Justin Bour may have been typecast as the second coming of Randy Bass because of his left-handed power to left and center, but on Thursday, he looked the part in his first regular-season game at Koshien Stadium.
Bour ruined what had been a terrific start by Yomiuri Giants lefty Cristopher Mercedes (0-2) by blasting a high 1-0 slider well past the center field fence with a man on. Bour’s third home run made it 2-0, and the Hanshin Tigers went on to win their home opener 2-1.
Tigers starter Onelki Garcia dodged his share of bullets after walking six over six scoreless innings, but it was Mercedes, who struck out eight while allowing five hits and a walk over 6-2/3 innings who was left holding the bag.
Suguru Iwazaki (1-0) earned the win with a scoreless inning of relief, a feat duplicated by Robert Suarez in the eighth. Kyuji Fujikawa, who has been shaky this season after a remarkable 2019 campaign, allowed a run on a walk and two, two-out singles to cut it close before securing his second save.
Here’s Bour’s hero interview:
Intentional walks cost Dragons again
For the second time in three games, a late-inning intentional walk came back to bite Chunichi Dragons manager Tsuyoshi Yoda in the butt in an 8-6 loss to the Yakult Swallows at Nagoya Dome.
Leading 5-4 after the Dragons scored twice against right-hander Scott McGough in the eighth, Dragons lefty Toshiya Okada surrendered a leadoff double to Norichika Aoki and issued a walk to Swallows’ on-base machine Tomotaka Sakaguchi. A 1-2 wild pitch to superstar Tetsuto Yamada opened first base, and Yoda ordered the free pass.
Okada, who walked in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning of Wednesday’s 2-1 loss after an intentional walk had loaded the bases, fell behind 2-0 to Kotaro Yamasaki, who has led a charmed existence this season, where seemingly every ball coming off his bat finds a hole.
He put a good swing on a high pitch for a two-run single, and slugger Munetaka Murakami piled on with a two-run double.
Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama surrendered a run in the ninth but earned his third save.
Swallows lefty Keishi Takahashi allowed two runs through five innings, and was barely recognizable, without his transformer-like leg-kick, arm-raise, leg-lower, leg-raise delivery. He looked like an ordinary lefty with a longer-than-usual leg lift. He located a fastball that had a lot of spin on it and combined that with a slider he kept at the bottom of the zone.
Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez came off the bench as a pinch-hitter and tied the game with an RBI single. He lined out to second to end the game, keeping his average at .500.
Jackson leaves Lotte
Right-handed reliever Jay Jackson will be released by the Lotte Marines, with the team saying Thursday it received a request from the pitcher to be let out of his contract the day before.
The team has declined to explain the situation at the current time. The 32-year-old pitched with the Hiroshima Carp from 2016 to 2018. When he was not offered an extension for 2019, Jackson wound up with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019.
“We can’t elaborate at this time,” the Marines’ director of baseball operations Naoki Matsumoto said according to the Daily Sports.
This season, Jackson has allowed three runs over seven innings. He has struck out 12 of the 29 batters he’s faced.
Swallows’ Suarez, Dragons’ Yanagi dropped
The Yakult Swallows deactivated right-handed starting pitcher Albert Suarez on Thursday, with the team saying he needed to makes adjustments.
The 30-year-old Suarez is 2-0 with a 0.53 ERA in three starts, although he walked seven batters in Tuesday’s game against the Chunichi Dragons. The Swallows won the game 2-1 in 10 innings.
The Swallows replaced Suarez on the active roster with Keiji Suzuki, who may have Japan’s funkiest left-handed delivery.
The Dragons starter on Tuesday, Yuya Yanagi, was also deactivated. Yanagi, who struck out 10 but allowed a run in six innings, complained of stiffness in his right obliques during practice on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old right-hander led the Dragons in wins last year, when he posted an 11-7 mark with a 3.53 ERA. This season, he’s allowed four runs in 20 innings, while striking out 25.
As expected, the Yomiuri Giants activated flame-throwing Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira to take the roster spot opened when closer Rubby De La Rosa, who suffered a left oblique strain on Sunday.
Despite having struggled to field and hit for the bulk of his career, one-time prospect Shota Dobayashi has people talking about his future again.
