Giants Shutout Tigers; Hawks Look to Cuban Reinforcements

The Yomiuri Giants shut out the Hanshin Tigers in a three game series. It started with a 1-0 victory in the first game. Giant ace Tomoyuki Sugano improved his record to 8-0 with a complete game victory. It was his third shutout of the 2020 season. Giant slugger Kazuma Okamoto provided the only offense with a solo shot in the fourth inning, his 17th homer of the season.

The next day the Giants matched the record of Sugano with an 8-0 win over the Tigers. This time it was a bullpen by committee picking up the win, with Christopher Mercedes going just two innings followed by five different relievers to complete the shutout. Just like the first game the Tigers could only collect four hits against the six pitchers. Okamoto went deep again and Yoshihiro Maru clubbed his 11th homerun, a 3-run shot in the seventh to pace the offense.

The third game of the series saw Shosei Togo pitch 6.2 innings of shutout ball in the Giants 2-0 win over the Tigers. Three relievers followed to again limit the Tigers to four hits. Togo improved his record to 6-2 and lowered his ERA to 2.11. Giants shortstop Hayato Sakamoto drove in both runs to lead the Giants to victory.

The sweep by the Giants gives them a 4.5 game lead in the Central League. There .638 winning percentage is the best in the NPB.

Another league leader the Softbank Hawks may see the return of a couple Cuban reinforcements. The Hawks find themselves in a tie with the Chibba Lotte Marines for first place in the Pacific League with the Rakuten Golden Eagles just a half a game behind. The Hawks already have a pretty potent offense with Yuki Yanagita and Wladimir Balentien leading the charge. They may get an additional surge with the returns of Cubans Yurisbel Gracial and Alfredo Despaigne.

Both had to undergo a 14 day quarantine and then a minor league rehab assignment when they returned from Cuba. Because of the corona virus Cuba did not allow anyone to visit or leave Cuba in their fight against this virus. Gracial and Despaigne are now in Japan. Gracial is back with the Hawks after three games in the minor leagues. He has just two hits in his first 11 at bats. Despaigne is still in the minor leagues where he is hitting .267 with no extra base hits in six games.

Balentien has been struggling with the Hawks after leaving the Swallows as a free agent. He is hitting just .196, but has shown some power with his 9 homeruns. The Hawks were hoping for more. Japanese rules only allow four foreigners to each team’s roster. They have starter Rick Vandenhurk, who they can move up and down between starts. They also have Cuban reliever Livan Moinelo, who they can not move up and down from the roster so easily. So that means one of those offensive sluggers needs to be sent down when Vandenhurk is on the roster ready to pitch.

They also have the Braves first round pick Carter Stewart, who they signed as a free agent after the Braves could not sign him. He is 1-2 with a 2.91 ERA down on the farm. His 11 walks in just 21.2 innings shows he has some more work to do to find the plate.

Of course, have a surplus of talent is a nice luxury to have. Keeping them all happy will be the biggest challenge.

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