NPB games, news of Sept. 30, 2019

Tigers have their cake and eat it, too

The Hanshin Tigers booked a spot in the playoffs by winning their sixth-straight game on Monday, beating the Chunichi Dragons 3-0 at Koshien Stadium in the final game of Japan’s regular season.

Not only did they win their sixth-straight elimination game, but they found room to play departing veteran Takashi Toritani two innings at shortstop and give longtime reliever Akifumi Takahashi a place in the limelight.

In his speech to the fans, first-year manager Akihiro Yano promised that the Tigers would do their best to inspire Japan the way the national rugby team had been doing in the Rugby World Cup currently taking place across Japan.

The Tigers got a boost when Dragons starter Yudai Ono was pulled with one out in the fourth inning, having lowered his ERA to 2.58 so he could lead the league in ERA.

Ono, who no-hit Hanshin on Sept. 14, saw his ERA against the Tigers this season improve to 1.35. Ono is 3-0 against the Tigers, 6-8 with a 2.94 ERA against everyone else. Ono got a big ovation from the Tigers fans, although some of them may have been cheering the fact that his exit gave their team a better chance to win.

And as if on cue, his replacement, Takuya Mitsuma (2-2), surrendered an infield single and a walk.

Yusuke Oyama put a good compact swing on a 2-2 shoot inside with good run on it that caught too much of the plate. He smashed it up the middle to break the scoreless deadlock. A two-out wild pitch made it 2-0 Tigers.

Here’s Oyama’s RBI single.

Tigers side-armer Koyo Aoyagi (9-9) struck out five over five scoreless innings. He was pulled for pinch-hitter Hiroki Uemoto in the bottom of the fifth and Uemoto singled in an insurance run.

With a three-run lead, the Tigers began honoring their players. A day after Randy Messenger faced one batter in the final career game of his 10-year Tigers career, reliever Akifumi Takahashi faced one batter in his final regular season game. He received flowers from Ono and teammate Kosuke Fukudome, who had been his teammate with Chunichi as well.

Takashi Toritani, who will leave the Tigers at the end of the season, pinch-hit in the seventh and played the last two innings at his old position.

Here’s Toritani’s reception as pinch-hitter.

Kyuji Fujikawa, who at season’s start appeared like he was on that same road for disappearing veterans, continued his remarkable turnaround as closer. The 39-year-old converted his 16th-straight save opportunity since the club began using him in that role on July 26.

The Tigers’ win eliminated the Hiroshima Carp from the postseason for the first time since 2015. Hanshin’s next job will be the first stage of the CL Climax Series. The best-of-three series begins on Saturday at Yokohama.

By winning six-straight elimination games to reach the playoffs, the Tigers surpassed the feat of the 2010 Lotte Marines, who had to win their final three regular season games. They went on to become the first NPB team to win the Japan Series after finishing third in their league. Hanshin’s path was considerably more difficult, however, since they would not even have gotten to the elimination games had they not won their three games before it became do or die. Those wins, coupled with Hiroshima’s loss

The game highlights are HERE.

NPB games, news of Sept. 29, 2019

Tigers have it both ways

The Hanshin Tigers on Sunday found a way to honor Randy Messenger, who is retiring with 98 career wins over 10 seasons, and bring their drive to the postseason down to the final game of the regular season.

Sure, it’s only third place and a spot as the visiting team in the Climax Series’ first stage, but a lot of people were blown away when the 2010 Lotte Marines won their final three games to sneak into the playoffs — only to run the table and walk off with the Japan Series championship.

The Tigers’ road requires six-straight wins, and three of the first four were shutouts.

Tigers 6, Dragons 3

At Koshien Stadium, Naomasa Yokawa broke a scoreless fifth-inning tie with a pinch-hit home run off Yuya Yanagi (6-8) and Hanshin took a 6-0 lead into the ninth. Kyuji Fujikawa, who has been solid as Tiger closer in the second half, allowed three runs in the ninth.

Game highlights are HERE.

Leaving a ‘Big Mess’

Randy Messenger notched his 1,475th career strikeout to open the first inning, and walked off the mound at Koshien to a thunderous standing ovation.

