Munetaka Murakami, 23, of the Yakult Swallows of Japan’s professional baseball team, took home the home run title last year. Murakami hit 30 home runs for the third straight year.

Murakami batted fourth and started at third base against the Yokohama DeNA BayStars at Meiji Jingu Stadium in Tokyo, Japan on Saturday.

After striking out on three pitches in his first at-bat against Yokohama starter Genta Ishida in the first inning, Murakami hit a solo home run off Ishida one out later in the fourth inning.

On a one-pitch count, he drove a two-pitch fastball over the left field wall. It was a nutty home run that turned a 2-2 tie into a 3-2 lead.

Murakami now has 30 home runs on the season. He has four home runs in his last five games. He homered in three straight games in a three-game series in Hiroshima on Dec. 12-14, then went silent against Yokohama on Dec. 15, but homered again two days later.

After the home run, he retired on a strikeout and a walk to finish 1-for-4 with a home run. Yakult won 6-3 in the sixth inning on a solo shot by Tetsuto Yamada and a solo shot by Osuna.

Murakami, who won three batting titles last year after setting the record for most home runs in a season by a Japanese player with a monster 56, has struggled this year.

He received a lot of attention when he represented Japan at the World Baseball Classic in March, but he struggled at the plate. He batted in the low teens in Japan’s practice games, and that continued into the tournament. He bounced back with a grand slam in the final against Mexico to win the title.

Murakami hit a home run in the opening game, but slumped in the month of April, going 1-for-5 with two doubles and one home run in 24 games. He seemed to come alive in May, batting 2-for-7 with seven home runs in 24 games, but went quiet again in June with three home runs in 21 games. 안전놀이터

In 129 games this season, he’s batting 2-for-5 with 30 homers, 79 RBIs, 73 runs scored and an OPS of .882.

He is second in the Central League in home runs, 10 behind first-place Kazuma Okamoto (Yomiuri, 40). Yakult has 11 games left, so an upset seems unlikely.

Murakami hasn’t shown the same explosive home run power as last year, but he has reached the 30-homer plateau for the season. It was his third straight 30-homer season, following 39 in 2021 and 56 in 2022. With 30 homers, Murakami has established himself as a home run king.

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