Shohei Tateyama hasn’t done much pitching for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows this season, but his presence is still being felt to some extent on the diamond through Seibu Lions starter Ken Togame.
In his most recent outing for the surging Lions on Tuesday, Togame shut out the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, at the time the top team in the Pacific League, over seven innings, allowing just three hits with a pair of walks. Spurred on by the extra motivation of not wanting to be responsible for his team’s first loss in nine games, Togame held the Eagles in check as the Lions roared to their 10th straight win of the season.
Afterward, Togame threw some credit to Tateyama, the Swallows veteran who has been ravaged by injuries in recent years and has made just two appearances on the top team this season. The two pitchers share a somewhat similar throwing motion and have worked out together over the past two offseasons, with Togame picking up some pointers along the way.
“He gives easy explanations about each body-movement,” Togame said. “His professionalism is amazing. I’d like to repay Tateyama-san a little with my results,” he told Nikkan Sports.
Togame has given the Lions quality starts in each of his last three outings and four of his last six. He’s currently 6-4 with a 3.50 ERA in 14 starts this season.
Uncaged: The red-hot Seibu Lions beat the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks on Friday night to extend their winning streak to 13 games, the franchise’s longest in 59 years.
“It was 59 years ago? That’s the year I was born,” said Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji, who was born Oct. 24, 1958, in Saga.
If recent history is a guide, Lions fans should be feeling even more secure about a spot in the postseason than they already had been.
According to full-count.com, there were nine streaks of 10 or more winning decisions in NPB from 2008-2016. Of those teams, eight went on to reach their league’s Climax Series, with the 2010 Tokyo Yakult Swallows the only club to fall short of the postseason. Seven of those eight won their league’s pennant, the exception there being the 2011 Lions, who finished third.
This year’s Lions were in third place in the PL entering Saturday, 5½ games behind the first-place Hawks and four behind the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. The Lions were also a comfortable 15 games ahead of the fourth-place Orix Buffaloes.
The Hiroshima Carp have also had a 10-game win streak this season, and they too are looking good to reach the postseason, entering Saturday with a nine-game lead in the Central League.
Three crowns: The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks’ Yuki Yanagita might be gearing up for a run at the Triple Crown. Yanagita entered Saturday’s games leading the Pacific League with 26 home runs and 82 RBIs and was second with a .329 batting average, trailing only Seibu’s Shogo Akiyama, who was hitting .332.
If he achieves the feat, Yanagita would be the first NPB player to win a Triple Crown since former Hawks star Nobuhiko Matsunaka in 2001.
Only seven players in NPB history have won the Triple Crown. Yomiuri Giants legend Sadaharu Oh and Hanshin Tigers icon Randy Bass each did it twice, while Hiromitsu Ochiai achieved the feat three times (1982, ’85, and ’86) while playing for the Lotte Orions.
Only a historic year kept the Yokohama BayStars’ Tony Blanco out of the club in 2013.
Blanco led the CL with a .333 average and 136 RBIs that season. He also hit 41 home runs, more than every other NPB player except the Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ Wladimir Balentien, who set the single-season record with 60.
Heavy hitters: The Yomiuri Giants slugged their way into the record books during their 8-2 win over the Chunichi Dragons on Saturday.
Hisayoshi Chono, Shinnosuke Abe and Daikan Yoh all connected on home runs, as the Kyojin became the first team in NPB history to hit at least three home runs in six consecutive games, a streak that began July 30.
Yoh, who has been on fire at the plate recently, has done the most damage, with five homers (in four games) during that span.
Abe, Chono, Yoshiyuki Kamei, Casey McGehee, and Shuichi Murata each have two over the last six contests.
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