Great news, NPB (import player) fans! Families of non-Japanese players are finally reportedly being allowed to enter the country! Up until this point, they had been prevented by Covid-19 protection measures, but it has now been deemed safe enough for them to join their husbands/fathers here in Japan. It is a shame that this announcement came too late for at least a half-dozen players who left their teams midway through the year.
Last week, we reported to you that Nippon-Ham Fighters slugger Sho Nakata had been suspended indefinitely by the team for violent acts against (or should we say “slugging”?) a teammate. Well, in a puzzling move, he was traded to the Yomiuri Giants over the weekend and has already suited up for his new team. It seems the suspension, which was issued by his old team, is no longer in effect. Nakata, who had 261 career home runs with the Fighters, should hit a lot more in the hitter-friendly confines of Tokyo Dome, provided he remains healthy and productive.
And now, let’s look at different interesting games across NPB from the past week.
Tuesday: The Yakult Swallows scored nine runs in the bottom of the sixth in their opening match with their crosstown rivals, the Yomiuri Giants, which powered them to a 13-3 win and pulled them to within a half-game of second place. The Swallows got home runs from Munetaka Murakami (27th) and Tetsuto Yamada (26th).
Wednesday: The Chunichi Dragons used five hitters to one-hit the Hiroshima Carp, blanking them 3-0 and putting some distance between the two non-playoff teams, slim as it may be. The lone hit for the Carp was a Seiya Suzuki single up the middle in the top of the sixth.
Thursday: Hanshin Tigers rookie phenom Teruaki Sato set a club record for home runs by a rookie, clubbing his 23rd long ball of the year in the top of the ninth in a thrilling game at Tokyo Dome. It brought his team to within a run of the Yokohama DeNA Baystars, but their rally fell short and the Baystars won 5-4, narrowly averting a sweep at the hand of the first-place Tigers.
Friday: Speaking of first-place teams who play in the Kansai region, the Orix Buffaloes continue their improbable season and have opened up a three-game lead, thanks in part to their 2-1 win over the Saitama Seibu Lions. Outfielder Masataka Yoshida hit a walk-off sacrifice fly against fellow Olympic teammate Kaima Taira.
Saturday: For the second night in a row, the Chiba Lotte Marines put up runs late in the game to defeat the SoftBank Hawks. On this day, they found themselves down 5-0 heading into the seventh inning, but scored five in that frame and three more in the ninth to stun the Hawks 8-6. The Marines currently hold down third place in the Pacific, though they are only a game behind the Eagles and a half-game up on the Hawks.
Sunday: Last and (sadly) least, the Fighters finally won their first game since the post-Olympic restart. They posted a couple of early runs (including one unearned) and starter Naoyuki Uwasawa went seven strong (one run against). The Fighters downed the Eagles 2-1. Also on this day, Sho Nakata (see above) hit his first home run as a Giant.
Good week: Dragons (4-2), Buffaloes (3-1)
Bad week: Giants (1-3-1)