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Japanese Baseball: News, Notes, and Where to Watch

 Conor Liguori  |    Jun 4th, 2024 3:50pm EDT

Outfielder Takumi Kuriyama #1 of Saitama Seibu Lions hits a RBI single. (Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)

As the Nippon Professional Baseball season progresses, here is a look at the top news and notes from the past week in Japan’s highest level of professional baseball.  

Lions’ Takumi Kuriyama Makes History

Saitama Seibu Lions outfielder Takumi Kuriyama hit the 400th double of his 21-year NPB career on Tuesday in the seventh inning of a 4-3 loss against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.   

Kuriyama is only the 15th player in NPB history to reach 400 doubles, making his longevity and success as a hitter imposing. Kuriyama is six doubles away from passing Makoto Matsubara for 14th all-time but needs 88 to pass 11-time All-Star and current Chunichi Dragons manager Kazuyoshi Tatsunami.  

 Kuriyama, 40, made his NPB debut in 2004 for the Lions and hit the first double of his career in 2005.  


Buffaloes Fans Visibly Frustrated With Team’s Poor Play  

The Orix Buffaloes are a different caliber from the team that reached the Japan Series last season. The team sits in fifth place in the Pacific League at 21-30-2 and needs some kind of miracle to return to the postseason race. However, that may be tricky.  

According to Yahoo! Japan, no Pacific League team has ever won the pennant after falling nine games below .500. Could that change?  

Regardless, some Orix fans displayed their frustrations on Sunday after the Buffaloes fell to the Dragons 2-1 for the second straight day. Fans in left field threw trash onto the outfield grass, something seen in Major League Baseball when an umpire makes an incorrect call. Buffaloes fans hope throwing trash turns into throwing streamers by the end of the season.  


Hawks’ Yuki Yanagita Injured; May Miss Rest of Season  

Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks outfielder Yuki Yanagita suffered a right thigh tendon injury, and his timeline to return is four months, reports Sponichi Annex, a Japanese news media outlet.  

Yanagita injured his thigh while running the bases on May 31 against the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. It’s a significant blow for the Hawks, amid a very successful season up until now, leading NPB with 34 wins and a .694 winning percentage.  

Some know Yanagita as the “Mike Trout of Japan.” He secured Pacific League MVP honors in 2015 and 2020 and possesses tremendous power, hitting 264 in his 14-year career. Unfortunately, similar to Trout, Yanagita has experienced his fair share of injuries, including a rotator cuff injury in 2013, a pulled muscle in his left leg that caused him to miss four months in 2019, and rotator cuff tendinitis in his left shoulder in 2022.  

Yanagita was hitting .293 with 35 RBI and a .819 OPS before his injury.  


This Day in Japanese Baseball History  

On June 4, 2003, Seattle Mariners Japanese right fielder Ichiro Suzuki began a 19-game hitting streak that ended on June 25 against the Los Angeles Angels.  

Suzuki tallied 3,089 hits in his MLB career and 1,278 hits in his NPB career, the most total hits of any professional baseball player ever (4,367).  

Suzuki became the 30th player in MLB history to reach the 3,000th hit mark with a triple at Coors Field against the Colorado Rockies on August 7, 2016, with the Miami Marlins.  


NPB Standings as of Tuesday, June 4  

Central League  

  1. Yomiuri Giants (28-23-4) 
  2. Hiroshima Toyo Carp (24-22-4) 
  3. Hanshin Tigers (26-24-4) 
  4. Yokohama DeNA BayStars (25-27-1) 
  5. Chunichi Dragons (23-26-5) 
  6. Tokyo Yakult Swallows (20-29-4) 

 Pacific League  

  1. Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (34-15-2) 
  2. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (29-20-2) 
  3. Chiba Lotte Marines (27-20-2) 
  4. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (23-28-1) 
  5. Orix Buffaloes (21-30-2) 
  6. Saitama Seibu Lions (18-34-0) 

You can watch the NPB all year long with a subscription to DAZN.

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Conor Liguori