NPB did a great job of keeping COVID-19 under control for the first 2/3 of the season, but ultimately, the pandemic found a way in.
On Friday, it was revealed that five members of the Hanshin Tigers (Masumi Hamachi, Kento Itohara, Yuta Iwasada, Naomasa Yohkawa and Kosuke Baba) tested positive and five other players were ordered to isolate themselves due to having had contact with the above players. As a result, the Tigers became the first team to make use of the special top roster registration rules set in place by the league this spring. Ten players were immediately deactivated and ten farm players replaced them. Hamachi was the first player to test positive after complaining of headaches, fever and lethargy earlier in the week. The entire team and staff were subsequently tested, and two staffers also tested positive. Yohkawa is the only one who has shown any symptoms, and he has been hospitalized.
Other COVID-related news has the Yomiuri Giants looking for a home in which to play the Japan Series. The delay to starting the season also pushed back the dates for the championship, which are normally held in the home stadiums of the Central and Pacific League winners. The Giants have all-but-clinched the Central, and will most certainly be the home team for as many as four Japan Series games. However, since Tokyo Dome is not property of the team, and other important baseball games (Intercity Baseball Tournament) are already scheduled to be played at there in November (when the Japan Series will take place), the Giants need to look elsewhere to host their games. Kyocera Dome (Osaka) is one ballpark that could end up being their “home grounds.”
Meanwhile the game on the field continues to be played at a very high level, with Tuesday probably providing the best action of the week.
In Sendai, second baseman Hideto Asamura hit three home runs (and currently leads the PL with 28) as the Rakuten Eagles picked up the 1000th win in franchise history, winning 12-4 against the Marines. Reliever DJ Johnson, recently acquired for cash from the Hiroshima Carp, picked up the milestone win for NPB’s newest franchise.
Meanwhile in Fukuoka at PayPay Dome, aces Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Buffaloes) and Kodai Senga (Hawks) faced each other for the fourth time this season. Yamamoto evened the series at two apiece with seven shutout innings. Slugger Masataka Yoshida provided the lone run of the night with a solo home run in the top of the second inning. The two flamethrowers combined for 16 strikeouts and gave up just 8 hits.
In the Central League, Dragons lefty Yudai Ohno threw his seventh complete game (and third shutout) of the season, two-hitting the Swallows at Nagoya Dome. Despite that many full games, it was just his sixth win on the year. The soon-to-be-free agent has been raising his own stock all year.
We’ll see how COVID impacts the playoffs, but here’s hoping there’s a good postseason ahead.
Good week: Giants (5-1), Buffaloes (4-1-1)
Bad week: Carp (1-5), Hawks (1-4-1)
For more Japanese baseball news, check out JapanBall’s Articles and Features section!