In their 83 years of existence, the Yomiuri Giants have never had a stretch quite this bad.
The rapidly sinking Kyojin reached new depths on Wednesday night after Shingo Ishikawa struck out to end a 3-0 loss to the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome. It was the 12th straight defeat for the Giants, the worst losing streak in team history.
The hits kept coming on Thursday. The Giants fell for a 13th straight game, going down 13-2 against the Lions, the worse loss of their current slide, which began with a 6-1 defeat at the hands of the Hanshin Tigers on May 25.
Almost any and everything that could’ve gone wrong has during the team’s record cold spell. Some of their fans, weary of the losing, showed up on both Wednesday and Thursday nights with large white banners emblazoned with black exhortations for the team to right the ship. Instead, it was more of the same, another defeat.
“Everyone is struggling,” first baseman Shinnosuke Abe told Sports Hochi after Wednesday’s game.
The last time the Giants were in a rut this bad was in 1975, the first year NPB legend Shigeo Nagashima managed the club. Nagashima oversaw a then-record run of 11 straight losing decisions in September of that year. Those Giants had a tie mixed in, with their longest slide in terms of consecutive games reaching nine. The cleanup hitter for those ’75 Giants, the great Sadaharu Oh, was asked about the current streak on Wednesday.
“I hope they can do something to stop it,” said Oh, the current chairman of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
Nothing the team has done has worked so far.
Manager Yoshinobu Takahashi has tinkered with his lineup, brought Luis Cruz up from the farm and on Tuesday finally got Daikan Yoh, who was acquired as a free agent over the offseason and has missed most of the season while recovering from injuries, into the lineup. Nothing has worked.
The team has been held to two or fewer runs in nine of the 13 games of the losing streak, and have been shut out three times over that period. The Giants have hit just four home runs — three by Shuichi Murata and another from Hisayoshi Chono — during the losing streak, with all four coming in a three-game period from June 1-3.
On the pitching side, ace Tomoyuki Sugano allowed eight runs in five innings against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on May 30, and gave up five in six innings against the Lions on Tuesday. Yomiuri’s starters had just three quality starts — pitched by Miles Mikolas, Ryosuke Miyaguni and Kazuto Taguchi — over the 13-game period, and the bullpen failed to hold leads on a few occasions.
No team with a losing streak of 11 games has ever finished in the top half of the standings. The best finish was by the 2015 Lions, who finished fourth in the Pacific League after losing 13 in a row during that season. On the other hand, it’s only June, and even in their current downturn, the Giants are only 3½ games out of third place in the Central League.
On the other hand, it’s only June, and even in their current downturn, the Giants were only 3½ games out of third place in the Central League Thursday morning.
In purely historical terms, the Giants still have time to avoid sinking to an all-time low. The Chiba Lotte Marines own the longest losing streak in NPB history, dropping 18 straight in 1998.
“It’s still early in the season, so we can turn it around,” Abe said. “I have to feel that way. Of course, we want to win.”
Japan’s capital city is at the forefront of many things, but the NPB interleague standings are not among them.
Since the beginning of interleague play on May 30, the Yomiuri Giants have lost nine straight games, while the Tokyo Yakult Swallows have eight defeats and a tie over the same span. That leaves the capital city’s two Central League clubs a combined 0-17-1 against Pacific League competition so far. They also occupied the bottom two spots in the interleague standings, with Yakult 11th and the Giants in the cellar.
If nothing else, Hiroshima Carp fans will never forget their first impression of Xavier Batista.
Batista made his NPB debut with a pair of two-run home runs in his first two NPB at-bats last weekend, becoming the first foreign player to go deep in his first two trips to the plate.
He was back at it again on Wednesday against the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, hitting yet another two-run shot in the first inning and adding a solo drive in the fifth.
That gave the 25-year old four home runs and seven RBIs in his first 10 at-bats.