There was plenty of exciting baseball in the past week, and I can’t wait to share it all with you! Here are some of the highlights from each day:
Tuesday: The BayStars blew leads of 3-0 and 4-2 against the Carp at home. Then in the bottom of the 9th, infielder Yamato, who was 0-4 on the day until that point (2 double plays, 2 strikeouts), stroked a ball over the drawn-in outfield to end this one right for the home team.
Also of note, Buffaloes ace pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto set an NPB record for Japanese pitchers with strikeouts in 24 straight innings. The overall NPB record belongs to Hawks closer Dennis Sarfate, who K’d at least one in 43 straight innings). Also, Giants’ ace Tomoyuki Sugano has 9 straight wins to start the season, bringing him closer to the team record held by Tsuneo Horiuchi (13 in 1966).
Wednesday: The Hawks came back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits and walked off their matchup with the Buffaloes with an RBI triple by Akira Nakamura. The Hawks went the whole week unblemished and are riding an 8-game winning streak. Looks like they plan to carry their dynasty into the 2020s.
Other notes: Eagles’ pitcher Hideaki Wakui saw his winning streak end at 8 as his former team, the Chiba Lotte Marines, shut out his new mates 2-0. The Giants collected 38 hits in two thrashings of the Swallows. They finished off the series on Thursday with “just” 10 hits and 5 runs.
Thursday: The Eagles avenged their Wednesday loss by pounding the Marines 15. Former super closer Yuki Matsui has gone back to starting, and went 7 innings, giving up one hit and striking out 11. One of the other fun endings saw the Lions blow their lead against the Fighters in the 8th, only to walk the game off in the 9th on a Hotaka Yamakawa 2-RBI single.
Friday: The Carp hit two homers early off Tigers starter Yuki Nishi, but the Tigers clawed their way back to tie it in the top of the 9th, only to find themselves on the losing end of a walk-off in the bottom half of the frame. Seldom-used Takashi Uemoto drove a ball past the drawn-in outfield to get the celebration started. Many traditionalists were upset that the celebration began before the runner touched home plate, but nothing more became of it.
Remember Munenori Kawasaki? The former Seattle Mariner and Toronto Blue Jay ended his career due to health issues last season, but has now signed on with Tochigi of Baseball Challenge League. The 39-year-old says he does not plan to attempt a return to NPB.
Saturday: Import starters Sean Nolin (Lions) and Matt Moore (Hawks) each got their first NPB wins. The former went 6 innings and gave up 3 runs, while the latter threw five shutout innings. Also, the Tigers posted an 5-0 early past the Carp, but nearly saw it vanish after starter Shintaro Fujinami struggled through the fifth inning. The Tigers ultimately won 6-5.
Sunday: The Tigers won in extras against Carp after the teams exchanged three-run home runs in the first half of the game. Slugger Yusuke Ohyama hit a 2-run RBI triple in the top of the 10th for the win. In Saitama, the Lions found themselves down to their final out, and down 0-2. Veteran slugger Ernesto Mejia played Messiah as he clubbed a three-run home run to give the struggling Lions a much-needed win.
The latest news on Monday is that longtime Hanshin Tigers closer (and one-time Chicago Cub) Kyuji Fujikawa has announced today that 2020 will be his final season as a player. He is 40 years old and finds himself 5 saves shy (245) of the Golden Players’ Club (meikyukai). Fujikawa has been plagued with arm injuries this season and has stated that he is not in good enough condition to keep on playing. No word on whether or not he will rehab to at least make a comeback this season.
Good week: Hawks (6-0), Tigers (5-1), Giants (5-1)
Bad week: Buffaloes (1-5), Dragons (1-5), Swallows (1-5)