Ladies and gentlemen, we have yet another worst-to-first story in NPB this season… at least as of tonight. The 2021 Pacific League last-place Saitama Seibu Lions have been on a tear lately, and, combined with inconsistent play from the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, they have propelled themselves into first place, a half-game up on the Hawks.
In the Central, meanwhile, the Tokyo Yakult Swallows have struggled to put up a win since half of their top squad tested positive for Covid-19 ten days ago. They only played four games this past week, thanks to two rainouts, but failed to win a single one. They also dropped a game to the struggling Yomiuri Giants tonight, stretching their losing streak to a season-worst 6 games. Not to worry, though. Their lead in the Central is still a healthy 10.5 over the Yokohama DeNA Baystars.
Back to the Giants for a spell. Including tonight’s bases-loaded home run to Jose Osuna, Yomiuri pitchers have surrendered a grand slam in four consecutive games – something that had never before occurred in team history! Over the weekend, they allowed grand slams to former Giant Hisayoshi Chono as well as pinch hitters Yoshitaka Isomura and Shota Dohbayashi. Two of those three directly affected the outcomes of the games, while the other was part of a nine-run inning. Needless to say, “Japan’s team” is reeling these days.
On the flipside of the Giants’ struggle was a good stretch for the Nippon-Ham Fighters. A loss on Sunday dampened their spirits some, but they had rattled off seven straight wins for the first time ever under skipper Tsuyoshi Shinjo. “BigBoss” became the first Fighters rookie manager since 1956 to win that many in a row, though back then the team was known as the Toei Flyers. Unfortunately for Shinjo, though, he and four other coaches, four players, and two Fighters’ staff members tested positive for Covid-19. None of them had any symptoms and are quarantining at present.
They are not the only team to have been shaken by this seventh wave that has hit Japan, though. The Hiroshima Carp farm team had 21 registered players, 5 development players, and 8 staff members test positive as well. Other teams have also seen a few cases here and there. Let’s hope the players can stay protected and safe out there…
Good Week: Baystars (4-1), Fighters (3-1)
Bad Week: Swallows (0-4), Giants (1-5), Eagles (1-3), Marines (1-3)