League champion: Yokohama Bay Stars

ERAShigeki Noguchi (Dragons) 2.34 (first time)
Most games wonKenjiro Kawasaki (Swallows) 17 (first time)
Most strike outsKazuhisa Ishii (Swallows) 241 (first time)
Most savesKazuhiro Sasaki (Bay Stars) 46SP (5th time)
Highest hitting averageTakanori Suzuki (Bay Stars) .337 (2nd time)
Most base hitsTakuro Ishii (Bay Stars) 174 (2nd time)
HomerunHideki Matsui (Giants) 34 (first time)
RBIHideki Matsui (Giants) 100 (first time)
Most on baseHideki Matsui (Giants) .421(first time)/TD>
Most bases stolenTakuro Ishii (Bay Stars) 39 (2nd time)

The Bay Stars' magic number reappeared at 5 as they beat the Dragons 6 to 2 on Oct. 1. The next day, the Bay Stars won again a very close game. Kazuhiro Sasaki finished the 9th inning and marked his 44th save point which is a Japan record. It's his 43rd save. The Bay Stars' magic number is down to 3.

The Giants finished the season on Oct. 3 at the Tokyo Dome playing against the Carp. Yoshinobu Takahashi's final hitting average marked .300 giving him hope to win the rookie of the year title. Hideki Matsui slammed his 34th homerun and hit in his 100th RBI of the season. Masumi Kuwata clinched a league leading 16th win. Meanwhile, players such as Sadaaki Yoshimura, Kazuhisa Kawaguchi wound up their baseball career as players.

Kenjiro Kawasaki tied with Kuwata for the pitching title on Oct. 4. That's by winning over the Bay Stars in a 8 to 4 game. The Bay Stars lost its 3rd game in a row to the Swallows the next day 1 to 4.

On Oct. 6, the Bay Stars beat the Swallows at last with Takahiro Saeki's 3 run homer. Kazuhiro Sasaki closed the game for his 44th save of the season or 45th save point. The team's magic number has decreased to 2.

The Bay Stars game was rained out the next day. However, due to the fact that the Dragons lost to the Swallows, the Bay Stars' magic number came down to 1.

The day for Bay Stars to clinch the league pennant was Oct. 8. It played a competitive game against the Tigers at Koshien Stadium. The Tigers were ahead by a run, but the Bay Stars hit in 2 runs in the 8th inning with the bases loaded to turn the game to a 4 to 3. From the bottom of the 8th inning, Kazuhiro Sasaki came to pitch. The final Tiger up to bat, Tsuyoshi Shinjo swung out. The league victory is only the 2nd for the team. The 1st was in 1960 when they were called Taiyo Whales.

Katsuya Nomura wrapped up his 9 years as the manager of the Swallows on Oct 9. Kenjiro Kawasaki hurled over the distance for league leading 17th win. He handed the winning ball to Nomura at the end. The Swallows beat the Tigers 5 to 2. For Monsieur Yoshio Yoshida, his last game as the manager of the Tigers was on Oct. 12 Even though the Tigers played badly this year, they at least closed the season with a 4 to 1 victory over the Dragons. The total league turnout was 13,004,000. That's 47,9500 less than the previous year. The Bay Stars was the only team that recorded an increase in spectators.

The standing for Central League's 1998 pennant was finalized on Oct. 12.
1. Yokohama Bay Stars
2. Chunichi Dragons
3. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants
4. Yakult Swallows
5. Hiroshima Toyo Carp
6. Hanshin Tigers

Hideki Matsui started Sept. with a league leading 29th homerun. His teammate Kazuhiro Kiyohara marked an even greater record. He blasted his 20th homerun for the 13th straight year since he began to play professionally. He broke the 12 year record held by former Giants slugger Tatsunori Hara. The Giants beat the Bay Stars 10 to 5 in the game on Sept. 1. Masumi Kuwata hurled over the distance for his 12th win. The Giants, though, lost the next day 0 to 1. In that game, BayStars' Kazuhiro Sasaki marked his career total 199th save.The Giants, as a result, dropped to 4th place, while the Swallows, replaced it for 3rd place with its 8th win in a row. The Swallows' Kenjiro Kawasaki is one of the main contributors by clinching a league leading 14th win in a 4 to 3 game over the Carp on Sept. 1.

