There is simply never enough space to include every team or every milestone into every newsletter. Forgive us if we do not mention your favorite team every week – we try! Let’s start with the most productive hit possible, the grand slam, since there are many interesting ones that deem a salute.
Yuki Yanagita (SoftBank Hawks) broke a 3-3 tie on Tuesday by hitting a grand slam against 2021 Sawamura Award winner Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix Buffaloes). It was the first Yamamoto had ever allowed across his career, and resulted in him giving up a career-worst seven runs. He was deactivated the next day, presumably because of fatigue. Incidentally, Yanagita hit a solo shot the next day that also proved to be the game-winner.
Munetaka Murakami (Yakult Swallows) became the first hitter in four seasons to hit grand slams in back-to-back games, and just the ninth hitter ever in NPB history to accomplish the feat. On May 6 (Friday), he teed off against Kenshin Hotta (Yomiuri Giants) and the next day, his victim was Matt Shoemaker (Giants). This was the first time in Giants’ team history that the same player hit grand slams in back-to-back games against them.
Finally, on Mother’s Day, Hiroshima Carp outfielder Shota Suekane became the first rookie in team history to hit a grand slam. His round-tripper helped the Carp handily crush the Yokohama DeNA Baystars by a 17-3 score. At least one team’s mothers left the ballpark happy. For the record, the 17 runs scored by the Carp were the most this past week, but not by much. The Hawks defeated the Chiba Lotte Marines 16-0 on Saturday afternoon, and the Swallows took down the Giants 13-2 earlier in the week.
Though Takeya Nakamura’s 444th career home run was not a grand slam (it was a solo), it was good enough to put him in a tie with legendary Giants’ third baseman Shigeo Nagashima for 14th on the all-time home run list. It should be noted, as we are discussing grand slams, that Nakamura holds the all-time record for career grand slams with 22, seven more than the Home Run King, Sadaharu Oh.
On the flipside of big offensive production is extremely good pitching, of which NPB was not bereft this past week. Headlining the arsenal of arms was Yudai Ohno of the Chunichi Dragons, who retired 29 straight Hanshin Tigers batters on Friday night. Unfortunately for him, this does not go down as a perfect game, as Teruaki Sato doubled in the top of the 10th inning. The Dragons walked the game off in the bottom of the frame, so at least Ohno gets a complete-game shutout win. Koyo Aoyagi of the Tigers was the tough-luck loser who had two-hit the Dragons through nine innings but was unable to complete the tenth.
For a couple of teams, the rough starts to the year are about to get rougher. The Baystars already have plenty of star players on the shelf (including OF Tyler Austin, whose ETA is unknown), but recently lost their closer Kazuki Mishima, first baseman Neftali Soto, and outfielder Taishi Ohta to injury on the same day. The Orix Buffaloes have it even worse, though. Losers of seven straight (in part due to players being deactivated because of Covid protocols), they announced today that all-star outfielder Masataka Yoshida is one of three position players to test positive for Covid. The defending PL champs are up against the ropes. Let’s see how much fight they have left in them.
When we talk again in a week’s time, you will find out who the players of the month were for March-April. Stay tuned and have a great week!