Wrap 4-21-21

Okamoto lightning strikes twice

Giants 3, Tigers 2

At Tokyo Dome, a terrific game basically came down to two good pitches that got murdered.

Kazuma Okamoto homered twice on a pair of low first-pitch two-seamers from side-armer Koyo Aoyagi (2-1) and assisted in the go-ahead run as the Yomiuri Giants overcame two first-inning homers from the Central League-leading Hanshin Tigers to snap the visitors’ eight-game winning streak.

Seishu Hatake (2-1), who got beat up in his April 1 start against Hanshin, looked like going that route again, surrendering a leadoff homer to Koji Chikamoto, and a one-out shot to Jefry Marte, his fourth in three games and sixth of the season.

Koyo Aoyagi got out of the first by throwing out Takayuki Kajitani trying to steal on a 1-2 pitch to Okamoto. The Giants right fielder made up for it by saving a run by tracking down a drive into the gap with one out and a man on in the top of the second. Okamoto then led off the second, golfing Aoyagi’s first pitch for his second homer of the season.

The Tigers battery must have been thinking, “There’s no way he hits that pitch again,” because Aoyagi started Okamoto with the same pitch with one out in the fourth and got the same result: a low two-seamer that ended up as a souvenir.

The Tigers pitcher allowed infield singles in the sixth, but showed he’s been doing his PFP, pitchers fielding practice, by fielding a squibber in front of the mound and nailing Okamoto at home with a glove toss.

With two outs and two on, however, he hung a pitch to Naoki Yoshikawa. The Giants second baseman, who’d made a sparkling play to end the Tigers’ sixth, singled to left to put Yomiuri in front.

Kota Nakagawa worked the eighth for the Giants and Thyago Vieira worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save in Japan and his first since Aug. 4, 2018, when he saved a 2-1 Chicago White Sox win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Giants-Tigers highlights

Dragons 7, BayStars 1

At Yokohama Stadium, Chunichi’s Akiyoshi Katsuno threw six no-hit innings before surrendering Tyler Austin’s leadoff homer in the seventh. Katsuno improved to 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA in two games – against DeNA. Including his two starts against the Giants, the right-hander is 2-1 with a 4.19 ERA.

Dragons third baseman Shuhei Takahashi robbed Austin of a hit to end the BayStars’ first by protecting his face with his glove and catching a line drive at the same time. Takahashi then made a diving stop to his left to rob Keita Sano of a second-inning leadoff single. When Katsuno pitches against the BayStars, that stuff happens.

Toshifumi Abe’s three-run fourth-inning home run capped a five-run inning off Taisei Irie (0-4). The BayStars’ top signing from last year’s draft coughed up five runs over four innings. With one out and two in the inning, Dayan Viciedo broke the ice with an RBI single under the glove of third baseman Toshiro Miyazaki. Takahashi hit a well-place fly for a double before Abe laid into a high straight fastball from the rookie.

Neftali Soto followed Austin’s homer with a double, but was picked off second by 20-year-old rookie Dragons catcher Kota Ishibashi.

Edwin Escobar made his season debut for the BayStars, allowing a run in the eighth on a hit batsman and Ryosuke Hirata triple.

The BayStars have lost their last nine decisions.

Carp 1, Swallows 1

At Mazda Stadium, Yakult starter Albert Suarez struck out seven and scattered seven hits, a walk and a hit batsman, allowing a run over six innings. He’s now allowed two runs over his last 18 innings. He had a little help from Seiya Suzuki. The Carp cleanup hitter doubled off the wall with two outs in the fourth, but was caught trying to sneak home from third when Hisayoshi Chono beat out an infield single.

Hiroshima’s Hiroki Tokoda was better, only facing one tough spot, but surrendering the go-ahead run on a two-out Norichika Aoki single. The Carp tied it on Tsubasa Aizawa’s one-out bases-loaded sac fly in the home half. Carp rookie closer Ryoji Kuribayashi closed it out with his third straight two-strikeout 1-2-3 ninth.

Hawks 4, Eagles 1

At PayPay Dome, 40-year-old Tsuyoshi Wada (2-1) put on a pitching clinic through five innings before his command faltered in the sixth. Yurisbel Gracial had three singles and a pair of RBIs for the Pacific League champs.

