Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Lions' Yamakawa named Pacific League MVP for August

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

What a month it was for Hotaka Yamakawa.

On Aug. 11, the burly Seibu Lions slugger filed marriage papers with his girlfriend of seven years. He also experienced one of the best stretches of his career on the field during that month. A run of play that led to the icing on the cake on Thursday, when Yamakawa was named one of the Pacific League’s Monthly MVPs for August.

Yamakawa was named the top position player of the month for the first time in his career, which began in 2014. The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks’ record-setting closer Dennis Sarfate was named the PL’s top pitcher for the month. Yokohama BayStars outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo was the position player recipient in the Central League, with the Yomiuri Giants’ Miles Mikolas named top pitcher.

“I’m really happy,” Yamakawa said during a news conference on Thursday afternoon. “Because I’m not a regular, I can’t survive if I don’t hit. I think the most important factor is I was able to compete against the pitchers without wasting a single at-bat or pitch, every day being aware that if I didn’t hit, I wouldn’t be in the lineup the next day.”

Yamakawa hit .326 with nine home runs and an NPB-best 28 RBIs for Seibu in August. His 1.147 on-base plus slugging percentage also led all hitters.

Yamakawa had at least two RBIs in 10 games during the month. He also drove in 13 runs in nine games against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, who the Lions spent most of the month chasing in the standings, having begun August in third place with the Eagles in second (those placements have since been reversed). On Aug. 2, Yamakawa hit three home runs in three straight at-bats against Rakuten at Seibu’s MetLife Dome.

“Hitting home runs in three straight at-bats was the best part,” Yamakawa said. “It gave me a lot of confidence to hit those against Norimoto-san,” he said, referring to Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto, who gave up the first two of those home runs.”

Sarfate, who broke the NPB single-season saves record with his 47th on Tuesday, had 11 saves in 13 games in August, finishing with 20 strikeouts in 12⅓ innings. He won the award for the second time in his NPB career.

Mikolas is also a monthly MVP for the second time. The Yomiuri right-hander made five starts and was 4-1 with a league-best 1.46 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 37 innings. Mikolas threw at least seven innings while allowing no more than two runs in all five of his starts. He also struck out at least 10 on three occasions.

Tsutsugo, who is trying to help the third-place BayStars hold off the fourth-place Kyojin in the CL, played in 25 games and hit .315 with seven homers and a CL-leading 23 RBIs. He won the award for the third time.

“I can’t look back at my results now,” he was quoted as saying by Nikkan Sports on Thursday. “If I hit, I can contribute to wins. I can’t if I don’t hit. I want to contribute even more.”