The dog days of summer are upon us. High school baseball is set to begin its national tournament at Koshien next week (and the girls start theirs tomorrow!), and there are just two months of regular season baseball left until the playoff picture is clear. Here’s what is new and/or exciting with every team.
Orix Buffaloes: Despite a three-game losing streak at the start of the week, they have a three-game lead in first place. On Sunday, they recorded 20 hits (including a lead-off home run from Yutaro Sugimoto) on their way to a 9-2 drubbing of the Fighters.
Chiba Lotte Marines: Unfortunately, they received some bad news about their ace pitcher, Roki Sasaki. A strained oblique could stop him from pitching in game action for two months, possibly meaning the rest of the regular season.
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks: At long last, they snapped their 12-game losing streak on Tuesday, taking down Yoshinobu Yamamoto and the Buffaloes (thanks to a complete-game shutout from Kohei Arihara), but continued losing in their special, teal-colored summer uniforms. That streak also ended at 11 games on Sunday as they walked off the Marines.
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles: Hideto Asamura extended his home run lead in the PL by slugging two on Tuesday to reach 20 on the campaign. On Sunday, the team came close to blowing a significant lead, only to walk off the Lions in extras by a score 5-4.
Saitama Seibu Lions: Long-haired righties Kona Takahashi and Tatsuya Imai combined for 16 shutout innings (against the Marines and Eagles, respectively) and helped the Lions to two of their three wins on the week.
Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters: Their colossal 13-game losing streak mercifully came to an end on Wednesday with a 3-2 win over the Eagles on the road. They actually pieced together a three-game winning streak before dropping their Saturday and Sunday matches to the Buffaloes.
Hanshin Tigers: Wearing a rather unpopular Ultra-Summer jersey all week at Koshien, they treated their fans to a 4-1-1 record with series wins over the Giants and Carp. Taking center stage was rookie Shota Morishita, whose heroics led him to the hero’s podium on Friday and Sunday.
Hiroshima Carp: They stretched their winning streak to ten games by taking three straight at home against the Swallows. They even found themselves in first place for around 24 hours… but dropped two and tied one at Koshien over the weekend. Still, they are just a game back of the frontrunners.
Yokohama DeNA Baystars: Though they looked like the team to beat just a few weeks ago, they have fallen on hard times. Since July 11, they are 4-10 and just a half-game from falling out of the playoff picture.
Yomiuri Giants: With injured players Hayato Sakamoto and Yoshihiro Maru coming back recently, their lineup is starting to make some noise. They swept the Dragons over the weekend and have now beaten them seven straight times (for the first time in 21 years).
Tokyo Yakult Swallows: Look out, world. Though the team record is still pretty poor, Munetaka Murakami seems to have found his stroke (home runs in consecutive games and multiple hits in three straight) and center fielder Yasutaka Shiomi is also back after a long stretch. They are eight games out of the playoffs but it is hard to forget their red-hot end to the 2021 season…
Chunichi Dragons: They sit 20 games below .500 and have not shown many signs of life of late. Including the game before the all-star break, they are 1-8 in their last nine games. That said, they played most of those on the road, and are a better team at Vantelin Dome. Perhaps this week, when they play the whole week at home, they can reverse their fortunes…