Takahiro Norimoto did not look that bad but the Hawks hitters generally get good swings and that was the case on Wednesday. He did miss to Gracial with a breaking ball up in the zone that resulted in an RBI single to open the Hawks’ three-run third.

Wada began missing up in the sixth, and Takero Okajima hit a high pitch out to make it a 3-1 game. A pair of one-out singles off high pitches and the Hawks brought in a lefty and a righty to get out of the inning. Sho Iwasaki, Livan Moinelo and Yuito Mori finished up for SoftBank with Mori earning his sixth save.

Buffaloes 4, Lions 2

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Yoshinobu Yamamoto (3-2) worked eight innings without his best stuff, while his Orix teammates put some superb swings on pitches from Seibu’sTatsuya Imai (1-2).

Lions’ No. 2 hitter Sosuke Genda owned Yamamoto in his first three at-bats with three solid singles, and after a Tomoya Mori sixth-inning double, the Buffaloes brought the infield in to protect their 1-0 lead. Takeya Nakamura, who wasn’t hitting Yamamoto bounced a ball past Yuma Mune at third and into left for a two-run single.

Masataka Yoshida opened the scoring for the Buffaloes with his second long homer in two days, and Adam Jones tied it 2-2 with a sixth-inning RBI double with a sweet swing on a fastball away while Mune’s two-run seventh-inning homer on a big curve completed the scoring.

Tyler Higgins bounced back from a four-walk nightmare blown save on Sunday to work a 1-2-3 ninth and earn his second save.

Marines 6, Fighters 5

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Hiromi Oka hit a two-out, two-run ninth inning homer to lift Lotte to a walk-off win over his former team, Nippon Ham, which blew a five-run lead after six innings.

Fighters’ top draft signing Hiromi Ito held the Marines to two singles and a walk over the first six innings while striking out seven. He left with a 5-3 lead after allowing three runs in the seventh. Takashi Ogino doubled and scored on a sac fly in the eighth.

Closer Toshihiro Sugiura (0-1) struck out the first batter he faced in the ninth before walking Yudai Fujioka on four pitches. With two outs, Oka blasted a 1-0 fastball out to center to end it.

The Fighters’ Kensuke Kondo appears to be going for a home run cycle. He hit his first of the year, a solo shot on Sunday, a two-run blast on Tuesday. His three-run homer off lefty Kazuya Ojima made it 4-0 in the fifth.

Starting pitchers

Pacific League

Marines vs Fighters: Zozo Marine Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Daiki Iwashita (2-1, 2.12) vs Takahide Ikeda (1-2, 4.32)

Buffaloes vs Lions: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hirotoshi Masui (1-2, 2.20) vs Sho Ito (0-0, 1.69)

Central League

Giants vs Tigers: Tokyo Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Yuki Takahashi (3-0, 0.41) vs Takumi Akiyama (2-1, 1.80)

BayStars vs Dragons: Yokohama Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Haruhiro Hamaguchi (0-3, 5.40) vs Koji Fukutani (0-1, 5.79)

Carp vs Swallows: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Atsushi Endoh (0-0, 4.91) vs Yuto Kanakubo (1-0, 2.53)

Active roster moves 4/21/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 5/1

Central League

Activated

None

Dectivated

CarpOF59Minoru Omori

Pacific League

Activated

FightersP41Bryan Rodriguez

Dectivated

MarinesP18Kota Futaki
FightersP47Kenya Suzuki

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NPB wrap 4-20-21

Flying Tigers wreck havoc

Tigers 10, Giants 5

At Tokyo Dome, it was bombs away as the league-leading Hanshin Tigers dropped a five-home run aerial assault on Central League-champion Yomiuri, with Jefry Marte and Yusuke each hitting two and driving in three runs, while Jerry Sands hit a solo shot. The win was Hanshin’s eighth straight and left them four games ahead of the Giants.

Giants starter Angel Sanchez (1-2) allowed five runs over two-plus innings, while Yuki Nishi (3-1) was tagged for four runs over five, with leadoff man Seiya Matsubara hitting a two-run home run. Marte now has five homers, Oyama three, and Sands six, while Matsubara’s was his third.

