Interleague play is underway, and while there have not been any rainouts yet, there have been a couple of Covid-related postponements. The Hiroshima Carp and the Saitama Seibu Lions did not play on Tuesday and Wednesday because of an outbreak in the Carp camp. And on the first day that they did play, one of the Lions also tested positive for Covid-19. Shortstop Sosuke Genda is the latest player to need to be deactivated until the virus clears his system.
Anyhow, the action on the field was plentiful, and for once, the Central League is not being beaten to a pulp by the Pacific! At least, not yet!
Tuesday: Chunichi Dragons ace Yuya Yanagi lowered his league-best ERA to 1.62 with seven innings of shutout ball (6 strikeouts) and his mates put up a two-spot in the bottom of the third as interleague started on a positive note for the lower-tiered teams. In addition to the Dragons winning their opener, so did the sixth-place Yokohama DeNA Baystars (10-3 over the Orix Buffaloes) and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (4-2 against the Yakult Swallows).
Wednesday: The Yomiuri Giants won their second straight against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, as Kazuma Okamoto, Akihiro Wakabayashi and Takumi Ohshiro all hit home runs in the fourth inning against ace Takahiro Norimoto. The Giants won 5-2.
Thursday: Two highly-touted teen pitchers collected wins on this night. Chiba Lotte Marines 2019 first-rounder Roki Sasaki, who did not make it to Koshien as a high schooler, pitched his first ever game on the hallowed grounds of high school ball and collected a win, throwing five innings of four-run ball. The Marines downed the Tigers 6-4. Another hot prospect from the 2019 draft, Swallows righty Yasunobu Okugawa, threw six strong innings (nine strikeouts) as his team beat the Fighters soundly, 5-2.
Friday: Hanshin Tigers rookie Teruaki Sato became the first rookie in the Central League since 1958 to hit three home runs in a single game. The first was to dead center, the second to left, and the third, with the game knotted at seven in the top of the ninth, went an estimated 130 meters (427 feet) to deep right to give the Tigers a 10-7 win over the Lions.
Saturday: Kosuke Fukudome of the Dragons became the first hitter aged 44 or older to collect four hits in a single game since his ex-teammate Motonobu Tanishige did it in 2015. Thanks to Fukudome’s leadoff single in the eighth, the Dragons pulled away from the Fighters and coasted to a 7-4 win.
Sunday: At long last, the Giants beat the Hawks. Not only had they been swept in consecutive Japan Series (2019, 2020) but they also lost the first two of this set, plus exhibition matches between the two clubs this year as well. Their last win against the Hawks came on June 22, 2019. This one was a nail-biter, as the Hawks had the walk-off runner on first base when the Giants recorded out number 27 to win 4-3.
Good week: Marines (4-2)
Bad week: Fighters (2-4), Carp (1-2-1), Lions (1-2-1)