I think we can call agree that life is better with baseball. This was the first full week of NPB regular season action, and it did not disappoint. That said, some of the teams that started strongly faltered, while some that failed to win last weekend strung together decent winning streaks. Here are some of the highlights of the past six days of action.
Tuesday: Yomiuri Giants newcomer Lewis Brinson, who went hitless in his first three games, picked up five (the first of which was a home run) and drove in six runs, helping his Yomiuri Giants to a 9-0 shutout win against the Yokohama DeNA Baystars. The team was also aided by the return of WBC Samurai pitcher Shosei Togo, who threw six shutout innings.
Wednesday: This was the first of two straight days featuring fantastic pitching. In fact, four teams shut out their opponents: the Yakult Swallows (Keiji Takahashi 5 IP) beat the Chunichi Dragons 5-0 for their second straight shutout, the Baystars (Kentaro Taira 6 IP) blanked the Giants 2-0, the Rakuten Golden Eagles (Takahisa Hayakawa 6 IP) squeaked past the Saitama Seibu Lions 1-0, and the SoftBank Hawks (Tsuyoshi Wada 5 IP) kept the Orix Buffaloes off the board, winning 5-0.
Thursday: This was another day for Samurai Japan pitchers to return to their teams’ rotations. Roki Sasaki came back to the Chiba Lotte Marines and threw six shutout innings (striking out 11 and allowing just one hit) as his team handily defeated the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, 6-1. Yoshinobu Yamamoto was nearly as impressive in six shutout innings against the Hawks, allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7. His Buffaloes won, 7-2. Finally, Hiroto Takahashi helped stop the Dragons’ bad fortunes by tossing 6 innings of one-hit (one-run) ball, fanning 8 Yakult Swallows batters in a 3-1 win.
Friday: One more Samurai led his team to victory. Hiroya Miyagi went six innings, allowing just one hit and striking out seven, as his Buffaloes defeated the Fighters, 4-2. It was a slow night, as only four games were scheduled, one of which was called off due to rain.
Saturday: Active legendary shortstop Hayato Sakamoto got his first hit of the season, a home run, in his 20th at-bat of the year. It was not enough, as his Giants were already down 6-0 to the Hiroshima Carp at that point. These Carp, who had lost their first four games of the season, swept the Giants thanks in part to the power hitting of new third baseman, Matt Davidson, who had hit his third home run of the season. He would add another on Sunday and leads NPB so far.
Sunday: At long last, NPB got its first tie of the year. The Hanshin Tigers hosted the Yakult Swallows and took a 1-0 lead into the seventh inning, thanks in no small part to Hiroto Saiki, who fanned 11 batters before finally allowing the game-tying run. Both teams generated prime scoring chances the rest of the way (the Tigers led off the 8th with a double, the Swallows had a no-outs, runner on third scenario in the 11th), but all the relievers combined to keep the score knotted at 1 until time ran out after the 12-inning limit on NPB games.
Good Start: Swallows (6-2-1), Tigers (5-2-1), Hawks (6-2)
Slow Start: Dragons (2-6), Giants (3-6), Fighters (3-6)