Yomiuri’s top draft signing from last year, lefty Ryuta Heinai, made his first-team debut, allowing a run over three-plus innings, while Tigers reliever Jon Edwards, pitching in his first game since the spring, allowed a run in the ninth.

Giants-Tigers highlights

Swallows 2, Carp 1

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima native Kazuto Taguchi (1-2) earned his first victory since being traded to Yakult in March, allowing a run on two walks and four hits over six innings to win a pitchers’ duel against 2020 CL rookie of the year Masato Morishita (2-2), who allowed two runs over seven.

Former CL batting champ Shingo Kawabata, batting for Taguchi in the seventh, singled in the tie-breaking run.

Hisayoshi Chono had two of Hiroshima’s six hits, had the first hit off his former Giants teammate Taguchi and drove in the Carp’s only run.

“This win had special meaning for me, but I didn’t get it without help from my teammates. I always get a little boost pitching here and get a warm welcome from the Hiroshima fans,” Taguchi said.

Dragons 0, BayStars 0

At Yokohama Stadium, a nil-nil draw was perhaps the most likely outcome between the CL’s two least potent offenses, although perhaps a surprise with the return of Dayan Viciedo to the Dragons roster and Neftali Soto and Tyler Austin having settled in at DeNA. But throw in a quality effort from Yudai Ono, and good relief work by both teams’ bullpens – including Yasuaki Yamasaki and 0-0 seems right.

The BayStars came closest to making something happen with two outs and one on in the fourth, but Viciedo caught Keita Sano’s bullet for the second out before Ono struck out rookie slugger Shugo Maki for the second time. Ono struck out seven, and closer Raidel Martinez fanned two more.

Hawks 6, Eagles 4

At Kitakyushu, Rakuten stalwart Takayuki Kishi (2-2) was off his game, allowing six runs on nine hits and a walk over 5-1/3 innings with most of the damage coming on two fat fastballs to SoftBank catcher Takuya Kai, who blasted one out of the small park for his third home run, a three-run shot, and lined another for a two-run double.

Eagles left fielder Hiroaki Shimauchi had a weird game, he pulled a fly ball for a three-run homer into the short porch in right, had a flare fall in for a double and crashed into the fence in left on a double that dropped out of his glove.

Six SoftBank relievers finished up after lefty Shunsuke Kasaya surrendered four runs over 4-1/3 with Yuito Mori collecting his fifth save.

Marines 8, Fighters 4

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Lotte rookie Koki Yamaguchi hit an opposite-field home run off veteran lefty setup man Naoki Miyanishi (1-2) to break a 4-4 tie and trigger a four-run inning.

The Fighters took charge first behind Kensuke Kondo, the Fighters’ on-base machine hit a two-run homer off Ayumu Ishikawa in the first and an RBI double in the third.

Marines leadoff man Takashi Ogino reached base four times and scored three. Leonys Martin assisted in a run in the first with a bunt and singled in a run fifth. Shogo Nakamura, who lined into sacrifice flies in the first and fourth for the Marines, got two more RBIs when he was jammed and his flare fell in to cap Lotte’s late rally.

Lotte’s Frank Herrmann worked around two walks in a scoreless seventh, and Yuki Karakawa (1-0) worked a 1-2-3 eighth to earn the win.

Buffaloes 11, Lions 3

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Steven Moya tripled and contributed to two runs in his return to the  lineup after fouling a ball of his ankle and Seibu twice left the bases loaded against Orix starter Daiki Tajima, the first of seven Buffaloes pitchers, as the bullpen allowed two walks and two hits over the final six innings.

With the game still in doubt in the top of the eighth, 34-year-old Takumi Kuriyama, activated Tuesday, batted for the first time since being hurt on Opening Day, but lost the old-timer’s confrontation with 41-year-old lefty Atsushi Nomi by hitting into an inning-ending double play before the Buffaloes bulled to six runs in the home half.

Orix’s pocket battleship, Masataka Yoshida, had three hits, including a home run he launched into the dome’s fifth deck.

