Last Saturday, I wrote that Orix manager Norifumi Nishimura had better turn things around if he wanted to keep his job. However when that article was published, Nishimura was already gone.
Under Nishimura this season, Orix was a measly 16-33-4. He was the team’s third manager in only nine years and in that span of time they’ve only finished two seasons with a winning record.
Orix handed farm team manager Satoshi Nakajima the reigns last Friday and promptly won his first three games. Orix outfielder and familiar face Adam Jones came alive during that stretch, homering in all three games.
Granted, those three games were against the Pacific League’s second-to-last place Saitama Seibu Lions. After that series ended, Orix moved on to face the first place Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. The Buffaloes have since lost 5 straight games.
Fukuoka still looks good coming off last year’s Japan Series title. The Chiba Lotte Marine’s briefly drew even with the Hawks last week but slid back down in the standings to give Fukuoka the outright lead once again. It’s my prerogative to change my mind, but Fukuoka is my 2020 favorite at this point.
Although the Central League standings haven’t changed this week, the Hanshin Tigers are creeping up on the Yokohama DeNA Baystars and could take second place. At this point however, it still won’t matter. Yomiuri sits in first with a comfortable 4.5 game buffer. With this season’s shortened playoff campaign, only first place will make it to the postseason.
Despite its lead over the rest of the Central, I wouldn’t put much faith in Yomiuri. The team is playing like Katy Perry circa 2008 — it’s hot then it’s cold.
Yomiuri ended last week with a three-game sweep of the third place Hanshin Tigers. Then, the team lost all momentum after second-to-last place Hiroshima Carp swept it. After that embarrassment, the team bounced back to win all three games of its series against the Yakult Swallows. Yomiuri has now split the first two games of its series against the Chunichi Dragons.
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Another big week for pitchers: After a rocky start to the season, Yudai Ohno of the Chunichi Dragons has put together four consecutive complete-game wins. The 31-year-old ace is posting an ERA of 2.64 through his 71.2 innings pitched. He has a strikeout to walk ratio of 73-15 (just shy of 5-1).
The Chiba Lotte Marines run aground: I had a lot of faith in the Chiba Lotte Marines. With a strong showing this past week, they could’ve shored up control of the Pacific League.
So what happened? The team took first place from Fukuoka, and then proceeded to lose the last two games of its head-to-head series. They moved on to face the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and played well in games one and two but got BLOWN OUT 15-0 in game three. They’re down two games to Fukuoka in the Pacific League.
Coming soon to a screen near you: Marketing teams with the NPB’s Pacific League reached a deal this week with Eleven Sports Network, also known as For the Fans. Through the remainder of the season, the network will televise more than 200 live Pacific League games to American audiences.
Hopefully, this is just the first step in a number of advancements that will bring worldwide awareness to the NPB. If you’re interested in watching some Japanese ball, get up nice and early this week and tune into Eleven Sports — or just set the DVR.
BANNER: Norifumi Nishimura, manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines Aug. 1, 2011 PHOTO CRED Nsgok// Wikimedia Commons