Category Archives: News

NPB games, news of Sept. 19, 2019

Nobumasa Fukuda twice doubled home Yosuke Hirata, and Joely Rodriguez caught three batters looking in a 1-2-3 eighth inning as the Chunichi Dragons came from a run down to beat the Yomiuri Giants on Thursday in NPB.

The Giants entered the game with a magic number of four to win the Central League for the first time since 2014 and end the franchise’s longest pennant drought.

Hayato Sakamoto extended his career best in home runs with his 37th, but the hosts tied it in the home half at Nagoya Dome. Hirata singled with one out off Cristopher Mercedes, and was on second after Yota Kyoda tried to bunt for a base hit. Fukuda, who’d grounded out in the first on a low fastball, and popped up in the fourth chasing a low changeup, was ready for something low. He pounced on a 1-1 changeup at the bottom of the zone and lined it into the left-field corner.

Joely Rodriguez, the second Dragons pitcher to come on in relief of Shinnosuke Ogasawara, caught three-straight Giants hitters looking at called third strikes on his fastball on the edge of the zone.

“It looked to me like we were getting overpowered by fastballs,” batting coach Sadaaki Yoshimura said. “We were not batting decisively on either strikes or balls.”

Rodriguez (3-4) earned the win in relief, when Hirata doubled with one out in the eighth off Hirokazu Sawamura (2-2) and scored on Fukuda’s second two-out RBI double of the game.

Raidel Martinez worked the ninth to earn his eighth save as four Dragons pitchers combined to retire the last 11 Giants.

BayStars 11, Carp 8, 11 innings

At Yokohama Stadium, Neftali Soto started DeNA’s fightback from a 7-0 deficit with a three-run sixth-inning homer and ended it with a three-run sayonara shot in the 11th inning that eliminated Hiroshima from contention for a fourth-straight CL pennant.

Takayuki Kajitani tied the game in the sixth with a pinch-hit grand slam and re-tied it in the eighth with an RBI double. The home run was the 100th of his career. With his 41st and 42nd home runs, Soto pulled into a tie for the Japan lead with Seibu’s Hotaka Yamakawa.

Game highlights are HERE.

Swallows 8, Tigers 0

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin’s Koji Chikamoto moved past Shigeo Nagashima to take sole possession of the CL’s record for hits by a rookie with his 154th, a first-inning single against Yakult’s Yasuhiro Ogawa (5-12).

Ogawa allowed nine hits, the most in a shutout since Orix’s Taisuke Yamaoka gave up nine on Aug. 26, 2017 against Seibu. The last shutout win with more than nine hits was Masahiro Tanaka’s 10-hitter against SoftBank on Aug. 22, 2010.

Ogawa’s 145 pitches were the most thrown by an NPB pitcher since Orix’s Brandon Dickson threw 146 on July 17, 2018.

Hanshin has now been shut out an NPB-high 15 times. One of those games ended in a 0-0 tie. It was only the second time this season an opponent has failed to score against Yakult.

Game highlights are HERE.

Pacific League

Lions 2, Fighters 0

At MetLife Dome, Ken Togame (5-6) threw seven-plus innings as Seibu beat Nippon Ham, shutting out an opponent in consecutive games for the first time since Aug. 16 and Aug. 17 against Rakuten. The win dropped the defending champs’ magic number to clinch the PL pennant to five.

The Fighters have now been shut out 12 times this season, equaling the Rakuten Eagles for the most in the PL.

Game highlights are HERE.

Hawks 4, Buffaloes 3

At Yafuoku Dome, SoftBank clinched its sixth-straight playoff berth after Akira Nakamura broke a 3-3 eighth-inning tie with a sacrifice fly, and Yuito Mori worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 33rd save. The loss eliminated Orix from playoff contention.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 2, Marines 0

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Takahiro Norimoto (4-5) allowed three singles and now walks over eight innings, as Rakuten shut out Lotte and moved pass the Marines into third place.

Game highlights are HERE.

NPB games, news of Sept. 18, 2019

6 and 10 for Lions’ Neal

The Seibu Lions, warts and all, suddenly find themselves in the driver’s seat of the Pacific League pennant race after Zach Neal fell three outs shy of a Maddux on Wednesday in a 5-0 win over the Orix Buffaloes.