On Wednesday, he singled in a run and belted a grand slam in the Hiroshima Carp’s 6-3 win over the DeNA BayStars at Mazda Stadium.
So far this season, Dobayashi is playing third base with confidence, chasing less, forcing pitchers to throw strikes and making better contact — although he is still striking out a lot.
The BayStars took a 3-2 lead into the eighth after a scoreless inning of relief from lefty Edwin Escobar. But Spencer Patton hit Seiya Suzuki with one out, allowed a single to Ryuhei Matsuyama and another walk loaded the bases for Dobayashi. The one-time would-be wunderkind belted a 1-1 fastball that got too much of the outside half of the plate and drilled it over the center field fence.
In the ninth, the Carp turned to 30-year-old journeyman right-hander Yasunori Kikuchi, and he held on to earn his first save, partly thanks to a big play from his namesake, Ryosuke Kikuchi, who turned what looked like an infield single that would have loaded the bases with no outs into a force at second.
Carp lefty Kris Johnson allowed three runs over seven innings on six hits and two walks. BayStars lefty Haruhiro Hamaguchi allowed just two runs despite surrendering nine walks and six hits and hitting a batter in his 5-1/3 innings on the mound.
Swallows, Dragons draw after 10
There were few points of interest about this game at Nagoya Dome that was tied 5-5 after four innings and stayed that way until the coronavirus 10-inning limit ended it. The main one was the red-hot start of 24-year-old Chunichi Dragons catcher Ariel Martinez.
Martinez, who had been crushing balls in the minors, struck out in his July 3 debut as a pinch-hitter. In 12 at-bats, he’s had five singles, a double and a walk, while looking competent behind the plate. Having been in Japan for two-plus seasons, he appears able to have some conversations in Japanese.
Fighters’ Martinez rock solid against Buffaloes
Nippon Ham’s Nick Martinez (1-2) located and executed all his pitches in a dominant effort against the Orix Buffaloes in a 10-4 Fighters win at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
The right-hander, who missed all of last season, allowed a run over six innings on five hits and a walk while striking out five. His fastball was crisp and he mixed in his splitter and curve for effect. The one run he surrendered was on a mammoth sixth-inning homer from Adam Jones that reached the third deck.
Lions’ Imai rides tailwind in win over Marines
Seibu Lions right-hander Tatsuya Imai came in hoping the gusting winds at Zozo Marine Stadium could give his pitches extra life, and it worked out in a 3-0 win over the Lotte Marines.
Imai walked five and hit a batter, but few Marines got good swings as he located his hard stuff while letting his two-seamer and breaking pitches knuckle and twist in the wind off Tokyo Bay.
Lotte lefty Kazuya Odajima (1-2) who tends to work away to everyone and continued to be troubled by left-handed hitters. Cory Spangenberg doubled to the fence in the first and scored from third on a Shuta Tonosaki single.
Imai faced a couple of tough situations, but both times was able to get out of trouble on miss-hit balls off well-located fastballs.
Asamura blast helps Wakui survive beating
Hideto Asamura homered for the fourth-straight game with his ninth home run of the season, a second-inning two-run shot off inexperienced 23-year-old Shunsuke Kasaya in the Rakuten Eagles’ 12-8 win over the SoftBank Hawks.
Kasaya (0-1) surrendered seven runs over two innings, allowing Rakuten starter Hideaki Wakui (3-0) to pick up a win in which he threw a lot of straight pitches and gave up six runs in a five-inning, 124-pitch effort.
Yuki Yanagita had three hits and two home runs for the Hawks.
Hawks’ Moore, Fighters Nomura deactivated
The SoftBank Hawks on Wednesday deactivated right-handed starting pitcher Matt Moore. The 31-year-old Moore suffered an injury to his left calf muscle during pregame practice on Tuesday at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome according to a Nikkan Sports report.
“I get a sense this might take some time but we need him to pitch,” Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said. “It isn’t going to heal all of a sudden, but I told him I want him back as soon as possible.”
The Hawks are replacing Moore on the active roster with 22-year-old rookie right-hander Kazuki Sugiyama.
Meanwhile, the Fighters will be without impressive 20-year-old rookie Yuki James Nomura after a batted ball broke his right pinky while he was playing third base in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s game against the Orix Buffaloes in Osaka.