After the game, the Tigers held a retirement ceremony, when Messenger addressed the crowd.

“It’s hard to believe 21 years have gone by so quickly, especially the 10 years here with the Tigers. It’s been a great experience. I’d like to thank the Tigers for giving me the opportunity to spend my whole career being a Tiger. Playing here has been and outstanding journey for me and my family.”

“I will never forget anybody who helped me along the way in my career. So many people have helped me become the baseball player I am today. I want to say thank you to my coaches, my teammates, the training staff, everybody who’s been a part of this organization. Arigato.”

“And thank you for going to battle with me. It’s been a hell of a journey. I want to thank my mom and my dad, my family and friends for all the support you’ve given me in my career.”

“Thank my beautiful wife, Vanessa. You are my rock. You have always been there. You pushed me to be the best on and off the field.”

“You are an amazing wife and mother to our four awesome kids, Francesca, Colette, Rome, and Roland. Tigers fans, thank her as well. Without her I would not have accomplished so much. Thank you Ness.”

“And to all the Tigers fans all over the world. Thank you for the support through good and bad times. Your passion is tremendous.”
“Playing here 10 years has been incredible. I will never ever forget it. From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much.”

“Players can only dream of the amount of support you’ve given me. There will always be a special place in my heart for all the Tigers fans who have ever supported me.”

“As an athlete, you never want this day to come. You want to play forever. Now that this day is upon us, I say so long until the next time we meet again.”

After his speech from the mound Messenger received bouquets of flowers from a number of Tigers players and one each from his four children and a final one from his wife, who got an impressive Hollywood-worthy kiss as the crowd roared.

His teammates surrounded him on the mound and gave performed the celebratory “doage” toss, throwing him in the air repeatedly as the fans cheered before he walked around Koshien as fans showered him with streamers that are usually reserved for winning championships.

Great way to use all this stuff

I loved everything about the ceremony and the speech, but it made me wonder if the whole foul up with Takashi Toritani wasn’t the result of a front office mix-up, where someone jumped the gun and bought and paid for all the supplies they’d need to produce a first-class retirement ceremony before anyone was certain he actually wanted to retire.

In that scenario, someone has to inform the team president that having already spent all this money, it might be a good idea if they had a player to hold a ceremony for. This would explain the team going to Toritani out of the blue and telling him it was time to retire. Was all that production money spent on Messenger’s wonderful sendoff actually spent for Toritani?

I’m not saying this did happen, but if it did, it wouldn’t be the dumbest story I’ve heard coming out of a Japanese front office.

Pacific League

Buffaloes 5, Hawks 1

At Kyocera Dome, last-place Orix proved it could count to six as the Buffaloes gave starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto the six innings he needed to qualify — and win — the PL ERA title in their season-ending win over SoftBank.

News

PL attendance up 3.1 percent

NPB announced Sunday that the final PL attendance figures showed a 3.1 percent increase in announced attendance compared to 2018, with every team increasing except for the Nippon Ham Fighters, who saw a 1.3 percent drop.The Orix Buffaloes saw an 8.2 percent increase, while the Rakuten Eagles were next best at 7.0 percent.

NPB games, news of Sept. 28, 2019

The Hanshin Tigers have earned the right to play at least one more meaningful game after crushing the DeNA BayStars to stay alive in the Central League playoff race.

Central League

Tigers 7, BayStars 0

At Yokohama Stadium, Yuki Nishi threw five scoreless innings and four relievers kept DeNA on the backfoot in the BayStars’ last regular season game. If the Tigers win two more, they’ll be back in Yokohama next Saturday, otherwise DeNA will be seeing red when the Hiroshima Carp visit for the best-of-three CL climax series first stage.

Swallows 2, Giants 1, 10 innings

At Jingu Stadium, Yomiuri’s Shun Yamaguchi took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, but the only thing meaningful about this game was Shinnosuke Abe getting a rousing farewell from Giants and Swallows fans alike.

Pacific League

Hawks 3, Buffaloes 3, 12 innings

At Kyocera Dome, Rick van den Hurk allowed three runs over six innings in a postseason warm-up for SoftBank in an otherwise meaningless game that ended in a meaningless 12-inning tie.

