It looks like NPB is leaning towards following suit with MLB rules. Team owners met for preliminary discussions about introducing a pitch clock, larger bases, and a ban on defensive shifts (which are not as extreme or frequent as they once were in MLB). It seems even likelier to happen if the next WBC, scheduled for 2026, adopts these rules as well. Anyhow, on to the games of the week!
Tuesday: This was a night to forget for veteran pitchers. Tsuyoshi Wada (SoftBank Hawks), Masahiro Tanaka (Rakuten Eagles), and Yuki Nishi (Hanshin Tigers) all had uncharacteristically bad nights as their teams lost badly. Wada lasted just 3 1/3 innings and gave up five runs in a 10-3 loss to the Nippon-Ham Fighters. Tanaka went four innings but allowed nine runs (eight earned), including three home runs, in a 9-7 loss at the hands of the Orix Buffaloes. Nishi had the shortest outing, giving up six runs in three innings of work as his Tigers got humiliated 9-1 by the Hiroshima Carp.
Wednesday: To balance things out after those Tuesday games, let’s talk about some outstanding pitching performances. Roki Sasaki had a big night against Kaima Taira and the Seibu Lions. The “Beast of Reiwa” went eight scoreless innings while fanning 11 batters in a 2-1 victory. Also of note, Koutaro Ohtake of the Tigers collected his first career complete-game shutout in a 2-0 win over the Carp, needing just 105 pitches to make 27 outs (7 of which were strikeouts).
Thursday: Trevor Bauer threw his first complete game in Japan, striking out seven batters while allowing just two runs to the defending CL-champion Yakult Swallows. He has now won five straight decisions and is averaging over 10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
Friday: This night once again featured fine pitching performances. Shinnosuke Ogasawara of the Chunichi Dragons gave up just three hits to the Carp, going the distance in an 8-0 victory. Shota Imanaga (Baystars) struck out 15 Giants in seven innings, including seven straight at one point, to lead his team to a 2-1 win. The losing pitcher in this game, Shosei Togo, fanned 10 in seven innings as well.
Saturday: Why not continue this pitching narrative? Former all-Japan ace Tomoyuki Sugano found the fountain of youth, throwing seven shutout innings against the Baystars in a 6-0 Giants win (in which Kazuma Okamoto hit his NPB-best 20th home run). Current all-Japan ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto went eight innings and struck out 13 batters in Kobe, where the Buffaloes hosted and defeated the Lions by a 5-1 score at Hotto Motto field.
Sunday: You probably could have guessed it, but I’ll say it anyways. There were more incredible pitching shows on this day. Katsuki Azuma of the Baystars helped his team to a 1-0 victory against the Giants. It was an extra-innings affair so he did not get credit for the win. Chuo University graduate Shugo Maki hit a solo home run in the 12th to give his team the W. Also pitching a shutout and getting their lone run production from a Chuo U graduate were the Hanshin Tigers. Junya Nishi threw seven blank innings, and rookie Shota Morishita hit his first career home run in the bottom of the eighth to give the first-place Tigers their 1-0 win over the Swallows. Let’s end with some offense, though, shall we? The Buffaloes put up 11 runs on the Lions, thanks in part to a seven-run third inning, which was led by a three-run home run from Leandro Cedeno (his third bomb of the week). This win put the Buffaloes back in first place, which they have now already claimed seven times this year.
Good Week: Marines (5-0), Eagles (5-1)
Rough Week: Fighters (1-4), Lions (0-5)