher Park Se-hyuk has also been solid in the outfield after missing some time due to injury. In the end, the team’s second-best batting average (0.267) and first-best ERA (3.19) don’t lie and have propelled the team to a third-place finish.

NC has traditionally performed well in seasons without much expectation. Even when they won the 2020 title, not many people expected them to do so before the season began. The team’s trademark sticky color had been missing for the past two years, but with the arrival of Kang In-hwa as head coach, it has returned.

The NC is now in for a real test. Their recent sweeps of SSG and LG have been impressive, but they’ve also benefited from the fact that SSG and LG’s batting lineups have been on the decline, so it’s likely that both teams will overhaul themselves at some point. Lotte has definitely improved as well. In the middle of the pack, KIA is also likely to make a push in July once injuries and underperforming players return. The general consensus is that Kiwoom and KT, currently at the bottom of the standings, are not going anywhere.

Whether NC builds on its recent surge to secure a spot in the top half of the standings or falls back to the middle of the pack could make all the difference in the midseason. Still, in an objective power comparison, they’re inferior to LG and SSG. We’ll have to wait and see. This week’s opponents are mid-table Doosan and KIA.

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