One would think that a week of designated hitters in all games would result in a lot of talk about offensive performances. The pitchers, in fact, were the shining stars in this middle week of interleague play.
Tuesday: Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto threw eight innings of four-hit, one-run baseball against the Yomiuri Giants, giving his team a comfortable (?) 2-1 victory. Also, for the first time in 5 years, NPB had an immaculate inning! SoftBank Hawks reliever Livan Moinelo threw nine straight strikes in the top of the ninth against the Yokohama DeNA Baystars, and his mates scored the winning run in the bottom half of the frame, making Moinelo the winner in this 3-2 match. (For the record, Moinelo also threw an immaculate inning on May 16, 2018. He is the second pitcher in NPB history with two in his career.)
Wednesday: Four pitchers each contributed 78% of the work in their teams’ shutout victories. Nao Higashihama (Hawks), Shosei Togo (Giants), Aren Kuri (Hiroshima Carp), and Cristopher Mercedes (Chiba Lotte Marines) threw seven shutout frames and their bullpens finished the job, as the Baystars, Buffaloes, Nippon-Ham Fighters, and Yakult Swallows (respectively) lost without scoring a single run.
Thursday: Two thrilling finishes put the Kansai region in a collective sour mood. The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles were down to their final batter in Sendai, but got rescued as Hiroto Kobukata swatted the first pitch he saw, flipping the score with a three-run home run to lift his team to a 6-4 win over the Hanshin Tigers. In Osaka, the Buffaloes and Giants took a scoreless tie into extra innings, and Giants’ pinch-hitter Yoshihiro Maru hit a grand slam, which contributed most of the damage in their 6-0 shutout victory over the defending champions.
Friday: Trevor Bauer of the Baystars gave up a home run yet again (he has done so in all of his starts so far) but went seven innings and allowed just two runs in a 4-2 win over the Buffaloes. Hiroki Tokoda of the Carp threw eight innings and allowed just one run against the Marines to give his team a 4-2 victory.
Saturday: Masanori Ishikawa of the Swallows took hold of the lead in all-time career interleague wins, throwing 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball. He now has 28 regular-season victories over the Pacific League during his career. The Swallows beat the Saitama Seibu Lions 2-0. Also throwing an outstanding game was Eagles’ southpaw Takahisa Hayakawa. His seven shutout innings allowed his team to squeeze past the Dragons 1-0.
Sunday: Concluding the week with outstanding pitching were the Marines’ Roki Sasaki (7 innings, 2 runs, 10 strikeouts in a 6-5 win), the Giants’ Tomoyuki Sugano (5 innings, 2 runs in a 4-2 win over the Hawks), and Saiki (7 innings, 0 runs, 5 strikeouts in a 1-0 win against the Fighters.
Finally let’s congratulate four men who won the Player of the Month (May) for the first time in their careers: