Sometimes, highly anticipated debuts live up to their hype. Other times, they do not. Sometimes, players make an immediate impact on their team’s fortunes. Other times, it takes time for that impact to be felt. This past week was all about well-known players making their 2021 debuts.
Tuesday: The Yokohama DeNA BayStars started the season without all 10 of the foreigners they had signed to contracts. At long last, returnees Neftali Soto (1B) and Tyler Austin (RF) made their first appearances on the top squad. The former struck out in his lone at-bat, while the latter singled as a pinch hitter late in the game. The result for the BayStars was the same, though: another day, another loss. The Swallows downed them, 5-1, and the BayStars failed to put up a win all week.
Wednesday: The Hanshin Tigers came home after a triumphant weekend in Yokohama, sat out Tuesday due to rain, and then proceeded to blank the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, winning 6-0. Ace Yuki Nishi went eight strong, while rookie phenom Teruaki Sato hit his fourth homer of the year. He would add another on Thursday in another Tigers shutout victory.
Thursday: Despite being tagged for his first earned run on the season (in 22 innings now), Yomiuri Giants’ young lefty Yuki Takahashi went eight innings and helped his team to a 5-1 win over the Chunichi Dragons.
Friday: Speaking of ace Giants pitchers, Tomoyuki Sugano went the distance, blanking the BayStars as the bats pounded the ball endlessly, collecting 19 hits en route to a 7-0 win.
Saturday: Dragons righty Yuya Yanagi racked up an NPB single-game best 14 strikeouts in eight innings of shutout ball against the Carp. His team won comfortably, 5-0.
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles’ MLB returnee Masahiro Tanaka made his first start of 2021 against the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, but it did not go as smoothly as he had hoped. He surrendered two home runs (to a team that had just two on the season to this point) and took the loss after allowing four runs in six innings of work.
Another noteworthy debut was that of Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks’ young import Carter Stewart Jr, who signed a six-year deal with the team in 2019. The 21-year-old threw an inning of relief, fanning two and walking one, topping out at 153 km/h (95 MPH) on the radar. The Hawks beat the Saitama Seibu Lions, 7-1.
Sunday: The Chiba Lotte Marines scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning, capitalizing on four free passes and an infield single, as they defeated the Orix Buffaloes to complete their week undefeated.
Good week: Tigers (4-0), Giants (5-0-1), Marines (4-0-2)
Bad week: BayStars (0-5-1), Dragons (1-5), Buffaloes (1-4-1)