I don’t mean to by nasty, but these are makeup games that have no bearing on anything. Call them nine inning ties. Instead of more baseball, let the fans come down to the front row of the stadium and meet the players in the teams’ final games of the year. Let them ask for autographs and take pictures and shake hands, instead of pretending the game result is important as opposed to an obligation.

NPB games, news of Sept. 26, 2019

The Hiroshima Carp lost their chance to cruise into the playoffs on Friday, while it was a farewell night for Kensuke Tanaka in Sapporo and a preview farewell for Shinnosuke Abe, where he was honored at Tokyo Dome ahead of similar celebrations certain to follow in the postseason.

Central League

Dragons 4, Carp 1

At Mazda Stadium, Takuya Kinoshita doubled in the tie-breaking run in Chunichi’s three-run seventh and scored on Naomichi Donoue’s two-run pinch-hit homer to beat Hiroshima in the day’s only meaningful game.

Hiroto Fuku pitched the Dragons out of a two-out, two-on jam in the eighth by striking out Ryuhei Matsuyama.

The Dragons’ win gave them a chance to clinch the CL’s final playoff spot if they can win their final three games.

Giants 6, BayStars 4

At Tokyo Dome, Shinnosuke Abe hit a game-tying homer in his final regular-season game at Tokyo Dome as Yomiuri beat DeNA in what could be a preview of the CL Climax Series final stage if the BayStars win the first stage at home against either the Carp or Tigers.

Abe’s home run was off a straight inside 2-1 fastball from Koo Nakagawa, not quite the batting-practice cookie that some players get in their farewell games, but Abe is still a quality hitter and had little trouble knocking it 20 rows back into the right field stands.

Game highlights are HERE.

Pacific League

Buffaloes 5, Fighters 1

At Sapporo Dome, Kensuke Tanaka wrapped up his career by breaking up a shutout with his second hit, an RBI single as Nippon Ham wrapped up its season with a loss to Orix.

Taisuke Yamaoka (13-4) allowed nine hits over the distance.

Game highlights are HERE.

Giants fans share the love for Abe

Here is a segment of Shinnosuke Abe’s postgame press conference.

Abe: “The Giants went to so much trouble for this day. I am so appreciative.”

How did you feel when the crowd roared as you were announced at catcher?

Abe: “At that instant I was speaking to Mr. Nagashima (his first manager Hall of Famer and Giants legend Shigeo Nagashima). He said, ‘Congratulations’ and even just that little bit thrilled me.”

“It was about like I expected (at catcher) though it was the first time since the preseason. I experienced everything a catcher does, including taking a real foul tip off my body.”

You got to catch (Scott) Mathieson to open the game. (Abe had mentored Mathieson in the ways of Japanese baseball and the right-hander responded by becoming a polished pitcher.)

Abe: “I felt like it was fate for us.”

When Hirokazu Sawamura took the mound as the second pitcher, you went out to the mound all of a sudden. (Abe famously had gone to the mound in the 2012 Japan Series to call the pitcher an idiot after he threw the wrong pitch).

Abe: “You know, a wide issue in society now is that of abuse of power (‘power harassment’ in Japanese). I thought with the way things are doing that again would not be permissible. I thought about it and went out to the mound without smacking him.”

“I thought today in the farewell ceremony I’d cry like an idiot, but (when the end does come) in the Climax Series or the Japan Series, I think I’ll cry plenty then.”

NPB games, news of Sept. 25, 2019

News

Former big leaguer Takatsu to manage Swallows

For the third time in recent years, the Yakult Swallows have turned to a man with experience running their farm team to manage their Central League team, according to a story published by Kyodo News.

Fifty-year-old Shingo Takatsu will succeed Junji Ogawa, who called an end to his second stint as the birds’ manager after finishing last this season. Ogawa, a former farm manager, was promoted to manager after Shigeru Takada quit. Ogawa, who led the Swallows to the playoffs three times in seven years, was replaced in 2015 by another farm manager, Mitsuru Manaka, who won the league that year and served for three seasons.