Kodai Senga threw hard at the start, hitting 161 kph against his first batter but was missing all over, especially with his splitter, but it was good enough for a winning debut as the SoftBank Hawks beat the Rakuten Eagles 4-3 in the Pacific League on Tuesday.
Senga had been out with a calf injury compounded by arm issues, and only went five innings. Yuki Yanagita tied it with a two-run first-inning homer at PayPay Dome off Hayato Yuge (2-1). Ryoya Kurihara homered in the second to make it 3-2 only for Hideto Asamura to hit his ninth home run and tie it in the third. Yanagita broke the tie in the fifth with a hard-hit RBI single.
Albers corners Fighters in Buffaloes’ win
Andrew Albers (1-1) allowed two hits but no walks over seven innings while striking out eight for the Orix Buffaloes in their 7-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Aderlin Rodriguez opened the scoring against right-hander Toshihiro Sugiura (1-1) in the second with his second homer in three games, and Adam Jones’ two-run double made it 3-0 through three. Masataka Yoshida went 4-for-4 with a homer, two RBIs and two runs.
Former San Diego Padre Christian Villanueva went 1-for-3 in his Fighters debut.
Fighters activate Villanueva
The Nippon Ham Fighters activated third baseman Christian Villanueva on Tuesday. The infielder, who did not re-sign with the Yomiuri Giants over the winter following his first season in Japan, had an appendectomy in May.
Seibu’s Kona Takahashi struck out nine batters but ran into a buzz saw in the fifth and sixth inning in the Lions’ 8-6 loss to the Lotte Marines at Chiba’s wind-swept Zozo Marine Stadium.
Leonys Martin’s two-out, two-run fifth-inning double broke a 1-1 tie, and rookie Hisanori Yasuda’s two-run homer capped a three-run sixth for the Marines.
Marines right-hander Yuki Ariyoshi (1-0) allowed two runs over six innings, but the bullpen coughed up four runs to make it close.
Dragons lose in 10th with no hitters left
The Chunichi Dragons loaded the bases in the bottom of the 10th inning but lost 2-1 to the Yakult Swallows. Dragons manager Tsuyoshi Yoda burned through his nine reserve position players and sent reliever Takuya Mitsuma up to pinch-hit with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th.
Mitsuma fouled off one two-strike pitch before swinging and missing to end the game.
Norichika Aoki led off the Swallows’ 10th with a walk. With one out and first base open, Yoda ordered an intentional walk of red-hot Naomichi Nishiura. But Taishi Hirooka walked with two outs, and 36-year-old career minor leaguer Suguru Ino walked on six pitches to force in the run.
With two outs and runners on the corners in the bottom of the 10th, Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu ordered the bases loaded to bring the Dragons pitcher’s spot up with no position players left on the bench.
“It was 100 percent my mistake,” Yoda said according to Sports Nippon. “I mean one has to have at least one position player on the bench. I was conflicted about that last change and it came back to bite me.”
There are days when robots might be preferable.
And then there was Takatsu’s turn…
Takatsu himself had one of Japan’s most famous relief pitcher pinch-hitting appearances. In 1995, Central League manager Katsuya Nomura ordered Takatsu to pinch-hit for Hideki Matsui after Pacific League skipper Akira Ogi called Ichiro Suzuki in from right field to face the future major leaguer. Suzuki pitched to future big leaguer, just not the one people wanted to see.
The Rakuten Eagles made it look easy last week taking five of six against the Lotte Marines in Sendai — when the Marines entered on the back of an eight-game win streak. The Hawks went 3-2 with a tie at Sapporo Dome against the Fighters.
Tonight will be the 2020 season debut of Hawks ace Kodai Senga. He injured his right calf on the first day of spring training, and hurt his right forearm when he was on the verge of returning to fitness.
Senga starts out Eigoro Mogi with hard stuff, hitting 161 kph on his 4th pitch and gets him looking at a 159 kph inside fastball. If he can keep this location up when he starts with his secondary stuff it could be a long night for the Eagles but a fast game.
Daichi Suzuki hits the first pitch that isn’t a four-seam fastball, a 1-2 cutter away down the line in left for a single. Blash is rung up checking his swing on a low 3-2 slider. That’s about the closest call I’ve seen on a checked swing strike this year. The umps have been pretty forgiving unless a guy has gone well around.
