All posts by Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

NPB 2020 6-30 GAMES AND NEWS

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Giants knock off BayStars

The Yomiuri Giants hit three home runs in a come-from-behind 5-2 win over the DeNA BayStars on Tuesday. The win kept the Giants in first place in Japan’s Central League.

With a 2-1 lead in the sixth, BayStars skipper Alex Ramirez pulled left-handed starter Haruhiro Hamaguchi with one out and one on with three right-handed bats coming up. Hayato Sakamoto walked against hard-throwing right-hander Yuki Kuniyoshi and Kazuma Okamoto singled in the tying run.

With two outs, Gerardo Parra singled in the go-ahead run, and Yoshihiro Maru and Okamoto homered for the Giants in the eighth. Twenty-year-old Giants lefty Shosei Togo (2-0) surrendered two runs in the first but followed with five-straight scoreless innings before being pulled in the seventh.

Rubby De La Rosa allowed two runners in a scoreless ninth to earn his fourth save.

Giants activate Wheeler

Zelous Wheeler, whom the Giants acquired last week in a trade from the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles, was added to the active roster on Tuesday. He was inserted into the starting lineup, batting seventh and playing left field.

The Giants have the maximum of five imported players on their 31-man active roster, one of whom will not be eligible to play. Teams are allowed to suit up 26 players this season instead of the traditional 25 while using the additional non-playing spots on pitchers between starts.

Almonte slam lifts Dragons

Former New York Yankee Zoilo Almonte hit a game-breaking seventh-inning grand slam and starting pitcher Yuya Yanagi (1-1) overcame five walks over seven innings in a 5-0 Central League win over the Chunichi Dragons.

Moore bounces back with solid effort

Matt Moore came back from a disappointing Japan debut last week to strike out 10 over six innings, while allowing one run for the SoftBank Hawks in a 1-1, 10-inning tie with the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome. Moore allowed three hits and a walk.

Fighters starter Naoyuki Uwasawa, making his first start since a line drive shattered his kneecap on June 18, 2019, allowed a run over five innings.

Lions get past Albers, Buffaloes

Andrew Albers (0-1) allowed two unearned runs over four-plus innings to take the loss as the Seibu Lions held off the Orix Buffaloes 3-2 at MetLife Dome.

With two outs in the fourth, Albers walked two-time defending PL home run champ Hotaka Yamakawa and allowed a single to Shuta Tonosaki. An error loads the bases, and veteran left-handed-hitting grinder Takumi Kuriyama hits a flair to center for a two-run single.

The Buffaloes pulled two runs back on former Mets and Orioles farmhand Aderlin Rodriguez’s first homer in Japan.

But new Lions import Reed Garrett helped slam the door with his fourth-straight 1-2-3 inning in relief. Tatsushi Masuda worked the ninth for his fourth save.

Spangenberg day to day

Corey Spangenberg was held out of Tuesday’s game after feeling pain in his ribs in pregame practice, Seibu Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji told the Nikkan Sports, saying his new left fielder and leadoff man is now day to day.

“He goes full speed in practice and full speed in games,” Tsuji said. “And if he really gets hurt that’s going to cost us a lot.”

Carp, Swallows rained out

Tuesday’s game between the Hiroshima Carp and Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, has been postponed. It’s the first rain-out of the Nippon Professional Baseball Season, that started on June 19, nearly three months late on account of the coronavirus pandemic.

Note: A previous version of this incorrectly stated the game was in Hiroshima.

Go to NEWEST.

For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Live blog: Eagles vs Marines

The Lotte Marines have won eight-straight, the last a labor-intensive, clinical dissection of Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto on Sunday. Tonight they’re up against the Rakuten Eagles. The Eagles send big lefty Hayato Yuge (1-0) against the Marines’ Kota Futaki (0-0).

The Marines are back with a bopper in the No. 2 spot as Katsuya Kakunaka starts against the right-hander.

Since I’m typically at the office watching games, this is the first time I’ve been able to casually take in the pregame. The Eagles did away with the national anthem before the first game of the series. With no fans in the stands, DH Stefen Romero just stood up in the dugout and kind of waved to the cameras.

Top 1st

Takashi Ogino somehow gets the barrel on a splitter below the zone and flairs it into center. He cruises into second with a double when the ball kicks off the glove of center fielder Ryosuke Tatsumi.

Kakunaka, up there ostensibly because he can hit the ball hard, sacrifices.

Announcer: “Of course you try to play for one run when you are playing well.”

Ikuhiro Kiyota homers on straight 1-0 fastball over the inside part of the plate and pulls it deep into the left field stands. Marines 2, Eagles 0.

Brandon Laird tries the same thing with a sinking fastball and flies out easily to left. Leonys Martin follows with an easy grounder to first.

Bottom 1st

Futaki starts Eigoro Mogi off with two called strikes at the bottom of the zone, but can’t get him to chase one outside. A 1-2 forkball doesn’t topple until after Mogi lashes it into center for a leadoff single.

Longtime Marines captain Daichi Suzuki up to bat against his former team. A generous call on a back-door slider to the left-handed hitter and a foul put Suzuki in a hole. The announcer feels it necessary to comment on the fact that the Eagles aren’t bunting when trailing 2-0 at home, because for many in Japan, this would be normal behavior.

Another splitter from Futaki, not a great one either, but Suzuki is fooled enough that he hits into an easy 6-3 double play. Blash fouls off an inside fastball. Blash miss-hits a high straight fastball and flies out to center.

Top 2nd

Shogo Nakamura draws a four-pitch leadoff walk. Yuge hangs a 2-0 fastball to Seiya Inoue, but he miss-hits it and flies out deep to center. Tatsuhiro Tamura up.

This guy had a GREAT game on Sunday against Orix with four superb at-bats that were instrumental in Lotte’s win. But with the run and hit on, Tamura misses a low inside pitch with a kind of cricket swing and catcher Hikaru Ota guns down Nakamura to complete the double play.

Bottom 2nd

Hideto Asamura turns on a first-pitch inside fastball and it dies at the wall for a leadoff double. Hiroaki Shimauchi rips a hanging first-pitch slider up the middle for an RBI single. Marines 2, Eagles 1.

Romero takes a borderline fastball away for Ball 1, and Futaki misses in the same spot with a slider and still no swing. He offers at a high splitter and knocks it past third and hustles into second with a double.

A bad first-pitch slider in the heart of the zone, and Ginji Akaminai’s eyes light up. He misses it a little, but it drops into shallow center. Tie game. Eagles 2, Marines 2.