Takatsu becomes the second former Japanese major leaguer to run a top-level club in Japan after Tadahito Iguchi. So Taguchi has managed in the minors for the Orix Buffaloes, while Kazuo Matsui managed the Seibu Lions’ Eastern League club starting this season.

Under Takatsu, the Eastern League Swallows finished fifth in the seven-team EL this season.

Takatsu saved 286 games, second most in NPB, over 17 seasons. He pitched two seasons in the majors, another in South Korea and another in Taiwan. He also served as a player manager in the independent BC League.

Pacific League

Eagles 7, Lions 1

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Takahiro Norimoto pitched well in the season finale for both clubs, and Hideto Asamura hit his 33rd home run, tying Jabari Blash for the team home run lead, and finishing the regular season with 11 homers against his former club and 22 against the rest of NPB.

Sendai native and injury-plagued right-hander Yoshinori Sato finished the game in his debut with the Eagles, his first game since leaving Yakult over the winter.

Game highlights are HERE.

Fighters 4, Buffaloes 1

At Sapporo Dome, two teams with nothing to play for played, with former MVP Mitsuo Yoshikawa finishing up on the mound for Nippon Ham with 2-1/3 scoreless innings.

Game highlights are HERE.

Fighters skipper Kuriyama to quit

The Nikkan Sports reported Wednesday that Hideki Kuriyama (58) has told the Nippon Ham Fighters that he will step down after managing the club after eight seasons due to poor results.

The club will finish fifth in the PL for the second time since the Fighters won the league and the Japan Series in 2016.

The Nikkan Sports said the story was confirmed by sources close to the skipper, who is expected to meet with the team president when the season ends and make a formal declaration at that time.

Both Kuriyama’s managing and his situation within the Fighters’ organization have been outliers in Japanese baseball. He is the one credited with offering Shohei Ohtani the chance to both pitch and hit as an 18-year-old in 2013, and this year became the first Japanese manager to employ a regular opener and the first in decades to employ extreme defensive shifts.

Before he was promoted to be Fighters General Manager, Hiroshi Yoshimura said it was extremely hard for the Fighters to find a suitable manager, because the team’s system goes against the grain of Japanese baseball tradition, where the manager (unless he is a foreigner working for Hiroshima or Orix) has final say over player personnel decisions and draft picks.

That system evolved after the club’s move to Sapporo in 2004 through the aegis of chief executive Toshimasa Shimada, General Manager Shigeru Takada and manager Trey Hillman.

“It’s not easy for us to find a manager,” Yoshimura said. “Because Japanese managers are used to getting their way.”

Yoshimura’s words proved prophetic over the winter of 2011-2012 in Yokohama, where Shigeru Takada imported elements of Nippon Ham’s front office management style when he moved to become BayStars GM. Kimiyasu Kudo turned down the DeNA job because he would not have full control, and they instead turned to Kiyoshi Nakahata.

Being the Nippon Ham Fighters manager means access to an analytic team that is very strong by Japan standards, and players who are trained and developed the way the organization sees fit.

Being something of an iconoclast and also someone who sees himself as an innovator who takes novel ideas and runs with them Kuriyama sometimes gets into trouble with old-school guys.

Pitching coach Masato Yoshii quit the Fighters after the 2012 season because of Kuriyama’s desire to use pitcher Yuki Saito on the first team when he was not good enough for the farm team.

Asked about it afterward, Yoshii said he left because, “I wanted to be on a team with a manager who wants to win.”

Yoshii returned four years later but quit last autumn, reportedly over Kuriyama’s decision to employ “short starters,” pitchers who would start and only go through the opposing order once or twice depending on their ability.

The Nikkan Sports story said the organization sees the team’s results as a failure of player development — an area technically beyond Kuriyama’s reach.

NPB games, news of Sept. 24, 2019

And then there were 2 (undecided playoff spots)

Tuesday started with five playoff spots still undecided, but with two games featuring all four Pacific League playoff and pennant aspirants, things got settled in a hurry as the Seibu Lions knocked the Lotte Marines out of the postseason, while clinching the pennant after the Rakuten Eagles locked up third place by knocking the SoftBank Hawks out of pennant contention.

