Some of the best players from 2019 and 2020 had some tough-luck injuries this week. But fear not! There were plenty of young players stepping up and impressing the masses!
Tuesday: Twenty-year-old prospect Akira Neo of the Chunichi Dragons hit his first career home run, and it was an important one, as his grand slam in the third inning gave the Dragons a big enough lead to coast to an 8-4 win over the Yokohama DeNA Baystars. Last year’s Sawamura Award winner Yudai Ohno won his second straight decision, but has also been deactivated due to his arm being in poor condition. No further details were released by the team.
In other action, the Hanshin Tigers hit four home runs in the final four innings of their game against the Yakult Swallows (Jefry Marte, Takumu Nakano, Jerry Sands and Teruaki Sato) to break open a tight game and take the opener of that series 11-5.
Wednesday: Ties do not normally make the news, but when the top two teams in the Pacific play this tight of a contest, it garners some attention. The Rakuten Eagles stormed out to a 4-0 start, and held a 5-1 lead halfway through the game, but the SoftBank Hawks clawed their way back into the game, and down to their final out, used a clutch RBI single by Seiji Uebayashi against Eagles super-closer Yuki Matsui to avoid being hung with the loss. The gap between these two teams is currently a half-game, with the Eagles flying just a little higher.
Thursday: No games
Friday: The Baystars have struggled to pitch well most of this season, and this night was no exception. Their 6-3 lead evaporated in the fifth inning, but fortunately, their bats have started to really come alive. A huge sixth inning put them in the driver’s seat and ultimately, they doubled up the Tigers, 12-6.
In injury news, 2020 Central League MVP Sugano left the Yomiuri Giants game after just four innings of shutout ball. He is said to have been experiencing discomfort in his right elbow. Also getting injured on this day was 2019 Japan Series MVP Yurisbel Gracial of the SoftBank Hawks. He damaged the ligaments in fingers in his right hand while sliding headfirst back into second base.
Saturday: Hiroshima Carp rookie closer Ryoji Kuribayashi made his 16th consecutive appearance without allowing a run, which is a new NPB records for rookies at the start of their careers. He and his mates hung on to beat the Chunichi Dragons 4-3.
Somehow, the last-place, low-scoring Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters have figured out Masahiro Tanaka. For second time in two tries this season, they have hung him with a loss. Tanaka went seven innings and gave up four runs as his Eagles fell 4-1.
Sunday: The Giants were backed into a corner against the Yakult Swallows, down 5-3 with two inningsg left. Enter struggling slugger Kazuma Okamoto. After leading off the bottom of the eighth with a solo home run, he became the final batter of the game by hitting a three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. Giants win 7-5, but it came at a price. Shortstop and 2019 CL MVP Hayato Sakamoto fractured his thumb while diving back into first base and could miss a month of action.
Good week: Giants (3-1-1), Tigers (3-1-1)
Bad week: Carp (1-3-1)