League Champion : YAKULT SWALLOWS

ERAYutaka Ohno (Carp) 2.85 (oldest title holder)
Most games wonMasahiro Yamamoto (Dragons) 18 (3rd time)
Most strike outsMasahiro Yamamoto (Dragons) 159
Most savesKazuhiro Sasaki (Bay Stars) 41SP (4th time)
Highest hitting averageTakanori Suzuki (Bay Stars) .335
Most base hitsLuis Lopez (Carp) 170
HomerunDwayne Hosey (Swallows) 38
RBILuis Lopez (Carp) 112 (2nd year in a row)
Most on baseRobert Rose (Bay Stars) .444
Most bases stolenKohichi Ogata (Carp) 49 (3rd year in a row)

While Bay Stars' Kazuhiro Sasaki has tied with the Japanese save record in the end of Sept, so has "Korean Express" Sun Don Yol of the Dragons. He marked his 37th save on Oct.2. Then on Oct.5, Sasaki, at last broke Japan's save record.

Giants Kazuhiro Kiyohara blasted 2 homers in one game, for the first time this season on Oct.4. Then he had another the following day--his 32nd of the season when teammate Balvino Galvez marked his 12 win in a shut out game against the Carp.

Sun Don Yol pitched 2 1/3 innings on Oct. 6. He lost 2 runs in the final inning, but the Dragons kept their lead, winning 5 to 4 against the Bay Stars. Sun caught up with Sasaki by earning his 38th save of the season. This was the final game for the Dragons. The Bay Stars have more games to go, but for manager Akihiko Ohya it became the last one for him at Yokohama Stadium. It was disclosed that the team had no intention of renewing his contract. Ohya burst into tears as he made his farewell round at the stadium to fans. Bobby Rose got quite emotional about Ohya too. He was so enraged with the action the Bay Stars took that he decided to leave the country the next day, despite his possibility of winning the batting title, with 4 more games to go.

The Giants played their final game of the season on Oct. 8 against the Swallows. Hideki Matsui, unfortunately could not hit any homeruns to catch up with Dwayne Hosey. The Giants lost this game 0 to 1 and Kazuhiro Kiyohara marked his 152th strikeout.

The league marked its final game on Oct.13. An error by the Swallows ended the game that stretched to the 13th inning. The Carp luckily won it 3 to 2. The total number of spectators to the Central League games came out to 13,483,500. It's an increase by 10.3 percent compared to the previous season.

1. Yakult Swallows
2. Yokohama Bay Stars
3. Hiroshima Toyo Carp
4. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants
5. Hanshin Tigers
6. Chunichi Dragons

The big chance for the Bay Stars to come even closer to the leader were on Sept. 2 and 3. However, they lost both games. In the 9th inning of the second game, with 2 outs, the game came to a halt due to sudden rainstorm. Fans at the Yokohama Stadium became impatient and threw in megaphones paper cups and more into the field. Bay Stars players came out to collect the trash. The game resumed but the Bay Stars could not do anything and lost it 1 to 3.

The Bay Stars lost to the Tigers on Sept. 6, but they showed that they were not over yet the next day. They were behind 1 to 2. In the 8th winning they batted in 4 runs, and there was nothing to be afraid of in the 9th, because ace reliever Kazuhiro Sasaki took over. He became on the 3rd pitcher in Japan to achieve 200 save points.

The Giants left the bottom most spot for the first time in 70 days by defeating the Dragons 6 to 2 on Sept. 6. Hideki Matsui marked his 33rd homer that day and another the following day to tie for the title with Dwayne Hosey of the Swallows. He become the homerun leader on Sept. 9 with his 35th which slammed into the wall above the highest level of the stands in the Tokyo Dome. Kazuhiro Kiyohara drove the ball into a beer company's ad the next day, and that won him 1 million yen plus a year's worth of beer. He helped his high school friend Masumi Kuwata win the game. The Giants are actually booming and have won their 6th straight game on Sept. 11--7 to 3 to the Bay Stars, thanks to a 3 run homer by Matsui. The victory has lifted them up another step in the league