“A lot was said about our pitching,” Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji said after his team clinched with a league-worst 4.31 ERA. “But the closer we got to the finish line, the better it got.”

The Lions have now won back-to-back pennants while finishing last in ERA. The only other team to do so was the 2001 Kintetsu Buffaloes.

Pacific League

Lions 12, Marines 4

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Lotte’s Kota Futaki (7-10) threw a string of poor pitches up in the zone and got hammered, while Zach Neal (12-1) allowed three runs, one earned, while not issuing a walk for the fourth-straight game.

Shogo Akiyama, who’s said he’s bound for the major leagues after the season ends, broke the game open with a three-run, second-inning triple.

The Lions will wrap up their season on Thursday in a now meaningless game in Sendai against the Eagles, who locked up third place and the final playoff spot. The Lions will host the final stage of the PL Climax Series at MetLife Dome on Oct. 9. They will play the winners of the best-of-three first stage in Fukuoka between the Hawks and Eagles starting on Oct. 5.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 4, Hawks 2

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Zelous Wheeler’s 19th home run, a two-run shot, overcame a 1-0 deficit against Kodai Senga (13-9) and Rakuten overcame a tense ninth before closer Yuki Matsui got the final out against SoftBank.

Wheeler gave a typically laconic hero interview HERE.

With both Senga and Eagles starter Manabu Mima proved adept at pitching out of jams, with Mima making a couple of big fielding plays to hold the Hawks to a run over five innings on Alfredo Despaigne’s 34th home run.

Matsui came close to blowing a three-run lead in the ninth but held on for his 38th save.

Game highlights are HERE.

Fighters 3, Buffaloes 1

At Kyocera Dome, Chihiro Kaneko, who left Orix in a contract dispute improved to 5-0 against his former team with five scoreless innings lowering the Buffaloes’ former ace’s ERA against them this season to 0.49 over 37 innings.

Tyler Eppler worked two innings of relief for the Buffaloes, striking out five. Here’s the video of his 1-2-3 fifth against the heart of the Fighters order.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Tigers 5, Giants 0

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin stayed alive in the hunt for a playoff spot as five pitchers combined on a six-hit shutout of league champion Yomiuri. The Tigers trail the third-place Carp by 1-1/2 games. Hanshin has three games remaining, Hiroshima one, but none against each other.

Game highlights are HERE.

BayStars 7, Dragons 1

At Nagoya Dome, Toshiro Miyazaki hit a three-run first-inning home run as DeNA came close to locking up second place while eliminating Chunichi from playoff contention.

With the exception of the 2004 to 2006 PL seasons and those seasons in the 1970s and 80s when the PL had a first-half/second-half championship playoff, Japan’s regular season has decided the league pennants. Since the Central League appropriated the PL playoff system in 2007, the playoffs have only served to select which team from each league plays in the Japan Series.

Abe to call it quits

Shortly after hitting his 405th career home run on Monday night, Shinnosuke Abe told his Yomiuri Giants teammates that this would be his final season.

The 40-year-old had hoped to return to catching this year, but was physically unable and has largely been consigned to pinch-hitting duties. The popular Abe will cruise through the Hall of Fame voting and could conceivably be a unanimous selection.

In his career, Abe won one CL MVP award in 2012, nine Best Nine Awards and four Golden Gloves.

The “8” man

Scott Mathieson told me a great Shinnosuke Abe story about two years ago, and something I saw the other day reminded me of it and what a presence Abe was for the Giants.

A pitcher was in trouble and Abe was playing first base. When pitching coach Kazutomo Miyamoto went to the mound, the infield gathered around, and from the camera angle, you could see that Abe was doing all the talking. Never saw anything like that before.

“He’s a genius when it comes to baseball,” Mathieson told the Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast in July 2017. “It’s fun to be able to sit down and talk baseball with someone as knowledgable as him.”

“Still, when he’s playing first base and I’m pitching, he’ll yell at me and give me hints. He tells me ’80 percent’ all the time,” Mathieson said.