After a conference at the mound, Hikaru Ota misses a bunt, but Akiminai steals second. Ota then grounds to second to bring home Romero. Eagles 3, Marines 2.

With the infield in for a play at the plate, Tatsumi grounds it through the infield. Eagles 4, Marines 2.

Mogi walks and there are two on, and Futaki is done. Manager Iguchi had no patience with his offense and now has no patience with a starter who’s throwing hittable pitches in the zone. The new pitcher is lefty Toshiya Nakamura, to face the left-handed-hitting Suzuki with one out and the game slipping away.

And there it goes… Suzuki blasts the first pitch into the right field stands. Eagles 7, Marines 2.

Asamura strikes out swinging to end the inning.

Top 3rd

Two quick outs for Yuge in the third. Guessing seven early runs will help his execution a little. But a Kakunaka single and a walk to Kiyota, and the Marines have a chance to get a run or two back.

Yuge sneaks a slow pitch past Laird in the zone for Strike 1. A foul and it’s 0-2. But Laird taps one back to the mound.

Bottom 3rd

Shimauchi strikes out swinging at a high hanging splitter. Romero gets ahead in the count again before swinging and missing a low fastball. Two more misses from Nakamura and Romero walks. Akaminai, however, goes down looking at a pitch on the outside corner, and Ota also goes down looking, on three pitches.

Top 4th

Leonys Martine up to lead off the Marines’ fourth. He hits under a fastball and it floats into shallow left for a single. Shogo Nakamura flies out to right. With Inoue at the plate, Martin takes second when Yuge bounces a splitter and scores easily on a liner to left center. Eagles 7, Marines 3.

Tamura goes down swinging for the second out, and Yudai Fujioka lines out.

Bottom 4th

After an impressive third, lefty Toshiya Nakamura walks Tatsumi to open the fourth. The Eagles are piping in the sound of their fans chanting for Eigoro Mogi. Tatsumi draws a bunch of pickoff throws from the left and then steals his second base of the game easily.

The 14th pitch to Mogi is his 11th foul of the at-bat, and he walks on the 15th. Two on and no outs for Suzuki, who hit the first pitch from Nakamura for a home run. This time he’s up there to surprise the world with a bunt but pops it up. Now he’s sacrificing. Suzuki strikes out looking and now with Blash up, Nakamura, having failed to pick Tatsumi off first, tries his luck with him at second.

Blash hammers a high 1-2 fastball, pulling it into the left field corner. Tatsumi scores, but Mogi is cut down on near-perfect throw from Kakunaka in left. Eagles 8, Marines 3.

Asamura this time clears the fence. Hammering a hanging Nakamura splitter out to left for his fourth home run of the season. Eagles 10, Marines 3.

Top 5th

Kakunaka with a nice swing on a high fastball produces a one-out single, but Kiyota grounds into an easy double play.

Bottom 5th

Lotte switches out their battery. Right-hander Tsuyoshi Ishiazki and rookie catcher Toshiya Sato in for Toshiya Nakamura and Tamura. Romero will be their first test. Romero strikes out swinging after missing a slider and a cutter low and away. Akaminai flies out. Ishizaki, a 29-year-old journeyman who spent most of his fringy career with the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers, is looking very sharp. He catches Ota looking and it’s a 1-2-3 inning.

Top 6th

Yuge still in there for the Eagles. A curve and a fastball and Laird is gone. A pair of two-out singles brings the rookie Sato up to the plate. He has a good at-bat but grounds out to end the inning.

Bottom 6th

Ishizaki is locating his slider and fastball. He gets four-straight ground balls off miss-hit balls, but ground balls sometimes get through. Suzuki beats out an infield single with two outs, Blash finds a hole and Asamura walks. An inning that was in control is perched on a precipice.

The battery tumbles over the cliff. Ishizakai gets ahead against Shimauchi by working outside with his fastball land slider. Sato calls for a low-inside 1-2 slider, Ishizaki gets it up just a bit and Shimauchi doubles in two runs. Eagles 12, Marines 3.

Romero follows by barreling up a fastball away and driving it out to right for an opposite-field home run. Eagles 15, Marines 3.

Top 7th

If this were international baseball, it would have just ended on the mercy rule. But it isn’t, so right-hander Tomohito Sakai is in for Yuge, who barring a catastrophe will improve to 2-0.

Top 8th

With former high school star Tomohiro Anraku on for the Eagles, Martin hits pay dirt with one of his big swings, taking it out to right for his first homer of the season. Eagles 15, Marines 4.

Final score: Eagles 15, Marines 4

Where’s the mercy rule when you need it?

NPB 2020 6-29 NEWS

Union: You want cuts? show us your books

The executive director of the Japanese Professional Baseball Players Association said Monday he expected tough salary negotiations in the autumn after this year’s games have been reduced and played behind closed doors but said teams would have to be open about their losses if they want concessions.

Speaking as the union announced that the average salary of Japan’s 727 domestically registered players surpassed 40 million yen ($360,000) for the first time, Mori said according to the Nikkan Sports, that the players side needed to be taken into consideration.

“Anyone can tell that profits are going to be down, but a lot of players have essentially been in camp all this time,” Mori said. “I want negotiations in good faith with the teams revealing their profit statements.”

Unlike in the majors, Nippon Professional Baseball does not have a collective bargaining agreement. Rather, Japanese law gives the players association the right to negotiate all changes to the working situation. Imported players do not typically join the union.

For that reason, the teams are likely to take Mori’s advice with a grain of sand, since the union has zero role to play in individual salary negotiations.

The figures are for the numbers stated on each individual player’s uniform player contract and would not include any additional revenues stipulated in the supplemental contracts most players agree to with their teams.

The Pacific League’s SoftBank Hawks were the biggest spenders for the first time in two years at an average of 71.1 million yen, while the PL’s Lotte Marines were at the bottom at 30.4 million yen, roughly 30,000 yen ($270) lower than last-years 12th-placed club, the PL’s Orix Buffaloes. The Rakuten Eagles, who were formed in 2005, moved into third place in the domestic-spending rankings for the first time.

NPB 2020 6-30 pitchers

Here are the announced starting pitchers for NPB’s games of Tuesday, June 30.

Pacific League

Fighters vs Hawks: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Naoyuki Uwasawa (-) vs MATT MOORE (0-1)

Uwasawa returns to the mound for his first regular-season game since he took a drive off his left knee that shattered his kneecap on June 18, 2019.