Senga and Kai try to get Hideto Asamura to chase on 3-2 but he’s not biting. It’s two on with two outs for Hiroaki Shimauchi, who survives a close call on a low 1-2 fastball to stay alive. Shimauchi fouls off a cutter inside. Senga misses straight and down the pipe and Shimiuchi drills it over Yuki Yanagita’s head in center for a two-run double. Eagles 2, Hawks 0.
Stefen Romero pops up a first-pitch fastball, and the Eagles are done in the first at the Casa de Pepe.
Ryoya Kurihara, who is in left today, to lead off for the Hawks against the 1.93-meter lefty Hayato Yuge. The lefty clips him on the arm and the leadoff man is on. Mr. “300 sacrifice-bunts” Kenta Imamiya is up, and the announcers, of course, have to mention that, although no show of displeasure that he’s not squaring around.
Imamiya misses a fastball and rolls to short, not hard enough for a GDP. Yuki Yanagita takes a big swing on a first-pitch cutter that floats up in the zone and he miss-hits it just a little but still propels it into the home run terrace in left. We’re tied. Hawks 2, Eagles 2.
Yuge tried so hard to stay away from Yanagita, and he had no business swinging at that pitch, but what are you going to do. He strikes out Coco Balentien on a bouncer that gets away from catcher Hikaru Ota for “furinige” as Balentien reaches on an uncaught swinging third strike.
Keizo Kawashima, the right-handed-slap-hitting utility infielder is batting behind Coco and playing first. It’s like manager Kimiyasu Kudo lost a bet with someone. Kawashima reaches on an infield single, and Nobuhiro Matsuda smashes a bouncer into left and the bags are juiced.
Yuge appears to have regained his composure and strikes out the lefty-swinging Seiji Uebayashi, and the pops up Takuya Kai on the first pitch and the Hawks leave them loaded.
Ginji Akaminai leads off with a four-pitch walk, and now with the speed and the hit-and-miss location, it feels like Kodai Senga is REALLY back. Senga hangs a splitter up in the zone, but Eagles catcher Hikaru Ota looks at it for Strike 3.
Mogi grounds to first and Kawashima — can’t get used to him wearing No. 99 — gets the force at second for the second out. Daichi Suzuki up with runners on the corners but quickly down 0-2 and looks at a strike on the outside corner — that Senga was trying to go inside with.
With one out, Ryoya Kurihara barrels up a straight 1-0 fastball in the heart of the zone and pulls it into the permanents seats in right. Hawks 3, Eagles 2.
Yuge’s location is also kind of here and gone. He loses Imamiya on a 3-2 pitch, to put a man on for Yanagita. Yuge misses in the zone with his first pitch, but Yanagita misses, too, and fouls it off. Two hard ones inside and Yanagita grounds out to first.
Balentien, who pretty much never saw anything over the plate in Sapporo, gets a fastball in the zone and one inside for 1-1. Yuget gets him on a changeup low in the zone that Balentien lines softly to short.
Blash opens the third with a smash to short that nearly knocks Kenta Imamiya off his feet for the first out. But just like that, Hideto Asamura hits his eighth home run and we’re tied. That’s a decent curve from Senga, but Asamura is all over it and drives it 12 rows back in the permanent seats. Hawks 3, Eagles 3.
Very rare for the announcing crew to comment on the umpiring, but they do when Romero takes an 0-2 pitch down the middle and umpire Kunio Kiuchi dutifully gives the batter the benefit of the doubt. Romero hammers the next pitch through the box for a single, that Senga does well to duck. But Senga recovers by getting Akaminai on a pair of curves, that he apparently calls sliders.
Kawashima grounds out to open the Hawks’ third and the Hawks go down in order.
Fun fact:On Jan. 1, 2008, Kawashima was traded by the Nippon Ham Fighters with pitcher Yoshitaka Hashimoto and Takehiko Oshimoto to the Yakut Swallows for lefty Shugo Fuji, right-hander Yataro Sakamoto and current Rakuten manager Hajime Miki. On July 20, 2014, the Swallows sent him and lefty Ryo Hidaka to the Hawks for Nagisa Arakaki and submarine right-hander Hirofumi Yamanaka — who has the distinction of being the only player to still be active after a trade involving Kawashima.
