There were lots of home runs this week, a few walk-offs, some shutouts, and plenty of other action. One team pulled away and got a magic number. Another team took exception and swept them over the weekend. All this and more in this week’s recap!
Tuesday: Munetaka Murakami (Yakult Swallows) tied Sadaharu Oh (1964 Yomiuri Giants) for the “Japan-born” record of 55 home runs in a single season, as he launched two into the stands against the Yomiuri Giants. His big flies represented just 25% of the bombs on the night, as the two teams exchanged blows all game, and the Giants came out on top, 9-7.
Wednesday: The Hanshin Tigers and Hiroshima Carp played a seesaw game of their own, but with just one home run. Every time the Carp took a lead, the Tigers found answers. Both teams scored two in the first and one in the fifth. When Hiroshima scored one in the sixth, the Tigers replied with three in the bottom of the inning. The Carp threatened in the top of the seventh and knocked on the door again in the eighth, but fell short in the end, losing 6-5.
Thursday: Only Pacific League teams played on this night, and the most exciting game was between the Nippon-Ham Fighters and the Orix Buffaloes. The Fighters evened the score in the top of the ninth on a Kotaro Kiyomiya sacrifice fly (he had a great week outside of this game as well). It took until the bottom of the twelfth for the tie to be broken, as Kenya Wakatsuki doubled home Ryo Ohta. Buffaloes win 3-2.
Friday: Somehow, the only team that has had repeated success against the Swallows this season has been the last-place Chunichi Dragons. On this night, ace Yudai Ohno one-hit the powerful CL leaders through seven innings, and the offense put up a bunch of runs for an easy 8-0 win. With two games left in their season series, the Dragons currently lead 13-9-1.
Saturday: Masahiro Tanaka (Rakuten Eagles) threw seven shutout innings and his fielders put up a three-spot in the fourth inning. The Eagles blanked the suddenly struggling Saitama Seibu Lions, 3-0. As of Monday night, the Eagles are now just 2.5 games out of first place, while the Lions, riding a seven-game losing streak, are 4.5 back with just 6 games left on their schedule.
Sunday: The two teams who are tied for first place in the PL right now were a fair distance apart heading into their three-game series this weekend. The Orix Buffaloes, though, hosted the SoftBank Hawks, and put an end to the momentum that the Hawks had built up over the previous week. Yoshinobu Yamamoto threw a complete-game shutout on Saturday, Hiroya Miyagi combined with relievers to throw another on this day, and then…
Monday: … today, the Buffaloes tied the game up while down to their final strike against Hawks closer Livan Moinelo, then pushed the walk-off run across home in the tenth while also down to their final out. Their series sweep completely closed the three-game gap between the two teams. That said, the Hawks collected a magic number of nine earlier in the week, and they get to keep it for a bit longer. The Buffaloes have just six games left, while the Hawks are still in the driver’s seat with 10 games remaining on their schedule.
Good Week: Hawks (5-3), Carp (3-1)
Bad Week: Swallows (1-3-1), Lions (0-6)