Eagles vs Marines: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hayato Yuge (1-0) vs Kota Futaki (0-0)

Lions vs Buffaloes: MetLife Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kona Takahashi (1-0) vs ANDREW ALBERS (0-0)

Central League

Giants vs BayStars: Tokyo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shosei Togo* (1-0) vs Haruhiro Hamaguchi (1-0)

Dragons vs Tigers: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yuya Yanagi (0-1) vs Koyo Aoyagi (1-0)

Swallows vs Carp: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

GABRIEL YNOA (0-1) vs KRIS JOHNSON (0-1)

NPB 2020 6-28 GAMES AND NEWS

Mima outpitches Yamamoto, Marines sweep

Manabu Mima got burned early and then was as careful as careful can be, allowing three runs over seven innings against Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who struggled to adjust to a lack of command and coughed up five runs in 5-2/3 innings in a 6-5 win for the Lotte Marines over Orix.

Brandon Laird homered to break a 5-5 tie in the eighth, and Jay Jackson finished it off with his first save in Japan in two years as the Marines managed their eighth-straight win and a six-game sweep of the Orix Buffaloes. See the live blog below for more in depth coverage.

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Mori lifts Lions over Hawks

Seibu submariner Kaito Yoza did not allow a hit after the second inning, three relievers worked 1-2-3 innings, and 23-year-old SoftBank rookie Keisuke Izumi (0-1) was thrown into the Lions’ den in the ninth inning of a tie game. He loaded the bases with no outs for Tomoya Mori who singled in the winning run at MetLife Dome in a 4-3 victory.

Yuki Yanagita of the Hawks opened the scoring in the first with his third home run, and Hotaka Yamakawa tied it in the sixth with his fifth home run.

New Lions reliever Reed Garrett struck out the side in the eighth. He has retired all nine batters he’s faced since Friday, striking out six of them.

Sugiura outpitches Ishibashi in Fighters’ win

Nippon Ham Fighters starter Toshihiro Sugiura (1-0) struck out seven, while scattering five singles and a walk over six innings to allow two runs and earn the win in a 6-4 victory over the Rakuten Eagles.

Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi (0-2) allowed five runs over four innings. Jabari Blash hit a two-run, eighth-inning home run for the Eagles.

Sanchez wins 2nd for Giants

Angel Sanchez (2-0) walked four, but pitched out of trouble three times to work six innings and earn the win as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Yakult Swallows 12-0. Kazuma Okamoto went 3-for-4 with a home run, an RBI single and a walk.

Morishita gives up 1st runs, earns 1st win

Elite Hiroshima Carp prospect Masato Morishita opened his pro career with 15 scoreless innings before the Chunichi Dragons scored three off him in the bottom of the ninth at Nagoya Dome. But after no decision in his debut, the rookie earned the win as Hiroshima came out on top 10-3.

Heading into the ninth, Morishita had a 10-run lead, having struck out seven, while allowing three hits, a walk and a hit batsman on 110 pitches. The rookie left after 136 pitches, the second time a Carp starter reached 130 over the weekend following ace Daichi Osera’s 132 on Friday.

The Carp already have two complete games this season, and first-year manager Shinji Sasaoka, who threw 66 in his career, seems to hold those in a higher regard than may be healthy for his pitching staff.

BayStars Tigers

Kentaro Taira, whom the DeNA BayStars acquired after the 2016 season as free agent compensation for the Yomiuri Giants’ signing of Shun Yamaguchi, delivered his second-straight quality start, allowing one run over six innings to earn the win in a 9-1 victory over the Hanshin Tigers.

The BayStars welcomed Tigers starter Kenichi Nakata (0-1) back to the Central League with a leadoff double from Takayuki Kajitani and two-out doubles by captain Keita Sano and Toshiro Miyazaki. On a day when manager Alex Ramirez rested several regulars, catcher Yasutaka Tobashira started and singled in the BayStars’ third run of the inning.

BayStars drop Peoples, activate Escobar

The Central League’s DeNA BayStars swapped out starting pitcher Micheal Peoples for hard-throwing left-handed reliever Edwin Escobar on Sunday.

On Saturday, the right-handed Peoples allowed five runs over five innings in an 8-6 loss to the Hanshin Tigers after closer Yasuaki Yamasaki’s struggles continued by allowing three runs in the ninth inning.

In Peoples’ first start, he allowed a run over six innings with seven strikeouts against the Hiroshima Carp on June 20.

The 28-year-old Escobar is entering his fourth season in NPB. He pitched in 74 games last year with 88 strikeouts in 75-1/3 innings. He was 5-4 with 33 holds, the third highest figure in the CL behind Joely Rodriguez of the Dragons and Pierce Johnson of the Tigers, both of whom left Japan this year for jobs in the majors.

Go to NEWEST.

For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Live blog: Marines vs Buffaloes

Manabu Mima vs Yoshinobu Yamamoto at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium east of Tokyo. The Marines have won seven straight, while the Buffaloes haven’t won since Yamamoto beat the Eagles the previous Sunday in Osaka.

Top 1st

Keita Nakagawa barrels up a running fastball up in the zone and pulls it down the left field line for a leadoff double. Ryoichi Adachi, a prototypical Japanese No. 2 hitter, a fast, light-hitting middle infielder, is up their sacrificing until the second strike.

Announcer “He wants to move that runner up of course, because you want the early lead and Yamamoto is on the mound.”

Adachi chops it behind the runner to first, bringing up tough lefty Masataka Yoshida, who looks at a backdoor slider for Strike 1 before getting jammed inside by a running fastball inside that he grounds to first as Adachi scores. Buffaloes 1, Marines 0.

Adam Jones lines a hanging first-pitch slider off the top of the wall in left but with the outfield playing him deep, he can only get a single. Takahiro Okada lines a 1-2 fastball down the pipe over the fence in right for a two-run shot and his second homer of the season. Buffaloes 3, Marines 0.

Mima gets out of the inning when Aderlin Rodriguez miss-hits a hanging slider and flies out to second.

Bottom 1st

After a week of hype about his stuff especially his curve, Yamamoto treats the Marines to first-inning heat. He falls behind with two high fastballs before getting leadoff man Takashi Ogino to pop up to second on a cutter up and in. Koki Fukuda takes a high curve for Ball 1 before missing three high fastballs. Ikuhiro Kiyota goes down chasing a 1-2 cutter on the outside edge.

Top 2nd

Mima opens with some good pitches and gets an easy fly and a grounder to third. Shunta Goto keeps the inning alive by knocking a fat 1-0 running fastball between first and second. Goto steals second, but Nakagawa strikes out.

