As the JapanBall tour makes its triumphant return to Japan (first time in four seasons!), we have to say that there is not much of a pennant race left in either league. This past weekend took care of the little hope that the second-place teams had of pulling off a miracle. Here are the details…
First, the Orix Buffaloes went to Zozo Marine Stadium to face the second-place Chiba Lotte Marines. Friday’s game was rained out, and that is about as good as the weekend got for the home team. Yoshinobu Yamamoto threw a no-hitter on Saturday, walking one and hitting one batter while striking out eight and throwing just 102 pitches. His mates scored him four runs, more than enough for the ace pitcher who now has a microscopic 1.26 ERA on the year. On Sunday, Hiroya Miyagi came somewhat close to pulling off the same feat, allowing just a single in eight innings of work. Closer Yoshihisa Hirano nearly blew the 2-0 lead he was given, but the last out of the game was made at the wall in left on a deep fly ball. The Buffaloes have an 11-game gap over the Marines, and a magic number of 10 to clinch their third straight PL title.
In the Central, the Hanshin Tigers took a magic number of 12 into their weekend series at Koshien Stadium against the Hiroshima Carp. Their trio of starting pitchers (Shoki Murakami, Koutaro Ohtake, and Masashi Itoh) combined for 22 innings of three-run baseball, no walks between them, and a tenth win on the season for each of them, as the Tigers won 4-1, 5-1, and 5-1. Their lead over the Carp is now 11 games, and their magic number to clinch is 5. They can clinch as early as this Thursday at Koshien against the Yomiuri Giants, but that would require everything to line up just right.
Neither of the second-place teams now has a firm hold on their spot in the standings anymore, either. Click on the link below to see the current standings.
NPB announced its players of the month for August as follows:
In other player news, Saitama Seibu Lions’ veteran slugger Takeya Nakamura hit his 468th career home run on Wednesday, putting him in 12th place on the all-time list. His teammate and fellow slugger Hotaka Yamakawa has been granted domestic free-agent rights this off-season despite falling a few days short of eligibility. He missed time early in the season to injury, but even more time while waiting for legal proceedings on the rape allegations that came against him earlier in the season. It is believed his time with the Lions is coming to an end.
Yomiuri Giants’ shortstop Hayato Sakamoto, largely regarded as the greatest of all time at the position, has been moved over to third base in recent games. His bat has really picked up after a slow start to the year (injury, scandal allegations) and he has looked quite comfortable at the hot corner.
Yakult Swallows slugger Munetaka Murakami tied the record for most home runs in the first six seasons of a career for a Japanese player with 186. He should easily claim the record as his own before season’s end. Kazuhiro Kiyohara (Seibu Lions, etc.) previously had the record to himself.
Good Week: Tigers (5-0), Lions (5-0), Giants (4-1-1)
Rough Week: Dragons (0-4-1), Marines (1-4), Fighters (0-3)
For standings and leaderboards, check these links: