NPB games, news of Aug. 31, 2019

Takashi Toritani has been one of the Tigers best players for 16 years. I’m sure the Hanshin Tigers were trying to be classy when they asked him whether everyone would be better off if he were a former Tigers star in 2020, but it certainly didn’t come out that way.

Pacific League

Lions 10, Hawks 5

At MetLife Dome, Tsuyoshi Wada (4-3) threw a lot of fat pitches in a five-run first inning and surrendered six runs in what matched his shortest start in Japan as Seibu battered SoftBank to move into a virtual tie for first place.

Tomoya Mori opened the scoring with a two-run home run as he homered for the fourth-straight game. Hotaka Yamakawa also belted a two-run shot, while Takeya Nakamura doubled and scored on a Shuta Tonosaki single. Shogo Akiyama homered in the second to close the book on the Hawks lefty.

“He (Yamakawa) is hitting well again, and that’s encouraging,” Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji said.

Robert Suarez struck out five but dodged bullets over three scoreless innings to allow the Hawks to come within three runs, but the Lions pulled away on Yamakawa’s Japan-best 40th home run and Tonosaki’s two-run, eighth-inning double.

Takumi Kuriyama had two singles, giving him 1,808 and moving him two clear of Hiromichi’s former franchise hit record.

Game highlights are HERE.

Buffaloes 2, Marines 1

At Zozo Marine Stadium, light-hitting Orix infielder Ryoichi Adachi blasted a ninth-inning, tie-breaking home run off Lotte closer Naoya Masuda (3-5) after Buffaloes starter Andrew Albers held the Marines in check for the second-straight game. Brandon Dickson worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 15th save.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 1, Fighters 0

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Kohei Arihara (13-7) allowed a run over seven innings and got stuck with the loss to Rakuten as Nippon Ham lost its fifth straight. Eagles starter Wataru Karashima (8-5) worked 5-2/3 innings, and four relievers completed the six-hitter. The Fighters were shut out for the 10th time this season.

“I kind of did my job,” Arihara said. “But when the team is in bad shape, you have to win.”

It was the first win by a Rakuten starting pitcher since July 25, while the Fighters, who started play in August a half-game back of SoftBank, slipped into last place.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Swallows 5, Dragons 2, 10 innings

At Nagoya Dome, Tetsuto Yamada needed 10 innings to do something offensively, hitting his 32nd home run with two on to lift Yakult over Chunichi in a battle between the CL’s bottom two clubs.

Dayan Viciedo tied it 2-2 in the sixth with a good swing that produced a two-run double off the right field wall against Swallows starter David Buchanan, who went seven innings. Dragons starter Yuya Yanagi also allowed two runs over seven. He gave up a tough hit on a good pitch to open the Swallows’ second, but missed badly with a pair of lifeless pitches that were drilled for RBI doubles.

Tigers 4, Giants 2

At Koshien Stadium, Masahiro Nakatani’s seventh-inning pinch-hit home run broke a 2-2 tie and lifted Hanshin over Yomiuri. Thirty-nine-year-old Kyuji Fujikawa converted his 10th-straight save opportunity since being asked to close on July 26.

Game highlights are HERE.

Carp 4, BayStars 2

At Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima catcher Tsubasa Aizawa capped a three-run third inning with a two-run homer, while Allen Kuri (7-7) allowed two runs in 6-1/3 innings to earn the win over DeNA.


Toritani: “Tigers asked me to retire”

Takashi Toritani said Saturday that the Hanshin Tigers asked him to retire, but he said he would prefer to continue playing with another team starting next season.

“What they asked me was whether I would retire or not,” Toritani said. “By that what they meant was they no longer had any use for me.”

“It’s my choice, whether I retire or let them make me available to other teams as surplus to team needs.”

The Tigers director of baseball operations, Osamu Tanimoto, said, “We asked if he wanted to retire as a Tigers star, but since he is determined to keep playing, you can say we have failed to reach an agreement.”

Toritani (38) turned pro out of Waseda University. His streak of 1,939 consecutive games is second behind Hall of Famer Sachio Kinugasa’s.

EDITORS NOTE: This story has been corrected to show Takashi Toritani is in his 16th season, not his 18th as originally written.

NPB games, news of Aug. 30, 2019

Pacific League

Lions 4, Hawks 2

At MetLife Dome, Tomoya Mori homered for the third-straight day, blasting a tie-breaking, two-run opposite-field shot off Kodai Senga (11-7) to hand Seibu the first round of the top-of-the-table PL clash with SoftBank. The win moved the Lions one game back of the Hawks.

His 20th home run is a career high for the Lions catcher, who then uttered what Japanese hitters are supposed to say about home runs — that they are not important to them.

“I am not particularly focused on hitting home runs,” said the league’s leading hitter. “Until now, I’ve been prioritizing hitting for average, to set the table for the hitter behind me.”

