It’s “two-hitter” season in Nippon Professional Baseball again this year. The league is dominated by top pitchers with fastballs in the 150 kilometers per hour range. Three of the 12 teams in both leagues have ERAs in the low 2s, while the other nine are in the low-to-mid 3s. Through five days, five pitchers are in the single digits in regulation.
Two rookie pitchers have continued their stellar performances in the ‘two-hitter’ season. They are right-hander Shunpeita Yamashita (21) of the Pacific League Oryx Buffaloes and right-hander Shoki Murakami (25) of the Central League Hanshin Tigers. Yamashita, a high school senior, and Murakami, a college senior, are the favorites to win their respective leagues’ Rookie of the Year awards.
Their teams, the Orix and Hanshin, are in sole possession of first place. The two Rookie of the Year candidates will help fuel their teams.
Yamashita picked up its ninth win of the season against the Seibu Lions on Friday. He started the game at the Seibu Dome in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, and allowed one run on six hits in 6⅔ innings. He helped the Orix snap a two-game losing streak.
He gave up one run in the bottom of the fifth inning with a 1-0 lead. After leading off with a single to center, Yuto Koga (No. 8) advanced to second on a passed ball. No. 2 Mark Peyton singled to right to tie the game. He gave up a single to No. 3 Sosuke Genda, but got out of the inning without allowing a run. Yamashita walks with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning with a 2-1 lead.
Hanshin right-hander Murakami was the top Central League pitcher in the fan vote for the 2023 All-Star Game. Murakami and catcher Umeno in the first inning of the All-Star Game on July 19. Photo credit: Hanshin Tigers SNS
He pitched in a heat wave and said he had five uniforms to change into during the game. “I wanted to pitch as long as possible today,” said Yamashita, who gave up four runs in 3⅔ innings against the Nippon Ham Fighters on July 28.
Yamashita’s performance gave the Orix their 5500th career win. He is fifth on the list behind the Yomiuri Giants, SoftBank Hawks, Hanshin Tigers and Junichi Dragons.
With nine wins in 14 games, they are second in the Pacific League in wins. Senior ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto (25) leads the team with 10 wins. He has three more wins than senior Hiroya Miyagi (22), who represented Japan at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) with Yamamoto.
One day earlier, on April 4, at Yokohama Stadium in Kanagawa Prefecture. Murakami pitched six innings of two-run ball against the Yokohama BayStars. It was his 12th quality start of the year (6+ innings, 3 earned runs or less).
Faced 23 batters and threw 98 pitches, allowing six hits, three walks and one strikeout. Trailing 1-2 in the seventh inning, the offense exploded for a 5-2 win to avoid the loss.
Murakami started 14 of the 15 games, throwing two complete games and one shutout. Through five days, he is 7-5 with a 2.07 ERA and 95 strikeouts. She is third on the team in ERA, tied for fifth in wins and strikeouts, and tied for first in wins.
Murakami’s strong first half earned him the most votes of any Central League pitcher for the All-Star Game. In the first game of the All-Star Game on July 19, he faced off against “Monster” Roki Sasaki (22) of the Chiba Lotte Marines.
Yamashita, the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft, started the opening game against Seibu on March 31. He became the first player in Nippon Professional Baseball history to make his first-team debut on opening day. He performed well in the exhibition games, and the “one-two punch” of Yamamoto and Miyagi needed time to adjust after returning from the WBC.메이저사이트
Hanshin right-hander Murakami. Photo credit: Hanshin Tigers SNS
Murakami was the fifth overall pick in the 2021 draft. In his first year, he gave up 10 runs in two games and 5⅓ innings. In his third year, he became Hanshin’s ace.