Where’s the ‘Monster’ Murakami…Yomiuri leads with 20 homers, No. 4 Okamoto has dominant races in second, third and seventh.
Yokohama BayStars left-handed ace Shota Imanaga gave a thumbs-up to “a really great, good hitter” after his seven-inning, 15-strikeout performance against the Yomiuri Giants on Sunday. Imanaga gave up one run in the game at the Tokyo Dome. In the bottom of the second inning, he was hit by Yomiuri No. 4 Kazuma Okamoto (26), a member of Japan’s World Baseball Classic (WBC) team, for a one-run homer to left-center field.
On a 2B2S count, he threw a fastball on a high outside pitch. It should have induced a swing and a miss. But Okamoto pulled a 151-kilometer-per-hour fastball and sent it into the left-center field bleachers of the Tokyo Dome. It was the first 20-run home run in both leagues in the 75th game.
Yomiuri suffered the humiliation of striking out a total of 17 times on the day. It tied the franchise record for most strikeouts in a single game. Thanks to Okamoto, at least some pride was saved.
Last year’s home run race was dominated by the Yakult Swallows’ “monster hitter” Munetaka Murakami (23), but this year it’s Okamoto.
Okamoto and Murakami combined to hit 39 in 2021. They tied for first in the Central League in home runs. Okamoto, who hit 31 in 2020, took the top spot for the second straight year, while Murakami won his first title in his fourth year as a pro.
Last year, when Murakami hit a Japanese record 56 home runs, Okamoto hit 30. Last season, Murakami became the youngest player to lead the league in batting average, RBIs, and home runs.
The two third basemen were both named to Japan’s WBC team and contributed to its victory. Okamoto started at third base for Murakami, who set a new franchise record for most home runs. He was expected to compete for the first base job with Hotaka Yamagawa (32), the Pacific League home run leader (41), but he pushed the senior out.온라인바카
This year’s home run race is completely different than last year’s. Murakami, who continues to struggle at the plate, has 12 home runs. His season batting average is 2.228. Okamoto is tied with Toshiro Miyazaki for fifth in the Central League with 13, behind Shugo Maki (Yokohama) and Jose Osuna (Yakult). In the Pacific League, Jusei Mannami (Nippon Ham) leads with 15.
Okamoto has reached 20 home runs for six straight years. Starting with 33 in 2018, his first year full-time, he hit 30 homers for five straight years until last year, and barring an injury, he should easily reach 30 for a sixth straight year.
Okamoto hit 20 in 70 games in 2020 and 2021 and won the home run title that year. Last year, he hit 20 homers in his 74th game.