Bottom 2nd

after a pair of hard cutters away, Yamamoto hangs a curve to Brandon Laird and he knocks it between third and short for a leadoff single. Leonys Martinez hits a skipping stone down the first base line and Okada is unable to handle it. He’s given an error and the Marines have runners on second and third.

Shogo Nakamura pops up an 0-1 splitter Yamamoto left up in the zone, and here comes Seiya “Asia” Inoue. The 114-kilogram right-handed hitter falls behind 0-2 but Yamamoto can’t find the outside corner and Inoue won’t chase and ends up walking him to load the bases.

Lotte catcher Tatsuhiro Tamura looks at beautiful cutter low and away and waves at fastball down the middle. Yamamoto’s splitter isn’t working and he bounces it for Ball 1. Another fastball in the heart of the zone and Tamura hits it off the end of the bat to center for a two-run single. Buffaloes 3, Marines 2.

Yamamoto getso out of trouble when Yudai Fujioka chops a high pitch to the mound and the pitcher starts a double play.

Top 3rd

Mima leaves a fat 1-1 pitch up and Adachi slams it on the ground into left for a leadoff single. But Adachi 30-for-37 as a base stealer the past two years is cut down on a perfect throw by Tamura. Yoshida singles on a hanging forkball and along comes Jones.

Jones lines one off the end of the bat to second. Mima is staying away from the strike zone as much as he can, although he did sneak a curve down the middle past Okada, who walks. But Rodriguez pops up a low fastball for the third out.

Bottom 3rd

Takashi Ogino leads off with a double past Nakagawa at third and Fukuda advances him to third by hitting behind the runner. With the infield in, Kiyota hits a bullet to short but Ogino, running on contact, easily scores the tying run. Laird grounds out on the next pitch and we’re tied. Marines 3, Buffaloes 3.

Top 4th

Mima is working ever so carefully now, showing his hard stuff and executing offspeed stuff in the zone, resulting in three miss-hit easy grounders and a 1-2-3 inning against the Buffaloes tail.

Bottom 4th

It’s back to the no-nonsense hard stuff for Yamamoto and two easy outs as Martin swings at a 1-2 fastball away and Nakamura grounds out.

But Yamamoto’s location is not great and every instance of attempted cuteness is costing him. He tries to get Inoue to chase and misses, and it’s another walk. Tamura is up there battling, intentionally fouling off the hard stuff and he walks on the 10th pitch.

Yudai Fujioka is not trying to walk. He’s taking some real swings. when Yamamoto misses with a straight high 1-2 fastball, he lines it to the gap in right for a single. Marines 4, Buffaloes 3.

The inning ends when Tamura is caught in a rundown between third and home. And if you’ve ever seen a more poorly executed rundown, I’d like to see it. Fujioka follows and they get two runners trapped at third and it still takes extra throws to get the out.

Don’t try this at home, children.

Top 5th

Nakagawa grounds out to second on two pitches. With two outs, Yoshida forces Mima over the plate and singles to center off the end of the bat. Tying run on first with Jones up.

First-pitch splitter, the best one Mima’s thrown so far, for a swinging strike out of the zone. Jones went after two pitches out of the zone last time, and Mima goes outside for 1-1. The splitter stays up, and Jones is on it, but smacks it straight to third for an easy out.

Bottom 5th

Ono up to lead off the fifth. Two hard strikes inside but nothing to change speeds with in the zone, and Ogino gets a good swing on a low fastball and finds a hole through the infield for a single. Fukuda launches a straight fastball on a line to the warning track in center but Goto overtakes it and makes a terrific catch.

Yamamoto is missing all over the place but catches one of his few breaks today. With Ogino running on a 2-2 pitch, Yamamoto hangs another curve and Kiyota doesn’t hit it well. Nakagawa gloves the soft liner at third and throws to first for an easy double play.

Top 6th

Okada falls behind 0-2 looking at a get-me-over slider, missing a running fastball away and grounding a slider to second. Rodriguez offers at two sliders outside, misses one and flies out easily on the second. The Buffaloes are really guessing badly. Wakatsuki is jammed by a fastball in the heart of the zone and grounds out to short.

Bottom 6th

Yamamoto gets Laird out easily but loses Martin with his fourth walk of the afternoon. Nakamura flies out on a beautiful cutter away after fouling off a slider for Strike 2. I may be wrong, but that could be the first strike Yamamoto has gotten from his slider all day.

After falling behind 2-0 to Inoue, Okada comes over to talk to Yamamoto, and it appears he is just killing time so someone can get warm in the bullpen. When Inoue lines the next pitch to right, Yamamoto’s looking around to see if he’s coming out of the game and he is.

26-year-old right-hander Keisuke Sawada on to try and get an out before Lotte gets another run. But Goto can’t catch a sinking liner to center. Marines 5, Buffaloes 3.

Top 7th

Three up, three down for Mima in the seventh. He’s retired seven straight and 13 of the last 14 and is at 96 pitches. It looks like he’s headed for the clubhouse in good shape for his second win.

Bottom 7th

Lefty Tomoyuki Kaida on in the seventh. After struggling with his command against Ogino, who flies out, Kaida needs just four pitches to retire Fukuda and Kiyota. It’s a nice bounce back for Kaida after he faced seven batters in his previous outing on Friday and allowed four runs.

Top 8th

Right-hander Fumiya Ono on in the eighth to preserve the two-run lead. Mima allowed three runs, all in the first inning, on seven hits. He walked one and struck out two over seven innings.

Adachi opens the inning by stinging a straight1-0 fastball for a single. Yoshida walks on four pitches. Jones hits a slider off the label, lining it straight to left for the first out.

Okada flairs a high 2-0 slider to center. Adachi scores, and Tamura fumbles the throw home, allowing Yoshida to reach third.

Ono is gone in favor of right-hander Taiki Tojo. Both Masuda and Okada are out for pinch runners. Yuya Oda is at third running for Yoshida. Kodai Sano, running at first, steals second.

Rodriguez singles in the tying run, but Sano is caught in a rundown for the second out with Rodriguez taking third during the confusion. Marines 5, Buffaloes 5.

Tojo strikes out Wakatsuki and the Marines avoid falling a run down.

Bottom 8th

Former closer Hirotoshi Masui on for Orix in the eighth to face former Nippon Ham Fighters teammate Brandon Laird.

Laird flies to center and the ball just gets over the glove of Goto, who leaps at the wall. Laird’s fifth home run makes it Marines 6, Buffaloes 5.

Martin strikes out swinging at a 1-2 splitter out of the zone, but Shogo Nakamura singles and Orix manager Norifumi Nishimura goes to the pen for another righty, Tomoki Higa to face Inoue.