Many expected Giants to defeat the leading team as they did the BayStars. But they've lost 3 straight games to them. Plus, the Giants dropped a notch in the standing on Sept. 14. They returned to 4th place immediatley, because the Tigers lost 2 straight games to the Swallows thereafter. The Swallows used 8 pitchers to defeat the Tigers 4 to 2 on Sept. 16. There's nobody capable of stopping the Swallows--not even the runner up, Bay Stars. On Sept. 19, the BayStars were badly beaten 1 to 9, and fell further behind the Swallows by 9.5 games. The Swallows stretched their winning streak to 8. Though they faced defeat the next day, they had a dramatic win on Sept.21. Catcher Atsuya Furuta blasted a game winning homer. The team's magic number is down to 5.

The Swallows lost 2 straight games to the Carp from Sept. 23. The losses are blamed on Dwayne Hosey. He not only could not hit the ball well. During the first game, he attacked his teammate and veteran infielder Hatsuhiko Tsuji in the dugout. Hosey lost his temper when Tsuji criticized his laziness on the field. Nevertheless, the Bay Stars' loss on Sept. 24 reduced the Swallows' magic number to 4.

Dwayne Hosey has become the homerun leader on Sept. 26. He slammed his 37th and 38th. The team clinched a 15 to 3 victory over the Tigers. The following day, the Swallows won the game quite differently. Catcher Atsuya Furuta doubled a game winning RBI to finish the game 5 to 4. The magic number has gone down to 1.

The Swallows' Central League victory was determined on Sept. 28. They defeated the Tigers to a whooping 14 to 1. It's the Swallows 5th time to clinch the league title, and the first time since 1995. Meanwhile, the Giants played their last home game at the Tokyo Dome. Balvino Galvez was about to complete a shut out game, but after 2 outs in the 9th inning, Kazutomo Miyamoto took over. Miyamoto has announced his retirement from baseball earlier, and ended his 13 years in pro baseball this way. The fans applauded and thanked the most spirited Giants player.

Although the league champion's been decided, there are still news that should not be overlooked. The "magician" of pitching, Bay Stars' Kazuhiro Sasaki tied with the Japan record of 37 saves on Sept.30.

1. Yakult Swallows
2. Yokohama Bay Stars
3. Hiroshima Toyo Carp
4. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants
5. Hanshin Tigers
6. Chunichi Dragons

The Bay Stars have surged to 2nd place in the CL on Aug.1, overwhelming the Carp 7 to 2. They have only lost 1 game since the All Star break. However, there still are 10 games between them and the Swallows.

Giants'ace pitcher Masaki Saitoh took his 1500th strike out on Aug. 3 at Koshien Stadium which is also where he had taken his 1st K as a professional player. The Giants won 4 to 2 to the Tigers, and Saitoh gained only his 4th victory of the season. An even remarkable record was achieved by South Korean pitcher Sun Dong Yol on the same day. He relieved the Dragons in the last 2 innings and broke the Central League's consecutive save record. It's his 18th in a row, and his 28th this season in a 8 to 5 victory over the Swallows. Unfortunately, Sun's record came to a halt on Aug. 6. Although he took over in the 9th inning when the team was ahead by one point. Carps' Luis Lopez drove in 2 runs, and Sun had to take the loss. The game finished 5 to 4.

The Bay Stars have stretched their game winning streak to 8 on Aug.7, by defeating the Tigers 5 to 2. The game was saved by ace reliever Kazuhiro Sasaki who marked his lifetime 150th save, tying for 2nd place among all Japanese baseball pitchers ever. Meanwhile, the Giants beat the top standing team in the games on Aug. 5 and 6, helping the Bay Stars come as close by 6.5 games to the leader. The Bay Stars, were unable to stretch their winning streak further thereafter.

On Aug. 22, Kazuhiro Sasaki of the Bay Stars broke the monthly save record in Japan by marking his 11th save this month. He kept the Giants from catching up with his team in the 9th, for a 5 to 4 victory.