On Sept. 3, the Swallows returned to 4th place and its winning streak was halted by the Tigers in a 2 to 7 game. Thereafter, the Swallows lost 3 games in a row to the Giants. On Sept. 6, Giants Hideki Matsui homered his 30th of the season. Kazuhiro Kiyohara homered too--that's his 21st. They took the Giants to a 8 to 2 win over the Swallows on Sept 6.

BayStars' relief ace Kazuhiro Sasaki celebrated his 200th lifetime save by pitching the final inning successfully against the Dragons on Sept. 4. Sasaki marked 2 more saves in the next 2 games against the Dragons. As of Sept. 6, just for this season, Sasaki has clinched 37 saves. On Sept. 8, Sasaki tied with a season record of 38 saves which he holds with Dragons' Sun Don Yol. He earned it in a 5 to 3 game against the Swallows.

The Giants stretched the teams winning streak to 5 on Sept. 9. Kazuhiro Kiyohara slugged a 2 run homer to take the team to victory over the Carp. It won again the following day in a competitive game of 7 to 6. This time, it was Hideki Matsui who drove in a game grabbing run.

The Giants' winning streak was put to an end by the Dragons Sept. 12 in a 1 to 3 game. Earlier this day, Shigeo Nagashima held a press conference to report that he will continue to manage the Giants next year. Many major TV stations covered it as the top news of the day, since he is the most popular man in baseball even as a coach. The Bay Stars, this day, marked its 3rd straight loss in a 1 to 3 game against the Tigers.

Dragons' rookie Kenshin Kawakami clinched his 11th win on Sept. 16 in a 5 to 2 victory over the Swallows. On this day, the Bay Stars were beaten by the Giants 2 to 3. The Dragons, therefore, moved close to the Bay Stars with only 2.5 games between them.

The Swallows faced the Bay Stars from Sept. 17 for a 3 day series. The birds changed the rotation of starting pitchers for the series. On Sept. 18, the Swallows clinched the game with Manaka's game winning run.

Bay Stars' Kazuhiro Sasaki broke the seasonal record of saves on Sept. 19. He marked this year's 39th. Sasaki added another save to the record the next day. So that naturally means, the Bay Stars defeated the Swallows in 2 straight games.

Giant's star pitcher Masumi Kuwata won a shut out victory, hurling over the distance for the first time since May 1995. He clinched it from the Tigers in a 4 to 0 game on Sept. 20. This is the season's 14th win for Kuwata, and he co-leads in the league with the number of wins.

The Bay Stars continue to lead the pack. On Sept. 23, Kazuhiro Sasaki finished the final inning of the 6 to 2 game against the Dragons for his 40th save. The Bay Stars victory over the Dragons the next day gave them the magic number 9. On Sept. 26, the Bay Stars stretched its winning streak to 5 defeating the Carp 5 to 3. Sasaki again added another save to the Japan record. The team's magic number decreased to 8.

Giants'Masumi Kuwata tied for the pitching title on Sept 27 with Swallows' Kenjiro Kawasaki by marking his 15th win. Yoshinobu Takahashi blasted his 19th homerun of the season raising his hope of winning Rookie of the Year. These all happened in the 6 to 2 game where the Giants' clinched its 6th consecutive win. The Giants won the Murayama memorial game designated for the late Hanshin star pitcher on Sept. 29. The 3 to 4 victory stretched the Giants' winning streak to 7.

The Bay Stars magic number vanished. That's with their 2 to 11 loss to the Swallows on Sept. 28. Even though the team picked up a win the following day in a 5 to 2 game, and Sasaki collected his 42nd save, the magic number did not reappear for the countdown to the pennant victory. That's because, runner up, the Dragons won too. The number 2 team defeated the Carp 1 to 0. No games were played on Sept. 30.