Shuta Tonosaki tied it in the fifth when Senga threw a center-cut 153-kph fastball with one out and Takeya Nakamura on third. Nakamura, who had a huge series during the week when the Lions swept the Fighters in three day games while the Hawks were rained out, then made the defensive play of the game in the top of the seventh.

With one out and runners on the corners and the infield in tight, the portly third baseman dove to knock down a grounder headed for left field to save a run. He retrieved the ball and threw a strike to first for the second out, allowing the Lions to escape the pickle with a routine grounder to second.

Lions starter Tatsuya Imai was victimized by Akira Nakamura in the second inning. Nakamura went deep on a high-straight fastball to make it 1-0. Kenta Imamiya doubled in the third and scored when Kenji Akashi singled him home off a changeup Imai that Imai left up high.

Katsunori Hirai worked the eighth, pitching in his Japan-tops 67th game, while Tatsushi Masuda picked up his 23rd save.

Imai allowed two runs over 6-1/3 innings. He walked two, and allowed six hits, while striking out four.

“I wanted to finish the seventh, but at least I can say I satisfied the minimum requirements for a starter tonight,” Imai said.

Senga struck out eight, but walked three and allowed nine hits. He has allowed a PL-high 17 home runs. Yakult Swallows right-hander Yasuhiro Ogawa leads the CL with 21 homers allowed.

“I am responsible for this, since I was the one entrusted with pitching this important game,” said Senga, who has lost his last three starts.

Takumi Kuriyama doubled to open the Lions’ second, and though he was stranded, he tied Hiromichi Ishige’s franchise hit record of 1,806.

Saturday’s game, a 6 pm start, will see Tsuyoshi Wada go for the Hawks and Kona Takahashi for the Lions.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 7, Fighters 2

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Brazilian Luciano Fernando went 2-for-3 with a single and a double and drove in four runs as Rakuten handed Nippon Ham its fifth-straight loss.

Game highlights are HERE.

Buffaloes 10, Marines 4

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Shuhei Kojima and Kenya Wakatsuki each drove in three runs as Orix came from behind to beat Lotte behind five scoreless innings from the Buffaloes’ bullpen.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Giants 4, Tigers 1

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin left 11 runners on base, and was held scoreless the last eight innings, while Yoshihiro Maru drove in three late runs for Yomiuri.

Game highlights are HERE.

BayStars 6, Carp 4

At Mazda Stadium, pinch-hitter Keita Sano forced across the go-ahead run in the eighth inning, Kazuki Kamizato singled in two more runs and a fourth run scored on a throwing error as DeNA came from behind to beat Hiroshima and win its fifth straight.

For the second-straight day Kenta Ishida came out of the bullpen to provide some clutch relief, and Yasuaki Yamasaki worked the ninth for his 29th save.

Dragons 7, Swallows 1

At Nagoya Dome, Enny Romero (8-9) allowed a run over six innings and Nobumasa Fukuda hit a two-run, first-inning home run, his eighth homer of August, as Chunichi overpowered Yakult.

The Swallows’ Tetsuto Yamada stole his 32nd base of the season and extended his record streak of successful attempts to 37 straight.

NPB games, news of Aug. 29, 2019

“He’s just like any other man, only more so.”

Rick Blaine in the movie “Casablanca”

To a certain extent, that was the Seibu Lions’ win over the Nippon Ham Fighters on Thursday. It was a game like any other Lions game, only more so.

Pacific League

Lions 5, Fighters 2

At Obihiro Stadium, Seibu’s starting pitcher didn’t allow over three runs, but other than that, the Lions series-finale win over Nippon Ham showed off the things Seibu does a lot of.

The exception was starting pitcher Keisuke Honda (6-5), who did not issue a walk or hit a batter. That marked the sixth time a Lions starter had managed to do that. He allowed one run though six, but left after allowing two-straight singles in the bottom of the seventh.

The Fighters’ second run scored on Seibu’s Japan-leading 53rd wild pitch. It was also the 16th time an opposing runner had scored on a wild pitch against the Lions. The next two teams in that ranking (prior to Thursday night’s games) were the Fighters with eight and the Yakult Swallows with seven.

The three players with the PL’s RBI totals, each drove in at least a run. PL leader Hotaka Yamakawa (105) improved his Japan-best home run total to 38 and drove in two runs, as did Takeya Nakamura (101), while Tomoya Mori (85) homered and drove in one.

With the Lions leading 4-2 in the seventh with two outs and the bases loaded, Katsunori Hirai made his 66th appearance, the most in either league, and got four straight outs.

Game highlights are HERE.

Wild things

Even though you didn’t ask for it and at risk of setting off those Lions fans who think I pick on them, here is the NPB ranking for run-scoring wild pitches. Anyway, the Lions are making lots of runners’ hearts sing this season.

