NPB wrap 9-24-21

The Hanshin Tigers on Friday survived with a tie awkward start from Yuki Nishi, who was called into a meeting with manager Akihiro Yano after a game in which both Nishi and catcher Ryutaro Umeno were yanked after the third inning.

The Tigers tied with the Giants, allowing Yakult to pull a half-game ahead of both clubs in the CL race as they ran their unbeaten streak to 10 games. Their seven straight winning decisions is the team’s longest win streak in three years.

In the PL, the Rakuten Eagles were the big winners. They beat second-place Orix to gain one game on the first-place Lotte Marines, and the Buffaloes, and the Hawks.

Friday’s games

Lions 5, Marines 4

At MetLife Dome, Shuta Tonosaki snapped a 4-4 tie in the fifth inning winning a single-handed battle with the Marines battery. He walked with two outs, stole second on a ball that got away from catcher Takuma Kato. The passed ball moved him to third, from where Tonosaki scored on a wile pitch from reliever Yasuhiro Tanaka (1-2).

Seibu starter Tatsuya Imai allowed three runs over three innings thanks to seven walks and four hits. Rookie Junichiro Kishi’s two-run home run, his ninth, off Kota Futaki made it 3-2 in the third before Lotte’s Hisanori Yasuda made it 4-2 in the fourth with his eighth home run off Ichiro Tamura (1-0), who threw two innings and earned his first pro win.

Seibu’s six-time PL home run champ Takeya Nakamura homered to open the fourth and Sosuke Genda singled in the tying run after an error and two singles loaded the bases against Futaki.

With the lead in hand, Yoshinobu Mizukami worked a 1-2-3 sixth. Demoted closer Tatsushi Masuda worked around a pair of two-out singles in a scoreless seventh, and Ryosuke Moriwake stranded two more in the eighth before Kaima Taira finished with his 17th save.

Eagles 4, Buffaloes 3

At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Daichi Suzuki singled twice and scored twice on hits by Hiroaki Shimauchi, as the Eagles spotted Takahiro Norimoto (10-5, 3.33) a 4-1 lead against rookie Hiroya Miyagi (11-3, 2.44) after Eigoro Mogi’s fourth-inning sac fly broke a 1-1 tie.

Rookie Kotaro Kurebayashi had three hits for the Buffaloes. His eighth home run tied it 1-1 in the third. He singled with one out in the eighth and came home when Yutaro Sugimoto retook the PL home run lead with his 38th off Norimoto’s 127th and final pitch – into the top deck in dead center.

Sung Chia-hao got the final two outs with the potential tying run on third base in the ninth to earn his fourth save.

Fighters 4, Hawks 1

At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Nippon Ham’s Naoyuki Uwasawa (10-6, 3.08) struck out 11 while walking two and allowing three hits. His shutout bid ended in the eighth when Takuya Kai halved the Fighters’ lead with his 10th home run.

SoftBank’s 1.93-meter rookie right-hander Kazuki Sugiyama (1-1, 2.51) allowed a run over five innings. He struck out six and walked four while allowing one hit, Ronny Rodriguez’s fourth home run.

Kensuke Kondo hit his eighth home run off Livan Moinelo in the eighth to make it 2-0, Yushi Shimizu hit a two-run homer, his third, off closer Yuito Mori in the ninth before Toshihiro Sugiura closed it out in the bottom of the ninth for his 22nd save.

Giants 6, Tigers 6

At Tokyo Dome, rookie shortstop Takumu Nakano saved the game by making a tricky play on a bases-loaded grounder to get the second out at home plate thanks to a good scoop by backup catcher Seiichiro Sakamoto, and then caught Sho Nakata’s little liner for the third out as Robert Suarez worked around a Hayato Sakamoto double a Kazuma Okamoto single to secure the tie for Hanshin.

Hanshin’s Yuki Nishi allowed five runs over three innings, blowing an early 3-0 lead. A Jefry Marte RBI single highlighted Hanshin’s two-run first against C. C. Mercedes, who escaped a bases-loaded third-inning jam with just one run scoring and was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the home half.

