Covid-19 continues to slow down normal baseball operations but the product on the field continues to be top notch!
The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters reported ten players and staff had tested positive for the virus, and the team’s games for the time being have been postponed. Stadiums in Tokyo, Osaka and Hyogo have stopped letting fans in due to the current state of emergency, and some games simply got postponed with the hopes that they will be able to put fans in the stands during the make-up games which will likely be rescheduled for September or October.
Anyhow, let’s move on to the action, shall we?
Tuesday: The Yomiuri Giants and Yakult Swallows combined for 33 hits, including seven home runs, as the Giants defeated the Swallows 14-11. Munetaka Murakami and Tetsuto Yamada of the Swallows took hold of the home run lead in the Central League with 10 apiece. The biggest story of the night, though, was the injury to newly acquired (and promoted) import outfielder Eric Thames, who ruptured his Achilles tendon in the third inning and left the game. He is scheduled to have surgery in America and is unlikely to return to the field this season.
Wednesday: Aces Takahiro Norimoto (Rakuten Eagles) and Yasunobu Yamamoto (Orix Buffaloes) spent their evening watching each other mow down batter after batter. Norimoto went eight innings and allowed just two hits, while Yamamoto pitched a complete-game three-hitter as the game ended in a scoreless draw.
Thursday: For just the second time all season, the Yokohama DeNA Baystars put up back-to-back wins (13-2 on Wednesday, 5-3 on Thursday vs. Hiroshima Carp). They are starting to look a lot better than they did earlier in the year, as they also won three in a row over the weekend.
Friday: Chunichi Dragons’ righty Yuya Yanagi outdueled Giants’ ace Tomoyuki Sugano, as the Dragons held on to win 3-2 at Tokyo Dome. Yanagi fanned nine in seven innings of two-run ball. Sugano was not so bad himself, giving up three in seven innings of work.
Also, the Buffaloes walked off the SoftBank Hawks as third baseman Yuma Mune’s shot to the left-center gap sailed over the fielder’s head and two runs scored. The Buffaloes have won five against the Hawks already this season, which matches their total from all of last year.
Saturday: Despite being down three runs in the game’s final inning, the Fighters, who have the worst run production in the Pacific League, walked off the Seibu Lions in Sapporo. A two-run home run by Sho Nakata was complemented by an RBI double to tie the game. Then, the Lions hung themselves with the loss by walking three of the next four batters, the last of whom did not see a single strike. Fighters win 5-4.
Sunday: The Baystars and Chiba Lotte Marines both used late-game solo home runs from unlikely sources (Masayuki Kuwahara had his second of the year for DeNA, while Takashi Ogino hit his first for the Marines) to win their matchups. But neither of those were the biggest home run of the day.
Hanshin Tigers rookie Teruaki Sato, playing his first game at third base and batting fourth, hit a game-changing grand slam in the fifth inning of his team’s 7-3 victory against the Carp. Sato became the first rookie ever to hit a grand slam in his first game as the team’s #4 hitter. It was his eighth big fly on the year, good for third in the Central.
Monday: Bonus! Monday baseball in Japan! The Buffaloes continue their winning ways as rookie lefty Hiroya Miyagi threw 6 2/3 innings of 2-run baseball, while his mates Yuma Tongu and Yuma Mune each hit three-run home runs. The latter was an inside-the-park race around the bases.
Good week: Baystars (4-2), Dragons (4-1)
Bad week: Marines (2-4), Swallows (1-4)