Let’s all stand back for a minute and marvel at Teruaki Sato. The Hanshin Tigers rookie is just 15 games into his career and already among the players generating the most buzz in NPB, writes Jason Coskrey in The Week in NPB.
Sato produced one of the early highlights of the season Friday, hitting a ball out of Yokohama Stadium during the Tigers’ 9-2 win over the DeNA BayStars — as in, belted a solo homer clear out of the stadium, an apparently unprecedented feat.
Elsewhere in the Central League, the Yomiuri Giants have been hit by COVID-19 and are having a tough time without a couple of key players, going just 2-4 last week, including a 4-2 loss against the Hiroshima Carp on Saturday.
It’s worth noting that the first 70 contests of the NPB season included 10 ties. It took a month to reach that many in 2020. As long as games are halted after nine innings, as is the case this year due to COVID-19, clubs can start playing — and bunting — for a tie just when things should be getting good, laments Coskrey.
Over in the majors, Shohei Ohtani had a three-run double and a solo home run Friday in his Los Angeles Angels’ 7-1 defeat of the Toronto Blue Jays, a day after he drove in the tying run in the Angels’ comeback win in the first game of that series. Just don’t mention the last game.
Two Japanese pitchers also posted their first wins of 2021 over this past week, with the Minnesota Twins’ Kenta Maeda kicking things off last Wednesday against the Detroit Tigers. Yu Darvish earned his first win with the San Diego Padres in a 6-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday.