The competition for the Japanese professional baseball Pacific League home run title is heating up at the end of the season. Four sluggers tied for first place. 4 people, 4 colors. No matter who it is, it is an honor to win the first home run title.
Kensuke Kondo (30) of the Softbank Hawks started as left fielder No. 4 in the home game against the Seibu Lions held at the Fukuoka PAYPAY Dome on the 29th.
He walked on 1st and 2nd bases with 1 out and 1 out in the 1st inning, leading to a bases loaded opportunity. Softbank failed to score due to a straight hit by the shortstop and a strikeout. Kondo was retired by a fly ball to center field in the 3rd inning, but after one out in the 6th inning, he hit a solo home run over the center field fence. It was the only score for both teams on the day.
Softbank’s starting pitcher Kohei Arihara recorded his 10th win of the season with a perfect pitch in 8 innings, allowing 2 hits and no runs. Osuna took the mound in the 9th inning and earned the save, maintaining a 1-run lead.
SoftBank took a step ahead in the fierce competition for second place. They are 1 game ahead of 3rd place Rakuten and 1.5 games ahead of 4th place Chiba Lotte.
Kondo, the protagonist of the game-winning hit, hit his 25th home run of the season that day, moving up to tied for first place in the league. There are four people ranked first in home runs. In addition to Kondo, the main characters are Hideto Asamura (32, Rakuten), Gregory Polanco (32, Chiba Lotte), and Chusei Mannami (23, Nippon Ham).
Kondo was far from a home run hit until last year. The 11 home runs in 2021 were a personal record. However, as soon as he put on the Softbank uniform this year, he exploded with 25 home runs.
Kondo, who played 11 seasons for Nippon Ham until last year, qualified as a free agent and signed a 7-year 5 billion yen (approximately 45.5 billion won) contract with Softbank. This season, Kondo is tied for first in home runs, first in RBIs (85), and second in batting (.300). His batting average is 7 leagues behind league leader Yuma Tongu (.307). He is attempting to win the Pacific League batting triple crown (home run, RBI, batting) for the first time in 19 years since Nobuhiko Matsunaka (then Softbank) in 2004.
Polanco was a teammate of Kang Jung-ho when he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Major League. Kang Jung-ho played in Pittsburgh from 2015 to 2019, and Polanco played in Pittsburgh from 2014 to 2021. He hit 22 home runs in 2016 and 23 home runs in 2018.
Polanco advanced to Japan last year and played for Yomiuri. In 138 games, he batted . After the season, Yomiuri did not renew Polanco’s contract and released him.
Polanco, who received $2 million from Yomiuri, signed a $1.3 million contract with Chiba Lotte this year. He signed with Chiba Lotte this year and has a batting average of .200, 4.5, 25 home runs, 72 RBI, 41 runs, and an OPS of .773 in 117 games.안전놀이터
Mannami (23) debuted in 2019, but had 0 hits in 4 at-bats in 2 games. He only hit 5 home runs in 49 games in 2021 and 14 home runs in 100 games in 2022. He has exploded with slugging power this year and is hitting 25 home runs. He had 19 home runs over the past two years, but his power was an upgrade this year.
Nippon Ham coach Tsuyoshi Shinjo has been using Mannami as the number one hitter since early September to compete for the home run title. This is to give him a chance to hit at least one more at-bat.
Asamura has maintained the record of appearing in all games for 7 consecutive years from 2016 to last year. He is participating in all 136 games of Rakuten until the 29th this year. It is expected that he will become an ‘ironman’ who has participated in all competitions for 8 years.
From the game against Orix on August 8, 2015 to the 29th, he has played in 1,155 consecutive games, setting a new record for consecutive appearances in the Pacific League. Asamura hit 30 home runs for three consecutive years from 2018 to 2020, and hit 27 home runs last year.