Dwayne Hosey of the Swallows surpassed Giants Hideki Matsui in homeruns by slugging his 28th on Aug. 14. Then Matsui caught up on Aug. 17 and went a head again on Aug. 19, added his 31st on Aug. 23. However, Hosey homered twice at bat the next day. They certainly helped his team, the Swallows stop their losing streak at 5.

Kazuhiro Sasaki broke Japan's monthly save point record by achieving his 12th on Aug. 26. It also became his 14th straight successful relief tying with the Japan record. His total saves this season have reached 32 as a result of his team defeating the Dragons 1 to 0 in the 10th inning.

The Giants marked their 60th loss this season on Aug. 26. Tragedy calls tragedy. They've released infielder Luis de los Santos and pitcher David Pavlas, who joined the team only this year.

Meanwhile, Dwayne Hosey of the Swallows has had more homeruns. He drove in his 34th on Aug. 31 and helped his team keep the lead in the league by defeating the Dragons to a mere 2 to 1. The Bay Stars are following the Swallows thanks especially to the great pitching by their reliever Kazuhiro Sasaki. On that day, the pitcher marked his 34th save of the year, and Bobby Rhodes blasted a homerun in the 10th for the Bay Stars' 2 to 1 victory over the Tigers. August ended with 3.5 games between the leader and the Bay Stars.

1. Yakult Swallows
2. Yokohama Bay Stars
3. Hiroshima Toyo Carp
4. Hanshin Tigers
5. Chunichi Dragons
6. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants

The Giants and the Swallows played the longest game of the season on July 2. It lasted 5 hours 34 minutes and 13 innings were played. In the end, the top team won it 8 to 6 despite the Giants slugger Hideki Matsui blasted a league leading 21st homer. The next day, Matsui homered again, and the Giants stopped the Swallows winning streak at 8. The Giants won 7 to 2.

After the Bay Stars and the Dragons game was over, Dragons Yasuaki Taiho threw his bat towards the stands of the Nagoya Dome. He said later that he lost his mind because a fan yelled "Go back to Taiwan" at him. The team's general manager declared that Taiho be ejected from the next 3 games. Of course, he and the commissioner was also upset that a fan would make such a decriminating remark. Taiho that day failed to hit well and the team lost 0 to 1.

Giants pitcher Hideki Okajima struck out 4 Tigers in one inning on July 4. It was achieved because the first batter took off to the first base striking out to a wild pitch. He's only the 5th pitcher in Japan to mark such an unusual record. All in all, the Giants lost to the Tigers 3 to 4 that day, But then, the Giants came back winning the next 2 games from the Tigers. In the game on July 6, Kazuhiro Kiyohara homered for the first time at the Koshien Stadium as a professional player and his high school mate, pitcher Masumi Kuwata was credited for the win.

24 year-old Cho Sung Min from South Korea marked his first save in Japan by taking over from starter Hiromu Makihara in the 9th inning. It's only Cho's 2nd game in the Japanese major league. The 2 pitchers along with Kazuhiro Kiyohara who homered that day were heroes of June 9 for the Giants. They defeated the Dragon by a mere 2 to 1 in Sapporo.

The Dragons have won 4 straight games until July 15. Pitcher Masa Yamamoto picked up a league leading 11th win of the season defeating the Carp in a shut out game of 4 to 0.

The All Star players were announced on July 15. It's the first time in 22 years that nobody from the Giants were selected based on recommendation. This reflects how bad the Giants are doing this year. Whereas the most picks from one team is the Bay Stars at 7.

The Giants continue to play sad games. Teamwork is practically non-existent. Last year's Rookie of the Year, Toshihisa Nishi who usually plays infield was sent to the outfield for the first time as a professional player on July 19. He wasn't even close to the shot by Swallows' Takahiro Ikeyama when he was jumping for it by the fence. He fell and the ball was left bouncing in the field. Ikeyama came all the way home for his first inside the park homerun. Nishi missed a ball that flew toward him before that one too. The real person to blame is said to be skipper, Shigeo Nagashima who placed Nishi in that spot. The Giants obviously lost. It was a 3 to 5.

