When former Yokohama DeNA Baystars outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo was designated for assignment on Wednesday by the Tampa Bay Rays, fans in Japan hoped he would return to his old stomping grounds. Instead, he was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday. Baystars fans can take solace in the knowledge that 27-year-old lefty ace Shota Imanaga has rejoined the top squad and could make his first start of the year as early as Thursday. Injuries have limited Imanaga to just nine mound appearances in the past season and a half, but he finished three of his first four seasons with an ERA between 2.90 and 2.99. While Imanaga may not be enough to completely reverse the last-place Baystars’ fortunes, he could help put the team back on the right course for the remainder of this season and beyond.
OK, let’s look at some of the action on the field, shall we?
Tuesday: Orix Buffaloes rookie southpaw Hiroya Miyagi has continued to give his team one of the most dangerous rotations in baseball. His eight-inning, four-hit, nine-strikeout performance helped his team to a comfortable 9-1 win over the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. He currently boasts a 1.45 ERA and a 4-0 record in six starts.
Wednesday: Miyagi’s mate, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, makes a case for being the Jacob DeGrom of NPB. He once again threw a gem (seven innings, nine strikeouts, two runs) but suffered his fourth loss of the year (against three wins) despite a 1.99 ERA and the most strikeouts in the Pacific League.
Thursday: With the PL getting the night off and two Central League games rained out, the lone game saw the Chunichi Dragons and Hanshin Tigers play a nail-biter at Koshien Stadium. The visitors’ one-run lead held until the seventh, when the Tigers pieced together the tying run. In the eighth, outfielder Jerry Sands hit a clutch home run as the Tigers won 2-1.
Friday: Different ballpark, same basic result. The Yomiuri Giants scored the game’s first run early, but a fourth-inning home run from Jefry Marte was followed by an RBI single from Ryutaro Umeno. For the second straight night, the Tigers triumphed 2-1.
Saturday: Masahiro Tanaka sure is not finding winning as easily as he did in his final season in NPB (2013). His historic 24-0 season for the Rakuten Eagles eight seasons ago feels like a distant memory, as he was hung with his third loss of the year. Buffaloes’ outfielder Masataka Yoshida hit a three-run in the sixth inning to give his team a lead that it would not relinquish. Tanaka’s Eagles lost 4-3.
In the Central League, Yakult Swallows starter Yasuhiro Ogawa “Madduxed” the Dragons, going the distance and needing just 99 pitches to complete the shutout. He allowed just three hits, walked none and struck out six in a 5-0 win.
Sunday: Not to be outdone was Eagles’ rookie hurler Takahisa Hayakawa, who needed one fewer pitch (98) to pull the same trick on the Buffaloes. He also allowed just three hits, but walked two and struck out eight in a slim 1-0 win.
For the first time in NPB (two-league) history, four games on the same day ended in ties. The entire week was rather full of “no-decisions” as ten matches ended without a victor.
Good week: Swallows (2-0-2), Tigers (3-1-1)
Bad week: Dragons (0-3-2), Baystars (0-2-2), Fighters (1-3-1)