The 80 percent came from when Abe first caught Mathieson and was a technique to keep him from overthrowing or trying to do too much, that 80 percent of his best was good enough.

“He draws it (a figure eight) with his hand. Now it makes me laugh. But it’s him telling me to stay within myself.”

NPB games of Sept. 23, 2019

It was not the best of pitches or the best of swings, but Ernesto Mejia was able to launch an inside fastball from Alan Busenitz where the Eagles outfielders weren’t, his two-out, bases-loaded fly landing just out of reach for a game-breaking three-run double on Monday.

On Japan’s national holiday celebrating the autumnal equinox, the Seibu Lions’ pennant push was in danger of achieving a dangerous equilibrium. With three games left to finish, they were tied 2-2 in the eighth inning with a one-game lead over the SoftBank Hawks, who were approaching the end of their game an 8-0 whipping of the Orix Buffaloes.

Mejia’s double, his second game breaker against the Eagles in four days following his walk-off home run on Friday, lifted the Lions to a 5-3 win after two-straight losses in Sendai.

For the Lions, whose starting pitchers entered the game with a 4.65 ERA, Keisuke Honda gave them their fourth strong start in five games, cruising through six innings before surrendering a two-run Jabari Blash homer in the seventh that tied it.

Three two-out walks by Busenitz (4-3) brought Mejia to the plate, and the big Venezuelan made contact. Here’s his hero interview.

Hideto Asamura, who singled and scored on Blash’s 33rd home run, hit his 32nd in the ninth off Tatsushi Masuda, who recorded his career-high 30th game.

Middle relief ace Katsunori Hirai, pitching in his PL-record 80th game, worked a 1-2-3 eighth two days after blowing up Saturday’s game after seven scoreless innings from Starter Tatsuya Imai. Hirai’s 80 games ties him for second all-time with Kyuji Fujikawa, who pitched in 80 games for the Hanshin Tigers in 2005. The NPB record is 90, set by the Tigers’ Tomoyuki Kubota in 2007.

“Last time, I was the one who cost us and let them come from behind,” Hirai said. “It’s inexcusable to make the same mistake twice. They beat me, so I wanted to get return the favor.”

Game highlights are HERE.

Hawks 8, Buffaloes 0

At Kyocera Dome, Keizo Kawashima tripled to open the game, scoried on a Kenta Imamiya single, and Alfredo Despaigne capped the inning with a two-run homer as SoftBank overran Orix.

Andrew Albers (2-6) allowed five runs over two innings to take the loss. Rei Takahashi (12-5) started and went seven innings for the Hawks. Despaigne’s homer was his 35th, while Cuban compatriot Yurisbel Gracial hit his 28th.

Game highlights are HERE.

Marines 6, Fighters 1

At Zozo Marine Stadium, a must-win game for Lotte’s pennant hopes was used as Kazuya Fukuura’s retirement game, and the 42-year-old went out in style. Although he went hitless, he took over first base for the final inning and dove to spear a low line drive for the final out.

It was the last game in Chiba for retiring Fighters infielder Kensuke Tanaka, who was given quite a send off by the opposing fans.

“I’m so grateful to the Lotte fans for singing my cheer song during each of my at-bats,” said Tanaka, who received bouquets of flowers Lotte’s Brandon Laird and Hiromi Oka, both former Fighters teammates.

“Oka was just balling his head off, and that put me on the verge of tears.”

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Carp 4, Dragons 3, 10 innings

At Mazda Stadium, Dayan Viciedo tied the game 3-3 with a two-run, ninth-inning home run off Geronimo Franzua, but Hiroshima’s Tsubasa Aizawa sealed a painful loss for Chunichi with a 10th-inning sayonara single.

The Dragons fell 2-1/2 games back of the Carp, who occupy the CL’s final playoff spot in third place. Chunichi still has five games left to play.

Giants 9, Swallows 5

At Jingu Stadium, Yomiuri beat Yakult in a meaningles game in which Shinnosuke Abe hit his 405th career home run, moving him past Norihiro Nakamura into sole possession of the 18th spot on NPB’s all-time career list.

