The midseason classic had its usual laughter and big moments, but by and large, it was not much to write home about. Nevertheless, here’s a quick look at the fresh all-star game plus the two regular games, which included a pre-game derby. We’ll save the best for last, though, as Sunday’s regular-season action featured a whole lot of streaks, both good and bad!
Fresh All-Star Game, Toyama Prefecture
For those unfamiliar with the farm system, the 12 NPB teams each have a minor league team in one of these two leagues, which are divided geographically. The Western has just five teams (from Fukuoka to Nagoya), while the Eastern has seven (from Saitama up to Sendai – the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters’ farm team plays in Kamagaya, Chiba). On to the game. It would figure that the one Hanshin Tigers position player not voted onto the top squad all-star team would win MVP of this match. Outfielder Shota Morishita (22) collected three hits and three RBIs and his fellow rookie, lefty Keito Mombetsu (19), threw two shutout innings for the win. Other standout players included Orix Buffaloes’ 23-year-old infielder Tomoya Noguchi (3-4, HR, 2 RBI) and Rakuten Eagles’ 25-year-old infielder Ryuya Taira (3-3, RBI, SB).
Final Score: Western League 7, Eastern League 3
All-Star Game 1, Vantelin Dome (Nagoya)
The pre-game home run derby was a rather low-scoring affair. Seiya Hosokawa (Chunichi Dragons) muscled his way to the finals on Day 1 by defeating Takeya Nakamura (Saitama Seibu Lions) 2-1 in the first match-up. Maki (Baystars) beat Yutaro Sugimoto (Buffaloes) 5-5 (2-0) in the other quarter-finals bracket. In the semis, Hosokawa and Maki were tied at 4 after the allotted time, and in extras, Hosokawa bopped three while Maki came up empty.
In the game itself, Tigers rookie Shoki Murakami struggled as he gave up four early runs in the first inning. Meanwhile, Roki Sasaki dazzled, striking out two in his one inning of work. Two PL batters went deep: Yuki Yanagita in the top of the third (solo) and Chusei Mannami in the seventh (solo). The lone score for the CL was a solo home run from Toshiro Miyazaki of the Yokohama DeNA Baystars. Despite starting six position players, the Tigers’ batters managed just four hits all game.
Final Score: Pacific League 8, Central League 1
All-Star Game 2, Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium (Hiroshima)
Before the game, Kazuma Okamoto (Yomiuri Giants) hit two home runs to Yanagita’s single, advancing to the semis. Miyazaki went yard six times to Mannami’s three, setting up an all-CL semi-final. Okamoto put five over the fence and Miyazaki fell just short with four. The finals featured Hosokawa against Okamoto, and would you believe it? One home run was all it took! The former failed to put one into the stands, and all that was left was for Okamoto to clear the fence, which he did with just under a minute left.
The PL stormed out to an early lead once again, scoring a run off Hiroshima Carp starter Aren Kuri in the top of the second. They would add a pair two innings later with Baystars import Trevor Bauer on the mound. He said in a pre-game interview that he would call all his pitches before throwing, and Chusei Mannami did not let him get away with it, taking a slider to deep left for his second home run in two games. The CL got one back in the fifth, but the PL tacked on a few insurance runs late in the match, out-hitting the CL 13-5 en route to another easy win. Mannami won all-star game MVP.
Final Score: Pacific 6, Central 1
In regular season play, which resumed on Saturday, five incredible streaks remained intact. To the chagrin of the Fighters, they possess a 12-game losing streak now, the longest for the franchise in the last 39 years. The Hawks are not doing much better, having lost 11 in a row for the first time in 54 seasons. On the brighter side, the Carp have won seven straight and find themselves in a tie for first place with the Hanshin Tigers. Individually, two players are riding four-game home run streaks: Leandro Cedeño of the Buffaloes and Yuto Akihiro of the Giants.