PLSeibu Lions16
PLNippon Ham Fighters8
CLYakult Swallows7
CLHanshin Tigers6
PLOrix Buffaloes6
CLChunichi Dragons5
PLRakuten Eagles5
CLDeNA BayStars3
CLHiroshima Carp3
PLSoftBank Hawks3
PLLotte Marines3
CLYomiuri Giants2

Marines 5, Eagles 4, 10 innings

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Daichi Suzuki hit a two-run homer as Lotte tied it in a three-run sixth, and Seiya Suzuki homered in the 10th in a win over Rakuten.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Giants 12, Carp 4

At Tokyo Dome, Yoshihiro Maru drove in five runs in the third inning with an RBI single and a grand slam as Yomiuri slapped Daichi Osera (10-8) for 10 runs, while Toshiki Sakurai (8-3) allowed three runs over seven innings to pick up the win.

Game highlights are HERE.

BayStars 4, Swallows 2

At Yokohama Stadium, Tatsuhiro Shibata’s two-run single tied it in the sixth inning, Takayuki Kajitani singled in the go-ahead run in the seventh as DeNA came from behind to beat Yakult.

BayStars manager Alex Ramirez switched into postseason mode in the fifth inning when he brought in starter Kenta Ishida to relieve in the sixth inning. The lefty had been pitching out of the bullpen until July 7. Since then, he’d been 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP in the starting rotation.

Ishida (4-0) inherited a two-on, one-out pickle, and allowed one runner to score. He pitched himself into and out of a jam in the seventh and wound up the winning pitcher.

Yakult second baseman Tetsuto Yamada stole two bases, giving him 31 on the season and running his record successful attempt streak to 36 and become the first player in Japan to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season four times.

NPB games, news of Aug. 28, 2019

We can be heroes…

I know it’s not of any importance, but I love Takeya Nakamura’s matter-of-fact hero interviews, which never quite get to the level of the “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” segments I grew up with in Mad Magazine, but are often worthy considering the silly things the interviewers sometimes ask.

In one game a few years ago, Nakamura was asked: “What was the mood on the bench when you came up to the plate with a chance to win the game?” Answer? “I don’t know. I wasn’t on the bench at the time.”

On Wednesday, Nakamura was the star of the Lions’ win over the Nippon Ham Fighters and was summoned to the sidelines for the postgame interview.

Interviewer: “It was a called game, but the Lions won. Can you share your thoughts?

Nakamura: “I’m glad we won.”

I.: “You drove in the game’s first runs with a two-run home run. How did it feel when you hit it.”

N: “It felt good when I hit it. I’m glad it was a home run.”

I: “In the fifth inning, you hit a go-ahead, three-run home run. How did you approach that at-bat?”

N: “The same as always. My plan was to bat as I usually do.”

I: “You handled it (the pitch) well?”

N: “Yes I did.”

I: “You also had a hand in the winning run, didn’t you?”

N: “Yes. (Nakamura is struggling to keep a straight face) I wanted to make contact somehow. Get the bat on the ball. “

I: “With this win, the Lions are now 2-1/2 games back of the first-place Hawks. How is the mood on the team right now?”

N: “The atmosphere is extremely good. Now we’ve come to Hokkaido and won two straight, now we want to go to Obihiro and complete the sweep. We want to keep hitting like this.”

Pacific League

Lions 10, Fighters 8, 8 innings, darkness

At Kushiro Stadium, Seibu won a see-saw game over Nippon Ham that the umpires ended with no outs in the top of the eighth on account of darkness at the game in eastern Hokkaido.

Takeya Nakamura moved within four RBIs of the league lead with a two-homer, five-RBI game, and was involved in seven of the Lions’ runs, his two-out smash off the foot of Fighters pitcher Tsubasa Nabatame (0-1) deflected to third baseman Kensuke Kondo. He had no chance to nail the portly Nakamura at first and his throwing error allowed two runs to score.

“Our inability to hold onto a lead is an issue,” Fighters skipper Hideki Kuriyama said. “It (the decision to call the game) was the umpires, so I can’t do anything about that.”

Under dark skies with intermittent rain, it became hard for the umpires to see the outfielders, and the game was called at 4:21 pm, 1-1/2 hours before sunset.

It was the first game in Japan called on account of darkness since June 20, 1999, when the Orix BlueWave and Kintetsu Buffaloes were also playing in Hokkaido, at Sapporo’s Maruyama Stadium. Game 1 of the 2005 Japan Series was also cut short because the umpires could not see the players–due to fog at Chiba Marine Stadium.

Game highlights are HERE.

Marines 5, Eagles 4

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Takahiro Norimoto (2-4) surrendered four runs over two innings to take the loss against Lotte. With one out and two on in the second, the Rakuten starter hustled after a chopper in the infield, but his throw to first went down the right field line for a two-run error.

The Eagles narrowed the gap to 4-3 on a two-run Jabari blash homer in the fourth, but Taiga Hirasawa squeezed home an insurance run for the Marines in the sixth.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Giants 6, Carp 2

At Tokyo Dome, Tomoyuki Sugano (11-5) surrendered a pair of solo home runs over seven innings, and Hayato Sakamoto homered with a man on in the fifth to give Yomiuri the lead for good against Hiroshima.

