The first half of last week featured no games, as NPB scheduled days to make up interleague rainouts… but there were none to speak of. The result was that every team played just three games total over the weekend. That does not mean we were bereft of action and milestones. Read on, dear reader!
On Friday night, hurler Masahiro Tanaka allowed four home runs in a single game for the first time since he returned to Japan at the start of 2021. His Rakuten Eagles fell to the SoftBank Hawks, who were powered by Yuki Yanagita, Taisei Makihara, and Yurisbel Gracial (twice). The Hawks won the entire weekend: 9-4 on Friday, 3-1 on Saturday, and 4-1 on Sunday. They sit in first place once again, 1.5 up on the Eagles.
Saturday featured the fourth no-hitter of the young NPB season. The master on the mound this time was Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who won the Sawamura Award for outstanding pitching last season. In this game against the Saitama Seibu Lions, he needed just 102 pitches, walking just one batter and striking out nine. The Buffaloes’ 2-0 victory snapped their six-game losing streak, but they fell on Sunday to the Lions and now sit in fifth place. For the record, the last time there were four no-hitters in a single season of Japanese baseball was in 1943, back in the single-league era.
Also on Saturday, the Hanshin Tigers extended their winning streak to five games, downing the Yokohama Baystars 4-1 at Koshien Stadium. Coupled with Hiroshima Carp’s loss to the Yakult Swallows, the win vaulted the Tigers (who started the year 1-15-1 = .067) into third place. First baseman Yusuke Ohyama has led the way, hitting nine home runs already in June. Don’t get too excited, though, Tigers fans – last place is just a game out of the playoffs!
In other Tigers news, the team reached an agreement to bring Aderlin Rodriguez back to Japan for the remainder of the 2022 season. The one-time Buffaloes first baseman was hitting well in El Paso (San Diego Padres AAA), and hopes to help the Tigers solve some of their run-scoring woes (15 shutout losses in 2022 already).
Finally, it appears as though another stateside Japanese hitter is coming back home after an unsuccessful stint in MLB. Outfielder Shogo Akiyama (34) was released by the San Diego Padres, with whom he reached a minor league deal earlier this year, and since he did not receive any offers from other teams, has decided to come back “home”. The one-time Lions star (and holder of the record for single-season hits in NPB) is rumored to be returning either to his old squad or joining the Hawks in Fukuoka.