Inoue flies out to bring up the Marines’ biggest troublemaker of the day, Tamura. He’s driven in three runs and his walk helped set up the go-ahead run in the fourth. The Marines catcher draws his second walk, causing Nishimura to come out of the dugout again.

The Buffaloes’ third pitcher of the inning is lefty Nobuyoshi Yamada, who strikes out Fujioka for the final out.

Top 9th

The reason we didn’t see Jay Jackson in the eighth is because manager Tadahito Iguchi was saving him for the ninth. He’s on now with a chance for his first save in Japan since 2018, his last season with the Hiroshima Carp.

Pinch-hitter Torai Fushimi waves at a slider and goes down swinging. The left-handed-hitting Goto is up and gets ahead 2-0 before taking a fastball for a strike. It’s 2-2 and Goto is up there spoiling now. Jackson misses with a slider and its 3-2, but got him to miss another at the bottom of the strike zone.

Nakagawa looks as Jackson misses with two sliders low and away, but watches a third down the pipe. A fastball away finds the zone and it’s 2-2.
Another slider low out of the zone, Nakagawa offers, misses, and it’s all over as Jackson strikes out the side to end it.

Final score: Marines 6, Buffaloes 5

NPB 2020 6-27 GAMES AND NEWS

Sunday’s announced starting pitchers are HERE.

Let’s go Jerry!

The Hanshin Tigers dialed the right number on Saturday, when they called up 2019 KBO RBI leader Jerry Sands to the active roster. Sands made a run-saving sliding catch in the fourth inning, and put the Tigers ahead for good in the ninth, with a two-out, three-run homer off closer Yasuaki Yamasaki (0-1) in an 8-6 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.

BayStars starter Michael Peoples allowed five runs in five innings. The right-hander struck out three, walked one and hit two. Jefry Marte’s sac fly opened the scoring in the first before Justin Bour singled in a run and stole a base in the visitors’ two-run inning.

The BayStars tied it in the bottom of the inning on doubles by Takayuki Kajitani, Neftali Soto and Keita Sano. With the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth, a BayStars runner on first an no outs, Sands slid into the left field corner to just snag a fly for the first out.

Trailing 6-5 in the ninth, Yamasaki, who also closes for Japan’s national team was in trouble for the second-straight game. The right-hander got two outs before walking Marte and pinch-hitter Yusuke Oyama. Sands belted a 1-2 pitch over the wall to put Hanshin in front.

Former Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, who reclaimed the Tigers’ closer role last summer, also got into hot water. The 39-year-old had blown his last save opportunity, the first time that had happened in over a year.

A walk to Soto, and a single to former Padre Tyler Austin, who drove in two runs in the sixth, put the tying runs on and a hit batsman loaded the bases with two outs before Fujikawa got out of it for his first save of the season.

Yamada crushes Giants

Tetsuto Yamada capped a sixth inning in which both teams combined for 11 runs with a grand slam as the Yakult Swallows beat the Yomiuri Giants 9-6 on Saturday.

Yamada doubled in a run and scored in the first inning, but the Giants pounded Swallows starter Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa for four runs in the sixth, two on Gerardo Parra’s third home run, a two-run shot.

Yoshimi stops Carp, Dragons’ losing skid

Kazuki Yoshimi (1-1), once the ace of the Chunichi Dragons staff, pitched out of a fourth-inning jam to allow a run over five innings in a 6-1 win over the Hiroshima Carp. Yoshimi, who has a long history of elbow surgeries and has had seven 100-inning seasons but only two since 2012. He struck out two and hit a batter while allowing four hits, all singles.

With a 3-0, fourth-inning lead, back-to-back, no-out singles brought up Seiya Suzuki, but the Carp star grounded into a double play. With two out and two on, Yoshimi retired Alejandro Mejia on a fly out to end the inning.

Sato caps Marines’ victory with 1st career hit

Toshiya Sato, the Marines’ second pick in last autumn’s draft, drilled a pinch-hit single to the wall in the 10th inning to lift Lotte to a 2-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes.

Tyler Higgins, made his Japan debut by getting three outs in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded for the Buffaloes, while Marines relievers Jay Jackson and Frank Herrmann each struck out two in a scoreless inning of relief. Herrmann (2-0) got the win.

The Buffaloes have now lost five straight since right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto won last Sunday. With the Pacific League looking to reduce travel among its far-flung teams by holding six-game series, Yamamoto will go to the mound tomorrow to prevent the Buffaloes from suffering a six-game sweep.

Yamakawa decides Lions-Hawks slugfest

Takeya Nakamura, with six PL home run titles under his belt, and Hotaka Yamakawa, who owns the last two, each homered for the Seibu Lions in an 8-7 victory over the SoftBank Hawks at MetLife Dome.

The Hawks’ Yuki Yanagita set the tone early with a first-inning shot off Lions starter Wataru Matsumoto.

The Lions bullpen, which has been inconsistent to say the least, worked six scoreless innings, while allowing two walks and three hits.

Trailing 7-5 in the seventh, Sosuke Genda and Shuta Tonosaki singled off Sho Iwasaki (0-2) before Yamakawa hit his fourth homer of the season to put Seibu in front.

Reed Garrett, who struck out the side on Friday night to earn the win, retired all three batters he faced in the eighth, while closer Tatsushi Masuda survived a two-out triple to nail down his third save.

Asamura wrecks Fighters

Hideto Asamura took a hammer to the Nippon Ham Fighters, scoring twice and driving in seven runs in the Rakuten Eagles’ 18-4 blood-letting at Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Jabari Blash drove in three runs, scored twice, walked twice and singled for Rakuten, whose starter, former southpaw closer Yuki Matsui, surrendered four runs in four-plus innings.

Six Fighters pitchers combined to issue 10 walks.

Buffaloes call up Higgins

The Orix Buffaloes activated right-hander Tyler Higgins on Saturday to take the spot of Opening Day starter Taisuke Yamaoka, who strained an internal oblique tendon in the first inning of Friday’s start against the Lotte Marines in Chiba.

In two farm outings this season, the 29-year-old allowed a run on one hits and a walk, while striking out three. Higgins spent nine seasons in the minor leagues, mostly with the Miami Marlins. Last year, he pitched in 33 games for Triple-A El Paso, where the Padres assigned Japanese pitching coach Akinori Otsuka.

In his Japan first-team debut, Higgins came on with two on and no outs in the bottom of the ninth of a 1-1 game. After issuing an intentional walk, he retired the next three batters to send the game to an extra inning.