Sasaki on the farm

Viciedo, Escobar, Edwards rejoin their clubs

A bunch of big players were recalled to active duty on Tuesday. The largely punchless Chunichi Dragons brought back their most potent offensive weapon, Dayan Vicedo, while the DeNA BayStars got some much needed bullpen help with flame-throwing lefty Edwin Escobar.

But the rich got richer, too, as the runaway CL-leading Hanshin Tigers will be able to take advantage of this year’s expanded active roster by adding Jon Edwards, giving them five imports, with starting pitcher Joe Gunkel not suiting up for games in between his starts.

In the Pacific League, the Seibu Lions got back one of their big pieces, veteran outfielder Takumi Kuriyama, while the Orix Buffaloes got Steven Moya back.

Starting pitchers

Wednesday’s Pacific League is going to give us some tasty matchups with impressive Fighters rookie Hiromi Ito pitching against the Marines, Bufaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto pitching against the Lions’ Tatsuya Imai, who has not bee terrible this year, and the Hawks Tsuyoshi Wada going against the Eagles’ Takahiro Norimoto.

Pacific League

Marines vs Fighters: Zozo Marine Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Kazuya Ojima (0-1, 3.50) vs Hiromi Ito (0-2, 2.37)

Buffaloes vs Lions: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yoshinobu Yamamoto (2-2, 1.59) vs Tatsuya Imai (1-1, 1.69)

Hawks vs Eagles: PayPay Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Tsuyoshi Wada (1-1, 2.79) vs Takahiro Norimoto (2-0, 1.86)

Central League

Giants vs Tigers: Tokyo Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Seishu Hatake (1-1, 3.00) vs Koyo Aoyagi (2-0, 1.35)

BayStars vs Dragons: Yokohama Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Taisei Irie (0-3, 6.91) vs Akiyoshi Katsuno (1-1, 5.84)

Carp vs Swallows: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hiroki Tokoda (1-1, 4.60) vs Albert Suarez (1-1, 2.25)

Active roster moves 4/20/2021

Central League

Activated

TigersP18Kosuke Baba
TigersP42Jon Edwards
DragonsIF66Dayan Viciedo
BayStarsP62Edwin Escobar
CarpOF55Ryuhei Matsuyama
SwallowsC30Akihisa Nishida

Dectivated

None

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP64Towa Uema
LionsOF1Takumi Kuriyama
BuffaloesOF1Steven Moya

Dectivated

None

Npb wrap 4-19-21

Exec apologizes for foreign delays

DeNA Baystars top executive Kazuaki Mihara, the club’s official representative to Nippon Professional Baseball, apologized Monday for the front office’s inability to get any of its 10 imported players into action this season until this past week, Baseball King reported.

The BayStars, who dumped manager Alex Ramirez last autumn and replaced him with their minor league manager and former ace pitcher Daisuke Miura, have started the season 3-15 with three ties, an NPB-worst .167 winning percentage.

“We’ve kept battling under difficult circumstances, and are in the midst of a losing streak,” Mihara said. “The biggest reason for that is we were late getting our imported players into the country.”

“We are the people who are charged with creating the environment and talent needed, and we have failed to do our jobs.

Mihara didn’t explain what his team’s problem was. Most teams were able to get their returning imports back in a timely fashion even when non-residents were blocked from entering Japan. While a few players came to Japan a few weeks early and were able to enter and get to camp before a state of emergency tightened entry restrictions in January.

Starting pitchers

Pacific League

Marines vs Fighters: Zozo Marine Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Ayumu Ishikawa (1-0, 1.29) vs Takayuki Kato (1-0, 1.71)

Buffaloes vs Lions: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Daiki Tajima (1-1, 2.79) vs Towa Uema (0-1, 6.75)

Hawks vs Eagles: Kitakyushu Municipal Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shunsuke Kasaya (1-1, 2.87) vs Takayuki Kishi (2-1, 1.29)

Central League

Giants vs Tigers: Tokyo Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Angel Sanchez (1-1, 3.86) vs Yuki Nishi (2-1, 1.23)