Neal (11-1) has allowed five runs in winning his last six starts, and became the fifth foreign-registered pitcher in Japan to win 10 straight decisions. He struck out five without issuing a walk for the third game in a row. The 10-straight winning decisions tied a Lions record for a foreign pitcher set by Kuo Tai-yuan, the “Orient Express.”

Afterward he paid tribute to shortstop Sosuke Genda and second baseman Shuta Tonosaki.

“Genda and Tonosaki are out of this world,” he said in Japanese.

“It’s special and so nice to have them behind me. I can pitch my game and be aggressive and not have to worry about much. So I’m thankful to have them.”

Here’s the Lions’ hero interview with Neal and Tonosaki, who scored twice and drove in a run with his 25th home run.

Orix manager Norifumi Nishimura gave more of the credit to his hitters’ inability to adjust.

“It’s not the first time we’ve faced him, but he’s beating us the same way as before,” Nishimura said. “Guys need to think more.”

The game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 6, Hawks 2

At Yafuoku Dome, Manabu Mima (8-5) allowed four of the first five SoftBank hitters to reach base, but allowed just two runs, one earned, over five innings as Rakuten won to pull within a half-game of the PL’s final playoff spot.

Handed a two-run lead in the first inning, Mima pitched out of trouble early and often, and the Eagles took the lead in a three-run sixth inning, when Hawks starter Rei Takahashi (11-5) allowed the first four batters to reach.

The Eagles, who were playing the first of six games in six days, brought in closer Yuki Matsui to pitch the ninth with a four-run lead.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Dragons 3, Giants 1

At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi broke up Yomiuri starter Yuki Takahashi’s no-hit bid in the seventh inning with two hits with no outs ignited a three-run inning. Yohei Oshima delivered the big blow with a two-run homer off lefty Kazuto Taguchi.

Tigers 3, Swallows 2

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin came from behind to beat Yakult as Koji Chikamoto raised his season hit total to 153, tying the record for CL rookies set in 1958 by Hall of Famer Shigeo Nagashima. Thirty-nine-year-old Kyuji Fujikawa stranded a pair of runners in the ninth to record his 13th save in 13 opportunities.

Game highlights are HERE.

NPB games, news of Sept. 16, 2019

Well-prepared Marines grind down Lions

After a pair of embarrassing extra-inning walk-off losses due to poor play in their outfield, the Lotte Marines on Monday simply looked better prepared than the Seibu Lions as they salvaged the finale of their series at MetLife Dome with a 9-3 win.

Riding a high after taking over the Pacific League lead the day before and seeing their magic number to clinch a second-straight pennant drop to nine, the Lions simply could not keep up.

Ayumu Ishikawa (7-5), whose career went downhill after he was selected for Japan’s team to the 2017 World Baseball Classic, barely outpitched Lions starter Keisuke Honda, but with his teammates putting on a clinic in disciplined hitting, that’s all he needed to win his third-straight start.

Ishikawa allowed three runs over seven innings on the road against Japan’s No. 1 offense. He gave up eight hits and issued three walks while striking out seven.

The Lions opened the scoring in the second on back-to-back no-out singles by Takeya Nakamura and Shuta Tonosaki on a pair of bad pitches, and a two-run Hotaka Yamakawa double off a 0-1 fastball that was low and straight. But the right-hander got the next three Lions to chase out of the zone.

Ishikawa repeated the feat in the fourth, with three-straight strikeouts after Tonosaki led off with a double.

Keisuke Honda (6-6) gave the Lions a solid start, holding the visitors scoreless through four innings. With one out in the fifth, he hung a first-pitch slider and light-hitting Yudai Fujioka pulled it out to right for his second home run of the season.

The Marines had been having good at-bats against Honda and crushed him in the sixth by swinging at every pitch he threw in the strike zone.

Leonys Martin hammered a hanging 1-0 changeup for a leadoff single. Honda hung a first-pitch slider to Seiya Inoue who doubled to left. Katsuya Kakunaka loaded the bases with a walk in a super at-bat in which he laid off or spoiled tough pitches. Ikuhiro Kiyota, who saw 14 pitches in his first two at-bats against Honda, put a nice compact swing on an inside 1-1 fastball and smashed it past third to tie the game.