I was thinking about that last week, when Kawashima was starting against the Fighters, playing for a team that had won five of the last six Japan Series after being a middling piece in a trade over 12 years earlier.
With one out, Ryosuke Tatsumi walks for the second time but is cut down on a throw from Kai that reminded us what he was like back in 2018 as the Japan Series MVP basically for his ability to gun down runners.
Yuge needs 11 pitches, six of them on Kai, to get a 1-2-3 inning.
Senga gets Suzuki to fly out on an 0-1 fastball but runs the count full to Blash, who entered the game third in the league in strikeouts and second in walks. But Blash actually swings and misses this time for the second out.
Senga’s location is getting incrementally better as the game goes along. Asamura is up and he fouls a 1-1 fastball in the zone, and a high slider, too. Asamura nearly gets hit with a splitter that gets away and it’s 2-2. The inning ends with a strike zone as Senga hangs a splitter up high and Asamura misses it.
A throwing error by shortstop Eigoro Mogi allows Kenta Imamiya to start the inning at second, and Yuki Yanagita drives a fastball over the inside half of the plate toward the gap in right-center. What a beautiful swing, balanced, compact. Oh if it weren’t for service time manipulation. Hawks 4, Eagles 3.
Yuge gets Balentien to hit into a double play and survives a two-out Kawashima single. Yuge is up to 75 pitches.
Submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi, the PL’s 2019 rookie of the year, is on in relief for Senga, who allowed three runs on four hits and four walks while striking out six.
The first two Hawks go down on three pitches, and they have to rush Takahashi out of the clubhouse to start throwing on the sideline. Taisei Makihara goes up there and apparently has been ordered to take some time up there. He fouls off three, two-strike pitches before grounding out on Yuge’s eighth delivery.
The Eagles bat for catcher Hikaru Ota, and Yuya Ogo flies out on the first pitch. Umpire Kiuchi has not been a big fan of pitches at the bottom of the zone, and lets Tatsumi draw his third walk on a low 3-2 pitch.
Mogi flies out on the first pitch, but Suzuki smashes a hanging 0-1 breaking ball down the pipe and pulls it into right for a single, bringing Blash to the plate with Asamura on deck. Blash reaches when Kawashima can’t hang on to a low throw from Imamiya.
The bases are loaded for Asamura. He misses an 0-1 pitch in the heart of the zone, and Takahashi gets a perfect strike on the outside edge for 1-2. A fastball inside misses, 2-2. The right-hander misses up in the zone, and Asamura fouls out to Kawashima.
Right-hander Tomohito Sakai on for the Eagles. Yuge allows four runs, three earned, over six innings. He gave up six hits and a walk and hit a batter while striking out three.
Sakai jams Kurihara, and Imamiya chases a low 2-2 pitch and flies out. Yanagita swings at a first-pitch strike and flies out to center.
Cuban lefty Livan Moinelo on for SoftBank to take on the Eagles’ fifth, sixth and seventh spots. He strikes out two in a 1-2-3 inning.
Sakai on for his second inning of work and he keeps it close, retiring Balentien, Kawashima and Matsuda.
Yuito Mori is on to close out the one-run game against the bottom of the Eagles’ order. Kazuya Fujita offers at a first-pitch breaking ball up and grounds to short. Tatsumi grounds a 1-1 fastball to second, and Mogi flies out to short to end it.
The 31-year-old right-hander, who joined the club last summer, leads Japan’s Central League with four saves. He left the mound after facing one batter in the ninth. His sixth pitch to Dayan Viciedo ended up in the seats.
The Giants are expected to replace De La Rossa on the roster with Brazilian flame thrower Thyago Vieira.
A makeup game for Friday’s rainout, at a time of year when Central League makeup games are virtually unheard of. The only times CL teams usually play makeups before September is during interleague. The CL just doesn’t schedule makeups — which is odd considering that four of its six stadiums are outdoors. But this is an unusual season.
Ariel Martinez became the first import to start a game at catcher in one of NPB’s top leagues since June 1991 on Sunday and had three singles for the Chunichi Dragons in their 6-4 Central league win over the Yomiuri Giants.