BayStars vs Dragons: Yokohama Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Shinichi Onuki (1-1, 4.58) vs Yudai Ono (0-2, 4.05)

Carp vs Swallows: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Masato Morishita (2-1, 1.80) vs Kazuto Taguchi (0-2, 4.11)

Active roster moves 4/19/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/29

Central League

Activated

None

Dectivated

TigersP54Ren Kajiya
TigersP69Daichi Ishii
DragonsC57Ariel Martinez
BayStarsP13Hiromu Ise
CarpP29Makoto Kemna
SwallowsIF7Seiichi Uchikawa

Pacific League

Activated

None

Dectivated

LionsIF8Kento Watanabe
BuffaloesIF40Seiichiro Oshita

NPB wrap 4-18-21

Tigers’ Gunkel improves to 4-0

Tigers 10, Swallows 7

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin’s Joe Gunkel (4-0) allowed a run over six innings while he struck out six and singled to lead off the Tigers’ five-run third inning that chased Yakult’s Yasuhiro Ogawa (1-1). The Tigers’ win was their seventh straight.

Ogawa surrendered three straight no-out singles in the first but allowed only one run and worked a 1-2-3 second but couldn’t retire another batter. Kento Itohara doubled home Gunkel and leadoff man Koji Chikamoto. Jefry Marte, who hit a two-run homer in the fourth, walked and three more RBI singles appeared to put the game on ice.

Gunkel left after throwing 92 pitches, allowing the bullpen to make a mess of things. Tetsuto Yamada’s fifth home run, a three-run shot in the seventh, made it an 8-5 game. With a three-run ninth-inning lead, the Tigers called on their closer, Robert Suarez, who struck out two of the three batters he faced to notch his fifth save.

Carp 4, Dragons 2

At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, Kevin Cron returned to duty for the Hiroshima Carp for the first time since April 3, and singled, doubled, walked and drove in three runs to beat Chunichi.

Rookie Carp lefty Koya Takahashi worked five impressive innings, only for the Carp bullpen to blow a 2-1 lead in the sixth. Setup man Daisuke Sobue (0-2) who did yeoman work as the closer prior to Raidel Martinez’s arrival, loaded the bases in the eight with two walks and a single before Cron doubled in two runs.

Hiroshima lefty Atsuya Horie worked his seventh scoreless outing of the season to set up rookie Ryoji Kuribayashi for his sixth save.

Giants 2, BayStars 2

At Yokohama Stadium, the Yomiuri Giants got yet another strong starting pitching effort as Nobutaka Imamura allowed a run over 6-1/3 innings. The run he allowed, Neftali Soto’s first home run of the year for DeNA, trimmed the Giants’ lead to 2-1.

The BayStars scratched out the tying run in the eighth against lefty Kota Nakagawa on a hit batsman, a sacrifice, a groundout behind the runner and a Tyler Austin smash that third baseman Kazuma Okamoto couldn’t handle that was ruled an RBI infield single.

Flame-throwing Brazilian Thyago Vieira, who definitely looks more polished this season, touched 100.6 mph in a 1-2-3 ninth.

Hawks 4, Lions 4

At MetLife Dome, Seibu closer Tatsushi Masuda blew a two-run save opportunity by walking Alfredo Despaigne and surrendering Akira Nakamura’s first home run of the year before SoftBank closer Yuito Mori retired the Lions’ tail-end of the order to end the game in a nine-inning tie.

In a game without a marquee pitching matchup, the suddenly bunt-happy Lions still played for one run with a straight steal but got two to take a 2-1 first-inning lead against Yuki Matsumoto. Rookie Gakuto Wakabayashi singled, stole second, and scored on No. 2 hitter Sosuke Genda’s double.

Tomoya Mori tripled in the third on a perfectly placed high fly between right and center, but was thrown out by 10 feet at home trying to score on a fly to Yuki Yanagita in medium deep center. The Hawks tied it in the sixth. Singles by Ukyo Shuto and Yangita, who went 4-for-4 with a double, set up a run-scoring wild pitch by Seibu starter Katsunori Hirai.

