NPB - Giants lead seems unstoppable -- Sep 12
The Yomiuri Giants are running away with the Central League and are the clear-cut favorites to repeat as Central League champs.

At 40-22 the Giants have an eight-game lead over their nearest rivals, the Yokohama DeNA BayStars, in this truncated 120-game season and have won eight of their last 10 games despite a grueling schedule. And let’s not forget, the Central League is not holding a playoff round this year and will send the regular-season champion directly into the Japan Series against whoever emerges from the Pacific League.

And is there a better pitcher in the NPB than the Giants’ Tomoyuki Sugano? The man has been virtually unhittable since the season began as evidenced by his 9-0 record and 1.57 ERA in 11 starts, including three complete games. He is the ace of the best team in either league and there could very well be an MVP Trophy waiting for him to put on the mantle when this season is through.

Saturday Schedule & Predictions

Below is a look ahead to this coming Saturday, September 12th, where we can see the entire slate of NPB games. In addition, it should be known that SBR is providing picks for the games and information on the right bookies to place your wagers, for those who like to make money while enjoying NPB action.

1:00 AM ET

Hiroshima Carp vs. Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium, Nishinomiya, Japan – Bet Hanshin

1:00 AM ET

Nippon-Ham Fighters vs. Tohoku Rakuten at Miyagi Baseball Stadium, Sendai, Japan – Bet Tohoku

4:00 AM ET

Chunichi Dragons vs. Yokohama BayStars at Yokohama Stadium, Yokohama, Japan – Bet Chunichi

4:00 AM ET

Orix Buffaloes vs. Chiba Lotte Marines at Chiba Marine Stadium, Chiba City, Japan – Bet Orix

5:00 AM ET

Tokyo Yakult Swallows vs. Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan – Bet Yomiuri

5:00 AM ET

Saitama Seibu Lions vs. Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks at Fukuoka Dome, Fukuoka, Japan – Bet Fukoka

Restrictions Relaxed?

Nippon Professional Baseball and the J. League will ask the government to relax restrictions on attendance at their respective games due to the decreasing cases of COVID-19 in Japan.

“We have heard the view of our medical panel that the infection rate has settled down nationwide,” said NPB Commissioner Atsushi Saito in an online news conference after the 15th meeting of the leagues’ joint task force.

“Right now, we are allowing up to 5,000 fans into stadiums, but we would like to think about the next steps,” he continued. “We’ve agreed with (J. League) Chairman (Mitsuru) Murai that we will present our request, to relax the limit, to the government as soon as tomorrow.”

The number of fans has been set at 5000 at many venues but the argument the leagues are advancing is that the number of fans should be predicated on each individual stadium’s seating capacity. Therefore, a venue like Nissan Stadium, which holds up to 70,000 fans, should be eligible to hold many more people and that figure should be a percentage rather than a hard and fast number. If the seating capacity of venues was set at 30 percent to ensure social distancing then Nissan Stadium could welcome 21,000 fans, and give the teams the revenue boost they so desperately need.

Mitsuo Kaku, an infectious disease specialist who leads a team of experts, believes the time is right to talk about relaxing the restrictions on patrons entering large gatherings as long as medical protocols are followed, as well as social distancing.

“You have to have social distancing, so it’s not possible to fill the stadiums,” Kaku said. “But based on the condition that you make sure you have social distancing and follow other measures for the virus, I think the number of people who can be allowed in, or a set percentage, should be calculated.”

The plans they put in place now will undoubtedly have a bearing on how Japan goes forward with the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, both of which were postponed due to the global pandemic but are set to begin on July 23, 2021, and end on August 8th, 2021.

“I think that NPB and the J. League have become a model (for Japan) toward next year’s Olympics and Paralympics,” said Hiroshige Mikamo, another infectious disease expert on the panel. “I think it’s a fact that other sports organizations have run their leagues following what these two leagues have done.”

“We’re going to continue to add what needs to be added to the guidelines, and improve them,” Mikamo added. “And then I think the league operations will go more smoothly, and that will aid the Olympics and Paralympics.”