Inform your Nippon Professional Baseball league predictions ahead of this week's biggest matches with Pinnacle's weekly update, including analysis, team news, and the latest baseball odds.
Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Yakult Swallows
The Tokyo Yakult Swallows have been the best team in the NPB this season with a 47-1-23 record at the time of writing and they look hard to beat at the top of the Central League.
In contrast, the Yokohama DeNA Baystars, who they face on Saturday, are looking to turn their season around after a poor run that has seen them fall significantly off the pace in the Central League standings, and they are now down in fifth place.
The Baystars have a record of 29-38 at the time of writing but they will take some hope from their decent head-to-head record against the Swallows this year, which stands at 6-5 in favour of the Tokyo-based club.
The standout hitter for the Baystars has been Keita Sano, who is on track to again pick up the Central League batting title which he won in 2020. Sano is hitting at a .324 average with eight home runs.
The Swallows' Munetaka Murakami has been the standout performer with the bat for the league leaders with 26 home runs, the most of any hitter in the NPB. Murakami is also way ahead in total bases, thanks at least in part to his 54 walks, another league-leading tally.
Containing the explosive Murakami will be crucial to the chances of success for the Baystars as they try to pin back the runaway leaders.
Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks at Saitama Seibu Lions
The Pacific League is much more closely contested than its Central counterpart and top of the tightly bunched standings are the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks with a record of 39-1-29, at the time of writing.
The chasing pack are breathing down the Hawks’ necks however, with the Saitama Seibu Lions, who they face on Saturday, just five games back.
The Lions have a 36-1-34 record at the time of writing after winning five of their last six matches. Their closer Tatsushi Masuda has been a standout with a 0.33 ERA from 27 innings pitched, racking up 20 saves, the most in the Pacific League, in the process.
For the Hawks, their starting pitching unit has been key to their success, with the trio of Tomohisa Ohzeki, Koudai Senga, and Nao Higashihama all registering ERA’s under 2.5 in their 38 combined starts.
In what could become a pitchers' battle, given the quality of arms on display, the Hawks will have to be at their best to fend off the surging Lions.
Yomiuri Giants at Hiroshima Toyo Carp
Given the Yakult Swallows' imperious position at the head of the Central League, it could be argued that the other teams are merely playing for second place. The pair that are currently closest to doing so are the Yomiuri Giants and the Hiroshima Toyo Carp and the two sides meet on Saturday.
The Giants sport a 39-37 record at the time of writing while the Carp are 35-3-35 after winning five of their last six encounters.
Pitching has been a weakness of the Giants this season, their 327 runs conceded is the most in the NPB, but their power-packed batting line-up has managed to overcome a lot of their issues and lead them to a record above .500.
Adam Walker has been their top hitter, with a .305 batting average coupled with 16 home runs and 36 RBIs.
For Hiroshima, their starting pitching has been the most solid aspect of their play, with four of their rotation in the top 10 for ERA qualifiers, headlined by Hiroki Tokoda’s 2.44 ERA from 81 innings.
As a result, this matchup will prove an interesting one between a side with strong starting pitching and one without. The results between these two sides this season could ultimately define which one makes the playoffs.