With the scored tied in the seventh after Reed Garrett worked a scoreless inning of relief for Seibu, Brandon Tyson Tysinger singled, and once more the Lions went for one run and got two. A sacrifice and back-to-back doubles gave manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji more than he bargained for.

Kaima Taira worked around a one-out Yanagita double in the eighth, but Masuda walked Alfredo Despaigne and hung a first-pitch slider that Nakamura pulled for his first home run.

Eagles 4, Fighters 1

At Tokyo Dome, Rakuten rookie Takahisa Hayakawa (2-2) struck out seven without a walk while allowing a run over eight innings in a win over another Nippon Ham short-starter tag-team match.

Lefty Robbie Erlin allowed a run over two innings in his Japan debut. Kensuke Kondo gave the newcomer the lead with a first-inning homer before he gave it back in the second. Daichi Suzuki singled and scored on a sac fly after the visitors loaded the bases with no outs. Hideto Asamura scored the first of his two runs in the third off Chihiro Kaneko (0-1) on a walk, a wild pitch and an Eigoro Mogi single. Mogi, however, was thrown out trying to steal right before Daichi Suzuki tripled.

Suzuki also had an RBI single while rookie Fumiya Kurokawa doubled in another run. Lefty Yuki Matsui retired the side in order in the ninth for his fifth save.

Marines 3, Buffaloes 2

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Lotte’s Leonys Martin doubled in one run, and drew a bases-loaded ninth-inning walk off Tyler Higgins (0-1) to push across the go-ahead run against the Orix Buffaloes.

Rookie lefty Hiroya Miyagi allowed a run over 6-2/3 innings and left with a lead afterAdam Jones doubled to break a 1-1 sixth-inning tie against Marines rookie Shota Suzuki.

Higgins, the Buffaloes’ fourth pitcher, lost leadoff hitter Brandon Laird on seven pitches, before walking Koki Yamaguchi. After a sacrifice and a fly out, Higgins was one strike away from earning the save before Hiromi Oka hit a nasty bouncer into the hole at short to plate the tying run.

Higgins proved unable to find the strike zone after that, and Naoya Masuda earned his third save in the ninth.

Active roster moves 4/18/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/28

Central League

Activated

CarpP34Koya Takahashi
CarpIF10Kevin Cron
SwallowsIF5Shingo Kawabata

Dectivated

CarpIF96Alejandro Mejia

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesP13Kohei Morihara
FightersP44Robbie Erlin

Dectivated

LionsP20Shota Hamaya
EaglesP22Kazuhisa Makita

Your new Giants

The Yomiuri Giants introduced Justin Smoak and Eric Thames on Tuesday, and we’re all pretty interested to see how they adapt to Japanese baseball.

I’m not going to try and project any numbers for them since the subtle differences hear pose different challenges to the ones they faced back home. It’s not merely a case of facing fewer MLB-caliber pitchers, but adjusting to the way they are pitched, not to mention all the cultural speed bumps that come at you.

But what if we assume these two 34-year-olds produce in Japan close to their MLB career norms? Thames had basically two MLB careers, one before he played in South Korea’s KBO, and one after. For him, we’ll use his time since he returned.

Here are the MLB slash lines I’ll use to find NPB comps:

  • Smoak: .229/.322/.419
  • Thames: .237/.339/.486

Now we find the players who played a full season in NPB from 2013, when the current ball was introduced, and 2019 whose, average, OBP and slug were similar.

What hitters had full seasons comparable to their career slash lines:

Smoak’s group is: Lastings Milledge 2013, Ryota Arai 2013, Shinnosuke Abe 2014, Hisayoshi Chono 2015, Sho Nakata 2016, Masahiro Nakatani 2017, Takayuki Kajitani 2017, Japhet Amador 2017, Zelous Wheeler 2019.

Thames’ group is: Wily Mo Pena 2014; Alfredo Despaigne 2015, 2018; Ernesto Mejia 2016; Garrett Jones 2016; Nobuhiro Matsuda 2016, 2018; Wladimir Balentien 2017; Munetaka Murakami 2019; Seiya Inoue 2019; Brandon Laird 2019.

