Dinos shine over weekend, continue dominating the league

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Dinos shine over weekend, continue dominating the league

The NC Dinos celebrate after winning a game against the SK Wyverns at Munhak Baseball Stadium in Incheon on Friday, May 15. [YONHAP]

The NC Dinos celebrate after winning a game against the SK Wyverns at Munhak Baseball Stadium in Incheon on Friday, May 15. [YONHAP]

The NC Dinos are off to a fierce start to the KBO’s 2020 regular season.  
By sweeping their weekend series against the SK Wyverns, the 2018 Korean Series champion, the Dinos are currently on a six-game winning streak, good enough to take a three-game lead ahead of three teams — the Doosan Bears, LG Twins and the Lotte Giants — who are tied for second. Throughout the 11 games this season, the Dinos have only lost one.  
Although it’s only the beginning, it already has an impressive start, as the Dinos finished fifth in 2019 and were the first team to get eliminated in the postseason.  
Behind the success of the Dinos is their former captain, Park Min-woo. 
Most recently on Sunday, the Dinos picked up a big 11-5 victory against the Wyverns. This season, the Dinos have a strong team of starting pitchers. In the order of Drew Rucinski, Mike Wright, Koo Chang-mo and Lee Jae-hak, the starters managed to pick up a total of six wins. 
While the other clubs are struggling with their pitchers, as the KBO’s batters seem to have adjusted to the new baseball, the Dinos are tossing strong.   
Even their closer, Won Jong-hyan has been managing the Dinos’ last inning well. Having already picked up four saves, Won leads the KBO in saves as of Monday.  
As all aspects appear to be balanced, the Dinos’ team ERA is at the top of the table, at 3.10.
Along with the pitchers, their fielders are strong too. They may not be as dominant as the pitchers since the club’s team batting average is at 0.281, ranking fifth, but they do lead in the number of home runs at 18 so far.  
Whether it’s in the upper or lower part of the batting lineup, all the Dinos' batters have been showing potential as sluggers. Against the Wyverns, who led the KBO in home runs back in the 2017 season at 234, the Dinos managed to hit four home runs during Sunday’s game.  
It was the leadoff batter Park who started off the rain of home runs. At the top of the first inning, Park hit a solo home run against the Wyverns’ starter Baek Seung-geon. This was Park’s first home run of the season and is even more impressive considering he's only hit 17 home runs throughout his career 769 games.  
Park normally appears as a leadoff hitter as his strength has always been accuracy and consistency in his contact. This season in the KBO, Park is considered as one of the most accurate Korean batters, as he is ranked third in batting average, at 0.432, in the league, after Jose Fernandez of the Bears and Preston Tucker of the Kia Tigers.

Park had been keeping his batting average above 0.300 since the 2015 season, and among the active players in the KBO, Park is ranked first in terms of career batting average, with 0.329, based on players who have had at least 3,000 at-bats.  
Behind Park’s consistency, the Dinos’ manager Lee Dong-wook pointed out his coping abilities.  
“By changing his swing and timing, he’s made adjustments quickly and coped,” said the Dinos manager Lee. “He’s a smart kid.”
While the Dinos are cruising through the 2020 season, the Wyverns are heading the opposite way. With the weekend defeat, they are now in a nine-game losing streak and are ranked at the bottom of the league standings with a win and 10 losses.  
This is an unexpected start for the Wyverns after winning the 2018 Korean Series and finishing second in the regular season last year. But with the absence of their ace starter Kim Kwang-hyun, who signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in the MLB, the Wyverns are severely struggling. But it’s not only the pitchers. They’re also struggling with the team’s batting lineup as they are the only club out of the 10 in the league with a team batting average below 0.200.  
This unfamiliar position has left the Wyverns 2.5 games behind the ninth-ranked Samsung Lions.  
Starting Tuesday, the Dinos will once again have another tough three-game series as they will play against the Bears at Jamsil Baseball Stadium, southern Seoul, while in Daegu, the Lions will host the LG Twins. Over in Suwon, Gyeonggi, the KT Wiz will host the Hanwha Eagles, while in Gwangju, the Kia Tigers will play a three-game series against the Giants. Over in Gocheok Sky Dome in western Seoul, the Kiwoom Heroes will play against the SK Wyverns.  
BY KIM HYO-KYUNG, PARK SO-YOUNG AND KANG YOO-RIM   [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]

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