Game highlights are HERE.

Dragons 1, Tigers 0

At Koshien Stadium, Toshiki Abe homered in the sixth inning, as four Chunichi pitchers combined to shutout Hanshin on six hits.The Tigers have now been shut out 13 times, once by SoftBank and three times by every other CL club except Yakult.

BayStars 7, Swallows 6

At Yokohama Stadium, rookie Yudai Yamamoto’s two-out, two-strike, pinch-hit RBI single lifted DeNA to a sayonara victory over Yakult, preventing their game from ending in a 12-inning tie that would have cost them a half-game in the pennant race.

Wladimir Balentien hit two home runs for the Swallows, giving him 29 for the season and 284 in Japan and moving him out of a tie with Leron Lee for sole possession of fourth-place among foreign hitters.

The BayStars twice came back to tie it. Takayuki Kajitani hit a sixth-inning solo homer and Neftali Soto, who homered in the third, drew his second walk of the game in the eighth inning, allowing pinch-runner Takehiro Ishikawa to score the tying run on Kazuki Kamizato’s single.

NPB games, news of Aug. 27, 2019

Pacific League

Lions 8, Fighters 2

At Kushiro Stadium, Zach Neal (8-1) allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk over six innings, and three relievers faced the minimum over the last three frames as Seibu beat Nippon in a weekday afternoon game. Neal has now won his last seven decisions, the longest streak by a foreign Lions pitcher since Kuo Tai-yuan (Taigen Kaku) won nine straight in 1994.

Here’s Zach Neal’s hero interview, where you can hear him talk about the team win.

Takumi Kuriyama and Hotaka Yamakawa each hit RBI doubles in the Lions’ three-run seventh as the visitors came from behind.

Fighters starter Bryan Rodriguez hurt himself with a two-base error on a pickoff throw that set up a first-inning sac fly, and then missed a shot at an inning-ending double play in the fifth when the Lions tied it.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 5, Marines 2, 10 innings

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Jabari Blash hit two home runs and drove in all five of Rakuten’s runs in a win over Lotte. His 26th, a three-run, 10th-inning shot won it. Leonys Martin tied the game 2-2 in the sixth with his eighth home run.

Central League

Carp 2, Giants 0

At Tokyo Dome, Kris Johnson (9-7) overcame six walks and two hit batsmen to work seven scoreless innings, while Cristopher Mercedes (8-7) was punished for a couple of mistakes, surrendering solo homers to Ryuhei Matsuyama and Alejandro Mejia in Hiroshima’s win over Yomiuri.

Their win moved the third-place Carp to within 5-1/2 games of the league leaders with 22 games left to play.

Each time one of his teammates homered, Johnson had to pitch out of a two-on, no-out jam.

Hard-throwing youngster Atsushi Endo worked the eighth, while lefty Geronimo Franzua was asked to close it out instead of Shota Nakazaki and threw a 1-2-3 ninth.

“I had to keep coming after it. I wasn’t really consistent. Ishi (catcher Yoshiyuki Ishihara) never gave up on me. He kept calling what he thought was the right call and I had to trust him,” Johnson said in the postgame hero interview.

Game highlights are HERE.

BayStars 5, Swallows 3

At Yokohama Stadium, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo lined a good fastball away into center field for a tie-breaking RBI single, and DeNA held on to beat Yakult and stay a half-game ahead of Hiroshima in the CL pennant race.

Munetaka Murakami tied the record for most home runs in a season by a player before his 20th birthday, tying Kazuhiro Kiyohara, who accomplished the feat as a rookie with the Seibu Lions in 1986.


U-18 World Cup team opts for subtle S. Korean entry

Japan’s team to the Under-18 World Cup on Tuesday decided not to wear clothes bearing Japan’s national flag when they travel to South Korea on Wednesday out of consideration for the current tensions between the two nations.

“It’s not a good idea to get people worked up,” National High School Baseball Federation Secretary General Masahiko Takenaka said.

NPB games, news of Aug. 25, 2019

Pacific League

Fighters 6, Buffaloes 1

At Kyocera Dome, Nippon Ham’s Chihiro Kaneko (5-6) survived a scary first inning with big help from his defense, after surrendering three singles, and went on to pitch five scoreless innings in a win over Orix.

The Buffaloes, who entered Sunday’s game leading both leagues in the percent of runners thrown out on the bases 6.1 percent to go with their PL-worst .312 on-base percentage, lost leadoff runner Shuhei Fukuda (caught stealing) for a Japan-worst 14th time. Yuma Mune then was out trying to stretch a single to a double.

The Fighters appeared to get lucky when Masataka Yoshida hit into their shift, but second baseman Ryo Watanabe was playing too far into right field to throw him out at first. With a man on first, Stefen Romero hit a bullet that was gloved, however, for the third out.

Kaneko issued a pair of walks in the third to load the bases with one out for Yoshida, who hit into a double play started by Watanabe who was shifted well towards first.