Team standing as of Sept.30.
1. Yokohama Bay Stars
2. Chunichi Dragons
3. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants
4. Yakult Swallows
5. Hiroshima Toyo Carp
6. Hanshin Tigers

Balvino Galvez of the Giants demonstrated an attitude of very bad taste on Aug. 1. He refused to leave the mound when the pitching coach came up to replace him with another. Star manager Shigeo Nagashima had to come and fetch him. His teammates had to convince him too. But then, he turned to the plate umpire and beaned him. He revealed later that he was disappointed with the umpire's calls, although afterwards, he felt terrible about the action he took. At any rate, Central League chairwoman Sumiko Takahara declared that Galvez be suspended the rest of the season. The Giants decided, on their part, that Galvez be suspended from games for life. Masumi Kuwata said during the day's heroe interview on Aug. 2, that he won the game for his buddy and gentleman friend, Balvino Galvez, and he meant it.
Michiyo's Note: It's not only a terrible incident for Galvez. That Giants have lost a reliable pitcher who had the possibililty of winning more than 10 games.

The Giants played an emotion packed game against the Tigers also on Aug. 3. First, super rookie Yoshinobu Takahashi was hit on the wrist. Giants' pitching coach Shiro Takagami attacked Tigers' catcher Hikaru Yano, Takegami was told to leave the game. Then Giants' pitcher Hiromi Makihara apparently hit Yano. Tigers' coach Tadayoshi Ohkuma was convinced that was deliberate and kicked Makihara. Ohkuma was ousted from the game, and Makihara was given a warning. The result of the game, if it matters, happened to turn out to 6 to 3 win for the Tigers. Dave Hansen contributed to the win.

Bay Stars' Kazuhiro Sasaki struggled to clinch a career total of 194 save points. He surpassed Yutaka Enatsu, breaking the Japan record on Aug. 4. Sasaki pitched in th 9th inning, giving up a double, and walking 2. So the memorial game was one of his toughest this season. At any rate, the Bay Stars defeated the Tigers 4 to 2. The Bay Star overwhelmed the Tigers in, in fact the next 2 games. On Aug. 6, it excelled with Bobby Rose's game winning 3 run homer in the 14th inning.

Hideki Matsui of the Giants homered twice on Aug. 8. As of this day, he leads with 24 homeruns and 61 runs batted in. The Giants clinched this game 7 to 3 from the Dragons, and Masumi Kuwata hurled over the distance for his 8th win. The Giants lost the next day to the Dragons, but the day after, it was Kazuhiro Kiyohara who blasted 2 homers to defeat the Dragons 3 to 1. The Bay Stars on Aug. 9 batted in 8 runs in the 15th inning of a game against the Carp to break the 6 to 6 tie. The game lasted 6 hours and 13 minutes--the 3rd longest in Japan's pro baseball history.

Kazuhiro Sasaki took 2 straight saves from the Giants--on Aug. 11 and 12. The Bay Stars, naturally swept both games and also marked its 10th victorious game in a row. On Aug. 13, Giants' Hideki Matsui blasted his 25th and 26th homerun to take his team to victory at last. The Giants won 6 to 4. Meanwhile, the Tigers are doing terrible. The team has been defeated in its 9th straight game on Aug. 13.

The Tigers broke its team record of consecutive losses. The team marked its 11th on Aug. 15. That's in a game it lost to Giants' Kazuhiro Kiyohara's game grabbing homerun. Also in this game, Giants' Masahiro Kawai broke a Japan pro baseball record of sacrifice hits with his 452nd. By the way, the Bay Stars had its 3rd straight loss this day as a result of a 2 to 3 against the Swallows. However, relief ace Kazuhiro Sasaki saved the team from further defeat on Aug. 16. The Tigers could not halt its losing streak that day, overwhelmed by the Giants 2 to 10. The Giants, on the otherhand has stretched its winning streak to 4.

The Tigers at last won. On Aug. 18, it defeated the Carp 3 to 2.

The BayStars stopped the Giants from achieving over 5 wins in a row with a shut out game on Aug. 19, Now, from Aug. 21, the leading team faced runner up the Dragons for a 3 day series from Aug. 21. The Bay Stars captured the first with a game winning hit, but the next day the BayStars faced a 3 to 4 loss and then lost another 1 to 4. The Giants lost the first 2 games in a row to the Carp in the 3 day series only winning the final one thanks to super rookie Yoshinobu Takahashi who blasted 2 homers bringing the game to a 11 to 8 victory.