Amazingly, the Giants were able to overwhelm the Swallows in the next 2 games. Hideki Matsui blasted a 2 run homer--his 25th this season, and Kazuhiro Kiyohara tripled his 15th on July 20. Then, the next day, Hiroo Ishii batted in 2 runs with the bases loaded in the 6th inning to reverse the game. The first half of the season finished though with still 14.5 games between the 2 teams.

The first games after the All Star break on July 26 were all cancelled. The Giants took off to the latter half of the season losing 2 games in a row to the Dragons.They lost to a 12 to 2 in the first game, and 5 to 2 on July 28. Then they lost to the Carps the following day, despite the fact that Hideki Matsui drove his 26th homerun, and Kazuhiro Kiyohara his 17th. The Swallows continue to perform well. They've defeated the Carp in 2 straight games on July 27 and 28.

1. Yakult Swallows
2. Hiroshima Toyo Carp
3. Yokohama Bay Stars
4. Chunichi Dragons
5. Hanshin Tigers
6. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants

Akira Etoh of the Carp belted his 16th homerun of the season on June 1. He surpassed his teammate Tomoaki Kanemoto to take the lead in the homerun standing. His 3 run homer in the 8th inning gave the Carp a 5 to 4 victory over the Bay Stars. Also that day, the Tigers defeated the Giants 4 to 1, marking their 4th consecutive win.

Tomohito Ito of the Swallows marked his 11th consecutive save point--a team record. That was in the game against the Giants on June 3 which finished 2 to 1. For the Giants, this became their 4th straight losing game. Another great pitch that day was achieved by Hiroki Kuroda of the Carp. He's become the first rookie to pitch a complete game shut-out, for a 3 to 0 victory over the Tigers.

Giants' Hideki Matsui blasted a 2 run homer on June 6. It's his 17th homerun this season, and the most number batted by any Central League player so far. The homer contributed greatly to the team' s victory over the Dragons 7 to 3, and the Giants losing streak was ended at 6 this day. A new foreign player for the Giants, Pedro Castellano made his debut in Japanese baseball that day.

By the way, one guy was really fed up with Japanese baseball on June 5 that he asked to resign the next day. It's American umpire Mike Di Muro . He was shocked at the attitude of a player in the game between the Dragons and the Bay Stars. Dragons slugger Yasuaki Taiho struck him twice at the chest and the coaches protested to him too. That's for dismissing Taiho from the game for complaining to the umpire's judgement of a pitch. Di Muro has had to face criticism when he took out Tigers' Manager Yoshio Yoshida from the game on May 17 for his bad attitude. The American umpire made the decision without conferring with other umpires, and this action has been questioned. Besides, it has not been the custom to punish coaches and players immediately like Di Muro had been doing. Di Muro left Japan on June 12.
Michiyo's Note: Differences of judgement do exist between US and Japanese baseball. If Japan hopes to play in the American style more, it must be tolerant to Di Muro's judgement. Also, somebody in a special position should have informed Di Muro about the cultural differences in baseball beforehand, so that he would have been prepared.

The Tigers is doing incredibly well for a team which has been in the pits for quite a while. It's surged to 2nd place in the league on June 8 by defeating the Bay Stars 7 to 1. However, they were defeated by the leading team on June 10 by a whooping 0 to 10. The Swallows extended its winning streak to 6.

Another newcomer to Japanese baseball made his debut on June 10. He's David Pavlas who played for the Chicago Cubs and the New York Yankees as well as in Italy and Taiwan. He pitched the 9th inning to safety for the Giants. The Giants won 5 - 3 to the Bay Stars. 3 runs were homered in by starting pitcher Balvino Galvez.