Buffaloes starter Daichi Takeyasu (3-2) snapped his string of pitching well against teams he hadn’t faced before, giving up five runs, four earned, over 5-1/3 innings in his first game against the Fighters.

Kaneko was pulled after facing his 19th batter, and four relievers allowed a run on three hits the rest of the way.

Former Kintetsu Buffaloes great Ralph Bryant threw out the ceremonial first pitch, a nasty 12-6 curve to Steven Moya, who took a called strike rather swing as is customary in Japan.

Game highlights are HERE.

Marines 4, Hawks 3

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Atsuki Taneichi (7-2) allowed two runs, one earned, while striking out eight as Lotte swept SoftBank for the second time this season.

With Yuki Yanagita as DH, Taisei Makihara took over in center for the Hawks. He threw out a runner at the plate in the fifth to keep the Marines from making it 2-0, and drove in two late runs after Lotte’s Daichi Suzuki capped a three-run seventh with a two-run double.

Taneichi threw 118 pitches. He walked five and allowed four hits as he became the first Marines pitcher to seven wins.

“If you’re going to become an ace pitcher, the pitches you throw after your 100th are critical,” Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi said. “I had planned on having him go out again for the eighth (after 95 pitches through seven).”

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 14, Lions 2

At MetLife Dome, Jabari Blash hit a two-run, first-inning double, and Hideto Asamura hit his eighth home run of the season against his former team, a two-run shot in the fourth, as Rakuten walloped Seibu.

Ren Wada, a mid-season acquisition from the Yomiuri Giants, went 4-for-5 with a double, a triple and three RBIs for the Eagles.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

BayStars 3, Giants 0

At Tokyo Dome, Shota Imanaga (12-5) struck out eight over six innings, and three relievers allowed one hit over the final three innings as DeNA capped its weekends series against Yomiuri with a three-hit shutout.

Tomo Otosaka singled home Tatsuhiro Shibata in the third off former BayStar Shun Yamaguchi (12-3), and tripled in another run in the seventh. Neftali Soto moved into a tie for the CL home run lead with his 32nd, off lefty Kota Nakagawa in the eighth. Yamaguchi allowed two runs over 6-2/3 innings while striking out eight.

BayStars closer Yasuaki Yamasaki earned his 26th save and his first since Aug. 4.

Game highlights are HERE.

Dragons 10, Carp 4

At Nagoya Dome, Toshiki Abe went 3-for-4 with a home run, a double and four RBIs as Chunichi came from two runs down to beat Hiroshima.

Carp starter Allen Kuri (6-7) allowed six runs over 4-2/3 innings to take the loss, while 19-year-old Dragons rookie Takumi Yamamoto (2-3) allowed two runs in the first. He left with one out and the bases loaded in the sixth, but lefty Hiroto Fuku kept the Carp off the board.

Swallows 5, Tigers 1

At Jingu Stadium, two-run, pinch-hit singles by Yuhei Nakamura and Shingo Kawabata lifted Yakult past Hanshin. Swallows star second baseman Tetsuto Yamada left the game after flying out to first in the third inning, but manager Junji Ogawa said there didn’t appear to be any serious problems.

NPB games, news of Aug. 24, 2019

Oh, happy day! The first magic number of the season has arrived and it’s a 20 for the Yomiuri Giants. If they lose a bunch of games, it could disappear, though as I wrote about this past week.

In the eighth inning of the Giants’ game against the second-place BayStars, the announcer filled some air time by announcing that this was a crucial game to win because the Giants’ magic number would not light up unless they won. After their “crucial” win, the Giants have 28 games left to play and a 6-1/2 game lead. Sounds make or break to me, Bill.

The good thing about them having a magic number is that now we no longer have to see daily stories about teams being fired up about preventing them from getting one.

Central League

Giants 8, BayStars 6, 11 innings

At Tokyo Dome, it was the worst of times for Yomiuri’s bullpen, it was the worst of times for DeNA’s bullpen. The BayStars overturned a three-run deficit in the eighth when Kota Nakagawa only threw his fastball in the strike zone and gave up four runs.

With the BayStars leading by a run in the ninth, closer Yasuaki Yamasaki struggled to throw strikes until he walked two and hung an 0-2 splitter to Hayato Sakamoto, who bounced it into left for a game-tying single.

Edwin Escobar (3-4) worked a scoreless 10th but surrendered a two-run pinch-hit sayonara homer to Shingo Ishikawa in the 11th.

Yoshihiro Maru homered twice for the Giants and made a big catch in center, while Alex Guerrero blasted a fat fastball from lefty Kenta Ishida for a two-run shot that put Yomiuri ahead in the fourth. When he homered, Guerrero pointed at the Giants bench as if he’d just won his bet that Ishida would too throw him a fastball and he’d put in the seats.

Game highlights are HERE.