Tatsuhiro Tamura then put the visitors in front with a good swing on a first-pitch low-and-away slider to drive in two. Honda was yanked, but lefty Shogo Noda allowed both inherited runners to score and was charged with another.

Despite their defeat, the Hawks’ loss in Hokkaido dropped the Lions’ magic number to eight. The Lions have eight games remaining, the Hawks nine. This game marked the last time any of the PL’s top three teams will play each other during the regular season.

Game highlights are HERE.

Fighters 7, Hawks 2, 8 innings, rain

At Asahikawa, Hokkaido, Chihiro Kaneko (7-7) allowed a run through six innings, while Nippon Ham scored three off SoftBank starter Ariel Miranda (7-5) in 3-1/3 innings.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 8, Buffaloes 2

At Kyocera Dome, Rakuten got to Andrew Albers (2-5) for four runs, three in the fifth inning, while Takayuki Kishi (7-7) worked seven innings to get the win against Orix. The victory kept the Eagles one game back of Lotte in the race for the PL’s final playoff spot.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Tigers 2, Giants 1

At Tokyo Dome, Onelki Garcia (3-8) allowed a run over 5-1/3 innings and four relievers completed a five-hitter as Hanshin outlasted Yomiuri. Kyuji Fujikawa walked a batter in the ninth but converted his 12th straight save opportunity.

My recent interview with Fujikawa is HERE.

After the game, Tigers skipper Akihiro Yano said, “Strong relief pitching is our trademark, but we sure could use an insurance run sometimes.”

The Giants’ magic number to clinch the pennant dropped to four thanks to the DeNA BayStars’ loss in Nagoya.

Game highlights are HERE.

Dragons 8, BayStars 1

At Nagoya Dome, diminutive 19-year-old right-hander Takumi Yamamoto (3-3) threw seven scoreless innings as Chunichi clobbered DeNA in a bullpen day for the BayStars.

Swallows 6, Carp 4

At Mazda Stadium, 19-year-old Munetaka Murakami homered twice, bringing his record total for a teenager in Japan to 35 as Yakult hit four home runs in a win over Hiroshima’s best pitcher, Daichi Osera (11-9), who gave up five runs, four earned, over six innings.

NPB games, news of Sept. 15

Definitely not “all right”

When Japanese fielders are in danger of converging on a fly ball, one player is supposed to call for the ball by shouting, “ohrai! ohrai!” (all right). This is also the phrase used when one is instructing drivers with obstructed views that it is OK to turn or back up.

I learned that this was the phrase because of Sunday’s Lions-Marines game, and I guess Lotte left fielder Shohei Kato has since been asked by coaches whether he knows it or not.

Moving near the warning track toward left-center, Kato strode into center fielder Takashi Ogino, who appeared oblivious that his teammate was also tracking the ball. The ball was not caught and rolled away, as Lions batter Fumikazu Kimura circled the bases for all he was worth.

Typically, the losing team in a walk-off game, walk off, but from the looks on the faces of Kato and Ogino, neither appeared to be in any hurry to head to the visitors’ clubhouse at MetLife Dome.

“It was a routine ball,” Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi said. “If you make mistakes, you lose.”

Akira Otsuka, the team’s outfield defense coach, said, “An outfielder catches the ball, even if there’s a collision.”

Credit goes to Kimura for hustling from the instant he hit the ball. A moment’s hesitation and he’s on third base with a chance this game remains tied 5-5 and heads to the 12th inning. An outfielder, Kimura was open to the possibility that the ball might drop.

“When evening approaches in this ballpark, it gets dark outside and you can lose track of the ball,” he said.

As a result, the Seibu Lions won 6-5, moved into first place in the Pacific League with a magic number of nine to clinch the pennant and booked their place in the postseason.

For the second day in a row, the Lions blew a ninth-inning lead. This time it was principle middle reliever Katsunori Hirai, pitching in his 76th game of the season and his fourth game of the week, who allowed Lotte to tie it.

