A new season is upon us, and already it is not without its share of drama! If the first weekend of action is any indication of what kind of season is to come, then we are in for a special one! Let’s look at a few of the more exciting games from the first three-game series of the 2022 campaign.
Friday, March 25
The defending NPB champion Tokyo Yakult Swallows found themselves in an 8-1 hole after four innings, but climbed all the way back against the Hanshin Tigers, scoring one in the fifth, one in the seventh, four in the eighth and three in the ninth. Six of their nine unanswered runs came courtesy of the long ball: Taiki Hamada, Domingo Santana (two 2-run bombs) and Tetsuto Yamada. They would go on to sweep their series, and “only” allowed those eight runs the entire weekend.
In other news, defending Sawamura Award winner Yoshinobu Yamamoto picked up right where he left off in 2021, as he threw eight innings of three-hit shutout ball (with nine strikeouts) to give the Buffaloes an Opening Day win over the Saitama Seibu Lions.
Also, newcomer Freddy Galvis (Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks) garnered plenty of attention for himself by hitting a game-winning pinch-hit grand slam home run against the Big Boss-led Nippon-Ham Fighters. By the way, Tsuyoshi Shinjo had his name officially changed to Big Boss in the NPB registry. For the record, the Hawks swept the Fighters over the weekend.
Saturday, March 26
No fewer than four pitchers showed MLB what they are missing by making the DH universal. Akiyoshi Katsuno (Chunichi Dragons) hit a mammoth two-run home run in a losing cause against the Yomiuri Giants (who also got an RBI single from rookie pitcher Iori Yamasaki). Also, Keiji Takahashi (Swallows) collected a rare pitcher infield single. The greatest hitting performance of all came from third-year starter Masato Morishita of the Hiroshima Carp, who collected three hits, including a double, to lead his team to a 10-5 win against the Yokohama DeNA Baystars.
As for Pacific League pitchers, rookie Chihiro Sumida of the Lions did not need his bat because his arm did all the talking in his pro debut. The 22-year-old lefty threw seven innings of one-hit ball to shut out the Buffaloes.
Sunday, March 27
The Hanshin Tigers were not the only team to let go of a huge lead on the weekend. On this day, the Buffaloes had a 6-0 lead after three innings, but went on to lose the rubber match to the Lions, 7-6. The Yomiuri Giants also squandered a 5-1 lead, giving up a pair of runs in each of the eighth, ninth, and tenth innings to the Chunichi Dragons. The collapse prevented them from sweeping their opening series.
While it was not as huge a lead, the Baystars were hoping to salvage their series with the Carp and held a two-run lead after eight, but recently restored closer Yasuaki Yamasaki coughed it up, allowing three runs in the top of the ninth. The Carp go back to Hiroshima with a perfect record.
The same is true for the Swallows, who hit two more home runs against the Tigers, including Yasutaka Shiomi’s seventh inning inside-the-park home run that squeezed between sliding outfielders Koji Chikamoto and Teruaki Sato and all the way to the right-center wall.
I told you it was a thrilling weekend. Can’t wait to see what the upcoming week has in store.