The all-star game and break have come and gone, and while the home run derby itself left much to be desired, the rest of the week was full of long balls that had fans completely enamored with the game of baseball.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, four representatives of the Central League faced off against four of their counterparts in the Pacific to see which player could hit the most balls over the fence in two minutes. Here are the results, and let me warn you, most of them were not so pretty:
Tuesday: Yuki Yanagita (SoftBank Hawks) defeated Shugo Maki (Yokohama DeNA Baystars), 2-1, and Hotaka Yamakawa (Saitama Seibu Lions) took down Yusuke Ohyama (Hanshin Tigers), 5-4. When the two victors faced off to determine who would make it to the finals, Yanagita hit 7 to Yamakawa’s 3.
Wednesday: Hideto Asamura (Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles) out-homered Teruaki Sato (Hanshin Tigers) 2-1, and Brandon Laird (Chiba Lotte Marines) completed the PL sweep by edging out Munetaka Murakami (Tokyo Yakult Swallows), 3-2. In the semis, Laird ousted Asamura, 3-2. The finals featured Laird against Yanagita, with the former winning, 4-3. Congratulations to Brandon “Sushi Boy” Laird!
The all-star games themselves were determined by home runs. On Tuesday, it was a walk-off home run by Kotaro Kiyomiya (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters) in the bottom of the ninth to give the Pacific League a 3-2 win. Then on Wednesday, the damage came a little earlier, but Yanagita’s sixth-inning big fly proved the difference, and the PL won the game 2-1.
League action resumed on Friday, and two sluggers brought their big sticks to the ballpark: Dayan Viciedo (Chunichi Dragons) swatted three homers on Friday night, leading his team to a 9-0 shutout victory over the Hiroshima Carp. The man on the mound on this night was no slouch, either. Second-year hurler Hiroto Takahashi one-hit the Carp for seven-plus innings to earn his third win on the season. The Dragons swept the Carp over the weekend, though they remain in last place.
Two days later, another CL slugger hit three bombs in the same game. The Swallows endured two blowout losses to the Tigers at Koshien Stadium and were a few innings from a sweep themselves. However, Murakami hit solo shots in the seventh, ninth, and a two-run bomb in the eleventh to carry his team to a 4-2 victory. Nevertheless, the Tigers find themselves over the .500 mark for the first time all year and are two games ahead of the Carp for second place.
In the PL, the Lions used two wins on the weekend to move fully ahead of the Hawks for first place. Also starting to make a charge are the Orix Buffaloes, who won a thriller at Zozo Marine Stadium against the Marines on Friday (a three-run bomb in the top of the ninth tied the game, and an error in the 12th helped them to a 9-8 win). They then won out the rest of the weekend and are in third place, a half-game back of the Hawks and just a game behind the Lions for first. They are just a half-game up on the Eagles in an extremely tight, exciting Pacific League pennant race.