On Aug. 22, one of Japan's baseball greats, Minoru Murayama died from rectum cancer. Murayama was the ace pitcher of the Tigers in the 60s. Murayama vs. Shigeo Nagashima was the major attraction for baseball fans. They faced eachother in front of the then Emperor Hirohito in 1959.

The Bay Star lost 2 games to the Tigers on Aug. 26 and 27. Runner up, the Dragons have on the other hand defeated the Giants in 2 straight games. Those results have decreased the number of games between the leader and the Dragons to only 1 game.

The Swallows have been winning close games. They beat the Dragons in a 12 inning game 5 to 3, and stretched their winning streak to 5 on Aug. 30. The Giants clinched 2 games of the 3 game series from Aug. 28 versus the Tigers. Superrookie Yoshinobu Takahashi stayed out of the last games due to a hip pain. Whether his absence affected the game, it is not clear, but the Giants lost in any case, 2 to 5.

Team standing as of August 31.
1. Yokohama Bay Stars
2. Chunichi Dragons
3. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants
4. Yakult Swallows
5. Hiroshima Toyo Carp
6. Hanshin Tigers

Carp's Nathan Minchey had a shut out victory while his teammate Akira Etoh caught up with Giants' Hideki Matsui in the homerun standing on July 1. The Carp defeated the top runner, the Bay Stars 11 to 0. On July 2, Giant's super rookie Yoshinobu Takahashi blasted a grand slam and took his team to a 7 to 2 victory of the Swallows after losing 2 straight games to the birds.

Another rookie, the Dragons' Kenshin Kawakami marked his first shut out victory on July 4 over the Giants. It's his 7th win of the season in a 2 to 0 game.

Akira Etoh of the Carp surpassed Giants' Hideki Matsui in homeruns on July 5 with his 17th. Etoh also leads in RBIs.

Noone doubted the Bay Stars' victory on July 7, when ace closure Kazuhiro Sasaki took to the mound in the bottom of the 9th inning with the score 1 to 0 over the Tigers. His consecutive save point record ended at 22, when Akihiro Yano drove a 2 base hit to welcome a runner back home. It's also the first time this season that Sasaki has lost a run and moreover, take the loss of a game. But he made up for the loss the next day for a 1 to 0 victory over the Tigers. Sasaki marked his 24th save point of the season. Then on July 11, he earned another save point in a close game of 6 to 5 over the Dragons. Sasaki though is rumored not to be in good shape. He is said to have caught herpes. That's why his eyes are swollen.

Giants' Hideki Matsui leads in the homerun standing as of July 11. He slammed his 18th in the game the Giants beat the Tigers 7 to 5. Hiromi Makihara who has normally been a starting pitcher, took on the role of a closure in this game as well as on the day before. This is because it is believed that skipper Shigeo Nagashima does not trust other relievers. So far, Makihara is a reliable relief pitcher.

On both July 14 and 15, the Bay Stars secured victories in the bottom of the 9th inning from the Giants. An irony is that in both games, Hideki Matsui homered. Even worse, Hiromi Makihara took the lost on the 15th as the relief pitcher in the 12 to 13 game. The Swallows clinched its 4th straight win the same day by defeating the Tigers 6 to 1.

The Giants can't stop from playing dramatic games. On July 18, luck turned toward them at last. In the bottom of the 10th inning, Daisuke Motoki, who's been out due to an ankle injury, drove in a double to take the Giants to a 4 to 3 victory. Balvino Galvez pitched until the very end for his 8th win against 6 losses.

Who can stop the Bay Stars?! As of July 20, the team has not lost for the past 8 games. We'll see what happens after the All Star break.

The pro baseball leagues resumed their regular season games after an all star break on July 25. The Bay Stars Bobby Rose hit 4-4, and the team won 8 to 1 over the Tigers. It's the first time in 30 years that the Bay Stars have won 9 straight games in a row. Meanwhile, the Tigers fielding was terrible that day and marked it's 6th defeat in a row. Giants' Balvino Galvez marked a league leading 9th win as a result of a smooth relief by Hiromi Makihara. The Giants won 4 to 3 over the Dragons.

The Bay Stars tied with the team record of 10 straight wins on July 26 in a game that gave them a whooping victory of 16 to 4 over the Tigers. On July 28, the Bay Stars at last lost in a 2 to 3 game against the Dragons. The Dragons in their 2 previous games against the Giants won both and are proving to be in good shape. One of them include rookie Kenshin Kawakami hurling over the distance with 10 strike outs. Kawakami caught up with the league leading number of pitching wins of 9.

