The battle for supremacy in Japanese professional baseball is underway, and absolutely no one could have predicted the outcomes of the first two games. Those results, plus other player news (including the NPB draft) in this week’s newsletter.
Japan Series – Hanshin Tigers vs. Orix Buffaloes
Game 1: Shoki Murakami vs. Yoshinobu Yamamoto
The four innings of this game were predictable – both pitchers mowed down the other team’s hitters with relative ease. However, in the top of the fifth, the Tigers got the better of Yamamoto. Teruaki Sato led off with a hit, stole second, and scored on a Ryo Watanabe RBI single. A walk later, Koji Chikamoto hit a 2-RBI triple to right-center, and Takumu Nakano craftily poked a low forkball through the left side of the infield. That four-run barrage was just the beginning, as the Tigers tacked on three more runs the very next inning, thanks to RBI hits from Seiya Kinami, Seishiro Sakamoto, and Nakano. That would spell the end for Yamamoto, who gave up seven earned runs for the first time in his career. The Tigers added one more for good measure in the ninth, and Murakami went seven shutout innings to pick up the win.
Game 2: Yuki Nishi vs. Hiroya Miyagi
Would you believe almost the exact opposite happened in this game? Nishi stumbled in the third and fourth innings (RBI hits from Masahiro Nishino, Tomoya Noguchi, Taishi Hirooka, and Keita Nakagawa). He did not finish that inning. In the seventh, Marwin Gonzalez hit a bases-clearing double off the wall in left-center to add to the lead, and just for good measure (to truly “even the score”) the Buffaloes parlayed two Hanshin infield errors into an eighth run in the bottom of the eighth. Hiroya Miyagi went six clean innings (four hits against), and the relievers (Yuki Udagawa, Soichiro Yamazaki, and Atsuya Kogita) mowed the Tigers down 9 straight to complete the shutout.
For the third straight season, Yoshinobu Yamamoto was selected as the Eiji Sawamura Award winner for his outstanding pitching. Chosen by a committee, it is awarded to the pitcher who comes closest to clearing seven benchmarks (Yamamoto’s numbers in parentheses): 15 wins (16), 2.50 ERA (1.21), 150 strikeouts (169), 10 complete games (2), 200 innings (164), 25 mounds (23), 60% win percentage (72.7%). He was more than deserving, though the committee of former winners also looked at Yokohama DeNA Baystars pitchers Katsuki Azuma and Trevor Bauer when making the decision.
The players of the month for September/October (regular season) were named as well. They were:
Lastly, on Thursday, the annual draft took place. Four players were popular enough that multiple teams wanted them. There was a lottery to decide which team would acquire negotiation rights. Here are each team’s first-round picks, with an asterisk indicating the players that were contested for at first.
- Hanshin Tigers: Kaito Shimomura, P
- Orix Buffaloes: Seiya Yokoyama, INF
- Hiroshima Carp: Hayato Tsunehiro*, P
- Chiba Lotte Marines: Kyuto Ueda, INF
- Yokohama DeNA Baystars: Ryuki Watarai*, OF
- Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks: Yugo Maeda, P
- Yomiuri Giants: Yuhi Nishidate*, P
- Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles: Tatsuki Koja, P
- Tokyo Yakult Swallows: Kota Nishidate, P
- Saitama Seibu Lions: Natsuki Takeuchi*, P
- Chunichi Dragons: Sho Kusaka, P
- Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters: Haruki Hosono, P
Stay tuned because next week at this time, there will be a crowning of the Japan Series Champions. The Great Kansai Derby is about to heat up!