Back to baseball: Sept. 17, 2023

Because Teruyo and I were in Hawaii for a few days’ vacation enjoying the beautiful sunsets and sunrises, it’s been a while since the last blog post. Sorry for that.

A few hours after we arrived, Yoshinobu Yamamoto threw his second no-hitter in two seasons. On the day we returned, the Hanshin Tigers clinched the pennant. I thought Jet lag and fatigue have since run their course for the most part, and after a busy night at the office Saturday, I was ready to get down to the real work, talking about baseball, but really struggled to get this out Sunday night, needing a nap half-way through after I got home and a shower.

With one pennant race decided and the other virtually in the bank, all the focus now is on whether the two fourth-place teams, the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants and the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles can squeeze into the postseason.

Sunday offered no change to the playoff picture in either league as the three rivals for the two remaining PL playoff spots, the Eagles, Lotte Marines and SoftBank Hawks all lost, while the three CL contenders, the Hiroshima Carp, the DeNA BayStars and Yomiuri Giants, all won. Roki Sasaki pitched, but his outing was nothing to salivate over. Since Japan is celebrating its Respect for the Aged Day on Monday, Tsuyoshi Wada squared off against a pitcher half his age.

Sunday’s games

Giants 3, Swallows 2: At Tokyo Ugly Dome, Japan’s best home run-hitting team came from behind via the long ball on sixth-inning home runs from Yoshihiro Maru, his 17th, and Kazuma Okamoto, his Japan-leading 41st, off side-armer Reiji Kozawa, who’d allowed an infield single and two walks to that point.

Yakult took a 1-0 fourth-inning lead on Domingo Santana‘s 16th homer. Santana’s ninth-inning leadoff double off Taisei Ota (3-0) set up the tying run before Yuki Okada singled to open the Giants ninth off Noboru Shimizu (1-8), and scored after Makoto Kadowaki fouled off five two-strike pitches with two outs before lining a pitch past second.

Lions 3, Marines 2: At Seibu Half Dome, Roki Sasaki (7-4) threw just three innings for the second straight game since returning from an oblique muscle strain. He wasn’t that good, but kind of got screwed in a 38-pitch three-run first inning.

With the bases loaded after a two-out walk and a Takumi Kuriyama single, and a hit batsman, Sasaki’s 26th pitch, a 1-2 fastball to Kento Watanabe that looked like it nailed the outside corner was called a ball. Instead of being out of the inning, Watanabe fouled off five two-strike pitches before being hit with the 11th to force in a run. Shuto Tonosaki then hit an 0-2 pitch for a two-run flare double down the right-field line that made it 3-0.

Sasaki did not have his “A” velocity and his command was poorer than we’re used to and he did put those runners on base in the first place, so it’s not like it was all someone else’s fault.

On the other side, Seibu’s Chihiro Sumida (9-8) put up another really good effort with eight strikeouts over six scoreless innings. The Marines runs came on Hiromi Oka‘s ninth-inning homer off Brooks Kriske, who got his fifth save.

Buffaloes 6, Eagles 4: Osaka UFO Dome, Yutaro Sugimoto broke a sixth-inning tie with a sacrifice fly and an eighth-inning tie with an RBI triple – a liner past short that rolled to the wall in the gap against a drawn-in outfield – off Sung Chia-hao (2-1).

Hideto Asamura regained a share of the PL home run lead with a two-run first-inning homer off Hiroya Miyagi, pulling even with Lotte’s Gregory “El Coffee” Polanco on 24. Tomoya Mori tied it 2-2 with a two-run third-inning double off rookie Kosei Soji. Asamura doubled in the fourth and scored on Toshiki Abe’s single before Marwin Gonzalez re-tied it in the fourth with his 10th homer.

Miyagi left in the eighth after a one-out walk, but Yuki Udagawa (4-0) allowed the runner to score. With the lead in hand, Soichiro Yamazaki earned his eighth save.

Deniers 1, Tigers 0: At Koshien Stadium, DeNA left seven runners on base through eight innings and had one thrown out at the plate, while Hanshin loaded the bases with two outs in the second and did little else against Haruhiro Hamaguchi. Three DeNA relievers worked perfect innings with J.B. Wendelken (2-2) sporting his newly shaved head getting the win after Taisei Ota’s ninth-inning pinch-hit homer off Colten Brewer (0-1). Kohei Morihara got his 14th save.

Fighters 6, Hawks 1: At Kitahiroshima Taxpayers Burden Field, Nippon Ham took advantage of a poor command day from Tsuyoshi Wada (6-6) as the 42-year-old allowed five runs on six walks and seven hits over five innings. The six walks were the most allowed by Wada since he walked seven when he threw 144 pitches in nine shutout innings on July 10, 2010, the year he was named PL MVP. Haruka Nemoto, who was born March 31, 2003, the day before Wada made his pro debut for the Daiei Hawks, struck out six over five scoreless innings to improve to 2-0.

Ariel Martinez singled twice, walked, scored twice and drove in a run for the Fighters. A day after hitting a first-inning leadoff home run and a sayonara walk-off homer for Nippon Ham, Chusei Mannami singled and walked three times.

Carp 3, Dragons 0: At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi was shutout for the 24th time this season one day after the team’s ownership announced Kazuyoshi Tatsunami will be allowed to manage again in 2024, the final season of his three-year contract. Chunichi failed to score for the fourth time in a a game started by Yuya Yanagi (3-7), while Allen Kuri (8-7) threw seven scoreless innings and picked up the win after Ryutaro Hatsuki doubled in a run and scored in the sixth on a single by Kaito Kozono, who tripled and scored an insurance run in the ninth before Ryoji Kuribayashi threw a perfect ninth to record his 16th save.

As to why the Dragons want to inflict more of Tatsunami on their fans, one can only guess. The guy is not toxic in the way that Tsuneo Horiuchi was in his time with the Yomiuri Giants, and knows baseball, and a few players have stepped forward during his time, but it’s not been pretty.

My guess is that firing him would be an admission that he’s bad and his hiring was a mistake–something a fair number of Chunichi’s fans believe. So rather than moving forward, the Dragons seem bent on preserving the fiction that there is an orderly process going on in Nagoya.

I’ll leave you with a picture of the predawn hour with Venus lording it over Waikiki and Diamondhead like a boss.

Subscribe to weekly newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.