Giants' Hideki Matsui, despite the teams 4 straight losses, continued to homer. He had his 22nd on July 28 in a 6 to 7 game against the Swallows. A midsummer nightmare for Tigers fans--its losing streak was finally ended at 7 by defeating the Carp. But the Carp continued having nightmares. On July 30, it lost its 9th straight game for the first time in 5 years. This was in a 1 to 7 games against the Tigers. It finally won the next day, 9 to 6 over the Dragons.

Team standing as of July 31.
1. Yokohama Bay Stars
2. Chunichi Dragons
3. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants
4. Hiroshima Toyo Carp
5. Yakult Swallows
6. Hanshin Tigers

The Giants, from May 31, have won 3 games in a row. On June 1, Kazuhiro Kiyohara blasted another homerun-- in 4 straight games. The Giants played a see saw game against the Bay Stars on June 3 which they clinched 11 to 10. Hideki Matsui tied with the league's homerun ranking with his 12th. It was on June 4 that Bay Stars' wizard, Kazuhiro Sasaki broke the Japan record by marking his career total 217th save point. It was in a 0 to 3 game against the Giants. Yoshitaka Katori who played for the Giants and the Lions held the record until Sasaki came along. Katori is currently coaching the Giants.

On both the June 5 and 6, the Giants defeated the Dragons. The team's pitchers contributions are great. Hiromi Makihara's almost complete shut out game lifted the teams to 2nd place the first day. Then Cho Sung Min shut out the Dragons the next day in a 10 to 0 game in front of his parents visiting from South Korea. It's his 6th win. Another Korean playing for the Dragons, Samson Lee got the situation into a mess for his team. The Giants are in good shape and as of June 6, only 0.5 game behind the top runner, the Bay Stars.

The Giants replaced the Carp for first place in the league on June 10 by beating the Tigers 6 to 2. The Carp lost 3 to 4 to the Dragons. The Tigers, by the way, marked a terrible record. The game with the Giants recorded the team's 10th straight defeat at Koshien Stadium. They've never lost so many games consecutively at their own franchise. That record was extended to 12 on June 12.

Hideki Matsui of the Giants blasted a 140 meter homerun on June 12. It's his 13th this season, the highest number in the league. However, his team lost to the Swallows 3 to 6. Another Giant became the leader in the league on the 13th. Pitcher Cho Sung Min marked his 7th win in a game which Daisuke Motoki smashed a game winning 2 run homer. It was Cho's shut out victory.

The Dragons beat the Giants by reversing the game in the 9th inning with 5 runs on June 16. The Dragons won 6 to 2. The Giants, as a result, fell from first place while the Dragons took over. But the following day, the teams' position was reversed. Masumi Kuwata pitched over the distance for his 5th victory in a 6 to 2 game.

Bay Stars' amazing relief pitcher Kazuhiro Sasaki broke the Japan record which he himself held in consecutive games saved. He clinched his 17th on June 17 in a 5 to 4 game against the Tigers.

The Dragons is back on top on June 18 by defeating the Giants to a very competitive game of 10 to 8 at the Tokyo Dome.

The Tigers at last won at Koshien Stadium on June 20, after 12 games lost in their franchise. At the same time, the team's losing streak ended at 6 by defeating the Giants 2 to 1. Tigers Keiichi Yabu expressed determination to pitch the game to victory before its start. The fans cheered on the Tigers with all their might. On the same day, Bay Stars Kazuhiro Sasaki extended the Japan record of consecutive games saved to 18 and a league tie of 18 straight save points over the Carp. This win has elevated the Bay Stars to 1st place for the first time in 19 years tying with the Dragons. On June 21, Sasaki broke the league record by clinching his 19th save point. At that point, the Bay Stars marked a winning streak of 5. It took over the 1st spot the following day with another victory. On June 25, the Bay Stars stretched its win to 7 straight games. The Carp is in contrast to the Bay Stars in the pits with 8 straight losses. Giants' Matsui Hideki furthered his lead in homerun standing by slamming his 15th and 16th in 2 straight days. The Giants defeated the Carp in both games.

