Category Archives: Baseball

Double standards

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.

infections in Japan
Confirmed infections in Japan through June 23

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.

NPB 2020 7-4 GAMES AND NEWS

Sunday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB.

Wada gets assist from Fighters in 1st win

Former Cub Tsuyoshi Wada took a no-hitter into the seventh and ended up with his first win of the season as the SoftBank Hawks beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 8-3 at Sapporo Dome.

The 39-year-old lefty frequently missed in the zone, but the Fighters only hit two balls hard off him through six, both drives straight to Hawks outfielders. Instead of playing “see the ball, hit the ball” against a pitcher whose fastball sat at 85 miles per hour, they guessed and watched and looked and waited.

Wada’s changeup was first rate, and it was if the Fighters were waiting for him to throw it up in the zone, something he refused to do. Instead, whenever they got a fastball up they either watched it, missed it or miss-hit it. He surrendered his first hit to Kensuke Kondo to open the seventh.

The Fighters’ most patient hitter had taken strike after strike in the zone in his first two at-bats, and should have been rung up on a low 0-2 changeup. But umpires are umpires the world over, Kondo got a second life and pulled an inside 1-2 fastball between first and second for a single.

In the seventh, the Fighters changed tactics and began taking easy swings at mistakes in the zone. They loaded the bases with three no-out singles and Wada was gone.

“They are professional hitters. It wasn’t a matter of if they would get a hit, but when,” Wada said.

The Hawks opened the scoring in the first, when Kenta Imamiya homered with one out and none on against Takayuki Kato (0-1). Imamiya, on Friday moved into a tie for seventh all-time in career sacrifice hits with 300. Three straight hits, including a Wladimir Balentien double gave the Hawks the lead for good.

Here are the game highlights:

Kishi wins season debut

The Rakuten Eagles won a seven-inning rain-shortened 3-1 game over the Lotte Marines at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi. Takayuki Kishi (1-0) allowed a first-inning run over five innings in his season debut by pitching out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fourth.

Former Padre Kazuhisa Makita worked a scoreless sixth, and former Dodger JT Chargois pitched the seventh to earn his first save in Japan.

Here are the game highlights:

Yoshida homer lifts Buffaloes over Lions

Masataka Yoshida’s third home run of the season, a two-run shot in the eighth inning, brought the Orix Buffaloes from a run down and lifted them to a 4-3 win over the defending Pacific League champion Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.

Buffaloes starter Daiki Tajima (1-0) had one brush with trouble and it cost him in a three-run fourth, capped by Takeya Nakamura’s two-run double. Aderlin Rodriguez’s fifth-inning solo homer made it a 3-1 game in the fifth and Tajima left after seven.

A one-out walk, a wild pickoff throw and an RBI single by Koji Oshiro made it a 3-2 game before Yoshida homered with two outs.

Tyler Higgins worked the eighth for Orix and Brandon Dickson closed in the ninth to record his first save of the season.

Maru drives in 6 as Giants whip Dragons

Yoshihiro Maru homered twice and added an RBI double as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Chunichi Dragons 7-3 at Tokyo Dome.

Hayato Sakamoto walked twice, homered, singled and scored three runs, while Gerardo Parra doubled twice and singled.

Marte, Bour rip as Tigers gut Carp

Jefry Marte hit a two-run first-inning home run off Carp ace Daichi Osera (2-1) in a 9-3 Hanshin Tigers win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Justin Bour had three hits for the Tigers and a sacrifice fly, while starting pitcher Yuta Iwasada (1-1) allowed three runs over six innings to earn the win.

Osera, who entered the game having opened the season with back-to-back complete-game victories, allowed five runs on eight hits over four innings. Osera failed to score or drive in a run on Saturday, but did single in his only at-bat, raising his average to .625.

Marte did not return to third base in the bottom of the third inning after complaining of tightness in his left calf.

Martinez 1st import to catch in 20 years

A day after being called up, 24-year-old Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez saw his first duty behind the plate on Saturday. Coming on as a sixth-inning pinch-hitter, Martinez walked, scored and stayed in to catch.

In so doing, he became the first imported player to catch in an NPB game since former Australian big leaguer Dave “Dingo” Nillson caught in one game for the Dragons in 2020. Prior to that, Mike Diaz caught 21 games for the Lotte Orions from 1990 to 1991.