Carp 5, Dragons 4, 10 innings

At Nagoya Dome, back as Hiroshima closer, Shota Nakazaki (3-3) surrendered three runs in the ninth by throwing too many fat pitches in the heart of the zone. The right-hander got the win, however, when Chunichi’s current closer, Toshiya Okada (2-2) snapped his string of scoreless saves at three when Seiya Suzuki doubled and scored in the 10th on a Tsubasa Aizawa single.

Carp rookie Atsushi Endo changed speeds with a good fastball to earn his first career save.

“I’d like to use him in games we’re winning,” Carp manager Koichi Ogata said. “The only question is now whether he can be effective on consecutive days.”

New Carp Academy graduate Juan Santana, starting at second in place of Ryosuke Kikuchi, made a costly error but smashed a two-run single.

Tigers 7, Swallows 4

At Jingu Stadium, Yakult rookie Kengo Tagawa (0-1) allowed six runs in 3-1/3 innings including two on a first-inning home run by Kosuke Fukudome, allowing Yuki Nishi (6-8) to pick up the win despite allowing four runs over five innings.

Thirty-nine-year-old Kyuji Fujikawa struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth to record his ninth save.

Pacific League

Marines 9, Hawks 5

At Zozo Marine Stadium, SoftBank starter Ariel Miranda (6-4) got burned on a good 3-2 fastball at the bottom of the zone that leadoff hitter Takashi Ogino hit for a first-inning home run to tie it. Daichi Suzuki doubled off his next pitch, and then the lefty’s control went out the window. He allowed seven runs over 1-1/3 innings in the loss to Lotte.

Game highlights are HERE.

Lions 6, Eagles 5, 10 innings

At MetLife Dome, Katsunori Hirai, pitching for the sixth time in five days and in his NPB-leading 65th game, surrendered three runs, allowing Rakuten to tie it in the eighth. Seibu won it in the 10th when Takeya Nakamura doubled in Shogo Akiyama with the winning run off Rakuten closer Yuki Matsui (2-6).

Kona Takahashi allowed two runs in 6-1/3 innings with the help of three double plays behind him, while Akiyama homered for the third-straight game.

Game highlights are HERE.

Fighters 7, Buffaloes 1

At Kyocera Dome, Nippon Ham’s Kohei Arihara (13-6) struck out nine in seven innings to leave with a 2-1 lead after Orix’s Andrew Albers (2-3) allowed two runs over five innings. Albers took the loss after the Fighters broke the game open in a five-run ninth.

Game highlights are HERE.

NPB games, news of Aug. 23, 2019

“At this time of the season, how you play means nothing as long as you win”

Seibu Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji after an ugly victory over the Rakuten Eagles

Pacific League

Marines 3, Hawks 0

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Mike Bolsinger (4-4) allowed a run over seven innings, and Seiya Inoue hit a game-breaking eighth-inning homer in Lotte’s win over SoftBank.

Bolsinger, who is our guest on next week’s Japanese Baseball Weekly Podcast, takes part in the hero interview.

Hawks starter Kodai Senga (11- ) gave up three hits to open the second, but escaped with just one run scored on a Brandon Laird sacrifice fly.

The game stayed 1-0 because Leonys Martin threw out a runner at the plate to end the Hawks’ third. It was his third outfield assist in 26 games. Senga pitched out of jams in the fourth and sixth to keep the Marines from making any headway until Inoue clinched the game in the eighth.

Game highlights are HERE.

Lions 8, Eagles 6

At MetLife Dome, Seibu starter Tatsuya Imai allowed six runs over four-plus innings, but reliever Shogo Noda (1-0) bailed the Lions out of a fifth-inning jam, while Hotaka Yamakawa, Fumikazu Kimura, and Shogo Akiyama homered in a win over Rakuten.

Game highlights are HERE.

Buffaloes 6, Fighters 4

At Kyocera Dome, Taisuke Yamaoka (10-3) gave up two runs over six innings, and Masataka Yoshida and Stefen Romero homered in Orix’s win over Nippon Ham.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

BayStars 5, Giants 1

At Tokyo Dome, DeNA’s Katsuki Azuma (4-2) allowed a run over eight innings, while striking out two, while Neftali Soto hit a three-run first-inning homer and veteran Takayuki Kajitani hit a two-run shot in the second in a win over Yomiuri.

Kajitani had shoulder issues this spring and was used primarily as a pinch hitter until May 4, when he was relegated to the minors. On the farm, he’d been hitting like his old self, a .298 average with decent power. He was activated on Friday.

Game highlights are HERE.

Tigers 8, Swallows 3

At Jingu Stadium, Haruto Takahashi (3-5) allowed two runs, one earned over six innings, while striking out nine and walking two as Hanshin beat Yakult. He twice pitched out of one-out, bases-loaded situations, allowing just a run, while rookie Koji Chikamoto gunned down speedster Tetsuto Yamada when he was trying to score from third on a ball to shallow center.