The Swallows continue to move way a head of the other teams. On June 13, Kenjiro Kawasaki shut out the Bay Stars 5 - 0. The victory marked the teams 9th straight winning game. It's Kawasaki's first shut out game in nearly 4 years, and it marked his 5th win this season.
Michiyo's Note: Kawasaki is doing well despite the fact that his former girlfriend, actress Kazumi Kawai leaped from his apartment in Tokyo in May and killed herself. Kawasaki was not in Tokyo at the time.

The Swallows winning streak finally came to an end on June 15 at 10. The birds were defeated by the Bay Stars 3 to 8.

4 out of 6 games held on June 17 went into extra innings. No doubt, the most exciting game was the one between the Swallows and the Giants. The Swallows were leading until the 8th inning 1 to 0. At the top of the 9th, Giants Koji Goto doubled to bring the game to a tie. Both teams could not score thereafter, until the 14th inning. There, slugger Hideki Matsui homered his 19th of the season to give the Giants a 2 to 1 lead. But the game was not over yet. In the bottom of that inning, Giants' relief pitcher David Pavlas got a runner on 2nd base. The next batter blasted the ball to the right and it seemed definite that a Swallow would come home for a tie. Yudai Deguchi who replaced Katsumi Hirosawa in the right field hurled the ball with speed to home, and catcher Naoki Sugiyama acted as a shield in front of the home base to stop the runner from touching it. The game came to a dramatic end. The Swallows had from June 15, lost 4 games in a row.

Meanwhile, the Tigers new player from the US triple A, Reed Secrist made his debut in Japan on June 21, just 3 days after his arrival in the country. His first time to bat was in the 8th inning. He grounded a ball which went to the outfield, and a runner came home. The Tigers won 5 to 3 over the Giants.
Michiyo's Note: I'm glad Reed has had a great start. His family, 2 of them who wrote to me, must be proud of him!

The Giants have at last emerged to 5th place on June 24 with a 4 - 2, defeating the Bay Stars who instead, fell to the final post. Balvino Galvez finished the entire game for his 5th win. But the Giants were back on the bottom of the ranking the next day losing in a close 0 to 1 game, even though it was a day to celebrate a former top player of the Buffaloes Hiroo Ishii's debut in the Central League.

All player on the BayStars line up had a base hit in the 2nd inning of the game against the Tigers on June 29. They wacked in 9 runs. The game finished a 12 to 5 for the Bay Stars.

The Swallows are running way ahead of the others. They have 20 more wins then losses as of June 30.

1. Yakult Swallows
2. Hiroshima Toyo Carp
3. Hanshin Tigers
4. Chunichi Dragons
5. Yokohama Bay Stars
6. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants

The team that finished April on the top has marked its 5th straight loss on May 1. That's the Swallows. The team can't hit, and neither can the pitcher keep the team out of trouble. By the way, Giants slugger Kazuhiro Kiyohara was injured by a pitch hurled by Tigers'Keiichi Yabu in the 6th inning. It attacked his right hand. The injury wasn't serious though.

The Tigers, Yutaka Wada failed to extend his record on May 4 which was started in the first game of the season. He has had at least one base hit every game until May 3. Meanwhile, his new teammate Mike Greenwell helped the Tigers win with 2 RBIs that day, for a 7 to 3 victory over the Carp. That was the first game in Japan for Greenwell. He also added 2 RBIs the next game, contributing to the team's 3 to 1 win against the Carp.

Norihiro Komada of the BayStars marked his 1500th career hit on May 6. He's the 71st player in Japan to reach that many. His first hit was quite sensational. He blasted a grand slam as a player of the Tokyo Giants in 1983. The Bay Stars were taken to their 3rd straight victory that day winning 9 to 6 to the Carp.

2.08 meters tall Eric Hillman was promoted to the Giants' A team on May 8 and started the game that day against the Swallows. It's the first time for the former Marines pitcher to play officially for the Giants. He was on the disabled list due to problem of his left shoulder. Hillman unfortunately became the losing pitcher. The Swallows batted in 2 runs from him until the 5th inning that he's pitched. The game finished 2 to 6. The following day, the Giants faced their 4th defeat in a row, demoting them to the bottom of the league standing.

