Man, Oh Man, was I wrong about the Yomiuri Giants.
The Central League powerhouse now lead the Hanshin Tigers by 13.5 games with less than 1/3 of the season left to play. The Giants went 5-0-2 this week, extending their lead.
On the other side of the coin, the Pacific League leading Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks went 1-1-5 this week. The defending champs beat the Chiba Lotte Marines last night by a score of 7-3 to narrowly hold onto first place.
Barring an unexpected change in the final third of the season, the Hawks, Marines and Giants will be the NPB’s 3 playoff teams. However, other teams will find themselves in the news this week because of the league’s September 30 trade deadline.
The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles made a move this week in anticipation of that trade deadline when they gave cash considerations to the Hiroshima Carp in exchange for pitcher D.J. Johnson. Johnson played for the Colorado Rockies in 2018 and 2019 before signing with Hiroshima at the end of 2019. Prior to the trade, the right-handed reliever had a 4.61 E.R.A. and no wins in his 14 appearances this year.
In other NPB news, the draft is next month. Each team’s priorities in the draft will not only depend on their success, or lack thereof, in the trade market, but also their relative success in the season.
Here’s what else is happening around the diamond:
Corona Comes Back:
The Hanshin Tigers got some bad news on Friday when 5 of their players tested positive for coronavirus. The infected players, and those who had been in close contact with them, were taken off the team roster and placed in quarantine. Hanshin still managed to play their scheduled game against the Swallows on Friday. However, 1 of the 5 positive tests came from a player on the Tiger’s farm team. So, Friday’s exhibition between the Tigers farm team and the Chunichi Dragons farm team was cancelled as a result.
Sorry, the Tokyo Dome is Closed:
The Yomiuri Giants ran into an interesting hiccup with their playoff plans. When the season ends, the Central League leaders will ascend directly into the Japan Series. But that series won’t be played at the team’s home stadium. This year’s coronavirus schedule pushed the Japan Series back to the end of November. The Tokyo Dome has a tournament scheduled for Japan’s Industrial Leagues during this timeframe. So, the 22-time champions will have to find a new place to play. Orix’s stadium in Osaka is the current frontrunner to serve as a replacement.
Orix on the Rise:
I’m a sucker for a comeback story. Not only did the Orix Buffaloes come back from rock bottom, but this week their old uniforms came back as well. The Buffaloes became a team in 2004 when the Kintetsu Buffaloes merged with the Orix Blue Wave. Last week, the team wore Blue Wave jerseys in a 3-game series versus the Golden Eagles, and won 2 out of the 3 games. Orix started this season 16-4-33 before the team fired manager, Norifumi Nishimura. Under the new management of Satoshi Nakajima, the team has gone 14-1-16.