Over 143 game seasons, their groups averaged:

  • Smoak: 125 games, 55 runs, 20 home runs, 68 RBIs and 45 walks
  • Thames: 131 games, 64 runs, 29 home runs, 81 RBIs and 57 walks

This doesn’t mean they WILL approach these numbers, but just one way of looking at one of any number of possible outcomes. All the guys in both comp groups were productive regulars, but if the Giants were expecting two 34-year-olds to come in and each hit 40 home runs over 143 games, they’re likely to be disappointed.

NPB wrap 4-17-21

Tanaka’s baaaaaaack

Fighters 4, Eagles 1

At Tokyo Dome, returning Rakuten star Masahiro Tanaka (0-1) started with seven good pitches before he began missing with his fastball, and that cost him the game, snapping his record streak of consecutive winning decisions in Japan at 28. He allowed three runs on four hits and a walk while striking out five over five innings.

Naoyuki Uwasawa (1-2), the Fighters Opening Day starter was razor sharp at the start and could easily have gone seven scoreless innings. He allowed a run on three hits and two walks while striking out seven.

The Tanaka buzz and flashbacks

Tanaka ran into trouble in the first with four high fastballs to Kensuke Kondo, Sho Nakata got a second chance when his pop fly was lost in the glare of Tokyo Dome’s translucent roof and Tanka missed with a fastball over the plate. It was Nakata’s first homer of the season.

“I think the spirt you guys invested in me all this time despite my being such a useless No. 4 hitter this year helped propel that ball out,” Nakata said of his first homer.

Nippon Ham’s Opening Day starter Naoyuki Uwasawa came out on fire, knocking down the three left-handed-hitting Eagles in the first by mixing perfectly located back-door sliders with fastballs on the outside corner. Hideto Asamura doubled to open the Eagles’ second and did well to beat the tag at home when rookie Fumiya Kurokawa celebrated his 20th birthday by singling in a grinding 10-pitch at-bat.

Tanaka, however, gave that run back with a misplaced a 1-0 fastball that Kazunari Ishii found and put in the seats for a leadoff homer in the bottom of the second. Tanaka, who is coming back from a calf-muscle injury suffered just before Opening Day, left after throwing 75 pitches in five innings.

With his slider working well and the cutter doing its job, Tanaka’s game began mimicking his MLB career as the four-seamer more or less disappeared. He went back to it now and then and threw some good ones, but it’s certain he’ll be doing his homework between now and next Saturday, when he’s slated to pitch against the Lions.

Nakata, who said his first homer against Tanaka allowed him to consider the game a reset for his season, joked about an incident a week earlier. He homered again in the sixth against former Padre Kazuhisa Makita. Nakata’s frustration had boiled over in an incident that involved him throwing his bat in the dugout and resulted in his having a swollen right eye that sidelined him for a game. “A lot of different things have happened. I had a swollen eye. And when the swelling went down, I took that as a sign that I would be destined to do the postgame hero interview,” Nakata told the fans after the game.

Hawks 7, Lions 1

At MetLife Dome, Rei Takahashi (1-1), the PL’s 2019 rookie of the year, allowed an unearned run over six inning in a comfortable start, while Nobuhiro Matsuda drove in three runs with a second-inning RBI single and a two-run fourth-inning homer off Lions lefty Shota Hamaya (1-3).

Yurisbel Gracial’s second home run in two nights made it 3-0 in the third as the Hawks piled on, allowing them to bring in Carter Stewart Jr. in the ninth for his top-flight debut.

The eighth overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft, Stewart signed a six-year deal with the Hawks in 2019. He missed with four fastballs to the first hitter, struck out the second on four pitches, jammed the third on his ninth fastball. He needed 10 pitches, one a really wild pitch, against the fourth batter he faced to end the game with a called third strike on a changeup.

Carter Stewart

Stewart’s debut sent a buzz through the crowd, but the analysts and announcers couldn’t get over his wearing No. 2 in a country where no pitchers get single digits. It just doesn’t happen, and it seemed about as intriguing to a lot of people as the zip on his fastball and the idea that a 21-year-old American could throw a good curveball.

“You usually don’t see foreign pitchers throw good curveballs,” Dave Okubo said, spoiling a night of clarity and insight on Pro Yakyu News, with an instant of mindless babble.