The Carps' losing streak came to an end on June 27 thanks to a good relay from Nathan Minchey to Kanei Kobayashi in a 2 to 1 game. Minchey marked his 6th win in his first season in Japan.

Kazuhiro Sasaki tied with the Japan record of 21 save points by preventing the Giants from earning any runs on June 27 in a 2 to 1 game. The Bay Stars did not appoint Sasaki to relief the game the next day, and the Giants captured the win with Kazuhiro Kiyohara's game winning 3 run homerun. It was Kiyohara's 2nd game in the starting line-up. He was out until then due to an inflammation of his left thigh. Sasaki's chance to break the Japan record came on June 30 against the Carp. As everyone expected, Sasaki successfully saved the game and broke the Japan record of consecutive save points with his 22nd in a row. In this game, the Carp's slugger Akita Etoh blasted a homer each in 3 times at bat. One of them was a grand slam. Still, it was the Bay Stars that were victorious, winning 13 to 10.

On June 30, teams ranked as follows.
1. Yokohama Bay Stars
2. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants
3. Chunichi Dragons
4. Hiroshima Toyo Carp
5. Yakult Swallows
6. Hanshin Tigers

Super rookie Yoshinobu Takahashi of the Giants marked his first grand slam in pro baseball on May 2. Korean pitcher Cho Sung Min pitched a shut out game--his first in Japan. The Giants clobbered the Swallows 12 to 0. Giants pitcher Masaki Saitoh went over the distance for the first time since July 3, 1997. It was a 6 to 1 game. Kazuhiro Kiyohara blasted a homer to put the Giants ahead and Mariano Duncan swung his 6th this season. 2.03 meter-tall Nathan Minchey of the Carp hurled his first shut out game in Japan on May 3. The Carp defeated the Tigers 7 to 0 and kept first place.

The Giants may be in trouble. Masumi Kuwata may have fractured his left hand from a batted ball on May 6. Although he is a right handed pitcher, it may keep him out of games. His team is not doing well either. The Carp stretched its winning streak on May 7 to 6, by defeating the Swallows 4 to 1. The Swallows, on the other hand, are way behind the other teams in the league standing.

The Bay Stars halted the Carp from extending its winning streak beyond 7 on May 9. Bays Star slugger Norihiro Komada the following day blasted a grand slam--his 12th lifetime grand slam. With this, he tied for 2nd for the most grand slam in the history of Japanese pro baseball. The record holder is of course, Sadaharu Oh. The homer was even more meaningful because Komada slugged it from Carp's rookie Kanei Kobayashi who hurled 19 scoreless innings as a relief pitcher until this game. It was a 7 to 4 game. The Giants, that day, won its 2nd straight game from the Dragons. Hideki Matsu may have recovered from an unheard of slump with a homerun. It's his first in 72 times at bat. Super rookie Yoshinobu Takahashi also homered. Giants pitcher Masaki Saitoh was given the winning credit for the 3 to 2 game.

The Giants went for its 4th straight win on May 13 in which Hideki Matsui blasted a homer out of the park, and another which barely made it to the outfield stands. It was a 7 to 5 win against the Bay Stars. The Swallows had their first win over the Carp this season that day. They got a good start in that game with a grand slam by Dwayne Hosey. The game finished 7 to 1. The Swallows dramatically won the next day. Hirofumi Watarai ended the game 4 to 3 with a homerun. The team's winning streak reached 3 on May 15 when Kenjiro Kawasaki shut out the Giants in a 2 to 0 game. Then on May 16, the Swallows and the Giants played a highly competitive game. In the 9th, Hideki Matsui's 6th homer this season gave the Giants the lead. But in the bottom of that inning, Dwayne Hosey slugged a game tying homerun. Katsumi Hirosawa of the Giants doubled which gave his team the lead once again, and a successful relief by Hiromu Makihara in the 11th inning wrapped up the game. On May 17, pitcher Masaki Saitoh of the Giants not only went over the distance to clinch his 4th win of the season, he homered a triple too to take his team to a 8 to 2 victory. The Carp, meanwhile has lost its 4th straight game as of May 17. The Tigers, that day, defeated the Carp in a 12 to 3 game.