The 24-year-old Martinez, who was signed to a regular contract on July 1, had been with the Dragons since 2018 on a non-roster developmental deal, which allow up to three years of team control.
He was activated on Saturday, ostensibly because of left fielder Zoilo Almonte’s fitness issues. Martinez came off the bench at Tokyo Dome on Saturday, when he drew a walk and cut down a would-be base stealer.
Dayan Viciedo, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Cuba, homered twice, walked twice, singled and drove in four runs to power Chunichi’s offense, while 23-year-old right-hander Kodai Umetsu (2-1) allowed three runs over six innings to earn the win.
Umetsu scattered five hits and four walks while striking out seven, and went 2-for-3 with an RBI to raise his average to .500 for the season.
Giants starter Angel Sanchez (2-1) allowed three runs over two innings to take the loss.
Tigers’ Bour batters Carp
Justin Bour broke a 1-1 third-inning tie for the Hanshin Tigers with a grand slam in an 8-3 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Mazda Stadium.
Yusuke Oyama, who was starting at third and batting cleanup in place of Jefry Marte, who hurt a calf muscle on Saturday, hit a two-run homer in the fifth. Jerry Sands also went deep for the Tigers in the three-run inning.
Yuki Nishi (1-1), the Tigers’ Opening Day starter, allowed three runs over eight innings to earn the win. The right-hander struck out seven and walked one.
Taira, Soto lead BayStars rout of Swallows
Kentaro Taira struck out eight over seven scoreless innings to earn the win as the DeNA BayStars whipped the Yakult Swallows 8-1 at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Neftali Soto, who has won the CL home run title in each of his previous seasons in Japan, homered for the third time in two games with a fifth-inning grand slam.
Taira (2-0) allowed three hits but no walks.
Nomura lifts Fighters past Hawks
The Nippon Ham Fighters took a hammer to journeyman starting pitcher Akira Niho in a 5-3 win over the SoftBank Hawks at Sapporo Dome, with Yuki James Nomura breaking a 3-3 fourth-inning tie with his second career home run.
Niho (0-2) walked the first two batters he faced before surrendering RBI singles to Kensuke Kondo and Sho Nakata in a three-run first after his teammates opened the game with an unearned run off rookie Ryusei Kawano.
The rookie southpaw three primarily fastballs and sliders and missed barrels, but proved unwilling to challenge any of the Hawks big hitters and that proved costly.
He walked Yuki Yanagita with two outs in the first, and a good swing by Wladimir Balentien on a fastball well off the outside corner — he saw a lot of those this past week — was launched to the wall in center. Center fielder Haruki Nishikawa went to get it but failed to catch it for an error that scored Yanagita.
The Hawks tied it in the third when rookie Ryuhei Kuki turned on a straight inside fastball for his first career home run. A Kenta Imamiya double off the left field wall that Kensuke Kondo gloved after it struck the wall, and another walk to Yanagita brought up Balentien.
The former Dutch international slammed a 2-1 fastball, off the outside edge of course, to right. Right fielder Taishi Ota tried to make a leaping grab but missed. The ball hit the wall and Ota kicked it before recovering.
Yanagita tried to score from first but was nailed 9-4-2 thanks to an accurate throw from second baseman Ryo Watanabe and a super tag by catcher Yushi Shimizu.
The Fighters took the lead in the fourth on Yuki James Nomura’s second career home run. Watanabe singled in Kondo with Nippon Ham’s final run in the fifth.
Kawano struck out four and allowed four hits, but stayed away from his curve and change. His command was inconsistent but his fastball and slider were good enough to work with.
Yamamoto hits 4 in win over Lions
Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto worked seven innings and got plenty of run support in an 8-5 win over the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.
Yamamoto (2-0) allowed two runs, one earned, on four hits. He hit four batters, including a record-tying three in one inning, and struck out four. A week after his secondary pitches deserted him, Yamamoto’s curve was back and he used it to effect.
He became the first pitcher to hit four or more batters and last more than six innings since the Hawks’ Kenichi Wakatabe on April 15, 1999. Daisuke Matsuzaka also did it in the 2006 playoffs — on Oct. 7, 2006 in his final game for the Seibu Lions before he signed with the Boston Red Sox.