Starter Daiki Enokida gave Seibu a solid outing through six innings. At that stage, he had allowed one run on six hits and a walk. But he stayed in the game until after he loaded the bases with two outs and surrendered a tie-breaking three-run triple to Lotte’s Daichi Suzuki.

Elsewhere in the Pacific League

Fighters 7, Hawks 5

At Sapporo Dome, SoftBank rookie Hiroshi Kaino (2-5) missed up in the zone a few times in the eighth inning, and they were pounced on for RBI singles by Sho Nakata and Kotaro Kiyomiya as Nippon Ham came from behind.

Hawks third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda drove in the game’s first run in the second inning when he became the 72nd player in Japanese pro baseball history with 300 career doubles.

Game highlights are HERE.

Buffaloes 7, Eagles 1

At Kyocera Dome, Orix’s Yoshinobu Yamamoto (7-5) scattered six hits and three walks, allowing a run over seven innings to earn his first win since being sidelined for an oblique muscle strain in August. Stefen Romero broke the game open with a three-run, eighth-inning double.

“There weren’t many pitches I was really happy with, but I think I made some solid adjustments,” said the 21-year-old, who is now 12-1/3 innings shy of qualifying for the league ERA title with his 1.72 figure in just his third season out of high school ball.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Giants 6, Tigers 5

At Tokyo Dome, Alex Guerrero’s 20th home run, an eighth-inning, two-run shot, brought Yomiuri from a run down, and Rubby De La Rosa worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his seventh save. Hanshin’s Pierce Johnson (2-3) took the loss, while Scott Mathieson (2-2) pitched a perfect eighth to earn the win.

Sugano shelled again, bound for farm

Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano, activated after allowing four runs in two innings on Sept. 4, when he was diagnosed with lower back trouble, is bound for deactivation again after allowing four runs over four innings against the Tigers without control or command.

“If I am on that mound any longer, I’m being a burden,” he said.

Pitching coach Kazutomo Miyamoto said, “I don’t know if 10 days was enough for his back trouble, but he was not able to put anything into his pitches.”

Game highlights are HERE.

BayStars 6, Dragons 2

At Nagoya Dome, Jose Lopez broke a 2-2, fifth-inning tie with a two-run home run, his 29th, as DeNA beat Chunichi as Edison Barrios (1-1) allowed two runs over five innings to earn the win.

Swallows 8, Carp 7

At Mazda Stadium, journeyman right-hander Kengo Tagawa, Yakult’s second draft pick in 2012, allowed a run over 5-2/3 innings to earn his first career win thanks to two home runs and five RBIs by reserve shortstop Taishi Hirooka in a win over Hiroshima.

NPB games, news of Sept. 14, 2019

The Ono NoNO

Eight days after Japan had its first no-hitter in 13 months, it had another, as Yudai Ono allowed a runner to reach on an error and a walk in a 3-0 win over the Hanshin Tigers on Saturday.

When Kodai Senga no-hit the Lotte Marines a week ago last Friday, it was the Hawks’ first no-hitter since before Donald Trump was born. The Dragons, on the other hand, have thrown six of NPB’s last 18 no-hitters.

Ono, the Dragons’ first draft pick in the 2010 draft, improved to 9-8 on the season. He has a 58-61 record.

Pacific League

Lions 4, Marines 3

At MetLife Dome, Seibu closer Tatsushi Masuda, who pitched with the maximum allowable lead in two of Seibu’s previous three games, couldn’t hold a two-run, ninth-inning lead against Lotte.

The Lions, however, won the game with one out in the 10th. With portly slugger Takeya Nakamura on first, Marines center fielder Hiromi Oka misplayed Ernesto Mejia’s one-out, medium-deep fly. When he fell trying to make the catch the ball rolled and rolled and Nakamura chugged home from first.

Here’s the post-game hero interview with winning pitcher Tsubasa Kokuba (1-0) and Mejia.

Game highlights are HERE.

Hawks 3, Fighters 1

At Sapporo Dome, Yurisbel Gracial singled in the tie-breaking run in the fifth, and Yuito Mori recorded his 32nd save by stranding two runners in the ninth, as SoftBank beat Nippon Ham to maintain a tiny winning-percentage-point lead over Seibu.

