The first week of August is now in the books, and at long last, we have some semblance of a race in the Central League. That is not to say the Yakult Swallows are in any danger of falling out of first place anytime soon, but their recent slumping and the Hanshin Tigers’ solid post-all-star break charge has made things look at least a little interesting. That said…
Tuesday: Swallows’ third baseman Munetaka Murakami continued his historical season with yet another unbelievable achievement. After ending last week with home runs in his final three plate appearances (thereby carrying the Swallows to victory), he went yard in his first two turns at the plate on this day, setting an NPB record for most consecutive PAs with a home run at five. His mates rode his coattails to a 5-0 victory over the Chunichi Dragons.
Wednesday: Dragons’ outfielder Yohei Ohshima became the fifth player ever to go 6-6 in a nine-inning game, but the first to ever do so in a losing cause, as the Dragons fell to the Swallows, 9-7.
Thursday & Friday: The Saitama Seibu Lions are tearing up the Pacific League and starting to solidify their spot atop the standings. This comes in part thanks to two straight walk-off wins, both on home runs. On Thursday, Takeya Nakamura’s second home run of the game (and 448th of his storied career) clinched a series sweep against the Orix Buffaloes, as the Lions won 3-2 at Belluna Dome. The very next day, centerfielder Seiji Kawagoe took Chiba Lotte Marines reliever Chihaya Sasaki deep in the bottom of the 10th for just his second home run of the year. The Lions won 4-3. Their three-game lead in the PL is not safe, however, as they are followed quite closely by the Hawks, Eagles (3.5) and Buffaloes (4). Even the fifth-place Marines are just 6.5 games back.
Saturday: The Hanshin Tigers looked like they were fully in control of their second straight game in Hiroshima against the Carp. Up 5-2 and heading to the bottom of the ninth, they brought in closer Suguru Iwazaki for the second straight night. However… three straight hits and an error plated the first run, one out later, another error allowed them to tie the game, and then Shogo Akiyama walked it off with a liner to shallow right. The Carp won this one but dropped the other two over the weekend.
Sunday: Not enough of the CL Rookie of the Year talk is about 19-year-old pitcher Hiroto Takahashi. The righty threw another wonderful outing against the Yokohama DeNA Baystars, lowering his ERA to 2.53 on the year thanks to 6 1/3 shutout innings in a 5-0 win. Despite just four wins, he now has 94 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings of work in 13 starts on the year. If he received more run support than the last-place Dragons offered him, he would undoubtedly have a few more W’s and a lot more hype.
Finally, Jon Morosi of the MLB Network tweeted what many NPB fans already know, but is worth repeating here. Hawks pitcher Kodai Senga is likely to be an international free agent this offseason and looks to make a move to the majors in 2023.
Good Week: Baystars (4-1), Lions (5-1)
Bad Week: Carp (1-4), Dragons (1-4)