For the Japanese imports, the third week of the Major League Baseball season was another in which the pitchers outshone the position players.
The brightest light was provided by the Chicago Cubs’ Yu Darvish, who, in his only appearance of the week, retired the first 19 Milwaukee Brewers batters he faced before giving up a solo home run to Justin Smoak. He ended up going seven innings, walking just two and striking out 11, to run his record to 3-1 and help the Cubs to the best mark in the National League after games of August 13. Darvish is certainly a bright spot this season, and may receive Cy Young contention.
After a shaky first outing this season, Darvish has made three strong starts in a row. He has a 1.88 ERA and a microscopic 0.75 WHIP.
The Minnesota Twins’ Kenta Maeda has shone perhaps the steadiest light in the early season, with all four of his starts being solid. A 6.2-inning effort against Milwaukee pushed his record to 3-0. He allowed five hits, two runs and a walk. His ERA is 2.66, and his WHIP is even slightly better than that of Darvish at 0.72. Maeda has walked just four batters in 23.2 innings.
Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees pitched well twice this past week, but failed to get a decision against the Tampa Bay Rays and Atlanta Braves. He pitched five innings of one-hit, no-walk ball against the Rays and then went four innings against the Braves. In three games this season, Tanaka is 0-0 with a 2.31 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.
The remaining Japanese import starter, Seattle’s Yusei Kikuchi, allowed six hits and four earned runs in a 5.2-inning stint against Colorado. Overall, he is 0-1 with a 5.28 ERA.
Reliever Shun Yamaguchi of the Toronto Blue Jays had his second straight solid performance after opening the season with two rough outings. His only appearance of the week was 2.1 innings against the Miami Marlins in which he gave up no hits or walks and struck out four batters.
As for the position players, they continue to get used to the different environment of the MLB game.
Outfielder Shogo Akiyama of the Cincinnati Reds picked up the pace a bit by going 3-11 with five walks. He also made two outstanding defensive plays in a 9-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 13 – which may not be surprising since he was twice a Gold Glove award winner in the NPB Pacific League. For the season, he’s batting .229 with no home runs, three RBI and a .640 OPS.
Infielder Yoshi Tsutsugo of the Rays continued to struggle, going 4-22 at the plate with three walks and five RBI. Overall, he’s batting .182, though he does have a couple of home runs and 11RBI. His OPS is just .590, though. The good news is that he hasn’t swung and missed much, and his hard-hit and barrel rates are good.
The 28-year-old slugged better than .500 in each of his last six seasons with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars of NPB, averaging 31 homers a year during that stretch.
Last, we come to Shohei Othani of the Los Angeles Angels, normally a two-way player but now limited to DHing after an arm injury that will keep him from pitching again this season. He perked up a bit at the plate this past week, with six hits – including a home run – in 22 at-bats, and he had three consecutive two-hit games.
Ohtani’s season average is still down at .212, but he does have four home runs and an .877 OPS.
The remaining Japanese import on a Major League roster is reliever Yoshihisa Hirano, who Seattle signed in January but who has yet to pitch after testing positive for Covid-19 in late June. He does not have a timetable for his 2020 debut.
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