Dragons 4, Carp 1

At Nagoya Dome, Nobumasa Fukuda’s two-out, sixth-inning home run tied it against Daichi Osera (10-7), and four-straight doubles completed a four-run inning in Chunichi’s win over Hiroshima.

Enny Romero (7-9) went six innings to get the win, while Dayan Viciedo went 3-for-4 with two doubles.

Size-mic shift

Just reminded of this by a Twitter post from the indefatigable @NPB_Reddit of the huge shift that took place in Japan in 2005, when among other things, NPB owners decided that they shouldn’t lie as much to the public as had been common practice.

I replied that the official description of attendance figures since 2005 is “realistic.”

Ironically, the move was kicked off by one of the worst perpetrators of fake attendance inflation, the Yomiuri Giants. The team’s owner at the time wanted to do it for two reasons:

  • People would hear TV announcers say the Tokyo Dome’s stated capacity of 55,000 was maxed out every night, and think no tickets were available so they would give up on getting tickets, and…
  • People watching on TV would hear the announcers say Tokyo Dome was sold out with a crowd of 55,000 and wonder why then there were so many empty seats.

Of course, that implies the fans were too dumb to notice that there were seats available. This reflects the general attitude of teams toward their players and customers that really came to a head in the 2004 season, when owners were keen to contract without any dialog with their customers and employees. In the ensuing strife, the owners were somewhat surprised to see the fans backing the players’ strike and applauding the players who were fighting for them against the wishes of the arrogant owners.

Unlike MLB, where visiting teams had for years received a cut of the gate, meaning attendance was counted, NPB home teams, receiving 100 percent of the home gate used attendance figures for public relations.

So how bad was the owners’ inflation attendance? I studied it 25 years ago, comparing All-Star and Japan Series attendance figures — which NPB used to divvy up the profits between the commissioners office and the teams and therefore actually had to count — and the regular season figures announced by the teams.

A clerk at the Seibu Lions told me that Seibu Stadium could hold an announced 50,000 during a holiday regular season game but only 31,883 during a Japan Series game against the Yomiuri Giants that same autumn because:

“The fire department doesn’t allow us to sell tickets during the Japan Series for people to sit on the stairs, so we can’t have crowds that big.

Seibu Lions team staff in 1995

Of course, there’s always the possibility that the Lions had simply been lying in the first place and then lying to cover it up.

Here are the maximum attendances in 2004 and 2005 for the 11 teams that played both seasons following the dismantling of the Kintetsu Buffaloes through its merger with the Orix BlueWave and the creation of the Rakuten Eagles.

LeagueTeamStadium (2004 name)2004 max 2005 max
CLGiantsTokyo Dome55,00046,129
CLTigersKoshien Stadium53,00048,576
CL DragonsNagoya Dome40,50038,300
CL SwallowsJingu Stadium45,00034,162
CL BayStarsYokohama Stadium30,00026,480
CL CarpHiroshima Citizens Stadium30,00030,059
PLLionsSeibu Dome48,00035,234
PLHawksFukuoka Dome48,00035,123
PLFightersSapporo Dome43,00035,156
PLMarinesChiba Marine Stadium35,00028,950
PLBlueWave-BuffaloesKobe (Yahoo BB) Stadium35,00031,681

A few comments are worth making. The Fighters would announce “realistic” crowd figures of around 42,000 starting in 2006, when they won their first pennant in Sapporo, although a team official at the time confided that his team fudged the numbers, and he suspected other teams did, too.

Perhaps the most egregious lie I can find in my data base belongs to the 1962 Toei Flyers, who claimed crowds on the opening weekend from 55,000 to 65,000 at Jingu Stadium. The park’s capacity may have been somewhat larger then, before the outfield grass seating was replaced by bleachers, but at the Japan Series that autumn against the Hanshin Tigers, the Flyers best crowd was 38,733.

It has been reported that the Yomiuri Giants wanted to be “honest” about the Tokyo Dome’s capacity when it opened in 1988, but found it would be hard to explain how they moved into a new park with a smaller capacity. The Giants had been announcing crowds of 50,000 at Korakuen Stadium, which never had a Japan Series crowd larger than 47,452. Tokyo Dome did have a slightly smaller capacity — around 46,500 when it was built, but the Giants couldn’t resist calling it 55,000.

NPB games, news of Aug. 22, 2019

The postgame hero interview is an NPB tradition, where one or more players of the home team or a single player from the visiting team will answer a few sometimes extremely inane questions for the fans.

We can be heroes

The little question and answer session can be silly or routine and occasionally informative, but Thursday’s in Fukuoka may have been the best one I’ve ever witnessed. Here it is in Japanese. The bulk of it is translated below.

Seiichi Uchikawa was first up for hitting the two-out, two-run double that overturned Orix’s 1-0 lead in the fifth inning. He’s followed by starting pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada, and between them the interviewer could barely stop laughing. Last up is Yuki Yanagita, who returned the night before for the first time since April 7 due to a knee injury and homered.

