At points in this young season, the two defending champs have looked extremely vulnerable. Not anymore. The Yomiuri Giants rode a four-game losing streak into the new week, and proceeded to sweep the Carp and BayStars on the road. It was their first time winning a set of three games in Hiroshima since 2011. They ousted the BayStars in convincing fashion on Sunday, reversing the score in the ninth inning with some gutsy base running by pinch-runner Daiki Masuda and a big home run from their young slugger, Kazuma Okamoto.
The SoftBank Hawks stumbled through the first weeks of the season, but have straightened up nicely, taking five of six from the Orix Buffaloes in Osaka. They are now just a game back of the first-place Rakuten Golden Eagles. Powered by strong pitching and solid bats in Yuki Yanagita and Akira Nakamura, the Hawks look to get even stronger as their Cuban sluggers Alfredo Despaigne and Yurisbel Gracial arrived in Japan yesterday. Their PCR tests came back negative and they will now spend two weeks in isolation before rejoining their mates. Look out, Pacific League.
The Hanshin Tigers started the season 2-10 (with all of those games being on the road), but have bounced back to erase their deficit completely in their next 12 games. This week, they got the better of the Swallows (2 of 3) and the Dragons (sweep), scoring 40 runs during the week. This is the same team that scored 24 runs in its first 12 games. While they are still just at .500 on the year, they look more dangerous than any CL team not named Yomiuri.
The BayStars, meanwhile, had a 16-game streak of exchanging wins and losses, but had that broken by the Dragons in the first part of the week (WLL) and continued losing the rest of the weekend (LLL). The Dragons also had a rather weak week, and some speculate that the team lost some of its mojo when, during the previous week, the manager made an unusual decision in a game against the Swallows. In the tenth inning, the team had already used all of its fielders, and with the game tied and the bases loaded, manager Tsuyoshi Yoda sent a pitcher in to pinch hit for another pitcher. The result was predictable – the game ended in a tie – and it has been said that player misusage led to irate fans at the least, and demotivated players at the worst.
Most of the rest of the league played close to .500 ball this past week, so let’s look at some gaudy numbers from some players in both leagues.
Batting average: Shota Dobayashi (Carp) .434
Home runs & RBIs: Hideto Asamura (Eagles) 11 & 35 (51 & 161 pace in 120 games)
OPS: Yuki Yanagita (Hawks) 1.227
ERA: Kentaro Taira (BayStars) 1.45 / Koyo Aoyagi (Tigers) 1.50
Wins: Yasuhiro Ogawa (Swallows) & Hideaki Wakui (Eagles) 4
Strikeouts/Walks/WHIP: Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Buffaloes) 39/4/0.71
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