The Carp ended their losing streak at 5 with 2 homers by Tomonori Maeda which took the team to a 9 to 3 victory over the Dragons. Maeda is the homerun leader with 12 as of May 20. Carp is the league leader, ahead of the Dragons by 2 games at this point. The Giants and the Tigers played at the Fukuoka Dome for 3 days from May 19. The Giants won the first and the third games. Hideki Matsui is batting well in recent games so far.

Japan's top relief pitcher Kazuhiro Sasaki marked a great record on May 22. He succeed in winning his career total 211th save point. He surpassed Yutaka Enatsu for 2nd place in the save point ranking. Sasaki needs 4 more to catch up with the Japan record. Sasaki saved his team, the Bay Stars in more games thereafter until May 24. The Bay Stars as of this date won 4 straight games. In batting, the Giants' Hideki Matsui is doing extremely well. He homered twice on May 24 putting him just 1 homerun short to tie for the crown. It's as if he was never been in a terrible slump.

Tigers' pitcher Tetsuro Kawajiri had a no hitter game against the Dragons on May 26. It happened at Kurashiki Muscat Stadium in Okayama Prefecture. Kawajiri seemed super happy the moment he achieved an almost perfect record in a 2 to 0 game. This was Kawajiri's 3rd win of the season. The Bay Stars continue to stretch their winning streak. The victory on May 26 surged the team to 2nd place. On May 27, the Bay Stars again defeated the Carp for their 6th straight victory. It was the following day that the Bay Stars at last lost. But

Pitcher Hiromi Makihara saved the Giants from adding to the team's 3 straight loss on May 29. The Giants beat the Carp 2 to 1. But Cho Sung Min who already has 5 wins suddenly lost control of his pitches the next day in the 4th inning--losing 8 RBIs. The Giants lost 5 to 13 to the Carp. On that same day, the Giants announced that Eric Hillman will be released. Hillman had undergone surgery of his left shoulder, but has not been recovering enough to be able to pitch again. Hillman pitched in only 2 games n 1997, after he was acquired from the Lotte Marines.

The Bay Stars, Kazuhiro Sasaki tied with the Japan record of 216 save points on May 30 in a 3 to 0 game against the Dragons. Another Kazuhiro--that is Kiyohara of the Giants slammed his 9th homerun--his 3rd in 3 games on May 31. They haven't all given the Giants victories, although the last one did. Pitcher Masaki Saitoh's shut out the Carp in a 2 to 0 game. Although the Giants finished the month 4th, there are only 1.5 games between them and the leader.

Team standing on May 31.
1. Hiroshima Toyo Carp
2. Chunichi Dragons
3. Yokohama Bay Stars
4. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants
5. Hanshin Tigers
6. Yakult Swallows

The Central League opened one day before the Pacific League on Apr.3. 3 games were played in the evening. The Bay Stars had its game in Yokohama Stadium opened by Nagano Olympic gold medalist in the men's 500 meter speed skating, Hiroyasu Shimizu. He looked swell in the Bay Stars' striped uniform. The Bay Stars celebrated the first game with a whooping victory of 8 to 0 over the Hanshin Tigers. Pitcher Takeo Kawamura, in his 2nd year with the Bay Stars went over the distance. In Hiroshima, the Carp's starting pitcher was veteran,Yutaka Ohno. He broke the record for the eldest starting pitcher for the season's opening game. He was given the chance at 42 years and 7 months of age. He started out pitching well, but was out after losing 3 RBIs in the 5th inning. His team, however, defeated the Dragons 8 to 3. Now, the most breathtaking game was between the Swallows and the Giants. In the first inning, Masumi Kuwata (who's seen posing with me on my cover page) started for the Giants for the first time in 9 years. He had a rough start. In the first inning, he succumbed to a 3-run homer slammed by Takahiro Ikeyama plus he lost another batted in run. The Giants' Daisuke Motoki lifted up hope for the team with a 2 run homer in the 3rd inning. The Giants added more runs thereafter. Kuwata hurled up to the 9th inning. It's the longest Kuwata has pitched since he made a comeback last season after a complicated elbow surgery. 37-year old Akihito Kaneishi who played for the Fighters last season took over at 2 outs with bases loaded. Kaneishi was able to take the batter out to end the game. The Giants clinched the season's opener 6 to 4. By the way, super rookie Yoshinobu Takahashi freshly out of college, started the game, 7th in the line-up. He had his first base hit as a professional player.