Seiichi Uchikawa

“I didn’t hit the time before with someone on, so I wanted to do something. I think this is normal (to have an RBI opportunity) if one bats behind Yanagita, and I’m glad I could get a result. Considering the condition of Yanagita’s legs, a home run would have been better, since it would have allowed him to walk home, but he still scored from first. So I’m grateful to him for that.”

“Just before my plate appearance I was waiting to use the restroom, and it just so happened I was in line with Wada. I said, ‘Wada-san, I’m going to get a hit.’ And right after that I came up with a runner in scoring position, and my first thought was I shouldn’t have shot my mouth off. But I said it, so I kind of had to do something. And now I’m standing here along with Wada and Yanagita, and I am truly happy.”

Tsuyoshi Wada

“We did have that discussion in the restroom. I was thinking everyone was going to start hitting soon, and then when we were waiting, I was about to say that to him, and he told me he would.”

“(On the bench after his hit) I was going, ‘Woah!’ and we were pointing at each other. It made me think there are is a powerful god occupying our restroom.”

“I have to apologize for giving up that run in the first inning the way I did, but then Uchikawa came through, and then Yanagita hit for me. They gave me courage. There wasn’t anything I could do about the run after I gave it up, so I moved on. I thought that if I can shut them down after that we could come back. I believed in that as pitched.”

“I myself spent a year and a half on rehab when I couldn’t pitch, and when you can’t get into games, it is really frustrating. So to go to the mound and now and see him (Yanagita) on the field, that makes me so happy and is a great motivator for me.”

“Now as Yanagita does his hero interview there should be tears, so please enjoy it.”

Yuki Yanagita

“Yesterday was a one-sided loss so this result is something I was really hoping for. The home run was great, but it was Uchi’s two-run hit that really got me excited. I didn’t think anything (about my knee) and was just focused on scoring to bring us from behind.”

Interviewer: Did you hear the fans calling for you to hit a home run before your fourth plate appearance?
“Loud and clear.”
And that motivated you to go deep?
“I wanted to hit a home run every time I came up. I’m lucky I could hit one if it made the fans happy.

“It was hard (being away). I wanted to come back as soon as I could and play ball again.”

Interviewer: I think I have to apologize to Wada-san for not drawing any tears.

Pacific League

Hawks 5, Buffaloes 1

At Yafuoku Dome, SoftBank’s Tsuyoshi Wada (4-2) allowed a run after Orix captain Shuhei Fukuda led off the game with a triple, but allowed precious little after that through six innings.

Chang Yi (2-1) pitched out of a dangerous spot in the third by getting Seiichi Uchikawa to pop up but threw a 1-0 fastball down the pipe to him in the fifth that Uchikawa drove to center and hit the wall on a hop. Uchikawa scored on a Yurisbel Gracial double, and Yanagita hit his fifth home run in the seventh.

Rookie Hiroshi Kaino, lefty Livan Moinelo each threw a scoreless inning, and with Softbank leading by four, manager Kimiyasu Kudo brought in closer Yuito Mori to end it after not pitching the previous two days.

Game highlights are HERE.

Fighters 5, Lions 3

At MetLife Dome, Ryo Watanabe and Kotaro Kiyomiya each hit two-run home runs, Kiyomiya’s his second in two days, as Nippon Ham came from a run down to beat Seibu. A day after earning his right to file for free agency this winter, Shogo Akiyama opened the scoring with his 16th home run.

Side-arm right-hander Ryo Akiyoshi, who was traded to Nippon Ham after failing to produce last year, reached 20 saves for the first time in his career.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 8, Marines 5, 10 innings

At Tokyo Dome, Eigoro Mogi and Jabari Blash each homered for the second-straight day, but Rakuten needed four more runs in the 10th inning, three on a Hiroaki Shimauchi home run to win it after Lotte tied it 4-4 in the second inning.

Lotte leadoff man Takashi Ogino, whose career was derailed at the start by a serious knee injury after he stole 25 bases in his first 46 career games, became the 77th player in NPB history with 200 career steals. His 27th steal of the season surpassed his previous career high of 26.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Dragons 7, Giants 4

At Nagoya Dome, Dayan Viciedo’s third-inning, two-run homer made it 4-1 and Chunichi cruised past Yomiuri with the help of a four-run fourth, in which Taylor Jungmann (3-4) threw a wild pitch out for the ages.


Swallows 8, Carp 4, 7 innings, rain

At Mazda Stadium, Yakult rookie Munetaka Murakami became the second player under 20 to hit 30 home runs in Japan and increased his league-leading RBI total to 85 the highest total in NPB history for a teenager, in a win over Hiroshima that was saved by the rain after back-to-back games in which the Swallows blew leads.

Tigers 8, BayStars 0

At Kyocera Dome, Hanshin’s Atsushi Mochizuki (1-0) allowed three hits over six innings, and three relievers completed the three-hit shutout to wrap up a three-game sweep of DeNA. Kosuke Fukudome capped a three-run third inning with a two-run home run, his seventh.