Tigers bring up KBO RBI king Sands

Outfielder Jerry Sands, who led the Korea Baseball Organization in RBIs last season, was called up for the first time this season by the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League on Saturday.

Since Opening Day, the Tigers have deactivated three imported pitchers, Onelki Garcia, Joe Gunkel and Jon Edwards. Their four active imports now are Sands, first baseman Justin Bour, third baseman Jefry Marte and reliever Robert Suarez.

“Hit it hard and make it fly Jerry. Home runs to left, home runs to right Jerry Jerry Sands Lets go! Jerry Sands Lets go!”

Jerry Sands cheer, as displayed on the big screen at Koshien Stadium this spring.

Sands has played in two games for the Tigers’ Western League farm club this summer and has one hit and three walks in seven plate appearances.

The Tigers started the season 1-6.

NPB 2020 6-28 PITCHERS

Here are the starting pitchers for NPB’s games of Sunday, June 28.

Pacific League

Eagles vs Fighters: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Ryota Ishibashi (0-1) vs Toshihiro Sugiura (0-0)

Here’s big right-hander Ryota Ishibashi against the Buffaloes last weekend.

Lions vs Hawks: MetLife Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Kaito Yoza* (0-1) vs Akira Niho (0-1)

Marines vs Buffaloes: Zozo Marine Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Manabu Mima (1-0) vs Yoshinobu Yamamoto (1-0)

Here’s a look at some of what Yamamoto brought last week against the Rakuten Eagles.

Central League

Dragons vs Carp: Nagoya Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Kodai Umetsu (1-0) vs Masato Morishita* (1-0)

Here are the eight strikeouts Carp rookie Masato Morishita recorded in his pro debut last Sunday.

BayStars vs Tigers: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kentaro Taira (0-0) vs Kenichi Nakata (0-0)

Nakata is back in the Central League after six seasons with the PL’s SoftBank Hawks. The 2nd pick of the Chunichi Dragons in the 2004 draft, Nakata was a regular in their rotation from 2005 to 2013.

Swallows vs Giants: Jingu Stadium 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Hiroki Yamada (0-1) vs ANGEL SANCHEZ (1-0)

NPB 2020 6-27 pitchers

Here are the starting pitchers for NPB’s games of Saturday, June 27.

Pacific League

Eagles vs Fighters: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Yuki Matsui (0-0) vs Takayuki Kato (0-0)

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

Wataru Matsumoto (0-1) vs Tsuyoshi Wada (0-0)

Marines vs Buffaloes: Zozo Marine Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Atsuki Taneichi (0-0) vs Daiki Tajima (0-0)

Central League

Dragons vs Carp: Nagoya Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Kazuki Yoshimi (0-1) vs Hiroki Tokoda (0-0)

BayStars vs Tigers: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

MICHAEL PEOPLES (0-0) vs Yuta Iwasada (0-1)

Swallows vs Giants: Jingu Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Yasuhiro Ogawa (1-0) vs Kazuto Taguchi (1-0)

Ogawa had a nice start to the 2020 season, two runs, six strikeouts, no walks over six innings, which is a nice break from his 5-12 finish in 2019, when he led both leagues in losses.

Taguchi was one of Japan’s most reliable starters in 2016 and 2017, but his strikeouts began to diminish in 2018 and he found himself in the bullpen last year. His first start was not an overwhelming success, with three walks and a home run over five innings, but it must be nice to be back in the rotation.

NPB 2020 6-26 GAMES AND NEWS

Saturday’s announced starting pitchers are HERE.

Live blog: BayStars vs Tigers

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Look out Shohei, Daichi Osera’s coming for you

The most productive hitter in the Hiroshima Carp lineup had two hits for the second straight game, although as their ace pitcher, Daichi Osera has also been busy throwing complete games.

By stopping the Chunichi Dragons on a run over the distance, Osera has allowed two runs over 18 innings, while striking out eight. Although talk of limiting starters pitch counts apparently have not gotten to new Carp manager Shinji Sasaoka, whose arm barely survived the awful pitch counts that aces were forced to endure in the 1990s.

After allowing Osera to throw 116 pitches on Opening Day, Sasaoka thought it was OK to let him throw another 132 on Friday in Nagoya, when he allowed eight hits.

At the plate, Osera is 4-for-7 with a home run, three RBIs, three runs and a sacrifice, although Seiya Suzuki has been the Carp’s batting star. Suzuki, who some scouts think is a sure bet to be posted this winter, has 10 hits and half have cleared the fence.

https://twitter.com/nuremoh/status/1276455651963633666

Another “empty blast” for Jones

Adam Jones mashed his second home run this week for the Orix Buffaloes, who blew a three-run lead en route to their sixth loss of the season, a 6-5 defeat at the hands of the Lotte Marines.

The “empty blast” in the headline comes from how the Japanese sports papers used to describe home runs in a losing effort.

The hosts came from behind in a four-run eighth in which Leonys Martin doubled and scored. Yudai Fujioka capped the rally with two-run double. Brandon Laird hit his fourth home run of the year for Lotte.

Kimura slam rescues Lions

Fumikazu Kimura’s eighth-inning grand slam brought the Seibu Lions from behind in a 7-4 win at their home park, MetLife Dome, over the SoftBank Hawks. The blast took Zach Neal off the hook for the loss that would have been just his second in Japan.

Neal entered the game having won his last 12 decisions but had uncharacteristically walked three batters on Opening Day. On Friday, he took a 3-1 lead into the seventh, when he allowed three runs, one earned. He struck out eight and walked one, but his command was inconsistent.

Two-time defending PL home run king Hotaka Yamakawa homered twice to drive in three early runs. The first was on a fat mistake from Nao Higashihama, the second on a breaking ball outside that he simply put a really good swing on.

With the Lions trailing 4-3 in the eighth, Reed Garrett took the mound. Garrett had allowed a run over two innings in his first two games in Japan, but struck out the side in the eighth to help set the stage for the comeback and earn his first win.

Eagles hammer Arihara, Norimoto fans 10

The Rakuten Eagles beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 7-1 behind seven innings from Takahiro Norimoto (2-0), who allowed a run, while striking out 10. Fighters ace Kohei Arimura (0-2), who is hoping to move to the majors this winter via the posting system, allowed five runs, four earned, over six innings.

Stefen Romero homered, singled twice, walked and scored three runs for the Eagles.

Giants torch Swallows pen

The Yomiuri Giants scored five late runs against the Yakult Swallows bullpen in a 6-5 win over their local rivals at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium. Taishi Ishiyama (0-1), who saved 35 games in 2018 surrendered a two-run, ninth-inning home run to pinch-hitter Shinnosuke Shigenobu.

