By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, June 13 (Yonhap) -- Entering the third week of play in June, the two hottest clubs in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) can be found near the top and the bottom of the standings.
The NC Dinos are in the midst of their franchise-record 10-game winning streak and are sitting at 36-19-1 (wins-losses-ties). They're still in second place in the 10-team league, though, trailing the Doosan Bears (42-17-1) by four games. The deficit, though, used to be 7.5 games at the end of last month.
The Dinos have won all 10 games in June, seven of them in come-from-behind fashion. And in three of those wins, the Dinos were trailing after seven before rallying to win.
On Sunday, they were down 7-1 against the SK Wyverns after six innings, but put up four runs in the seventh and six more in the eighth for an 11-9 victory.
The streaky Dinos had won eight straight games earlier this season, too. The current streak is more impressive, though, since they've done it without ace Eric Hacker, who had gone 6-1 with a 2.61 ERA before going down with an elbow injury in mid-May.
In his void, former Chicago Cubs prospect Jung Su-min has stepped up, with back-to-back scoreless outings during the winning streak.
On offense, third baseman Park Sok-min, a major free agent acquisition in the offseason, has shaken off a shaky start. After batting only .242 with three homers and 14 RBIs in May, Park is hitting a robust .439 with five homers and 21 RBIs so far this month.
The Bears, meanwhile, have done the best they could to stay out in front, going 7-4 in June. If the two best clubs in the league keep it up, their three-game series starting on June 28 at Jamsil Stadium, the Bears' home in Seoul, should be the most anticipated showdown of the first half.
As good as the Bears have been, the Hanwha Eagles have actually posted a better record in June.
Given up for dead in the early going after a dismal start, the Eagles (24-34-1), who once looked overmatched against the rest of the KBO, have clawed their way to pull into a tie for ninth place with the KT Wiz (24-34-2).
The Eagles have gone 8-3 this month. They had a five-game winning streak at the end of May, and once it was snapped at the turn of the month, they went on a six-game run.
This week, they will try to get out of the league cellar for the first time since April 7, as they open a three-game series against the Wiz on the road in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province.
In the bunched-up standing, the Eagles are also just one game behind the eighth-place Kia Tigers and three back of the fifth-place Samsung Lions.
Much as the Dinos have been lately, the Eagles have been the resilient club. They're tied with the Dinos for five come-from-behind victories in games in which they were down through seven innings.
Since May 20, the Eagles are batting .329 with seven homers after seven innings in games decided by two or fewer runs.
The overworked pitching staff under manager Kim Sung-keun remains a concern. Even with a recent run of victories, they still have the league's worst team ERA at 6.05 and the worst opponents' batting average with .299.
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