Munetaka Murakami, we’re not through talking about you just yet. Though Yakyu Cosmopolitan wrote an excellent article covering all of your exploits so far this season, you’ve gone out and outdone yourself this past week. More details later in this update. First, let’s see what happened throughout the week to other teams and players, too.
Tuesday: The Orix Buffaloes traveled to Hokkaido for a pair of games against the Nippon-Ham Fighters… but who could have guessed that the first one would be called after seven innings (with the score tied at 0) on account of darkness? The game was played in the eastern city of Kushiro, where the sun sets earlier than anywhere else in Japan. The field where they played the game is not properly equipped for night games, meaning that the sun is a prerequisite to baseball action. That said, the game started at 1:00 pm and was called at around 4:30 pm. There was stormy weather that caused the sky to darken, though, and players were unable to see the ball clearly.
Wednesday: Yokohama DeNA Baystars closer Yasuaki Yamasaki was called into action unexpectedly as the Hanshin Tigers tried to mount a comeback against his mates in the ninth inning. He got the game’s final out, which resulted in his 200th career save. At 29 years 10 months, he became the youngest NPB player ever to enter the elite club. Don’t get too attached to the record, though, Yasuaki. Yuki Matsui of the Rakuten Eagles has 192 career saves to his name and is just 26 years 10 months old now!
Thursday: Two Pacific League games were exciting for completely different reasons. In Sendai, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks put up four runs in the top of the first, but the Eagles scored seven in the bottom of the frame! The Hawks retaliated with a run in the top of the second, but no runs scored in the final seven innings. The Chiba Lotte Marines overcome an 0-4 deficit at home, scoring at least a run in each of last 4 innings to walk off the visiting Saitama Seibu Lions, 6-5.
Friday: The was a night of ace pitchers doing what they do best in the Pacific League. In Osaka, Lions’ starter Tatsuya Imai went nine innings, throwing 144 pitches and allowing just two runs, giving his team a chance to put the Buffaloes away in extras, 3-2. In Sapporo, Hawks’ starter Nao Higashihama threw seven shutout innings to help his team shut out the Fighters, 10-0. The Marines got a similar performance from Roki Sasaki as they blanked the Eagles, 2-0.
Saturday: Those were far from the best pitching performances of the week, though. Cody Ponce of the Fighters threw the fifth no-no of the NPB season, becoming just the seventh foreigner ever to accomplish the feat. Apparently, the morning after his no-hitter, he was walking around while talking with family back home on his phone. Entering a convenience store, he saw himself on the front page of the sports papers. He pointed his phone to the papers to show them via video to his family. The convenience store clerk then told him customers are forbidden to take photos or videos of newspapers. He was let off the hook when he explained that HE was the one on the front page! Also on this day, Hiroya Miyagi of the Buffaloes threw a complete-game shutout against the Lions.
Over in the Central League, though, the Yakult Swallows set off a ridiculous fireworks display in Yokohama all weekend, but this night in particular was special. They amassed 23 hits, including 7 home runs, trouncing the Baystars 16-4. New import outfielder Patrick Kivlehan hit his first three career home runs, becoming just the fifth player to ever do this in the same game. Jose Osuna, Domingo Santana, Soma Uchiyama, and some kid named Murakami also went yard.
Sunday: But that was not all for Murakami. Perhaps fear got the better of Baystars pitchers, as they walked him in his first three plate appearances. They should have kept on walking him all night. Instead, he hit a home run in his next at-bat, and singled in his final one of the night. He has now reached base safely in 14 straight plate appearances, which is one shy of the NPB record of 15, set by Jun Hirose (Hiroshima Carp) in 2013. Murakami is on pace to win the Triple Crown and will almost certainly repeat as CL MVP.
Good Week: Murakami (11-17 = .647, 12 BB, 5 HR, 13 RBI)
Bad Week: Carp & Baystars pitchers