The Rakuten Eagles’ pennant and playoff hopes were dealt a blow Tuesday when manager/general manager Kazuhisa Ishii revealed left-handed closer Yuki Matsui is no closer to taking the mound than he was on Aug. 25 when he was deactivated due to pain in his right thigh, Daily Sports reported.
The Eagles, who signed former New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka prior to camp, are in fourth place as they seek their first Pacific League pennant since Tanaka’s 2013 MVP season when he went 24-0 and earned the save when they clinched the Japan Series in Game 7 against the Yomiuri Giants.
Asked when Matsui is expected to pitch in a real game, Ishii said, “We still don’t know at all when that will happen. Right now, I think we’re still in a situation where there’s no guarantee he will return this season.”
“If he takes a chance with it and pitches, there is a chance of aggravating it. I don’t want this to be a rush job.”
Matsui has 24 saves with a 0.36 ERA, and the Eagles are 6-9 without him able to pitch in the ninth inning.
The Yakult Swallows are back in third place in the Central League after losing an outstanding game that finished in one of the dumbest possible ways courtesy of one of Japanese umpiring’s signature moves–the hidden call trick.
Dragons 1, Swallows 0
At Vantelin Dome Nagoya, Shinnosuke Ogasawara (7-7, 3.10) worked seven innings to beat 40-year-old Masanori Ishikawa (3-3, 2.30) in a classy southpaw duel. Ogasawara stranded two runners in the top of the first, and Yota Kyoda opened Chunichi’s first with a triple and scored on the first of Yohei Oshima’s three singles.
Ishikawa escaped further damage despite loading the bases as he did again in the third. Both pitchers struck out five. Ishikawa allowed seven hits, four in the first, and one walk, while Ogasawara walked two.
Umpire Shimada strikes again
Raidel Martinez, Chunichi’s third pitcher, allowed two runners to reach in the ninth, but with one out and runners on first and second, he got an assist from umpire Tetsuya Shimada on a game-ending 4-3-6-3-6-4-2 double play, allowing him to record his 18th save.
Second baseman Naomichi Donoue couldn’t decide how to start a game-ending double play. He waited too long to get the force at first, then with the runner trapped between first and second, the throw from first went to shortstop Yota Kyoda, who eventually figured things out and touched the bag for the force at second.
Shimada, however, gave no indication an out had been recorded. I’d say Shimada stood there like a dummy, but I’m afraid I might get sued for defamation by the makers of crash-test subjects, mannequins and ventriloquists’ props.
With the Dragons seemingly paying no attention to him, and still thinking there was only one out, Swallows pinch-runner Yudai Koga gambled on trying to score. But the Dragons figured it out, the tag was made and the game ended, with the umpires telling Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu that indeed the force had been made at second, call or no call by Shimada.
Not giving explicit signals is probably the biggest failing of Japan’s umpires, and this isn’t the first time I’ve seen a double play take place or fail to take place because an umpire neglected to tell everyone what happened on an attempted put out.
The most infamous case also took place at Nagoya Dome when infamous arbiter Atsushi Kittaka, the home plate ump in Game 1 of the 2004 Japan Series, raised his hand to signal the batter had been tagged out on a check-swing grounder in front of the plate. The throw to second beat the runner by a mile, but the infielder only touched the base instead of making a tag he thought was unnecessary.
That initiated the second-longest delay in Japan Series history, roughly 45 minutes, and caused Kittaka to be demoted from the Japan Series umpiring crew the next day.