All posts by Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

NPB news: July 12, 2024

On Friday, we had a pitching gem from Hiroto Takahashi, another solid effort from Carter Stewart Jr, come-back wins from the Carp and Giants, a disappointing loss after the Buffaloes literally dropped the ball, a barn-burner in Hokkaido, and the first loss for an impressive rookie.

Friday’s games:

Dragons 3, Tigers 0: At Nagoya Dome, Hiroto Takahashi (6-1) struck out 11 over eight innings while walking two and allowing three hits. A day after blowing a save in Yokohama, Raidel Martinez saved his NPB-leading 27th game.

Shoki Murakami (3-6) gave up three runs in the second on back-to-back no-out doubles from Hiroki Fukunaga and Shuhei Takahashi and a two-run homer from Seiya Hosokawa, but retired 17 of the next 19 batters he would face.

Eagles 3, Lions 2: At Miyagi Stadium, new Lion Daiju Nomura singled in two runs to tie it 2-2 in the seventh inning off Takahisa Hayakawa (6-3), who got the win after former Lion Hideto Asamura homered to open the seventh off previously unbeaten rookie Natsuki Takeuchi (5-1).

Yuya Ogo singled in the ice-breaking run in Rakuten’s two-run sixth. Tomohito Sakai and Takahiro Norimoto each worked a scoreless inning to wrap it up with Norimoto earning his 19th save.

Carp 4, Swallows 3: At New Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, Shogo Akiyama scored twice and broke a 3-3 fifth-inning tie with his third home run, and Kaito Kozono went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs as Hiroshima twice came from behind against Masanori Ishikawa (1-2). Hiroshima lefty Hiroki Tokoda (8-5) allowed three runs over six innings, and four relievers kept Yakult off the board, finishing with an 11-pitch ninth as Ryoji Kuribayashi recorded his 23rd save.

Marines 1, Buffaloes 0: At Chiba Marine Stadium, Kazuya Ojima (7-6) escaped a couple of tight spots to work seven innings and closer Naoya Masuda pitched out of a jam to secure his 14th save.

Lotte opened the scoring after a two-out fly was not caught in left, and Orix starter Ryuhei Sotani (5-4) was late to cover first as Akito Takabe reached on an RBI infield single. Sotani allowed an unearned run over 6-2/3 innings while striking out six and walking two.

Yuma Tongu led off Orix’s ninth with a single. Pinch-runner Haruto Watanabe took two bases on Masuda’s wild pitch when catcher Toshiya Sato couldn’t find the ball with one out.

Giants 3, BayStars 2: At Tokyo Ugly Dome, Kazuma Okamoto hit his Japan-leading 16th home run in the second inning against Andre Jackson. Keita Sano singled and scored the tying run in the fourth and doubled in the go-ahead run off Shosei Togo in the fifth. Yoshihiro Maru tied it in the eighth when he led off with his eighth home run. Taisei Ota (1-1) took out the bottom of the DeNA order in the ninth, Takumi Oshiro doubled to open the home half and Gakuto Wakabayashi singled to end it.

Hawks 5, Fighters 3, 12 innings: At Kitahiroshima Taxpayers Burden Field, former Fighter Kensuke Kondo ripped a two-out, two-run 12th-inning single to lift SoftBank over Nippon Ham after both

SoftBank scratched out a fifth-inning run against Takayuki Kato. Carter Stewart Jr. did not allow a hit through 4-2/3 innings, but surrendered the lead with no outs in the sixth on a Shun Mizutani double and Chusei Mannami‘s 10th home run. Stewart struck out 10 over seven innings, and the Hawks tied it 2-2 on Ryoya Kurihara‘s eighth-inning RBI double. Home runs in the 10th by the Hawks’ Tatsuru Yanagimachi and the Fighters’ Kazunari Ishii kept this one going. After Kondo gave the Hawks the lead in the 12th, pinch-hitter Daiki Asama hit his first homer in two years to open Nippon Ham’s last at-bat. An Ishii walk and a sacrifice put the tying run on second, but right-hander Koya Fujii survived to earn his first save in two years.

In addition to surrendering home run to the first batter he faced in the 10th, Fighters closer Seigi Tanaka also plunked umpire Kenichi Umeki with a 152-kph fastball on the right arm, which was taped up by a Fighters trainer allowing play to resume.

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NPB and the authoritarian impulse

Nippon Professional Baseball, as the umbrella organization of the 12 franchises who operate Japan’s major league teams and 12 of the minor league teams in Japan’s Eastern and Western leagues. Its sole job is to ensure quality control by setting the boundaries within which teams operate, officiating games, and keeping records.

And while all 12 teams and Japan’s game as a whole would benefit from greater quality control and universal coordinated action, NPB tends to leave things up to the teams to do as they like, often to the detriment of the entire product.

If owners really wanted what was best for the fans and for their businesses’ overall success, they would work together to remake NPB, but each team’s parent company, especially in the better established Central League, can barely see beyond its own short-term interests.

When a central authority leaves quality control questions to the decisions of local interests, it is abdicating a principle responsibility and opening the door for bad actors, and it is never a surprise when those bad actors are the ones urging the loosening of central authority.

Continue reading NPB and the authoritarian impulse