Call in the back-ups! And what mighty back-ups they are! In recent days, several players who had been named to the Japanese Olympic baseball team have withdrawn due to injury. Nevertheless, the team looks extremely strong on paper. Exit reliever Kota Nakagawa (Yomiuri Giants LHP), enter returning superstar Kodai Senga (SoftBank Hawks RHP). Exit ailing starter Tomoyuki Sugano (Giants RHP), enter red-hot rookie Hiromi Itoh (Fighters RHP). And there are still plenty of superstars (LHP Yuki Matsui, 3B Kazuma Okamoto) who wait in the wings for their chance to crack the roster. Anyways… on to this past week’s action!
Tuesday: The Yomiuri Giants continue to roll on, even when they seem to be on the brink of losing. On this day, slugging third baseman Kazuma Okamoto hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth, leading his team to a come-from-behind 11-8 win over the Hiroshima Carp.
Wednesday: Those same Giants were just a few outs from no-hitting the Carp thanks to a brilliant outing by recent returnee Shun Yamaguchi (Blue Jays). His quest for history was ruined by a solo home run by Takayoshi Noma, who now has just nine home runs in his seven-year career. The Carp win 1-0.
In other action, Daiki Tajima of the Orix Buffaloes pitched seven shutout innings as his team defeated the Chiba Lotte Marines 5-0.
Thursday: Kaima Taira of the Saitama Seibu Lions has his own place in the record books as he threw in his 39th straight game without giving up a run. The second-year 21-year-old was aided in part by a sliding error at third base by the Hawks’ Naoki Satoh, which produced the second out of Taira’s shutout inning. The Lions won 1-0.
Friday: Only three games were played because of rainy weather across the nation. The Tokyo Yakult Swallows spanked the Chunichi Dragons 9-3 at the spacious Vantelin Dome Nagoya, spraying 15 hits to all fields, but with nary a ball leaving the park. The Swallows boast two of the top three home run hitters in NPB right now: Munetaka Murakami has 24 and Tetsuto Yamada has 22.
Saturday: The Marines had their backs against the wall, down in the bottom of the eighth. However, Shogo Nakamura hit a two-run home run to flip the lead, and Hiromi Oka hit an insurance solo home run as the Marines beat the struggling Eagles, 5-3. (In fact, the Marines swept the weekend series and are now in a three-way tie for second with the Hawks and Eagles.)
Sunday: So who’s in first, you ask? None other than the Orix Buffaloes. They continue to ride the arms of the two most dominant pitchers in the Pacific, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and today’s starter, Hiroya Miyagi. Their 3-2 win over the Lions have them 4.5 games ahead of their competition.
Meanwhile, the Hanshin Tigers needed help from the Yokohama DeNA Baystars, who won their first game in 12 tries against the Yomiuri Giants in 2021, which helped the Tigers preserve a 1.5-game lead over the Giants in the Central.
Good week: Buffaloes (4-0-1), Baystars (3-1), Swallows (3-1-2)
Bad week: Eagles (0-4-1), Dragons (0-4-1)