Nishi surrendered a leadoff pinch-hit single but got a do-over by starting a double play before the real trouble started. After a walk and a single, Okamoto moved ahead of Munetaka Murakami in the home run race with his 38th. Yoshiyuki Kamei doubled and Yoshihiro Maru hit his 17th home run. Even with two multi-homer home runs and a double play, the Giants still managed to strand two runners in the inning.

Sakamoto singled in a run in the Giants’ fourth, but Yomiuri failed to mount another scoring threat until the ninth. Marte’s two-run fifth-inning home run, his 19th, off Toshiki Sakurai made it a one-run game, but the Giants bullpen followed that by retiring 10 straight.

Thyago Vieira back on the first-team mound after 19 days on the farm due to fitness issues, walked the first batter he faced and surrendered Jerry Sands’ game-tying RBI double. Vieira blew the save but did not let Hanshin take the lead.

Giants-Tigers highlights

 Swallows 3, Dragons 0

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Yakult’s Hirotoshi Takanashi (3-1, 3.35) struck out seven while allowing five hits and getting some big plays from his defense, and the Swallows scored three second-inning runs off Yudai Ono (6-10, 2.97) on a Yasutaka Shiomi double, a Norichika Aoki RBI single and Munetaka Murakami’s career-high 37th home run.

Noboru Shimizu worked the eighth for the Swallows, who pulled a half-game ahead of Hanshin, while Scott McGough threw 10 of his 11 in the ninth as he locked down his 23rd save.

Dayan Viciedo set the team record for hits by an import player with the first of his two singles, surpassing the mark of 766 he shared with current batting coach Alonzo Powell.

Carp 9, BayStars 2

At Yokohama Stadium, Kaito Kozono had five hits, including a two-run home run, his second, scored four and drove in three while Daichi Osera (7-5, 3.08) gave up two runs over 7-2/3 innings. The BayStars scored first, on Toshiro Miyazaki’s two-run solo homer, his 13th, in the second, but singles by Osera and Kozono and a Seiya Suzuki walk set up a three-run inning, capped Shogo Sakakura’s two-run double. Kozono’s fifth-inning homer stuck a fork in DeNA.

Ryosuke Miyaguni (1-1, 6.30) surrendered five runs over five innings.

Saturday’s starting pitchers

Lions vs Marines: MetLife Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Katsunori Hirai (4-3, 4.15) vs Tokito Kawamura (2-0, 4.32)

Buffaloes vs Eagles: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Yoshinobu Yamamoto (14-5, 1.46) vs Takayuki Kishi (7-8, 3.59)

Hawks vs Fighters: PayPay Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Shuta Ishikawa (5-9, 3.37) vs Drew VerHagen (4-7, 4.50)

Giants vs Tigers: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Tomoyuki Sugano (5-6, 3.52) vs Haruto Takahashi (1-1, 4.09)

Swallows vs Dragons: Jingu Stadium 5:30 pm, 4:30 am EDT

Keiji Takahashi (3-1, 3.21) vs Yariel Rodriguez (0-3, 4.66)

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

Masaya Kyoyama (2-5, 4.59) vs Koya Takahashi (3-6, 5.53)

Active roster moves 9/24/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/4

Central League

Activated

TigersP16Yuki Nishi
BayStarsP34Shingo Hirata
SwallowsP14Hirotoshi Takanashi

Dectivated

TigersP48Yukiya Saitoh
BayStarsP14Kenta Ishida
SwallowsP68Kohei Miyadai

Pacific League

Activated

HawksP40Kazuki Sugiyama
MarinesP19Yuki Karakawa

Dectivated

MarinesP17Roki Sasaki
MarinesP34Seiya Dohi

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Live chat: Matt Winters

Matt Winters is a professional scout for the Nippon Ham Fighters, with whom he played from 1990 to 1994.

A first-round pick of the New York Yankees, Winters played for Triple-A Columbus from 1983 to 1985. During that time he was a teammate of future American League sluggers Don Mattingly and Steve Balboni and outhit both of them.

