This article is part of our KBO Power Rankings series.
We're coming down the stretch run of the KBO season, and we've got quite a playoff race ahead of us. The Dinos' continued mediocrity has allowed the Heroes to catch them atop the standings, setting up a very exciting final five weeks. Meanwhile, four teams are within three and 5.5 games of the two leaders. A strong finish from any of those teams could see them win the regular-season title. A weak final few weeks from any of them will see them miss the playoffs entirely. Every game between these top six teams will have huge playoff ramifications. As a reminder, the unique structure of the KBO postseason means that a team's placement in the standings matters far more than fans of American sports are used to. The fifth-place and fourth-place teams kick off the playoffs, with the winner playing the third-placed team. The winner of that series plays the second-place team, while the winner of that one faces the regular-season winner in the Korean Series.
1. Kiwoom Heroes
Last Week: 3
Run Differential: +80
The Lowdown: The Heroes have finally caught the Dinos after a solid week in which they went 4-1-1. Their two foreign pitchers, Eric Jokisch and Jake Brigham, are finally both healthy and effective at the same time, and there's still room for their lineup to improve if their third foreign player, Addison Russell, starts hitting for more power. The Heroes should have a shot to pull into sole possession of first place over the next two weeks, as their next 10 games come against non-playoff teams.
DFS Name to Know: Jokisch looked quite poor in his first start back from a shoulder injury, but he looked as good as ever in his most recent start, holding the strong Bears lineup to just three hits in seven scoreless innings to drop his ERA to 2.16 and his WHIP to 1.00, both of which rank first among qualified starters.
2. NC Dinos
Last Week: 4
Run Differential: +128
The Lowdown: It's somewhat odd to move the Dinos up two spots in the week that they relinquished their hold on the top spot, but their movement here is more of a reflection of just how tight the top of the league is at the moment and of the underperformance of some of the teams around them. They move back ahead of the Wiz by beating them twice (by a combined 22-9 score), but they stumbled twice against the surging Tigers and now have a 16-21-1 record over their last 38 games.
DFS Name to Know: Aaron Altherr homered twice last week and has hit .373/.451/.678 over his last 17 contests.
3. KT Wiz
Last Week: 2
Run Differential: +60
The Lowdown: The Wiz slip a spot after a mediocre week in which they went 3-3, including a 1-3 record against teams that aren't the Eagles. They slip behind the Dinos after getting swept by them in their two-game series, though they should have a chance to move up the standings over the next two weeks, as eight of their next 10 games come against teams that are currently out of the playoffs.
DFS Name to Know: 18-year-old rookie Hyeong Jun So struck out nine Eagles in his previous start, smashing his previous career high of six, and has now gone nine starts without giving up more than three runs, posting a 2.25 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP over that stretch.
4. LG Twins
Last Week: 1
Run Differential: +84
The Lowdown: The Twins plummet down three spots, and there's an argument they should drop even further after a terrible week in which they went 1-5, including a pair of losses by a combined 1-15 record against the lowly Lions. They could well turn things around with an impressive week, however, as they've been incredibly streaky for quite some time. Their 1-5 week followed a nine-game undefeated streak, which followed a 1-4 stretch, which in turn followed a seven-game winning streak.
DFS Name to Know: Leadoff man Chang Gi Hong is riding a 16-game hitting streak, posting a .359/.453/.500 slash line while scoring 16 times over that stretch.
5. Doosan Bears
Last Week: 5
Run Differential: +73
The Lowdown: The Bears remain in the fifth spot here after a mediocre 2-2-1 week, but things are looking up for the defending champions. They finally have Chris Flexen back from a broken foot, while Won Joon Choi and potentially Duk Joo Ham are emerging as solid rotation options, potentially solving the team's glaring lack of depth in their rotation. They only really need to get to around average on the pitching side, as they've scored the second-most runs per game in the league despite calling the league's most pitcher-friendly park home.
DFS Name to Know: First baseman Jae Il Oh is the hottest of the Bears' big bats at the moment, as his four-hit day Sunday was part of a 10-game stretch in which he's hitting .364/.488/.727 with three homers and 12 RBI.
6. Kia Tigers
Last Week: 6
Run Differential: +5
The Lowdown: There's a case for moving the Tigers as high as second, as they swept the Dinos by a combined 15-6 score over the weekend. I'm still keeping them in sixth for now, as they were a step below the top five teams for much of the season, but it's hard to ignore what they've done lately, going 9-2 over their last 11 games. They could close the 1.5-game gap that separates them from the final playoff spot this week, as their next six games come against the bottom three teams in the league.
DFS Name to Know: Ji Wan Na is riding a 12-game hitting streak, posting a .378/.481/.644 slash line while homering three times and driving in 13 runs over that stretch.
7. Lotte Giants
Last Week: 7
Run Differential: 6
The Lowdown: The Giants art still just five games out of the final playoff spot, and five weeks should be enough time to make up that gap if they go on a run, but they haven't shown any signs that's about to happen. They've gone a mediocre 12-14 over their last 26 games, including a pair of tight losses against the Wyverns over the weekend, games they really need to be winning if they're to keep their playoff hopes alive.
DFS Name to Know: Adrian Sampson now owns a streak of four straight quality starts, posting a 1.05 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP, though he's struck out just 14 batters in 25.2 innings over that stretch, which does hurt his upside.
8. Samsung Lions
Last Week: 8
Run Differential: -35
The Lowdown: Thus far in September, the Lions have played five games against top-five teams. They've won all of them. They've also played six games against bottom-five teams, winning none of them. Their dominant two-game series against the Twins over the weekend could in theory be the start of a late-season run, but it's seemingly far too late for them to get back in the race, as they're 10 games out of the playoffs.
DFS Name to Know: Daniel Palka struggled to a .154/.241/.269 line over his first seven games in Korea, but he's since rebounded to hit .289/.356/.605 over his last 10 contests.
9. SK Wyverns
Last Week: 10
Run Differential: -183
The Lowdown: The Wyverns move back up a spot after following their 11-game losing streak with a four-game winning streak to end the week. Granted, those four games came against the Eagles and Giants, but it's still quite impressive that their struggling pitching staff allowed just six runs in those four contests after allowing a combined 39 over their previous three.
DFS Name to Know: Seung Won Moon had been struggling lately but struck out nine Eagles while allowing just a single run on three hits in six innings his last time out, lowering his ERA and WHIP to a solid 3.96 and 1.23, respectively.
10. Hanwha Eagles
Last Week: 9
Run Differential: -227
The Lowdown: The Eagles opened the week with two wins and a tie against the Lions before ending the week with four straight losses. If it's any consolation, they pitched quite well all week, allowing an average of just 3.6 runs per game, more than two runs better than their season average, though they scored the exact same amount, which matches their season-long numbers.
DFS Name to Know: Min Woo Kim has struck out exactly seven batters in three straight starts, posting a 2.60 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP over that stretch.