It was rainy and windy on May 8 in Nagoya. It was also raining inside the Nagoya Dome. Spectators seated in parts of the infield stand had to use their umbrellas from getting soaked. It was discovered later, that 8 different parts of the Nagoya Dome must be repaired. It may not have to do with the unexpected leak in the dome, but the Dragons faced complete defeat this day to the Tigers, 1 to 6.

Thanks to Katsumi Hirosawa who homered on both May 10 and 11 the Giants were able to pick up wins from the Tigers on those days. He blasted his 2nd to 4th homeruns of the season. The Bay Stars, for the first time in 2 years have achieved their 5th game victory in a row on May 11 by winning 4 to 2 to the Swallows. The team is indeed hitting well. As of May 11, there are only 3.5 games between the top and the bottom teams. By the way, Hanshin Tigers' expensive player Mike Greenwell broke a bone from batting the ball at his own right foot on May 10. He decided to leave Japan and quit baseball all together. He had a 2 year contract for 345 million yen. The Tigers and Greenwell reached an agreement that 138 million yen will be paid to him for his 7 days of play with the team!
Michiyo's Note: Too bad Greenwell does not have the motivation to try again. Many Tigers fans thought that he could save the team like Randy Bass did in 1985 by taking the Tigers to a league victory. Manager Yoshio Yoshida mentioned before the press that Greenwell has come and gone like a tornado.

The Giants are in the pits. Ace pitcher Masaki Saitoh has pulled out of games during this month, Eric Hillman has a shoulder pain, and '96 leading pitcher Balbino Galvez is not pitching well this season, although he showed a sign of improvement on May 16 losing just 1 RBI during 8 innings he pitched to the Dragons. Masumi Kuwata became the losing pitcher on May 18 to the Dragons. That gave the Giants' 4th defeat in a row. The leading team, Swallows, marked their 4th consecutive win on May 17, but lost to the Tigers by a mere 0 to 1 on May 19.
Michiyo's Note: I went to the Tokyo Dome on May 18, but left during the 7th inning with the Dragons leading 4 to 1. I was so sure the Giants would not take enough action to make the game competitive. And I'm glad I did, because the Dragons made the Giants look worse winning easily by batting in 9 runs to 1.

The Giants losing streak is 5 as of May 20. They lost to the Bay Stars 2 to 3. The Carp defeated the top standing team, the Swallows that day 7 to 5, thanks to Tomoaki Kanemoto's homerun in the 7th inning-- his league leading 12th homerun of the season.

The Giants line up was shuffled drastically on May 21. Katsumi Hirosawa replaced Kazuhiro Kiyohara for the cleanup spot. Hirosawa was able to bat up to the expectation of manager Shigeo Nagashima. He contributed greatly to the team to a 5 to 1 victory over the Baystars with a 3 run homer. A not too well known pitcher, Hideki Okajima hurled the entire game. Balvino Galvez too hurled to the distance the following day. Hideki Matsui blasted a team winning 2 run homerun. The game was a 2 to 1 for the Giants. The Giants have won 2 and lost 2 since that game.

Tomoaki Kanemoto of the Carp kept the lead in the number of homeruns by hitting his 15th on May 27. Giants' sluggers took action too. Kazuhiro Kiyohara blasted a game winning 2 run homer in the 7th inning, and Hideki Matsui added to that in the 8th. The Giants overwhelmed the Carp 4 to 1. However, the Giants still keep their spot in the bottom of the league.

Giants' ace pitcher Masaki Saitoh hurled well on May 30. He's finally back after being out of games for 41 days due to a right shoulder pain. The Tigers hit in just 1 run from Saitoh during the 6 innings he pitched. The game went into extra innings. In the 11th, Hiroshi Yagi sacrificed a fly for the Tigers to take the team to a 2 to 1 victory. As of May 31, there are 8.5 games between the leader, Yakult Swallows and the Giants.