Martinez, who joined Chunichi as a non-roster developmental signing in 2018, was signed to a standard contract this past week and added to the Dragons’ 70-man roster. He looked good behind the plate and threw out the first runner who tried to steal against him.

Swallows walk the walk

The Yakult Swallows overcame home runs by Neftali Soto and Jose Lopez by drawing seven walks in a 10-8 win over the DeNA BayStars, who outhit the Swallows 15-6.

Soto had four hits, including two homers, but Naomichi Nishiura and Norichika Aoki each hit two-run shots for the Swallows. Nishimura, who had lost his shortstop job to Alcides Escobar, has grabbed it back by hitting four homers in four games.

Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama entered the ninth with a four-run lead but allowed two runs on Soto’s third home run of the year.

NPB 2020 7-5 PITCHERS

Here are the announced starting pitchers for NPB’s games of Sunday, July 5.

Pacific League

Fighters vs Hawks: Sapporo Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Ryusei Kawano* (0-1) vs Akira Niho (0-1)

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

Ryota Ishibashi (0-2) vs Manabu Mima (1-0)

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

Kaito Yoza* (0-1) vs Yoshinobu Yamamoto (1-0)

Central League

Giants vs Dragons: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

ANGEL SANCHEZ (2-0) vs Kodai Umetsu (1-1)

Carp vs Tigers: Mazda Stadium 1:30 pm, 12:30 am EDT

Atsushi Endo (0-0) vs Yuki Nishi (0-1)

Swallows vs BayStars: Jingu Stadium 5 pm, 4 am EDT

Hirotoshi Takanashi (0-0) vs Kentaro Taira (1-0)

NPB 2020 7-4 pitchers

Here are the announced starting pitchers for NPB’s games of Saturday, July 4.

Pacific League

Fighters vs Hawks: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Takayuki Kato (0-0) vs Tsuyoshi Wada (0-0)

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

Takayuki Kishi (-) vs Atsuki Taneichi (0-0)

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

Wataru Matsumoto (0-1) vs Daiki Tajima (0-0)

Central League

Giants vs Dragons: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Kazuto Taguchi (1-0) vs Kazuki Yoshimi (1-1)

Carp vs Tigers: Mazda Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Daichi Osera (2-0) vs Yuta Iwasada (0-1)

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

Yasuhiro Ogawa (1-0) vs Koo Nakagawa* (-)

NPB 2020 7-3 GAMES AND NEWS

Saturday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB.

Sugano outduels Ono with 1-hitter

Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano struck out 11, while allowing one hit in a 5-0 shutout of the Chunichi Dragons on Friday at Tokyo Dome.

Sugano (2-0) walked two and hit a batter, while Ono (0-2) allowed two runs, one earned, while striking out 10 over seven innings. Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto broke up the scoreless game in the sixth inning with a solo homer.

Dayan Viciedo, who broke up Sugano’s no-hit bid with a seventh-inning double, ended the game by grounding out to second.

Ariel Martinez, a 24-year-old Cuban catcher who was activated on Friday after a hot streak in the Western League, struck out in the eighth as a pinch-hitter in his first-team debut.

Balentien makes Arihara pay

Wladimir Balentien broke a 1-1 tie at Sapporo Dome with a two-run home run, his third in two games, off Kohei Arihara (0-3) in the SoftBank Hawks’4-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Coming to the plate after Yuki Yanagita singled in the tying run, Balentien extended his arms on a lazy first-pitch slider and drove it well past the wall in center for his fifth home run of the season.

In the eighth, Balentien didn’t reach the seats, but he did double off the dome’s ceiling. The ball that was headed out was deflected downward and bounced in front of and over left fielder Kensuke Kondo.

Cuba’s Livan Moinelo worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn the save.

Imamiya reaches sacrificial milestone

Although Hawks shortstop Kenta Imamiya has developed medium-range power, he’s still a shortstop and still expected to sacrifice like he did when he needed to cement his role on the team by bunting all the time.

On Friday, his sixth-inning sacrifice put a runner in scoring position, from where Yanagita singled him home. The 300th career sacrifice hit ties him for sixth all-time with former Nankai Hawks and Kintetsu Buffaloes star Hiromasa Arai.

Norimoto survives scrape for 3rd win

Takahiro Norimoto (3-0) got his pitching hand in the way of a fourth-inning batted ball but returned to the field after treatment and gutted it out for 6-2/3 innings to earn the victory in the Rakuten Eagles’ 3-1 win over the Lotte Marines.

