“Giants and Hawks” in driver’s seat at midway mark in Nippon Professional Baseball

Most of NPB’s groups hit the 60-game mark final week, which means this coronavirus-shortened season is round its midway mark.

There ought to be, nevertheless, just a little extra urgency on the midpoint than in years previous. There’s nonetheless loads of season left, simply not as a lot as ordinary.

The 2020 season began three months late due to the COVID-19 pandemic, main NPB to scale back the schedule to 120 video games. Moreover, the Central League, factoring within the want for make-up video games, received’t stage a postseason and can ship the pennant winner to the Japan Collection. Within the Pacific League, the usually three-team Climax Collection will function simply two.

So with a shorter common season and fewer postseason spots up for grabs, groups have to start out contemplating how the races are shaping up.

That’s notably true within the CL, the place six groups are vying for one spot within the Japan Collection — identical to it was once earlier than 2007.

The Yomiuri Giants, final 12 months’s CL champions, are at the moment on the head of the road with a 5.5-game lead within the standings.

The Kyojin went into final week seeking to higher their place and acquired began by breaking out the brooms towards the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

Zelous Wheeler did loads of the injury in that sequence with six hits and 5 RBIs.

Yomiuri wrapped up the week by taking two of three towards the Chunichi Dragons.

There’s nonetheless loads of time to chase down the Giants, however they’re not going to make it straightforward.

Yomiuri is the league’s most full workforce and if not for the Dragons (who’re 7-7-1 towards the Giants) may already be working away with the pennant.

The membership, although, goes to have to determine learn how to handle fatigue over the following couple weeks.

Yomiuri begins this month with 13 video games in 13 days. The Kyojin get a break day after that preliminary blitz earlier than coming into a stretch of 9 video games in 9 days.

“I believe it’ll be tremendous if our gamers fulfill their roles,” supervisor Tatsunori Hara stated Sunday.

Even when they get a number of further breaks as a result of rain, it’s set as much as be a difficult stretch mentally and bodily.

“Since we’ve acquired some actually robust video games developing, I need us to work collectively as a workforce, take it one sport at a time and provides all the pieces now we have within the sport that’s in entrance of us,” outfielder Yoshihiro Maru stated.

Nonetheless, the Kyojin have to love the place they’re in proper now.

Yomiuri arguably has the league MVP favourite in pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano and one other high MVP contender in infielder Kazuma Okamoto.

Sugano appears to have bounced again from a 2019 that appeared pedestrian solely due to his personal lofty requirements. He’s 9-Zero with a 1.61 ERA in 10 begins this season.

He’s has thrown no less than seven innings — whereas permitting not more than two runs — in every of his final six begins. The latest got here towards the Swallows, who he restricted to 2 runs over seven innings on Aug. 25.

Okamoto, in the meantime, is the CL chief in residence (18) runs and RBIs (50) and drove in 5 runs final week.

Final 12 months’s pennant winners are additionally out entrance within the Pa. League, the place the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks have a three-game cushion. The Hawks are on a roll, too, having received eight straight.

The important thing man for the three-time defending Japan Collection champions is outfielder Yuki Yanagita, who has the second-highest batting common (.352) and second-most homers (20) in NPB.

Yanagita had two residence runs and 6 RBIs final week because the Hawks swept previous the last-place Orix Buffaloes and fourth-place Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.

The Chiba Lotte Marines are the second-place workforce in the meanwhile, three video games behind SoftBank. Lotte was 4-2 final week, the lowlight being a 15-Zero drubbing by the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on Thursday.

The spotlight was Leonys Martin’s quest to really hit a ball to the moon.

Martin hit three majestic, tape-measure pictures throughout a weekend sequence towards the Buffaloes at Kyocera Dome. The Cuban slugger leads the membership with 17 residence runs and has 46 RBIs.

The Eagles, in the meantime, are one other 2½ video games again within the standings after a 2-Four week. The Fighters, who have been additionally 2-Four final week, are two extra video games off the tempo.

With the standings tighter than within the CL and two playoff spots up for grabs, the PL may very well be establishing for a reasonably thrilling second half.

Amongst different NPB groups, the CL’s second-place outfit, the Yokohama BayStars received 4 of their six video games final week.

In the meantime, the third-place Hanshin Tigers have been 5-1; the Dragons received simply as soon as; the Hiroshima Carp have been 2-Four and the Swallows completed 1-5.

As for the opposite two PL groups, the fifth-place Seibu Lions have been 3-Three and the Buffaloes received as soon as.

Shut however no cigar: The Hiroshima Carp.

The Carp have had their fair proportion of shut calls this 12 months, and never many have gone their manner.

After a 6-5 loss to the Tigers on Saturday, the Carp fell to an agonizing 3-10 in one-run video games this season. Hiroshima additionally leads NPB with six ties.

On the different finish of the spectrum, the PL’s Marines are 12-6 in video games determined by a run.

Keep cool: Spencer Patton.

The BayStars reliever was named one of many heroes of his workforce’s win over the Carp on Thursday.

Patton, making his first journey to the hero podium this season, additionally obtained a fridge as a prize. Undoubtedly some followers, and perhaps Patton himself discovered some humor within the state of affairs.

It was August of final 12 months when a annoyed Patton returned to the bench in Yokohama and attacked the dugout fridge with a mix that may’ve made Floyd Mayweather Jr. proud.

Who loves Rakuten greater than: Ernesto Mejia.

The Seibu slugger pushed his workforce previous Rakuten with a three-run homer within the ninth inning of a sport the Lions received 3-2.

Mejia has solely seen restricted motion in 2020, however it hasn’t been restricted sufficient for Rakuten.

Mejia is hitting .367 in eight video games towards the Eagles, with six of his seven homers coming towards them.

It was a great week for: Yuki Kuniyoshi.

The BayStar reliever acquired the job achieved on the mound with 4⅓ scoreless innings and 9 strikeouts in 4 appearances.

He additionally helped on the plate, hitting a single and scoring a run towards the Swallows on Saturday.

It was a foul week for: Satoshi Nakajima.

The brand new Orix supervisor acquired off to a dream begin with three wins after taking on for the departed Norifumi Nishimura on Aug. 21.

The nightmare set in throughout his first full week in cost, with Orix going simply 1-5 towards the Hawks and Marines.

Nathan Dawson
Nathan Dawson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language and Literature along with a Master of Philosophy degree in the Humanities. He is a science fiction and fantasy novelist, a political junkie, and a fan of heavy metal. Email:[email protected]