The loss eliminated the Fighters from pennant contention.

Game highlights are HERE.

Buffaloes 3, Eagles 2

At Kyocera Dome, Yuma Mune drove in all three Orix runs, while starter Taisuke Yamaoka (11-4) lost his shutout bid in a two-run Rakuten eighth inning. Brandon Dickson stranded two runners in the ninth to earn his 19th save.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Carp 6, Giants 5, 10 innings

At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara was unhappy after his team wasted a one-out, bases-loaded chance to break a 5-5 tie in the ninth inning in a 10-inning loss to Hiroshima. The Carp then scored the winning run in the 10th on a passed ball by catcher Takumi Oshiro.

“You could see who was clutch and who wasn’t,” said Hara after Alex Guerrero and Oshiro popped up one after the other to end the ninth.

Game highlights are HERE.

Dragons 3, Tigers 0

At Nagoya Dome, Dayan Viciedo reached base four times, and he and Nobumasa Fukuda each scored one run and drove in another to back Yudai Ono’s no-hitter.

BayStars 7, Swallows 4

At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA hammered lefty Masanori Ishikawa (7-6) for five runs over five innings in a win over Yakult, in which Swallows second baseman Tetsuto Yamada was caught stealing for the first time since Aug. 22, 2018, ending his record streak of 38 successful stolen base attempts.

NPB games, news of Sept. 13, 2019

Randy Messenger, the anchor of the Hanshin Tigers pitching rotation for most of this past decade, has reportedly told the team he plans to make this season his last after he gave up four runs in his fifth inning of work against an independent minor league team on Thursday.

As the NPB season enters its stretch run, there are going to be more and more nights with less than a full slate of games, and Friday’s three-game schedule will be common.

Pacific League

Lions 6, Marines 1

At MetLife Dome, rookie Wataru Matsumoto (7-3), Seibu’s first draft pick a year ago, pitched his best game of the season as he struck out eight over seven scoreless innings to beat Lotte to stay within a couple of winning-percentage points of the PL-leading SoftBank Hawks.

Matsumoto’s fastball was crisp from the start and though he walked five batters, he surrendered just two singles.

“We didn’t get good swings,” Lotte batting coach Iwao Omura said. “His cutter and curve were both good and he changes speeds on us a lot.”

Lions leadoff hitter Shogo Akiyama was the big wheel for the defending champs with a single, double and his 20th home run. He drove in three runs and would have scored three runs but he was forced out on the bases once.

Manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji called on his closer, Tatsushi Masuda to get one out after the Marines loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth. It seemed like kind of a waste, but that’s what Japanese teams do. Masuda got his man and equaled a career high with his 28th save.

Akiyama became the fifth Seibu player with 20 home runs this season after Hotaka Yamakawa, Takeya Nakamura, Tomoya Mori and Shuta Tonosaki. It’s the first time the Lions have done this since their last Japan Series-winning season, 2008. It’s the first time a PL team has ever accomplished this feat with only Japanese players.

Here a coach, there a coach

Anybody out there remember when Omura was playing for the Marines 25 years ago? Anyone remember the fans’ chant when he came to bat? I so want to hear it again. It went:

“Old MacDonald had a farm, Iwa, Iwa, Ohhhh.”

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Giants 5, Carp 1

At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri’s Shun Yamaguchi (14-4) stuck it to three-time defending champ Hiroshima, striking out 10 over 7-2/3 innings.

Game highlights are HERE.

Tigers 7, Dragons 1

At Nagoya Dome, Yuki Nishi (8-8) allowed a run over seven innings, while Kosuke Fukudome belted a three-run home run as Hanshin clobbered Chunichi.


Yamasaki secures 2nd-straight CL save crown

DeNA BayStars right-hander Yasuaki Yamasaki will lead the CL in saves for the second-straight season after Hanshin’s Rafael Dolis failed to get a save on Friday, and no longer has enough games to reach the 30 that Yamasaki has under his belt.

It’s the first time a player has led the CL in saves for two-straight seasons since Oh Seung Hwan did it for Hanshin in 2014 and ’15.