The Giants won the first 3 games of the season from the Swallows. This was also the case with the BayStars against the Tigers. Relief king Kazuhiro Sasaki marked his first save on Apr.4. The Dragons' Sun Dong Yol who competed closely with Sasaki last year for the title did too that day by keeping the Carp from scoring.

Atsuya Furuta, star catcher of the Swallows was playing again for the first time since he injured his thumb during the opening game. He was in the game from the 7th inning on Apr. 7. At last the Swallows clinched their first win of the season by defeating the BayStars 5 to 2. The Tigers too finally marked its first victory. Manager "Monsieur" Yoshio Yoshida changed the main line-ups to try out other batters and it led to a 8 to 2 win over the Dragons. The Giants Yoshinobu Takahashi proved to be super. He blasted his first ever homerun that day, and the team, even though it was losing 1 to 5 in the top of the 4th inning, finished the game with Takayuki Shimizu's 3 run homer in the 10th inning. Then the following day, the Giants won again thanks to Mariano Duncan's grand slam. S. Korea's Cho Sung Min started a game for the first time since he played with the Giants last season. He took the credit for the victory. However, on Apr. 9, the Giants lost to the Carp 6 to 10, and stopped its consecutive win record at 5.

A lengthy game between the Dragons and the Swallows on Apr. 10 was brought to an end at 5 hours and 46 minutes by the Dragons at Nagoya Dome 6 to 5. The Dragons, whom have wore their new home uniform, picked up another win the next day 3 to 2. The Tigers continue to have a hard time. In Koshien Stadium, the team could only clinch the first game played against the Carp in the 3 game series. Even though Giants slugger Hideki Matsui is hitting better, his team won only 2 of the 3 games with the Bay Stars.

The Tigers which had not been performing well dropped Alonzo Powell from the starting line-up on Apr.15. Pitcher Keiichi Yabu went over the distance, and the Tigers defeated the Swallows 8 to 0. Giants fans were happy to witness Hideki Matsui homer his first this season. The Giants overwhelmed the Dragons with a 9 to 2 victory, and Masumi Kuwata collected his 2nd win. The Carp has stretched its winning streak to 4 that day by beating the Bay Stars 8 to 2.

The Carp is in incredible shape. The team from Hiroshima defeated the Swallows 9 to 8 in 10 innings on Apr. 19 and the Giants 5 to 3 on the 21st for its 9th straight victory. The Tigers have started to pick things up. Their victory of 8 to 4 over the Giants on Apr. 19 gave the team its 4th straight win. The Tigers have stretched its winning streak to 6 on the 22nd playing a 2 to 0 game with the Bay Stars. This feat is amidst the fact that Tigers' manager Yoshio Yoshida admitted to receiving 10 million yen from Osaka merchant Junichi Izui who is charged for bribing politicians.

The Swallows played a game which tied with the Japan record in 3 aspects on Apr.22, and it all happened in the 1st inning. The team batted in 13 runs, had 10 straight base hits, and 15 players went to base consecutively. As a result, the sudden explosion in the team stopped their losing streak at 6. It was a 15 to 6 game against the Dragons.

On Apr. 24, Giants ace pitcher Masumi Kuwata won over the distance for the first time in 3 years. Kuwata was able to keep the Tigers from stretching their consecutive win record any further, halting it at 6. The game was 5 to 1 for the Giants. The Carp also failed to extend its winning stretch that day, losing to the Dragons 0 to 2.

The Carp is again winning games. On Apr. 28, the team defeated the Bay Stars 6 to 1 and Yasuyuki Yamauchi became the first of the Carp pitchers to hurl an entire game. The win gave the Carp its 3 straight victory. The Giants is doing bad. Hard ball hitter Hideki Matsui is in a super slump and the team is with 3 straight loss as of Apr. 29.

Team standing in the end of April.
1. Hiroshima Toyo Carp
2. Chunichi Dragons
3. Yokohama Bay Stars
4. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants
4. Hanshin Tigers
6. Yakult Swallows