Rubby De La Rosa, who joined the Giants last summer, worked a scoreless ninth to earn his third save. Scott McGough, who took over as Swallows closer last summer when Ishiyama was hurt, surrendered two runs in the eighth.

Edwards sent down for “poor condition”

The Hanshin Tigers deactivated right-handed reliever Jon Edwards on Friday, with the Nikkan Sports reporting it was due to “poor condition of his shoulder.”

Edwards worked one inning of relief in the Tigers’ 11-1 Opening Day loss to the Yomiuri Giants, allowing only a single to new Giant Gerardo Parra. But in a June 2 practice game against the Hiroshima Carp, Edwards walked five straight batters.

I missed this news from Thursday, when the Hanshin Tigers deactivated right-handed starting pitcherJoe Gunkel along with right-handed reliever Koki Moriya, who felt pain in his right shoulder on Wednesday.

Gunkel faced 19 hitters in his start on Wednesday and allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks over four innings, so it’s not a surprise. I think he’s going to be effective in Japan once he makes adjustments to his approach with different hitters and has better luck with balls in play than he did in his debut.

Live blog: BayStars vs Tigers

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Going to pick this up in the bottom of the second. DeNA’s Neftali Soto singled with one out in the bottom of the first, and so far is the game’s only baserunner.

Bottom 2nd

Tigers starter Yuki Nishi was one of the two pitchers who homered on Opening Day. He allowed a run in six innings, scattering three walks and four hits.

Jose Lopez singles on the fourth running fastball Nishi throws him, and does well to muscle the inside pitch to left to open the inning. Nishi erases the runner when Toshiro Miyazaki miss-hits a slider to short, from where Fumiya Hojo starts a double play. Catcher Hikaru Ito, Nishi’s former teammate with the Orix Buffaloes, grounds to Jefry Marte at third.

Top 3rd

Shota Imanaga needs just three pitches to induce a fly to center from Naomasa Yokawa, and two more to retire Ryutaro Umeno. Imanaga’s fourth pitch to Nishi, an 0-2 fastball up and in causes the Tigers pitcher to look at his opposite number and say, “Watch that stuff” or something of that ilk before grounding out to second.

Bottom 3rd

Imanaga leads off from the No. 8 spot and starts an easy 1-2-3 inning. Manager Alex Ramirez has espoused a very complex rationale for when and how he bats his starting pitchers eighth, but it makes perfect sense to me, because instead of your worst hitter setting up your best three at the top of the order, you have a guy who actually gets on base.

Top 4th

Tigers’ No. 1 hitter Koji Chikamoto stays on a 1-2 changeup that gets too much of the plate and smashes it to right for Hanshin’s first hit. Hojo tries a slash bunt-and-run, but pops up to short.

Imanaga, however, does the job for the Tigers with a pickoff throw in the dirt, that gives the visitors a man in scoring position for Yusuke Oyama. In the starting lineup against the lefty in place of Justin Bour, Oyama waves at three changeups.

Marte bounces one to the right of Soto at second base and beats out an infield single. Lopez at first nearly nails Chikamoto after he overran third base, but Miyazaki was unable to get the tag on him. This gives 43-year-old Kosuke Fukudome a chance to do some damage, but he fouls out to Miyazaki at third.

Bottom 4th

Soto leads off from the No. 2 spot, which is increasingly becoming Americanized with big hitters instead of the prototypical slap-hitting bunter. The two-time home run champ grounds out, and Tyler Austin misses an 0-2 slider low out of the zone.

Keita Sano, named the BayStars captain following the departure of Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, hammers a hanging slider for a single. The weird thing about Sano being the captain is that it’s usually reserved for a veteran. Sano entered Friday’s game with 394 career plate appearances.

Lopez ends the inning when he gets jammed on a running fastball inside and pops it up into shallow left.

Top 5th

Imanaga’s changeup is giving the Tigers right-handed hitters fits as it just dies when it gets to the plate. After Hiroki Uemoto looks at a fastball inside for Strike 3. Yokawa fouls off the first change but flails at two well below the zone for Imanaga’s fifth strikeout. Umeno gets enough on a 2-1 changeup in the zone to ground it softly to third for the final out.

Bottom 5th

Miyazaki opens the scoring by driving a straight fastball in the middle of the zone out to right for opposite-field shot and his third home run of the year. BayStars 1, Tigers 0. Nishi missed with a couple of breaking balls to start and got burned aiming a 3-1 pitch.

After Ito flied out to Fukudome in right, Imanaga singled, bring up former TIger Yamato Maeda, whose bouncer between third and short is good for an infield single and two on for the power-laden top of the BayStars order.

Nishi wants nothing to do with the strike zone against athletic but injury prone Takayuki Kajitani but finally gets him on a beauty of a 3-2 running fastball that Kajitani misses badly. Nishi sets Soto up for a 2-2 slider away, but leaves it over the plate, and the slugger gets it off the end of the barrel and up the middle to load the bases for Austin.

NIshi throws a first-pitch running fastball that misses the barrel and results in a tapper back to the mound for the third out.

Top 6th

Nishi strikes out swinging to open the inning, and Chikamoto flies out to center on the second pitch before Hojo goes down swinging against more slow stuff. That’s eight strikeouts for the lefty.

Bottom 6th

Sano leads off with a single, pulling a straight 2-1 inside fastball to right. Lopez grounds softly to third, too softly for a double play. Miyazaki goest the other way again, but his fly is caught by Fukudome on the warning track. Marte makes a sure-handed grab of a grounder off the bat of Ito and the Tigers go into the seventh down by just a run.

Top 7th

Oyama finally gets the barrel on a changeup and singles to left to open the Tigers’ seventh. Marte is jammed by a cutter inside and the Tigers are lucky to escape a double play as Marte beats the throw to first.

The lefty sets up Fukudome with a cutter and fastball away before jamming and popping him up inside for a foul out to the catcher. Imanaga gets Uemoto off balance with fastballs and changeups, and he, too, fouls out to Ito.

Bottom 7th

An easy 1-2-3 inning for Nishi, who strikes out Imanaga and gets Maeda and Kajitani to fly out.

Top 8th

Oyama gets a ball through the infield for a single. Taiga Egoshi on to pinch run and Umeno sacrifices him to second. Tigers playing to tie on the road in the eighth inning because, well Japan.

Fumihito Haraguchi, one of the best stories in Japanese baseball, having battled his way onto the first team having been released and signed to a non-roster developmental contract. After establishing himself, he was diagnosed with cancer and has battled back from that, too.

