Much like any sport, baseball requires that one team outscore the other in order to win games. In that respect, the offense is a vital part of the game. But this week in NPB, there were simply too many pitchers doing what they do best, and so we will take some time to recognize them (along with a few batters, one of whom happens to be a pitcher).
Tuesday: There were two great battles between aces to start the week. Roki Sasaki of the Chiba Lotte Marines threw seven strong innings (10 strikeouts, one unearned run) but it was not enough as his counterpart and friend, Orix Buffaloes’ lefty Hiroya Miyagi went eight shutout innings and fanned eight batters. The Buffaloes won by a slim 2-1 margin. Neither outstanding starter factored into the decision. Meanwhile, down in Okinawa, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters sent their hometown ace Hiromi Itoh out against Okinawan native Kaima Taira of the Saitama Seibu Lions. Both pitched valiantly, with the former going seven strong (one run, nine strikeouts) to get the win over the latter (seven innings, two runs, 11 strikeouts).
Wednesday: The Hiroshima Carp won their second straight against the Yokohama DeNA Baystars on the strength of their starter, Masato Morishita. The fourth-year righty not only threw seven innings of two-run baseball (with six strikeouts), he also hit the go-ahead three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Carp won 6-2 and completed the series sweep a day later.
Thursday: The Hanshin Tigers saw ten of their players voted into the all-star game by the fans. Among them was starter Shoki Murakami, whose name was not even listed on the paper ballots. On this night, he proved his worth, shutting down the Chunichi Dragons for seven innings. His team provided plenty of offense as the rejuvenated Tigers won 8-0.
Friday: Four starters continued their stellar seasons, though one did not earn the W. Aren Kuri threw darts all night for the Carp, going the distance in a 8-0 win over the Swallows. Defending Sawamura Award winner Yoshinobu Yamamoto went eight innings and allowed just one run against the Fighters in a 5-1 victory. MLB returnee Kohei Arihara allowed just one run for the fourth straight game (this time going eight innings), helping the Hawks to a 3-1 win over the Saitama Seibu Lions. Finally, Shosei Togo of the Yomiuri Giants overcame a leadoff home run to go eight innings of one-run ball (on 143 pitches!). His team eventually won in extras on a walk-off home run.
Saturday: For our last pitcher feature, we have to look at an outing that ended rather bizarrely. Trevor Bauer was on the mound for the Baystars and his team was down a run in the sixth inning. With two outs and runners on first and second, a Dragons batter grounded to second. He didn’t ground “out” because the runner from first overran second, so instead of going for the force play, they started a chase down. It was extremely sloppy and ended with all the Dragons safe but no one scoring. Clearly upset, Bauer coaxed a ground-out to pitcher from the next hitter, but instead of tossing the ball to first baseman Neftali Soto, he sprinted to first himself for the out, nearly hurled the ball into the crowd, and let out a string of profanities on his way to the dugout and clubhouse. Most interestingly, many English-speaking fans online rolled their eyes at what could be said was “typical” behavior from Bauer. Japanese fans, on the other hand, applauded him for showing spirit and trying to fire his teammates up. The game ended in a tie.
Sunday: We end with a hitter. Fighters’ prodigy Kotaro Kiyomiya hit his first-ever home run at Es Con Field Hokkaido as the ballpark had the roof open for a game for the first time ever. Fittingly, the Fighters won the game, 6-3.
Good Week: Hawks (5-1), Buffaloes (4-1), Swallows (3-1)
Rough Week: Baystars (1-4-1), Lions (1-4), Marines (1-4)