With six weeks of the NPB season in the books, I thought this might be a good time to look at a little bit of news from each team, plus current records. Teams are listed by the standings in their respective leagues, from last to first, as of May 14.
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (14-20-1): On Sunday, pitcher Ryota Takinaka took a no-hitter into the ninth inning but fell two outs short of reaching the accomplishment. Nevertheless, his team ended their week with a 5-0 shutout of the Lions.
Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (15-21): Lefty Takayuki Katoh tossed a complete-game shutout on Saturday against the Chiba Lotte Marines. The team also sported some of the wildest uniforms in NPB history (see above) this past week. They were designed by manager Tsuyoshi Shinjo.
Saitama Seibu Lions (16-19-1): Thirty-nine-year-old slugger Takeya Nakamura was named the Pacific League hitter of the month for his outstanding April. He batted .364 and hit 7 home runs, knocking in 22 runs. On the dark side of the news, first baseman Hotaka Yamakawa has been deactivated due to a scandal involving sexual violence.
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (17-14-2): Tomohisa Ohzeki threw a one-hit gem on Tuesday, striking out 13 Fighters in a 1-0 victory in Kumamoto.
Chiba Lotte Marines (19-14-1): Roki Sasaki was named the PL pitcher of the month, thanks to an outstanding April that featured 4 starts, 3 wins, an ERA of 1.00, and 38 strikeouts in 27 innings of work. The team also managed to sweep the Lions in the first half of the week.
Orix Buffaloes (21-14-1): Hiroya Miyagi threw a complete-game shutout against the Eagles on Tuesday as his fielders put up two runs to give him his fourth win of the campaign. Despite Masataka Yoshida’s offseason departure, the defending champs lead the league in team batting average (.273) and are second in home runs (29).
Chunichi Dragons (13-22): On Friday, speedy outfielder Yuki Okabayashi hit his first career home run in a victory over the Swallows. Then on Sunday, rookie Kaito Muramatsu hit a grand slam (one of three in the CL, the first time since 1990 that three separate games featured grand slams) in a losing cause against those same Swallows. (The reality for the Dragons bats, though, is 10 shutout losses already in 2023.)
Yomiuri Giants (16-20): On Saturday, Lewis Brinson helped his team stave off another embarrassing late-inning collapse. His one-out single to center in the bottom of the 12th provided the walk-off run, giving the Giants a much-needed win. They lost their other two games on the weekend.
Yakult Swallows (17-18-1): Masanori Ishikawa threw 5 2/3 shutout innings against the Tigers on Wednesday, which were enough to earn him his first win of the year. The 43-year-old has tied an NPB record by getting at least one win in each of his first 22 seasons as a pro. The Swallows also shut out the Tigers on Tuesday.
Hiroshima Carp (18-16): Aren Kuri threw a complete-game shutout on Wednesday against the Dragons as part of the team’s three-game sweep. They also came back to beat the Giants on Friday, tying the game in the ninth off closer Taisei, and then scoring six runs in the top of the 10th.
Yokohama DeNA Baystars (19-14): Trevor Bauer had a rough outing on Tuesday, giving up seven runs (six earned) in six innings of work against the Giants. They also got swept over the weekend by the Tigers and fell into second place for the first time in a few weeks. The good news is that third baseman Toshiro Miyazaki won CL hitter of the month, thanks to a sizzling .444 average (and a 1.266 OPS) including 4 home runs and 13 RBI.
Hanshin Tigers (20-13-1): Rookie pitcher Shoki Murakami saw his shutout streak end at 31 innings on Tuesday as the Swallows managed a single run in 7 innings. He got hung with the tough-luck loss. Murakami won pitcher of the month in the CL for throwing 25 shutout innings, striking out 23 batters, and winning two of his three starts. On the weekend, the Tigers put up 28 runs against the Baystars, propelling themselves into first.
Good Week: Carp (5-1), Marines (4-1), Tigers (4-2), Swallows (4-2)
Rough Week: Baystars (0-5), Dragons (1-5), Lions (1-4-1)