Last weekend in Tokyo, two teams were desperate for good pitching. Just earlier in the week, another team out in Nagoya showed desperation for pitching, too, in a different way. All that and more in this week’s wrap-up.
First things first. The Tokyo Yakult Swallows and the Yomiuri Giants absolutely slugged it out on the field over the weekend. I mean, they slugged so many balls out of the park, you’d have thought it was a home run derby. On Friday, the Swallows trounced the Giants 16-6 thanks to five home runs, including two by CL-leading Munetaka Murakami. The Giants must have really disliked that beating, as they took it to the Swallows on Saturday to the tune of 19-5. They went ahead and hit six home runs of their own in that one. And if that is not enough offense for you, the teams combined for over 20 runs on Sunday, too, with the Swallows edging the Giants 11-10. Each team hit two long balls. Their home run totals on the weekend were 9 (Swallows) and 9 (Giants). By the way, the Swallows are 16-4 in June and have won 11 consecutive three-game series, one against each of the other NPB teams.
Meanwhile, the Chunichi Dragons have had enough of trying 2018 first-round blue-chip talent Akira Neo in the field. The 22-year-old started his career at short, then moved to the outfield, but is now officially registered as a pitcher. The righty actually fared well in his first four mounds of the year before surrendering his first run over the weekend against the Hanshin Tigers.
Swallows-Giants game aside, Sunday was an eventful and thrilling day for NPB fans. For the first time in nine years, four games went to extra innings (keep in mind only six games are played each day). None of them ended in ties, and in fact, the results were split evenly. Two road teams, the Hiroshima Carp and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, scored a run and held on to win their games. Two home teams, the Hanshin Tigers and Chiba Lotte Marines, pushed the winning run across home in the bottom of the frame, walking off their last games of the week.
But that is not all! The Saitama Seibu Lions recorded their NPB-leading 15th shutout win of the season, blanking the Rakuten Eagles 2-0 in Sendai. Their two runs occurred in the same fashion: solo home runs in consecutive at-bats for Hotaka Yamakawa, who leads the Pacific League with 24. The first of those was his 200th career round-tripper, and he did it in just his 697th career game.
Lastly, why don’t we end with a bit of humor (well, for all but Shosei Nakamura). The Carp beat the Tigers on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and were looking to complete the sweep on Thursday. With the score tied and two outs in the bottom of the tenth, Ryosuke Kikuchi hit a double to the left-field corner. Nakamura charged around the bases and was waved home by his third-base coach. It looked to be a bang-bang play at home, until Nakamura lost his footing, tumbled, and got up in time to be tagged out by the Tigers catcher. The game ended in a tie. Despite the humiliating play, the Carp still have something to hang their hats on: they are still undefeated against the Tigers (9-0-2) in 2022. They also won the sweepstakes to sign returnee outfielder Shogo Akiyama, who agreed to play for the Carp for the next three seasons.
Good week: Carp (5-0-1), Lions (4-1), Buffaloes (4-1), Swallows (4-2)
Bad week: Dragons (1-5), Fighters (1-4), Giants (2-4)