By Carter Cromwell
After a period of adjustment, Shogo Akiyama may be finding his groove.
Following an August in which he batted just .192 with a minuscule .280 on-base percentage, he’s starting to justify the confidence the Cincinnati Reds showed in January when they signed the former Saitama Seibu Lions star to a three-year, $21 million contract.
The left fielder went 7-23 in the most recent week of MLB play to raise his overall average to .239 – the highest it’s been since August 12. In fact, he’s the Reds’ leader in September with a .333 mark, 12 bases on balls, and a .491 on-base percentage. The power isn’t there – no home runs, just six extra-base hits and eight RBI on the season – but it’s a clear improvement at the plate and he has proven to be valuable in the outfield and on the basepaths.
Recently, Akiyama has outshone the other two hitters among the nine Japanese imports.
Yoshi Tsutsugo of the Tampa Bay Rays was 4-20 at the plate last week and is batting .192 overall, though he has shown occasional pop with seven homers and 22 RBI. The 28-year-old, who signed a two-year, $12 million pact with the Rays last December, has been under the .200 mark the majority of the season.
Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels played only twice and went 0-4 to drop his season average to .189. He has five home runs and 20 RBI. He hasn’t been in the Angels’ lineup the past four games. Ohtani, a left-handed hitter, has had particular trouble against lefty pitchers, batting .154/.298/.205 with no homers and one RBI in 47 plate appearances against them.
On the pitching side, the Chicago Cubs’ Yu Darvish wasn’t happy with his performance against Cleveland. He gave up an uncharacteristically high nine hits, but he ate up seven innings and allowed just two earned runs while walking only one. He got a no-decision in the Cubs’ eventual victory and is now 7-2 overall with a 1.86 ERA and 0.94 WHIP.
Fellow starter Kenta Maeda of the Minnesota Twins gave up just two hits, walked no one, and struck out eight batters in five innings against the Chicago White Sox. However, both hits were home runs. He left with the game tied 2-2, and the Twins eventually suffered a 4-3 defeat. He’s 5-1 for the season and has a 2.52 ERA and 0.76 WHIP.
The New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka got a victory over the Toronto Blue Jays with a seven-inning stint in which he allowed seven hits and three runs, walking nobody. He’s 3-2 overall with a 3.27 ERA and 1.02 WHIP.
Yusei Kikuchi of the Seattle Mariners was tagged with the loss against Arizona after giving up six hits, and four earned runs in six innings. He’s now 2-3 with a 5.35 earned-run mark.
That leaves the two relievers, who performed at opposite extremes.
Yoshihisa Hirano of Seattle made three scoreless one-inning appearances, while Shun Yamaguchi of Toronto allowed two hits, four walks, and seven runs in 1.1 innings in the Blue Jays’ 20-6 loss to the mighty New York Yankees. Yamaguchi has given up 20 hits and 13 walks in 21.2 innings this season.
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