The Marines tied it in the fourth on a passed ball, but home runs from Ryosuke Tatsumi and Hiroaki Shimauchi off Marines right-hander Ayumu Ishikawa (0-1) made the difference at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

With two outs and the tying runs on in the seventh JT Chargois retired Lotte leadoff man Takashi Ogino to preserve the lead, and Alan Busenitz struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth. Kohei Morihara worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save.

Lions salvage tie with Buffaloes

Takeya Nakamura homered and had a solid defensive game at third base as the Seibu Lions overcame a three-run, sixth-inning deficit at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo in their game against the Orix Buffaloes that was called a 4-4 tie after 10 innings.

Adam Jones tied the game 1-1 in the sixth with an RBI single and scored on Takahiro Okada’s monstrous home run off Lions starter Zach Neal. But Nakamura homered to open the sixth against former closer Hirotoshi Masui, and Sosuke Genda completed the comeback with a two-run single.

By taking Neal off the hook for the loss, the Lions preserved his chance to win 13 straight decisions.

Tyler Higgins and Brandon Dickson each worked scoreless innings in relief for the Buffaloes, with Dickson pitching out of a one-out bases-loaded jam by striking out Nakamura and getting Wu Nien-ting to fly to the warning track.

For the second-straight night new Lion Reed Garret pitched out of trouble after allowing two hits. He had some help from catcher Tomoya Mori, who cut down a would-be base stealer with a tremendous throw.

Dragons call up catcher Martinez

The Central League’s Chunichi Dragons activated Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez on Friday according to the Chunichi Sports. The team signed the 24-year-old on Wednesday after acquiring him in 2018 as a non-roster developmental player.

The move was made because 31-year-old left fielder Zolio Almonte was deactivated due to concerns about his fitness. In his two-plus seasons in Japan, Almonte has a .369 on-base percentage and a .484 slugging average despite playing at one of Japan’s toughest home run parks.

Martinez, who cracked his second Western League home run on Thursday, has four from 11 minor league and practice games this year. He becomes the first imported player registered as a catcher since Australian Dave Nillson, who caught in one game in 2000 for the Dragons.

In three WL games, Martinez is 5-for-9 with a double, two home runs and two walks. He has yet to strike out.

Martinez caught on June 24, when he accounted for the only run off Carter Stewart Jr, with a solo home run and again on Thursday, when he homered in an 8-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Nagoya Stadium.

Carp drop reliever Scott

The Hiroshima Carp deactivated right-handed first-year import Taylor Scott on Friday, the day after he surrendered four runs in a 9-5 walk-off loss to the Yakult Swallows.

Scott (0-2) has faced 22 hitters, while allowing 10 hits and three walks. He’s allowed one home run, Thursday’s game-winning grand slam off the bat of Munetaka Murakami.

NPB 2020 7-3 pitchers

Here are the announced starting pitchers for NPB’s games of Friday, July 3.

Pacific League

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

Kohei Arihara (0-2) vs Nao Higashihama (0-0)

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

Takahiro Norimoto (2-0) vs Ayumu Ishikawa (0

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

ZACH NEAL (1-0) vs Tsubasa Sakakibara (-)

Central League

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

Tomoyuki Sugano (1-0) vs Yudai Ono (0-1)

Carp vs Tigers: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Daichi Osera (2-0) vs Yuki Nishi (0-1)

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

Masanori Ishikawa (0-0) vs Shota Imanaga (1-1)

NPB 2020 7-2 GAMES AND NEWS

Friday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB.

Fighters overcome Balentien bombs

Rick van den Hurk started for SoftBank and for the second-straight time his former Dutch interational teammate Wladimir Balentien homered twice behind him. Balentien drove in five runs but van den Hurk gave them back in a 9-8 walk-off loss to the Nippon Ham Fighters on Wednesday.

With two outs and two on in the ninth, Yuki James Nomura drove one off the wall to end it. The 20-year-old rookie also made up for a second-inning error with a second-inning home run.

A week after everything worked for him, a lot of van den Hurk’s pitches lacked their usual life as he surrendered five runs on seven hits and two walks over five innings.

That was enough to keep the Hawks in the game, however, as Fighters starter Drew VerHagen allowed six runs, four earned, over 4-1/3 innings. The combination of too many missed locations and too many good swings proved tough to overcome.