Nothing cute or soft from Imanaga here: fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball. Maybe he lost his touch because he then bounced a change before getting Haraguchi to go after a second one out of the zone and foul out to the catcher.

Two outs for Chikamoto. Imanaga tries to paint and his brush is just not fine enough. He works carefully and loses him for the first walk of the game. Kento Itohara on to pinch-hit for Hojo and he grounds out to Soto at second.

Bottom 8th

Right-hander Ippei Ogawa, the Tigers’ 6th pick last autumn, on in relief of Nishi, who allows just one run in his second-straight start, but has yet to win one. Nishi works seven innings, walks three and allows eight hits but walks none.

Soto opens the inning by smashing a high fastball past first for a single, and Austin blasts a 1-1 fastball in the heart of the zone over the wall in center for his second home run in three games. BayStars 3, Tigers 0.

With one out, Seiya Kinami makes a good play after a smash off the bat of Jose Lopez trickles out of Marte’s glove. The Tigers shortstop scoops it up and fires to get the runner. A 5-6-3 out in the States is recorded 6-3 in Japan.

Ogawa throws hard but his fastball is a little straight and back-to-back singles by Miyazaki and Ito give the BayStars a chance for a safe lead. Pinch-hitter Tatsuya Shibata bats for Imanaga and walks. Bases loaded for Maeda.

The veteran fouls off a 150-kph two-strike fastball. When the rookie follows with a low slider, it seems that’s the one Maeda wanted. He goes down to get it and lines it into center for an RBI single. BayStars 5, Tigers 0.

Kajitani follows with an opposite-field liner over short. BayStars 6, Tigers 0.

Top 9th

Spencer Patton on in the ninth to wrap up the BayStars’ fifth-straight win. Marte singles with one out, but Fukudome strikes out swinging at a fastball away. Justin Bour up to keep the game alive for Hanshin.

Patton misses up and in and then just inside, but finds the corner with that one. All are pretty good pitches. Slider misses too far to get Bour to offer: 3-1. Patton gets close enough to the corner for former pitcher Norihiro Akimura calling the balls and strikes behind the plate. Patton finally gets Bour on a fly to left.

Final Score: BayStars 6, Tigers 0

NPB 2020: 6-26 pitchers

Here are the starting pitchers for NPB’s games of Friday, June 26.

Pacific League

Eagles vs Fighters: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Takahiro Norimoto vs Kohei Arihara

A duel between a guy major league scouts had their eye on, Norimoto, until he committed to the Eagles for eternity over the winter, and Arihara, who intends to play in the majors in 2021, provided there is a 2021 season.

Lions vs Hawks: MetLife Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

ZACH NEAL vs Nao Higashihama

Neal, who opened the 2019 season 1-1 will go for his 13th-straight win following his victory on Opening Day.

Marines vs Buffaloes: Zozo Marine Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Ayumu Ishikawa vs Taisuke Yamaoka

Central League

Dragons vs Carp: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yudai Ono vs Daichi Osera

Talk about a tough act to follow. Osera went 2-for-3 with a homer, an RBI single, two runs, a sacrifice, 3 RBIs. Oh and he allowed one run over the distance. He’s 10-6 against the Dragons lifetime, but 3-4 at Nagoya Dome.

BayStars vs Tigers: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shota Imanaga vs Yuki Nishi

Swallows vs Giants: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Masanori Ishikawa vs Tomoyuki Sugano

Fanning the flames

Having set July 10 as the day from when fans will be able to attend Japanese pro baseball games, executives have gone from “We’re not even thinking about getting fans into the park in these dire times” to “Of course we want the maximum number of fans in the park from Day 1.”

And now that MLB and its union have agreed to start their season, they should be looking to see how Japan has handled it and the potential pitfalls that await.

Hawks go 1st

The SoftBank Hawks, who will host the Rakuten Eagles in a six-game series from July 7, will open the doors to between 1,500 and 5,000 invited fans for the final three games at PayPay Dome. The Hawks said they will sell 5,000 tickets through a lottery for their games between July 21 and 31.

From Aug. 1, when teams have agreed to admit about half their stadiums’ capacities, the team will sell up to 20,000 seats, first come, first served.

They were quickly followed by other clubs as teams gear up to sell tickets and start cutting their losses.

House of cards

To its credit Nippon Professional Baseball has worked hard to establish testing and quarantine protocols with the help of leading public health experts. And compared to the United States, the situation is reasonably stable.

But stable is not safe, and the government is still encouraging social distancing, although one wouldn’t know it around the closest major station to my office. Shimbashi, especially the north side, is filled with tiny eating and drinking joints. Whenever there is breaking news at night and TV crews need man-on-the-street interviews, they flock to the “steam locomotive” plaza north of the station where people are constantly milling about.

Walking through Shimbashi is seeing a world of people determined not to care about the risk to their health or others. Tokyo isn’t a hot spot at the moment, but it sure looks like it’s not far removed from being one.

The government of Trumpist prime minister Shinzo Abe has steadfastly kept the brakes on testing, so there is no real feel for how bad the situation is. On Wednesday, Tokyo announced 55 confirmed infections, its highest total since May 5.

So while things appear normal on the surface, there has been no concerted effort to test and control the virus, so we’re all guessing, and crossing our fingers that this house of cards doesn’t come tumbling down with the help of baseball teams rumbling to get paying fans back in the seats.

Major trouble on the horizon

While Japan’s situation appears fragile, seeing the majors talk about opening up when minor leaguers and team staff are producing positive test results and infection rates in many parts of the United States is positively scary.

At least in Japan, the virus has not become politicized.

Getting back to work is not seen by anyone as a patriotic duty. Wearing a mask is not a sign of political dissent. Through MLB owners’ greed, the politicization of the virus and scientific research as a whole and the surging rates of infection, and MLB may need a tremendous amount of luck to avoid being part of a public health catostrophe.

No fans will be in the stands, but that won’t stop people from flocking to ballparks located in neighborhoods with bars, as Japan has shown.

Crowding outside closed doors

Even without fans in the stands, fans are being drawn to watering holes to crowd together and support their teams with like-minded fans. This comes at a time when, according to the ministry of health labor and welfare, Japan and Tokyo in particular is experiencing a gradual increase in the number of daily infections.

On Wednesday, the Yukan Fuji reported on the problem of people opting to socialize rather than social distance and suggested that by packing into bars, the fans were far more likely to be exposed to the virus than at ballparks.

The story also showed fans flocking to the stadium gates to catch glimpses of whatever they can, without paying much attention to social distancing.