It is still too early to look at the standings or even at any individual players’ numbers and reach conclusions about how the season will pan out. That said, there have been some interesting trends and figures so far. Here are a few snippets about the best games of the past week.
Tuesday: Orix Buffaloes’ 20-year-old starter Shumpeita Yamashita threw five shutout innings, striking out ten batters. His bullpen helped complete the shutout, and his mates gave him plenty of run support in a 6-0 victory over the Rakuten Eagles. Marwin Gonzalez hit two home runs, and Yutaro Sugimoto added one of his own. The defending champions are just a game above .500 so far.
Wednesday: Pitching continued to shine on this day, as Hanshin Tigers’ third-year righty Shoki Murakami threw seven perfect innings. He was pulled for a pinch hitter in the top of the eighth (his team was up just 1-0 at the time), and the very first pitch the Yomiuri Giants’ Kazuma Okamoto saw in the bottom of the frame tied the game at 1. Fortunately for the Tigers, all was not lost, as they salvaged the victory in extras, 2-1.
Thursday: Saitama Seibu Lions starter Tatsuya Imai no-hit the Chiba Lotte Marines through 7.1 innings, and ultimately completed his shutout (in 138 pitches), limiting the Marines to two hits. He struck out 11 while walking three and hitting two batters. His Lions won the game 2-0.
Friday: This was easily the matchup of the year, and even of the young decade. The Marines brought WBC ace Roki “Mr. Perfect” Sasaki to the mound, while the Buffaloes countered with Yoshinobu “Two-Time Sawamura Winner” Yamamoto. The game lived up to the hype, as Sasaki ended with a 7 IP 1 H 11 K 0 R line. Yamamoto’s was 6 IP 5 H 9 K 1 R. The Marines were the victors of Round 1 of what will hopefully be a multi-round bout, 2-0.
Saturday: Hosting the defending Central League champion Tokyo Yakult Swallows over the weekend, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp had their backs against the wall. Down a run in the bottom of the ninth, Shogo Akiyama (who is hitting a blistering .468 so far) hit a walk-off home run over the wall in left field. The Carp would proceed to sweep the Swallows, coming back from an 0-5 deficit on Sunday, and currently sit in first place in the Central.
Sunday: There hasn’t been much talk of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks so far this season, though there is plenty of reason to pay them attention. On this day, they came from behind (down 2-0 and 3-2) to beat the struggling Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, 6-3. It should be noted that Eagles’ starter Takayuki Kishi became the 23rd pitcher in NPB history to reach the 2000 strikeout mark for his career. The 2312 innings it took him to reach the mark makes him the fifth-fastest in history. The Hawks are 9-3 on the year and have the best record in NPB.
Good Week: Carp (4-1), Lions (4-2), Baystars (3-1)
Rough Week: Fighters (1-4), Swallows (1-4), Eagles (1-3)