He got one sip from a demitasse of coffee with the Kansas City Royals in 1989 before coming to Japan, where he scored 346 runs and drove in 428 with a .376 on-base percentage and a .525 slugging average over 637 Nippon Professional Baseball games.

During his career in Japan, Winters became iconic for his good humor and his willingness to entertain the fans in surprising ways.

In May, Winters spoke at length about his experiences in Japan, his observations and his job as a scout, and the things he’s learned along the way.

Coming to Japan

From his introduction to Hall of Fame manager Sadao Kondo bending over backward to speak English to former Dodger Mike Marshall, Winters spoke of adapting to a new country.

“You’ve got to swallow your ego. Marshall, he complained about every little thing. It’s like, ‘Mike. You’re not in Los Angeles. This ain’t the Dodgers. You’re here. This is what you get. You go along with the system.'”

Weird batting stories

Japanese batting success, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder. Success, regardless of how unlikely or how ugly or accidental, is often something coaches will often make a big deal about, as Winters explains when a coach tried to get him to try his one-legged Sadaharu Oh approach in a game, or when he got a hit when he could barely see out of one eye.

Experiences with Japanese pitchers and fans

Winters tells of the different pitchers he faced in Japan, Hideo Nomo, whom the Fighters couldn’t knock out even with a line drive to the elbow, to the fan experience and the time he spent cheering with the fans at Tokyo Dome, much to the disdain of his team.

“I just went out to the right-field bleachers and the next thing you know, I’m leading the cheers with the cheer guys.”

Japan, family, language and Hideki Matsui

Winters tells of his family’s adjustment to Japan and issues with the language. I’m sorry for the video in this Zoom clip which seems to have stuck on my ugly mug for most of the time Matt was talking.

“I got back (to the States) and started coaching, and I started talking to the Latino players and I began firing out Japanese at them, and they’d be looking at me like, ‘Huh?'”

This brought to mind the Yankees promo video featuring Hideki Matsui, Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge (below).

The indespensable gift of humor

On the subject of the attributes that allow players to succeed in Japan, Marty Kuehnert suggested that a sense of humor could be a huge factor, and something, Winters said, not all his import teammates possessed.

“I remember when (Lotte’s) Mike Diaz came out and we were both dancing with the group that was playing before the game. We had our fun.”

I wouldn’t have signed me

NPB pro scouts have said one thing they sometimes see in prospective signings that can disqualify them for potential service in Japan is a violent outburst in response to failure or an umpire’s decision. Asked about that, Matt said, “Uh oh…”

What does it take to succeed in Japan?

Winters answers this question by starting with a player he rejected out of concerns for his strikeouts, who went on to strike out 616 times over seven seasons in Japan while hitting 133 home runs and driving in 370.

What Japan teaches before players go to the States

We were talking about what allows some players to succeed in Japan but not in the States, and how playing in Japan can be a springboard for some players, allowing them to make the jump between Triple-A and the majors.

It’s all about makeup, and luck

When Winters left Japan he went into coaching and player development until his former interpreter Toshi Shimada rose to be the Fighters’ chief executive–a whole ‘nother long story–and came calling asking if he’d like to scout for them. Winters spoke about what he wants to see in a player but admitted it’s always a roll of the dice.

“With us, makeup is big. If we find there are red flags in makeup, we’ll stay far away from them and let someone else have the headache. You’re still flipping a coin when you send a guy across the ocean. How are they going to adapt off the field. How are they going to adapt to the Japanese style of baseball?”

Scouting: nuts and bolts, and changing times

Since Winters started scouting for the Fighters, things have changed due to organizational needs and the increased diffusion of analytics.

“I’ve learned to scout with your eyes and not your heart. Because there are a lot of guys I root for and I go, ‘Just show me something man, I want to put your name down.’ But then you go, ‘I can’t put him in.'”

Japanese organizations

The Nippon Ham Fighters, since Toshi Shimada engineered their move to Hokkaido, have reorganized into somethimg more like an MLB team with fewer overlapping roles and more accountability, thanks in part to the input they got from manager Trey Hillman from 2003 to 2007. Winters gives his impression of other organizations prior to his time as a Fighters scout

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writing & research on Japanese baseball

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