A hanging 2-2 changeup to Yuki Yanagita put an extra runner on for Balentien in the first, and with the Netherlands international looking for a second fastball outside, that’s where VerHagen missed, and gave Balentien a little more to celebrate on his 36th birthday as he drove it over the distant center field wall at Sapporo Dome for a three-run shot.

VerHagen appears to have good stuff. His fastball was crisp, and his slider sharp, so it’s probably more of getting a sense of what he needs to do against certain hitters.

Sho nakata homered in the first for the Fighters on a straight 2-2 fastball in the zone. Hawks leadoff hitter Ryuya Kurihara hit a two-run shot in the second for the Hawks after a two-out smash came off the heel of Nomura’s glove at third.

Nomura, who was born in the States, homered in the bottom of the second, and Kensuke Kondo, who walked and scored in the first, delivered a sac fly in the third to make it a 5-4 game. With SoftBank leading 6-5 in the seventh, Balentien homered again, but Fighters prospect Kotaro Kiyomiya matched him with a two-run shot.

Hawks closer Yuito Mori came on in the ninth. Kensuke Kondo, who entered the game tied for the league lead with 10 walks, drew his third of the game, on eight pitches, to open the inning. Tanaka singled.

With two outs and both runners in scoring position, Nomura drove a cutter in the heart of the zone to the wall to end it.

Spangenberg, Mori blast Buffaloes

New Lions leadoff man Corey Spangenberg, homered, tripled, singled, walked and scored three runs, while Tomoya Mori homered and drove in four runs as Seibu overcame an early two-run deficit to beat the Orix Buffaloes 9-5.

Lions reliever Reed Garrett entered in the eighth, having retired the last 13 batters he’d faced, but surrendered back-to-back hits. The right-hander then returned to form by retiring three straight and working his fifth-straight scoreless inning.

Spangenberg may have had a big night at the plate, but his first inning in the field was an adventure. He misplayed the hop on a ball hit in front of him in left. The ball got over his head for a double and then he kicked it to put leadoff runner Yuma Mune on third.

Martin, Inoue pace Marines

The Lotte Marines moved back into first place in the Pacific League with an 8-5 win over the Rakuten Eagles, at Sendai’s Rakuten Semei Park Miyagi. Leonys Martin and Seiya Inoue each homered and drove in three runs for the Marines.

Stefen Romero, who joined the Eagles over the winter, homered to tie it 2-2 in the bottom of the second but starting pitcher Takahiro Shiomi (0-2) surrendered six runs over 4-2/3 innings.

Marines starter Daiki Iwashita (2-0) allowed three runs, two earned, over five innings, while Frank Herrmann and Jay Jackson each worked a scoreless inning out of the Lotte bullpen.

Viciedo, Dragons rock former teammate

Dayan Viciedo belted a three-run homer off former teammate Onelki Garcia (0-2) and Raidel Martinez closed it out as the Chunichi Dragons beat the Hanshin Tigers 4-2 at Nagoya Dome.

“They’re in a bind. They want to get up there and advance runners with sacrifice bunts, but they just don’t have runners.”

–analyst Yutaka Takagi on the Hanshin Tigers’ offensive woes.

Swallows blast Carp

The Yakult Swallows overcame a four-run deficit on the strength of four homers in a 9-5 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Jingu Stadium, with 2019 CL rookie of the year Munetaka Murakami driving in five runs, four on a walk-off grand slam.

Naomichi Nishiura, who had homered to drive in the winning run twice this week, twice tied the game with home runs.

Ramirez’s best intentions prove costly

DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez’s fondness for the intentional walk cost him in a 5-3 loss to the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome. Japan’s annual leader in giving away first base put two on intentionally and both scored.

Giants right-hander Toshiki Sakurai (1-0) was punished for a couple of his mistakes, but he was able to mix, locate and execute some nasty curves and splitters, and the BayStars only managed one run off him in eight innings while striking out nine.

Tyler Austin walked, doubled and scored for the BayStars, while lefty Edwin Escobar worked a solid inning of relief for DeNA. Right-hander Spencer Patton, who had been lights out so far this season, got rocked for three runs in the eighth with the help of an intentional walk.

Austin to 1B as Ramirez sidelines Lopez

Tyler Austin, who has been in right-field this season for the Yokohama-based DeNA BayStars, will be at first base on Thursday night for the team’s Central League series finale against the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome, manager Alex Ramirez said before the game according to the Daily Sports.

The story reported Ramirez as saying that Lopez was hitless against Giants starter Toshiki Sakurai in eight at-bats, while outfielder Tomo Otosaka had a good track record at Tokyo Dome.

