This is Trevor, reporting to you from halfway around the world (which for many of you is YOUR side of the world!). My apologies if these next few letters come to you at a different time than usual, or if they feel a little sparser in detail. We’ll be back to “normal” in September, when the pennant races really start to heat up (or so we hope)! For now, here is a brief look at how each team’s week went, plus some of their highlights.
Orix Buffaloes. Last week: 3-2. Who else but Yoshinobu Yamamoto? On Tuesday, he threw seven more shutout innings and got the win against the second-place Chiba Lotte Marines. His ERA is down to 1.57 and the team now sits 5.5 ahead of the next-best team.
Chiba Lotte Marines. Last week: 3-3. On Thursday, it was young burgeoning ace Atsuki Taneichi’s turn to twirl seven straight zeroes on the Buffaloes. The Marines lost the series but continue to hang on firmly to second, 4 games up on…
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. Last week: 2-3. Veteran (42-year-old) lefty Tsuyoshi Wada threw 5 ⅔ innings of one-run ball and the bats exploded for 11 runs on Thursday night against Masahiro Tanaka and the Eagles. The win allowed them to extend their lead for third to 3 games.
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. Last week: 2-2. Veteran (38-year-old) righty Takayuki Kishi threw a complete-game shutout on Friday, allowing five hits in a 5-0 win against the Buffaloes.
Saitama Seibu Lions. Last week: 3-3. The front-end pitchers continue to perform at a very high level. On Tuesday, Kona Takahashi allowed just two runs in eight innings. The next day, second-year lefty Chihiro Sumida threw his first-ever complete-game shutout, striking out 11 Fighters. Then on Friday, Kaima Taira fell between those two, allowing one run in eight innings.
Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Last week: 3-3. Chusei Mannami continues his break-out season. On Saturday, he smoked two home runs against the Hawks in a 9-0 win. The 23-year-old All-Star Game MVP has 18 long balls on the year.
Hanshin Tigers. Last week: 6-0. The August road trip continues to go completely in the Tigers’ favor, as they swept the Giants at Tokyo Dome in the first half of the week, then enjoyed a short respite at home against the Swallows (at Kyocera Dome Osaka) with three big dramatic wins. Thanks in part to the Carp’s swoon, the Tigers have opened up an eight-game lead in the CL.
Hiroshima Toyo Carp. Last week: 0-5-1. Though they were able to tag Dragons’ closer Raidel Martinez with his first earned run of the season, they were unable to complete the work they started in that game. They are now winless in their last nine games (0-7-2). Nevertheless, they have a three-game pad for second for now.
Yokohama DeNA Baystars. Last week: 4-2. On Thursday, Haruhiro Hamaguchi threw a complete-game shutout over the Dragons for his first win of the year. Two days later, slugger Shugo Maki became the sixth player in CL history to hit 20+ home runs in each of his first three seasons as a pro. Their lead over the Giants is just one game.
Yomiuri Giants. Last week: 2-4. Kazuma Okamoto has continued hitting the long ball, hitting his 32nd of the year on Sunday against the Baystars. Also, rookie outfielder Shogo Asano collected his first career hit on Friday against the Baystars. The 2022 first-round pick is just 18 years old.
Tokyo Yakult Swallows. Last week: 3-3. Munetaka Murakami has been a bright spot in the second half of the season, and on Thursday, he hit a home run for the third consecutive game. He has 22 on the year, which is a far cry from last year’s 56, but gives him a fair chance at 30.
Chunichi Dragons. Last week: 2-3-1. Despite being swept by the Baystars in the first half of the week, they refused to lose to the Carp over the weekend. Outfielder Yuki Okabayashi set a team record by recording a hit in his 26th straight game on Sunday in an extra-innings game that saw his pitcher (Yuya Yanagi) throw nine innings of no-hit ball but fail to get credit for the no-no because he did not complete the game. Nevertheless, the Dragons would go on to win in extras.
The Kansai teams are firmly in first in their respective leagues, one team out of Kanto is in a playoff spot in each, and one team from out west occupies the other. That’s some good balance! Have a great week, everyone!