1. Yakult Swallows
2. Hiroshima Toyo Carp
3. Chunichi Dragons
4. Hanshin Tigers
5. Yokohama Bay Stars
6. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants

The season kicked off on a rainy Friday on Apr. 4. The game in Hiroshima between the Carp and Hanshin Tigers was rained out. Games at the domed stadiums did not have to worry about the weather. The Dragons were visited by the Bay Stars at the new Nagoya Dome. The game ended by a close call. On the top of the 9th inning with 2 outs and a runner on third base, South Korean pitcher Sun Dong Yol came on the mound to relief starting pitcher Masahiro Yamamoto. Sun threw the ball over the catcher. The runner raced home, but was declared out when Sun touched him with the ball. The other dome, the 9 year old Tokyo Dome, was packed with 55,000 spectators. Slender pop idol, Namie Amuro hurled the first pitch to open the game, while Tokyo Giants ace pitcher Masaki Saitoh looked on from behind her. Amuro, though, failed to bring luck to Saitoh. He lost 3 homeruns in a row to a new member of the Swallows Takehiko Kobayakawa, a former slugger for the Hiroshima Carp. The Swallows won 6 to 3. The only happy moment for the Giants fan was when Hideki Matsui blasted a low ball to the stands in the 3rd inning. The Giants lost again to the Swallows on the next day, making this the first time in 6 years for the popular team to lose 2 consecutive opening games. However, prospect for this season brightened on the 3rd day. Former ace pitcher Masumi Kuwata made a comeback. He could not pitch for the past 2 years. Kuwata was rehabilitating from a surgery he underwent 2 years ago. He pitched 6 innings on Apr. 6 and lost only one run. His high school teammate Kazuhiro Kiyohara blasted his 1st homerun of the season, and the first in the Central League. The Giants won 5 to 4.

The Giants ranked the worst in the league on Apr.10. Last year's award winner Masaki Saitoh made up for the very 1st loss being in better shape against the Tigers on Apr.11 by pitching 7 2/3 innings losing only 1 RBI. The game ended 3 to 2 for the Giants. The Giants won the game the following day too.

Swallows' Katsuya Nomura marked his 1000th victory as a pro baseball manager on Apr.16. As of Apr.20, the team stretched its winning streak to 9. It was put to an end of Apr.22 by the Carp. The Carp attacked Swallows' pitcher Futoshi Yamabe in the 1st inning, batting in 3 runs from the starting pitcher. The game was a 4 to 1 victory for the Carp.

Kazutomo Miyamoto became the first Giants' pitcher to finish the entire game by himself this season. He actually shut out the game on Apr.23 against the Dragons at the Nagoya Dome.

Giants slugger Hideki Matsui blasted his 100th homerun in professional baseball on Apr.27. This a very special achievement in that he's reached the number quicker than Sadaharu Oh The youngest ever is Kazuhiro Kiyohara who is Matsui's teammate today. In fact, Kiyohara gave the game on this day a dramatic ending. With runners on 1st and 3rd base each in the 9th inning Kiyohara drove the ball between 3rd and 2nd bases. The hit ended the game, giving the Giants a 5 to 4 victory against the Carp.

Yutaka Wada of the Hanshin Tigers broke a Japanese record. On Apr.29, he stretched his base hit record from the opening day of the season to 21 consecutive games. He broken the Japanese record which was set back in 1954. The base hit games streak is held by a former Hiroshima Carp sprinter, Yoshihiko Takahashi who is coaching the Daiei Hawks.

American player Bobby Rose of the Bay Stars is playing incredibly well. Until Apr.30, he has achieved a base hit for the 9th consecutive time at bat. On the same day, 41-year old pitcher Yutaka Ohno of the Carp shut out the Dragons. He's the oldest pitcher today in the Central League. But that his age does not interfere with his performance, for the feat has already given Ohno his 3rd win of the season and the best ERA in the league.

The Central League standing as of the evening of Apr. 30 is as follows.
1. Yakult Swallows
2. Hiroshima Toyo Carp
3. Hanshin Tigers
4. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants
4. Chunichi Dragons
6. Yokohama Bay Stars