[NPB NOTEBOOK] Giants try to cool glowing swallows, but have to climb a huge mountain

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It seems the Yomiuri Giants didn’t appreciate that their Crosstown rivals had their sights set on the Central League pennant so early in the season.

En route to a three-game streak at the Tokyo Dome, the Tokyo Yakult Swallows had won 14 straight streaks, equaling the NPB record set by the Nankai Hawks in 1954.

The recent hot streak had allowed the Swallows to build a double-digit lead over the Giants and even ignited the so-called magic number — the required number of wins a team needs (or the same combination of losses against their closest opponent). get the title.

Magic numbers usually don’t appear until the end of August, when the season comes to an end.

But on July 1st, Japan’s sports papers were full of stories about how the magic number of swallows to win the CL pennant was 54.

The Giants must have taken that as a slap in the face because they went out and won two out of three games at the Tokyo Dome to keep the pennant race alive.

Naoki Yoshikawa was the hero of Wednesday, July 6’s 4-3 win as he rode a brace in the winning streak at the bottom of 10th place. That got the streak for the Giants and ended Yakult’s 14-series winning streak.

“Considering the situation we are in now, it was a great achievement for us,” said Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara Nikkan Sports. “He’s been swinging the racquet well lately and his value to the team has increased.”

Another bright spot for the Giants this season was playing their foreign imports.

Adam Walker, who played in Japan in his freshman season, was a nice discovery for the Giants.

The Milwaukee native and former Minnesota Twins contender, who spent 11 seasons in the Minnesota before coming to Japan, has hit 17 home runs and 37 runs while batting around .300 Kyōjin through Thursday, July 7th.

Tokyo is quite a change for the 30-year-old fielder, who previously played for teams like the Hyannis Harbor Hawks of the Cape Cod League, the Milwaukee Milkmen and the Kansas City T-Bones of the American Association.

Meanwhile, former major league outfielder Gregory Polanco, also in his first season at Yomiuri, has contributed 10 homers with 27 RBIs.

The Swallows won the Japan Series championship last year, but the Giants were the Central League pennant winners in 2019 and 2020. The recently concluded streak is a sign that the Giants aren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.

Yakult avoided a three-game win on Thursday, July 7, with an 11-3 win over the Giants.

Lefty Masanori Ishikawa, 42, picked up his 182nd career win, improving to 5-3 this season. He gave up three runs in seven hits and hit five over five innings.

But at the same time, the series also shows the predicament in which the Giants find themselves. Despite winning the three-game set, they are still 12½ games behind. Oh, and that magic number is now 50.

TIED TOGETHER:

hit parade

The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles batters hit a season-high 21 hits in a 14-1 win over the Chiba Lotte Marines at ZOZO Marine Stadium on Sunday, July 3.

Every member of the starting line-up scored at least one goal. Hiroaki Shimauchi led with four.

It was the first time the Eagles had hit double-digit runs since April 17 against the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks as they put an end to a three-game worse game.

Takahisa Hayakawa (5-5) gave up a six-hit run over seven innings for the win.

And more hits…

Hanshin Tigers hitter Koji Chikamoto put on an impressive 30-game winning streak that broke the club record.

Chikamoto scored his 30th straight game with a goal in Hanshin’s 3-2 win over Hiroshima Carp at Koshien Stadium on Wednesday, July 6 at Koshien Stadium.

This equaled the club record set by former major league player Matt Murton in 2011. The NPB record is 33 straight games with a goal set by Yoshihiko Takahashi in 1979.

Chikamoto, who has already scored 100 hits this season, has become one of the top hitters in Japanese baseball.

He has racked up 100 hits or more in each of his four seasons with the Tigers. He had 159 in his 2019 rookie season, 139 in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, and 178 in the 2021 season.

“I don’t think too much about records,” Chikamoto said. “But I go into every game thinking I want to score. So if the end result is a record, that’s great.”

His winning streak ended on Thursday July 7 when he went 4-0 to the Hiroshima Carp.

Kiyomiya update

Kotoro Kiyomiya is quietly putting together some decent numbers for the Hokkaido Nipponham Fighters.

The touted infielder hit his 10th homer of the season in a 7-1 win over the Chiba Lotte Marines on Thursday, July 7. It’s the first time in his career that Kiyomiya has hit double-digit home runs with the top team.

In addition to his 10 things, Kiyomiya also has a .240 batting average, 28 hits, and 20 RBIs. He is on track for his best season in four years at NPB.

Left-handed Kiyomiya was the Fighters’ first pick of the 2017 draft. He is the son of famous Japanese rugby union coach Katsuyuki Kiyomiya.

tents

For those who just can’t get enough baseball, the Seibu Lions are offering fans July 16-18 the opportunity to pitch a tent and stay at the Belluna Dome.

The Lions play the Fighters at the Sapporo Dome this weekend, and fans can watch the games on the Belluna Dome’s giant screen.

For fans who can’t stay all night, a portion of the stadium’s seats will also be made available for the public viewing event, dubbed the Lions Summer Festival.

Barbecue facilities and performances by former Seibu players will also be part of the program.

Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a veteran journalist who has covered sports in Japan for more than 25 years. You can find his articles here.

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