It might seem a little early to be talking about magic numbers, but we’re already at that point of the season, at least in the Central League! The way it works in NPB is that when a team has enough of a lead over all 5 other teams in its league that no one can win the pennant without another team’s help, the magic lamp lights up. In other words, if the second place team has 7 games left against the top team, and is 7 or more games behind in the standings, it’s magic time! Let’s see what’s going on with our teams, shall we?
Hanshin Tigers: Last week = 3-3. Despite losing 2 of 3 to the Carp, they hold a seven-game lead with just seven head-to-head matchups left. Their week ended with a big shutout win on Sunday against the Baystars, as Masashi Itoh threw his second complete-game shutout of the year. The magic number sits at 26 with 34 games left on tap.
Hiroshima Carp: Last week = 4-2. In late July, the Tigers ended the Carp’s 10-game winning streak and they exacted perfect revenge, beating the Tigers handily on Tuesday to end that team’s 10-game hot stretch. Also on Thursday, Hiroki Tokoda threw a complete-game shutout against those Tigers. He leads the CL with a 1.90 ERA.
Yokohama DeNA Baystars: Last week = 3-3. Trevor Bauer threw two games in the same week, a rarity in NPB. On Tuesday, he won 9-3 on seven innings of three-run ball (which ended his shutout streak at 24 games). Then on Sunday, he was victimized by a lack of run support, taking the loss to the Tigers.
Yomiuri Giants: Last week = 2-3. They continue to hit for power extremely well (Kazuma Okamoto marches on as he marked his 34th homer of the year on Sunday, and 18-year-old Shogo Asano hit his first career homer on Friday), but that has not converted to many wins, as they risk finishing in the lower half of the standings for the second straight year – something the club has never done in its history.
Yakult Swallows: Last week = 4-2. Munetaka Murakami continued his strong second half on Thursday with his 24th home run of the campaign, while Cy Sneed threw a shutout on Sunday and received run support from fellow import Domingo Santana in a 1-0 win over the Dragons.
Chunichi Dragons: Last week = 1-4. When it rains, it pours. They have lost 12 straight road games now, been shut out 18 times, and slugger Takaya Ishikawa had to be taken off the field on a stretcher after taking a pitch to the head on Saturday. The salt in the wound is Yuki Okabayashi’s 29-game hitting streak coming to an end on Saturday. It is a club record, but so far in 2023, the club has set more futility records than anything. They are 5.5 games out of fifth.
Orix Buffaloes: Last week = 3-1-1. This team is not short on arms. Yoshinobu Yamamoto had his shortest start in ages on Wednesday (5 IP 7 H 3 R 0 ER) against the Hawks, but rookie Shunpeita Yamashita went deep (7 innings) and allowed just one run on Friday, and the arms combined for an 11-inning shutout (walk-off) win on Sunday against the Fighters, 1-0. Their lead over second is 7.5 games.
Chiba Lotte Marines: Last week = 2-4. Veteran Takashi Ogino led the team to victory on Sunday with four hits, two RBIs and one run. Two straight shutouts at the hands of the Fighters at the start of the week did not help their cause, as their pennant-less streak is in jeopardy of extending yet another year.
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks: Last week = 3-2. Shuta Ishikawa spun the first no-hitter of the 2023 season on Friday, walking three and fanning eight in a 8-0 win over the Lions. In that same game, Yuki Yanagita collected career hit #1500. Their lead in the playoff race grew to 4.5 games.
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles: Last week = 2-4. Their up-and-down season continues as the bats broke down the Lions’ bullpen (4 runs in the game’s final 2 innings) on Tuesday in a 5-3 win, and they picked up another dramatic come-from-behind win over the Marines (7-5, against scoring 4 runs in their final 2 innings) on Saturday. The rest of the week was rather forgettable.
Saitama Seibu Lions: Last week = 3-3. Tatsuya Imai continues his impressive season as he threw a complete game on Wednesday in a 4-1 win over the Eagles. Also, the club established a new record on Sunday with 9 consecutive hits (amounting to 5 runs) against the Hawks in a 6-3 win.
Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters: Last week = 3-2-1. The team continues to make strides despite its spot in the standings (3 games out of fifth, 9.5 out of the playoffs). MLB-hopeful Naoyuki Uwasawa got a no-decision on Friday but allowed just one run in 9 innings in a tie against the Buffaloes. Chusei Mannami also continues to shine with a huge home run on Thursday and an even better defensive play in right, gunning down a runner trying for third.