Baseball

Seiya Suzuki tearing it up at the plate for Samurai Japan

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Seiya Suzuki changed his bat for the Super Round of the Premier12, but he didn’t really have a good reason for doing so.

“There’s really no reason,” he said on Monday night, after helping Japan to its fourth straight victory, 3-2 over Australia, of the tournament. “It’s just the feel of it.”

Suzuki is definitely feeling it at the plate right now and with the way he’s playing, it probably doesn’t matter what he takes with him to the dish. The Hiroshima Carp star is red-hot and emerging and the premier player at the Premier12.

“Nothing has really changed from the season,” Suzuki said. “I wanted to bring my best to this tournament. I just kind of kept doing what I had been doing during the season.”

The star outfielder had a really good season for the Carp this year and he’s having a really good tournament for Japan thus far.

Suzuki has homered in three straight games and has a hit in all four of Japan’s Premier12 contests. He began Tuesday with the most home runs (3) and RBIs (10) among all players. The 25-year-old is 6-for-14 (.429) at the plate and also has a triple and two stolen bases.

According to Sports Nippon, Suzuki is the first cleanup hitter to homer in three straight games with the national team. Among all batters, he joins Yoshinobu Takahashi (in the 2004 Olympics) and Sho Nakata (in 2017 WBC) in having three straight games with a home run.

Nothing Suzuki is doing should surprise Carp fans.

Suzuki won this year’s Central League batting title, and also led NPB, with a .335 average while also hitting 28 home runs and finishing with 87 RBIs and 25 stolen bases. He led NPB with a 1.018 on-base plus slugging percentage and had more walks (103) than strikeouts (81) in 2019. He also won a Golden Glove.

On Monday night against Australia, he helped give Japan a spark with a fourth-inning home run off Australian starter Dushan Ruzic. Japan was trailing by two runs when Suzuki connected on Ruzic’s slider and sent it into the seats in left field. Inaba said the home run provided the spark that helped Japan rally for the win.

Ruzic, on the other hand, became the latest pitcher to run into the Hiroshima buzzsaw during the tournament.

“I wanted to keep him off balance,” Ruzic said. “But he saw that pitch very well and he did what needed to be done to it, unfortunately.”

Suzuki is serving as manager Atsunori Inaba’s No. 4 hitter during the Premier12 and could possibly find himself in a similar role several months down the road at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“I’m hitting cleanup and I want to put up the best results possible,” Suzuki said. “Especially playing for my country, I want to do the best I can. I also think the atmosphere really gave me some momentum and I’m trying to continue to have good results. I also think my teammates are a big part. They’re putting me in good situations, they get on base in front of me and I think I’m able to build on that.”