Shohei Otani has been on fire this month.
The issues stemming from the injuries that have mostly kept the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ two-way star off the mound have allowed the 23-year old to showcase his batting skills, in case there were still any doubts about his abilities at the plate.
After not seeing much action over the first few months of the season and getting off to a slow start in July, his first full month, Otani has worked himself into a good groove.
The Fighters star was 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs on Friday night and was hitting .413 through his first 17 games in August. That included six doubles, a triple and a pair of home runs. He drove in 14 runs over that span. He also had at least one hit in 14 of his first 17 games in August, with two or more hits in nine of those contests.
“I think it’s good that I’ve been able to get on base,” Otani said Friday night, according to Sports Nippon. After his performance against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles that night, Otani was left with a .486 on-base percentage and .635 slugging percentage for the month.
A day earlier, he had the decisive hit, an RBI single in the seventh, in a win over the Orix Buffaloes.
“I don’t really think I’ve been especially good, I’m just trying to get better with every game,” he told Nikkan Sports after that contest.
Otani’s summer surge could propel him to his first-career Pacific League monthly MVP honor as a position player, having already won the award twice as a pitcher during his career.
The candidates for the monthly award were revealed on Tuesday, taking into account stats until Monday. Through that period, Otani had a .442 average, two home runs and 11 RBIs in 14 games.
He’s also putting on a show for MLB scouts. The Dodgers sent a large contingent, which included former pitching star Orel Hershiser, to Japan to check out Otani earlier in month, in the midst of his hitting spree. He didn’t pitch, though he threw in the bullpen, but further proved what he can do at the plate.
For the season, Otani was hitting .350 with five home runs, 20 RBIs and a .985 on-base plus slugging percentage in 137 at-bats through Friday’s games.
Again and again: The Yokohama BayStars began their week by rallying for three straight walk-off wins over the first-place Hiroshima Carp on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights at Yokohama Stadium.
That would be enough for most people. Most people.
“My dad doesn’t know anything about baseball,” Yokohama manager Alex Ramirez said with a smile at Jingu Stadium on Friday afternoon.
“So I got home last night (Thursday) and he says, ‘you guys play tomorrow?’ I said yes. He said, ‘Yeah? Make it four (straight walk-off wins). Don’t stop.’
“No, no,” Ramirez said, recalling his response with a laugh. “It doesn’t work like that.”
Yokohama still beat the Tokyo Yakult Swallows that night for its fourth straight win.
Seibu two-step: Seibu Lions pitcher Yusei Kikuchi has lately been the target of umpires for apparently using a two-stage pitching motion, and the club isn’t happy about it. The two-stage motion was banned in Japan in 2005.
Kikuchi was cited for it during a start against the Eagles last week and again during his outing against the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks on Wednesday.
A Lions official told Sports Nippon on Friday the team would file a inquiry with NPB to see why Kikuchi was seemingly being singled out for this offense.
Masato Tomoyose NPB’s chief umpire, told the paper, “his motion was good from April to June, however it changed around the middle of June. He’s been warned several times.”