Masataka Yoshida and Adam Jones each had three hits for the Buffaloes, while Takahiro Okada homered and drove in three runs. Aderlin Rodriguez singled, doubled, drove in two runs and walked twice.
Brandon Dickson earned his second save by getting the second batter he faced in the ninth to hit into a game-ending double play.
Asamura leaves Marine debris in his wake
Hideto Asamura hit his fourth home run of the series and his seventh of the season, a three-run, fifth-inning shot that broke a 1-1 tie and lifted the Rakuten Eagles to an 8-1 win over the Lotte Marines.
Trailing 1-0 in the third against former Eagle Manabu Mima (1-1), who joined Lotte as a free agent over the winter, former Lotte captain Daichi Suzuki, who moved to Sendai as a free agent, singled with two outs and scored on a Jabari Blash double.
Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi (1-2) only struck out one batter over six innings, but only walked two and didn’t give up a hit after the first. Takashi Ogino doubled to open the game and scored on an Ikuhiro Kiyota double.
On Saturday morning, we learned that SoftBank Hawks players Alfredo Despaigne and Yurisbel Gracial will depart Cuba for Japan. This is good news for the Hawks fans, whose team has struggled over the first two weeks of Nippon Professional Baseball’s season.
It also reminds us that Japanese society is not an inclusive or particularly fair one. I suppose that given human nature, asking for a society to be fair is like asking for a government to be honest.
The issue is that people who live, work, pay taxes and contribute to society in a lawful manner are treated differently depending on the group they belong to. If you were born, raised and lived your entire life in Japan, you are a permanent resident, but if you happen to be outside Japan at this moment, you can’t return.
Your family is here? Your work is here? So what? Only Japanese citizens are currently allowed entry. Ostensibly, however, that won’t be a problem if you are a baseball player, whose team’s parent company can pull sufficient strings.
It has been the same way with testing for the coronavirus. Tests are plentiful in Japan, but the government has been miserly about allowing doctors, concerned about their patients health, from having them tested.
Essentially, the only individuals who get tested are:
those who have been identified as having close contact with someone outside their family who has tested positive.
those with the proper symptoms that are so severe as to necessitate hospitalization
professional athletes with or without symptoms
In April, after the government declared a state of emergency, the National Training Center, a facility dedicated to improving Japan’s Olympic performance, was shuttered. But many argued it should be reopened because it is extremely important that Japan achieve its gold medal target for the Tokyo Olympics if they are held.
It was not opened before the state of emergency was lifted, but the very idea that athletes SHOULD get special treatment in the eyes of those in government is striking.
It’s a confirmation to many that who you know and what group you belong to in Japan matter more than anything, and that if you don’t belong to the right group, you really are expendable to a government that for all intents and purposes has worked harder to preserve its Olympic wet dream than it has to protect the lives of its citizens and other less desirable residents.
Japan’s sporting life
There is no smoking-gun evidence that Japan was suppressing its infection counts and limiting testing in February and March in order keep the Tokyo Olympics on track to start on July 23, 2020, but the chart of confirmed infections in Japan is essentially flat until March 24. That’s the day the International Olympic Committee informed Japan that postponement was necessary.
There were 39 confirmed infections on March 24. There had been more than that a number of times in preceding weeks. On March 31 there were 87. On April 7 there were 252; on April 12, Japan peaked at 743. In the span of 20 days it had increased roughly 15 times.
Why then and not now?
It’s on the rise again and although testing is slowly becoming more accessible, it is still limited. Since the state of emergency was lifted and professional sports were put back on the table, the number of infections in Tokyo and around the country are doubling every nine to 10 days.
There are no longer daily briefings by the governor of Tokyo, and my wife keeps wondering allowed why nobody seems to care about the steady increase–which is much sharper than the one that forced pro sports to stop letting in crowds in February–although one might suspect that the official flat curve at that time was faked and that the government was looking at scarier data.
This would account for the huge spike after the Olympics were postponed, that the curve was not that steep at all but had been officially under-reported until March 24. That would partly explain why the government felt the need to act much more quickly in February when there were 30 to 50 new cases a day, than it does now, when there are 150 to 200 new cases a day.