With little change in the standings this week, the NPB playoff picture looks much the same as it has all season.
The Yomiuri Giants have run away with the Central League and hold a 9.5 game lead over the Hanshin Tigers. The Yokohama DeNA Baystars are right behind the Tigers. But neither team seems to have the firepower to catch Yomiuri this year.
With 2020’s shortened playoff structure, Yomiuri will ascend directly from first place into the Japan Series at the end of the regular season.
In the Pacific League, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and Chiba Lotte Marines continue to battle for first place. The Pacific League’s 2020 playoff structure will see these two teams face off in a three-game series to decide the PL pennant.
As last year’s NPB champions, the Hawks are still the favorite to win the PL pennant. But expect Chiba Lotte to give the team a run for its money anyway.
Despite the stagnant standings, this was another action-packed week in the NPB.
Here’s what you may have missed:
Scary Moment in Hiroshima: During Wednesday night’s matchup between the Carp and the Yakult Swallows, a foul ball hit Carp catcher Tsubasa Aizawa and he left the field on a stretcher.
The Carp were leading 2-1 in the top of the 9th when Swallows infielder Taishi Hirooka fouled a pitch straight back into Aizawa’s mask. The catcher dropped to his back. Training staff quickly placed him in a neck brace before carrying him off the field. Backup catcher Yuta Shirahama came in as a replacement. The Carp managed to finish the game and secure a win.
Close, but No Cigar: The Saitama Seibu Lions came within three outs of the NPB’s 2nd no-hitter of the season. Lions pitcher Kona Takahashi held the Orix Buffaloes hitless through eight complete innings. But pinch hitter Masahiro Nishino led off the ninth with a base hit.
This was Takahishi’s second consecutive start with no hits allowed through six innings. He is 5-6 on the season with a 4.28 ERA. But he seems to have found his stride in recent weeks.
Carp and Swallows Search for Rock Bottom: The Central League’s two bottom teams continued to play limbo this week. The only team with a worse record is the Orix Buffaloes. Orix at least have a bright spot with Pacific League hitting leader Mastaka Yoshida on their roster.
Since the start of September, the Tokyo Yakult Swallows are 2-9-1, and the Hiroshima Toyo Carp are 3-7-2. Both teams will need to pick things up over the next eight weeks if they hope to finish the season at or above .500.