Marines 7, Buffaloes 2

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Orix’s defense again looked not fatal but less than confidence-inspiring behind Sachiya Yamasaki (0-2), who allowed four runs, three earned, over 6-1/3 innings. Manabu Mima held Orix to two runs over 6-2/3 innings.

Shogo Nakamura reached base four times and scored three of Lotte’s runs. Leonys Martin doubled in a run in the seventh and scored on a single and a Nakamura single that big right fielder Yutaro Sugimoto couldn’t corral in right.

Sugimoto homered for the second straight game in the bottom of the sixth to make it a 4-2 game. Adam Jones drew a pinch-hit walk to put the tying runs on for the Buffaloes with two outs, but Frank Herrmann came in to put out the fire.

Yuki Karakawa, the next man in the Marines relief corps, worked a scoreless eighth before the Marines piled on two runs in the ninth to ice it.

Giants 7, BayStars 2

At Yokohama Stadium, the Yomiuri Giants broke a 1-1 tie in a six-run sixth inning against Taiga Kamichatani (0-2) that was jump-started by a two-out intentional walk and a two-run wild pitch and powered by a three-run home run from Katsuki Kazuki, the throw-away player the Giants scooped up in last year’s salary-dump trade of current Red Sox reliever Hirokazu Sawamura.

Shosei Togo (2-1) allowed a run on four walks and three hits over six innings. The 21-year-old right-hander struck out eight.

Kamichatani was charged with all seven runs on seven hits and three walks. He struck out seven.

Dragons 5, Carp 0

At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, Chunichi’s Yuya Yanagi (1-1) did a good right-handed impression of teammate Yudai Ono, striking out a career-high 14 batters over eight innings with a lot of  beautifully executed pitches. His teammates, meanwhile, eventually got good swings on a lot of pitches from Allen Kuri (3-1), who was pulled after allowing three runs through seven innings.

Yanagi pitched out of a first-inning jam by striking out Seiya Suzuki before splintering Shogo Sakakura’s bat, and escaped a bases-loaded pickle in the third by getting the Carp catcher on a comebacker.

Kuri cruised through three innings but was stung for a run in the fourth on a Yohei Oshima single, a sacrifice and hanging breaking ball that Kosuke Fukudome pulled into the right-field corner for a 1-0 Dragons lead. With Yanagi carving up the Carp, the Dragons took over. Fukudome came within a hair of a second RBI double. He turned on a low inside fastball with two outs and a runner on, but first baseman Alejandro Mejia robbed him with a diving catch.

Ariel Martinez undressed third baseman Masaya Yano with a line drive for an infield single to trigger a two-run seventh, with Akira Neo putting a good swing on a low pitch to drive in two. Fukudome contributed two a two-run eighth with a one-out single.

Lions unveil Matt Dermody

Starting pitchers

Pacific League

Fighters vs Eagles: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Robbie Erlin (-) vs Takahisa Hayakawa (1-2, 2.55)

Lions vs Hawks: MetLife Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Katsunori Hirai (3-0, 1.45) vs Yuki Matsumoto (1-0, 0.00)

Buffaloes vs Marines: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Hiroya Miyagi (2-0, 1.23) vs Shota Suzuki (0-1, 2.12)

Central League

BayStars vs Giants: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Kosuke Sakaguchi (1-1, 1.80) vs Nobutaka Imamura (2-0, 0.78)

Dragons vs Carp: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Shinnosuke Ogasawara (1-1, 1.45) vs Koya Takahashi (-)

Tigers vs Swallows: Koshien Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Joe Gunkel (3-0, 0.96) vs Yasuhiro Ogawa (1-0, 1.93)

Active roster moves 4/17/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/27

Central League

Activated

BayStarsP64Ren Kazahari

Dectivated

BayStarsP35Tomoya Mikami
SwallowsP19Masanori Ishikawa

Pacific League

Activated

LionsIF49Brandon Taiga Tysinger
EaglesP18Masahiro Tanaka

Dectivated

LionsOF68Junichiro Kishi
FightersIF93Ryunosuke Higuchi

writing & research on Japanese baseball

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