Rakuten Slides, Yomiuri Safe– NPB Season Update Week of 8/22

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There are 70 games remaining in the Nippon Professional Baseball season. The Pacific League is wide open for anyone — except the floundering Orix Buffaloes. Orix would need a miracle to even contend for the playoffs. 

The defending champions Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks are still in first place. But, they now share the lead with the Chiba Lotte Marines. Chiba Lotte took the co-lead after going 3-1-1 in their series versus Fukuoka. The final game of the series between the two is this Sunday. 

The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles had been chasing Fukuoka for some time, but after a weak series of games against the Saitama Seibu Lions and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, the Golden Eagles are now a half-game back. 

For a first place team, Fukuoka has been shaky this week. Chiba Lotte pulled out a few close wins that prove their status as Japan Series contenders. Look for the Marines to be in the playoff conversation as the Fall approaches. 

In the Central League, the Yomiuri Giants are poised for another Japan Series appearance. The 22-time champs remain 4.5 games up on the Yokohama DeNA Baystars. 

The Giants dropped two out of three games to the Chunichi Dragons this week but rebounded with a 3-game series sweep of the Hanshin Tigers. 

Yomiuri hasn’t been playing their most consistent ball the past few weeks. But, no one else in the Central is contending at the moment, so they should hang onto first place for at least another few weeks. 

This week’s biggest story came during a matchup between the second place Yokohama DeNA Baystars, and the fourth place Tokyo Yakult Swallows. Pitcher Yasuhiro Ogawa not only led the Swallows to a 9-0 victory over Yokohama, he threw the first no-hitter of the NPB season.

Ogawa struck out ten batters in the contest. During his postgame interview, he credited catcher Akihisa Nishida for his performance during the game. It was the first no-hitter of Ogawa’s career, and the 93rd no-hitter ever in the history of the NPB.

In other NPB news: 

Manager Hot Seat: The Orix Buffaloes are 4-11-0 over the last 15 games. Manager Norifumi Nishimura and his ballclub are 11 games out of first place. If Nishimura doesn’t turn things around, he may find himself unemployed at the end of the season. 

Robot Carnage: Outfielder Wladimir “Coco” Balentien of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks left his team with a hefty bill this week. Balentien launched a long home run during batting practice that smashed into one of the team’s Robot cheerleaders. The Pepper robot is one of the 20 which cost about ¥2 million ($18,000) each. 

Coming up Aces: Tomoyuki Sugano has been indispensable for the Yomiuri Giants this season. Sugano is 8-0 with an ERA of just 1.51 after 65 innings pitched. If the standings remain the same, he’ll be a major factor in the Giants pursuit of the NPB championship this November. 

Check back next week for another update, and let us know if you have any reactions or opinions on the NPB season so far.  

BANNER: Yomiuri Giants VS. Chiba Lotte Marines on Jun. 21, 2017 PHOTO CRED: Shi.X//Flicker

Writer, filmmaker, long-suffering New York Jets fan. Yes, I was watching when the butt-fumble happened. No, I don’t want to talk about it. Big chicken salad sandwiches guy– come to think of it, big all kinds of sandwiches guy. Reporting on the intersection of politics and sports, and international baseball leagues. Journalism master’s from the University of Oregon (Sco’ Ducks), undergrad at Binghamton University. Learned critical thinking by reading the racing form, won my first ever bet at the age of 7 on a 36-1 wire-to-wire winner. Post-pandemic you can catch me at the fronton throwing bread down on jai alai.

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