There are still roughly 40 games left on the regular-season schedule, but the haves and have-nots are really starting to make themselves clear. The Central League pennant race is red-hot, with three teams less than four games apart. The Pacific League is even hotter, as four teams find themselves within four games of each other, including a tie at the top! Read on for more details…
Tuesday: The Yokohama DeNA Baystars played at Yokohama Stadium for the first time since early June (their ballpark was used for the Olympic Games) as they hosted the Hiroshima Carp. At first, it seemed they would lose miserably in their return, falling behind 6-1 in the early going. However, home runs by Shugo Maki, Keita Sano, and Neftali Soto propelled them to a thrilling win 7-6. That said, they are still in last place in the Central, a game behind the fifth-place Carp.
Wednesday: The Yomiuri Giants welcomed back ace Tomoyuki Sugano, and he showed them what they had been missing for much of the season. He threw eight shutout innings, striking out eight and allowing just one hit. His closer, Thyago Vieira, set a new NPB import pitching record by going 32 consecutive mounds without allowing a run. The Giants beat the Swallows 2-0 and held first place at this point, but as you will see later, they have since dropped back down to second.
Thursday: Speaking of struggling aces who are now pitching well again, SoftBank Hawks’ righty Kodai Senga threw seven innings of two-run ball (with eight strikeouts), outdueling Rakuten Eagles righty Takahiro Norimoto, who gave up five runs in five innings. The Hawks got home runs from Ryoya Kurihara and Yuki Yanagita, winning 5-2 and getting their record back to .500.
Friday: Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto threw eight innings and only gave up a single run in the bottom of the eighth. He left a 1-1 tie after that inning, but still picked up the win thanks to a clutch RBI single from Adam Jones. Yamamoto’s ERA is now an NPB-low 1.68, his 12 wins are the top mark, as are his 145 strikeouts. The Hawks lost this nailbiter 2-1, but win the rest of the weekend in a convincing manner.
Saturday: The Hanshin Tigers had been struggling along through the past two weeks, but completed their second comeback against the Giants in two nights. In this one, third baseman Yusuke Ohyama hit a dramatic walk-off home run against Thyago Vieira (whose shutout streak ended on Thursday against the Swallows) for a 4-3 win. The Tigers nearly completed a third comeback on Sunday, coming all the way out of a 6-0 deficit, but that one ended in a tie. Their successful weekend against the Giants put them back on top of the Central League standings.
Also on this day, Seibu Lions’ veteran Takumi Kuriyama picked up his 2000th career hit as he stroked a single to left against the Rakuten Eagles. He became the 54th player in NPB history to reach the mark, the 31st to do it all with just one club, and the first Lion to accomplish the feat.
Sunday: The Chiba Lotte Marines continue to steadily win games. They defeated the Nippon-Ham Fighters 2-1 thanks to an outstanding outing from Enny Romero (7 innings pitched, one run, nine strikeouts). The Marines have quietly crept up on the rest of the PL field and end the week in first place!
Good week: Tigers (3-1-1), Marines (3-1-1)
Bad week: Swallows (1-4-1), Buffaloes (1-4-1)
Also, we would be remiss to leave this potential gem out of the newsletter. Starting tomorrow (September 7), the Yokohama DeNA Baystars are offering a free smartphone app that allows users a chance to watch their home games from 10 different camera angles! As for whether the app will be available outside of Japan, well, we will soon find out. You can copy and paste ベイスターズプライムカメラ into your app store search bar and see if the app is there!