And so must streaks. Three wins shy of the NPB record for consecutive wins, the Nippon Ham Fighters’ winning streak ended at 15 on Tuesday night in a 4-3 loss in Osaka to the Orix Buffaloes. As mentioned on this week’s Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast, Orix has played with a little more spark since bringing up a bus load of players from the farm team a week ago and telling them to go out and play.
Shohei Otani batted for the first time in a week and didn’t have much of an impact, going 1-for-3 with a walk — although he did hit one on the screws for an out that nearly took shortstop Ryoichi Adachi’s glove off.
Otani, who is unlikely to pitch in the All-Star games — Japan typically has two — because of a blister on the middle finger of his right hand, might hit and might participate in one of the home run derbies if he is selected in the fan vote. By having him available to play — but not pitch — the Fighters may be able to avoid the 10-game, post-break suspension that goes to all-stars who fail to report for the game.
The Fighters’ loss dropped them six games back of the Pacific League-leading SoftBank Hawks, who earned their seventh shutout victory of the season, beating the Lotte Marines 4-0 at Tokyo Dome behind seven innings from Shota Takeda, who allowed just two hits but walked five.
At Seibu Prince Dome, Felix Perez hit a two-run, first-inning home run off Felipe Paulino to spark the Rakuten Eagles to a 5-1 win over the Seibu Lions. In doing so, Perez became the first player in the Eagles’ 12-year history to homer in his first NPB at-bat.
In the Central League, the Yomiuri Giants traveled to Hiroshima and were full of vinegar after a three-game home sweep of the DeNA BayStars. But lefty ace Tetsuya Utsumi didn’t have much to offer and the second-tier relievers got mauled by the CL-leading Carp in an ugly 13-3 loss.
The BayStars bounced back at home, where Samurai NPB cleanup hitter Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (OK, I know he’s not THE cleanup hitter, but he is the guy who should be batting fourth to spare us from Sho Nakata) homered twice and former Seattle Mariner and Yomiuri Giant Jose Lopez cracked a sayonara homer off luckless Chunichi Dragons reliever Daisuke Yamai (0-8) in a 6-5 win.
In the other CL game, Randy Messenger held Yakult to a run over seven innings, and the Tigers waited until submarine right-hander Hirofumi Yamanaka had finished his seven scoreless innings to strike in a 3-1 victory at Nagano Olympic Stadium.
On tap for Wednesday, the Giants will take a second crack at the Carp, who will try for the second time to help Hiroki Kuroda earn his 121st NPB victory — giving him 200 in top-flight pro ball when added to the 79 wins he earned for the Dodgers and Yankees.