News

Lions open MetLife Dome for public viewing

The Seibu Lions announced they will open MetLife Dome on Tuesday to fans wishing to watch the Lions’ game against the Marines at Zozo Marine Stadium. There will be no admission to the public viewing.

If the Lions fail to clinch the pennant on Tuesday, another public viewing event will be held on Thursday for Seibu’s regular season finale in Sendai against the Eagles.

NPB games, news of Sept. 22, 2019

The Seibu Lions’ pennant express has made an unexpected stop at the magic number three marker on Sunday, as the SoftBank Hawks held on to beat the Orix Buffaloes and the Lions lost for the second straight day in Sendai to the Rakuten Eagles.

The Eagles, who have never reached the postseason in an even-numbered year, remained 1-1/2 games ahead of the Lotte Marines in the race for the PL’s final playoff spot.

Mori gets it done for Hawks

Yuito Mori’s up-and-down season as SoftBank’s closer had one of its high points on Sunday, when he recorded the final four outs and earned his 35th save in the Hawks’ 6-5 win over the Buffaloes at Kyocera Dome.

The Buffaloes made things interesting against the Hawks’ pen in the seventh, when trailing 6-3, Jumpei Takahashi retired one batter before walking the next two.

Livan Moinelo gave up a two-run double to Yuma Mune, but then surrendered an RBI single to Stefen Romero and loaded the bases with two outs for slugger Steven Moya. Moinelo, however, got Moya to chase a 3-2 curve out of the zone to end the inning.

Shota Takeda started the bottom of the eighth for the Hawks, but left with one out and a runner on third and Mune coming to the plate. Mori just needed to cutters up in the zone to get an easy ground out and preserve the lead. In the ninth, Mori fell behind the first three batters he faced. After walking the dangerous Masataka Yoshida, who had tied the game 2-2 in the first with his 27th home run, Mori popped up Stefen Romero on a 2-1 cutter before getting out of the inning on a little liner from Keita Nakgawa.

Yuki Yanagita singled twice and tripled, scored a run and drove in two, while Yurisbel Gracial homered, scored two and walked two.

Game highlights are HERE.

Heroic

Mori’s post-game hero interview was a masterpiece of meaningless answers to dumb questions.

  • Tough game wasn’t it? How did you feel entering the eighth with that runner in scoring position?
  • Mori: “I was determined not to let him score, do a good job so the team would win.”
  • You got out of the eighth, then came the ninth. How was that?
  • Mori: “I’m glad we won.”
  • This is your 35th save. How do you feel going to the mound as the closer?
  • Mori: “I go to the mound only trying to do a good job that helps the team win. My individual numbers are irrelevant.”
  • Today it seemed like the position players and pitchers all worked together to get the win.
  • Mori: “Yes. It’s a good thing we won.”
  • A few days ago your third child was born. This is save is a good present for your new baby, isn’t it?
  • Mori: “Yes. Thank you very much.”
  • Your team can’t afford to lose and with today’s win, you narrowed Seibu’s lead to a game.
  • Mori: “Yes. Now we want to do our jobs well and win all our remaining games. I will pitch with all my strength.”

Eagles 7, Lions 5

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Hideto Asamura and Ginji Akaminai each drove in three runs for Rakuten as Seibu starter Daiki Enokida allowed five runs in five innings. It was the first time a Lions starter had allowed a run in four games.

Seibu being Seibu, the Lions got home runs from Tomoya Mori, his 23rd, Takeya Nakamura, his 30th, and Shuta Tonosaki, his 26th.

Game highlights are HERE.

Marines 4, Fighters 0

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Atsuki Taneichi (8-2) worked eight scoreless innings as Lotte handed Nippon Ham its 14th shut out loss of the season.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Swallows 10, Giants 3

At Jingu Stadium, Yakult smacked around Yomiuri in a meaningless game a night after the Giants clinched the pennant, allowing Swallows starter Masanori Ishikawa (8-6) to collect his 171st career victory.

Tigers 3, BayStars 0

At Koshien Stadium, seven Hanshin pitchers combined on a six-hitter of DeNA, with evergreen 39-year-old Kyuji Fujikawa earning his 15th save.