It would be easy to write this entire newsletter about Friday’s thrilling games but that wouldn’t seem right. We’ll let that be the main course, so here are the appetizers in the meantime.
Tuesday was shutout day, as four games ended with one team going scoreless. The total of 15 runs scored in all six games was the lowest in interleague history. The Yokohama DeNA Baystars produced more than a fourth of the runs scored, with four. Also, one-third of the runs scored on the night came from solo home runs.
On Thursday, Orix Buffaloes’ closer Yoshihisa Hirano (former Arizona Diamondback) became just the seventh player to collect 200 NPB saves. At age 38 and 2 months, he was the oldest to reach the milestone. His team defeated the Baystars 3-1.
Friday night was a big night for a lot of teams and individuals, but let’s begin with the first loss of the year for 20-year-old ace Roki Sasaki (Chiba Lotte Marines). The Yomiuri Giants scored in nearly every inning that Sasaki toed the rubber – they put up five runs in five innings and only came up empty-handed in the first inning – and ultimately pushed 10 runs across home in an annihilation of the Marines. Sasaki was not at his best by any means, and now has a 1.77 ERA on the year.
Another potential future major leaguer, Kodai Senga of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, threw 5 1/3 shutout innings against the Chunichi Dragons, but struck out just two (a low number for someone who once struck out 10+ in four straight games back in 2019. Still, his Hawks won soundly, 6-0. They would proceed to lose the rest of the weekend, though.
Perhaps the best pitching outing of the day belonged to Yasuhiro Ogawa of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. Not only did he throw eight shutout innings, fanning six and walking just one, but he scored the lone run of the game. He produced it, too, going yard in the bottom of the fifth inning off Saitama Seibu Lions ace Kona Takahashi.
That said, there was an even more exciting match on Friday night at Koshien Stadium. Tsuyoshi “BigBoss” Shinjo, who played for nine seasons with the Hanshin Tigers (1992-2000) and three with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (2004-06), returned to his old stomping grounds as manager of the visiting team. He and his men proceeded to storm out to a 7-1 lead through three innings, but the Tigers chipped away and ultimately pulled ahead in the bottom of the eighth. Slugger Yusuke Ohyama hit three solo home runs, the first two of which were first-pitch homers. The Tigers went on to sweep the Fighters, winning 3-0 on Saturday and 8-3 on Sunday.
In that shutout win, Tigers starter Koyo Aoyagi threw 8 shutout innings, lowering his ERA on the season to an astounding 0.98. He became just the 7th pitcher in NPB since 1990 to hold an ERA under 1 in June.
The Orix Buffaloes were the only other team to sweep a series this week, as they took all three games in Hiroshima over the weekend. They have now won 12 straight against the Carp, and are riding a 5-game winning streak, just like the Tigers.
9-3 = Swallows
8-4 = Tigers
7-5 = Hawks, Buffaloes, Dragons
6-6 = Baystars, Giants
5-7 = Eagles, Lions, Marines
4-8 = Fighters
3-9 = Carp