Austin has gotten his Japan career off to a good start, 13 hits in his first 34 at-bats for DeNA.

With Lopez inactive for the game, the BayStars will have Austin, two-time defending CL home run champ Neftali Soto and relievers Spencer Patton and Edwin Escobar available.

NPB 2020 7-2 PITCHERS

Here are the announced starting pitchers for NPB’s games of Thursday, July 2.

Pacific League

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

DREW VERHAGEN (1-0) vs RICK van den HURK (1-0)

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

Takahiro Shiomi (0-1) vs Daiki Iwashita (1-0)

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

Keisuke Honda (0-1) vs Sachiya Yamasaki (-)

Central League

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

Toshiki Sakurai (0-0) vs Shinichi Onuki (-)

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

Yuichiro Okano* (0-1) vs ONELKI GARCIA (0-1)

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

GABRIEL YNOA (0-1) vs Allen Kuri (1-0)

NPB 2020 7-1 GAMES AND NEWS

Thursday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB

Suzuki has career night against Lions

For most of the first five years of his pro baseball career, Yu Suzuki has been a reliever. But going 6-3 as a starter in the Western League last season with a 2.81 ERA must have caught someone’s attention.

On Wednesday, the 23-year-old right-hander who was Orix’s ninth draft pick in 2014, was handed the ball for his first top-team start and threw five hitless innings, nearly doubling his career output with the Pacific League club. The result was his first career win as Orix snapped a seven-game losing streak in a 6-0 win over the Seibu Lions.

For five innings, he and Lions starter Tatsuya Imai (0-2) traded hitless innings, until in the sixth, the jig was up for the Seibu starter. After issuing a leadoff walk, Imai left a slider up a little too much to diminutive power hitter Masataka Yoshida, and the left-handed-hitter launched it over MetLife Dome’s right field fence.

An Adam Jones double and an Aderlin Rodriguez RBI single made it 3-0, when Seibu self-destructed. An error and three-straight bases-loaded walks completed the six-run sixth inning.

Four Orix relievers came in, and the Lions, who haven’t been no-hit in 20 years, didn’t get a hit until veteran slugger Takeya Nakamura’s hard grounder found a hole to lead off the eighth off new import Tyler Higgins.

Asamura punishes Marines some more

Hideto Asamura homered for the second-straight night in Sendai, while Hideaki Wakui (2-0) allowed two runs over five innings as the Rakuten Eagles beat the Lotte Marines 5-3 to pull into a tie for first place in the Pacific League.

Pitching against the club that sold him over the winter, Wakui sturck out seven, while allowing five hits and a walk.

Leonys Martin homered for the Marines, while JT Chargois and Alan Busenitz each worked an inning of relief for the Eagles. Busenitz allowed a run on three hits.

Ishikawa strikes out 10 in Sapporo

Shuta Ishikawa (1-0) of the SoftBank Hawks struck out 10, while walking one and allowing five hits in a 4-0 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.

Nick Martinez (0-2) started for the Fighters. He gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits and two walks while striking out five.

Austin, Patton turn on power against Giants

Tyler Austin’s three-run eighth-inning double off the wall at Tokyo Dome helped lift the DeNA BayStars to a 5-3 win over the Yomiuri Giants.

Reliever Spencer Patton (2-0), who entered in the seventh to face Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto and struck him out, got the win in relief. He provided an encore in the eighth by striking out the side, starting with cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto and finishing with Gerardo Parra.

Giants starter Cristopher Mercedes allowed a run over 5-2/3 innings but it could have been worse without a good catch from newly acquired utility man Zelous Wheeler, who denied the BayStars a leadoff single in the sixth with a sliding catch in left.

Escobar treats Swallows to ice cream cone

Naomichi Nishiura hit his second game-changing home run of the week with a fourth-inning two-run shot that put the Yakult Swallows in front in a 4-3 win over the Hiroshima Carp at at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

On Thursday, Nishiura hit a pinch-hit, three-run sayonara shot off Tigers closer Kyuji Fujikawa. On Wednesday, he went deep off Sawamura Award-winning lefty Kris Johnson (0-2).

Right-hander Albert Suarez (2-0) started for Yakult and allowed three runs, one earned, over five innings, while Scott McGough worked a scoreless eighth. The Carp mounted a rally against closer Taishi Ikeyama, and the lead looked blown on a two-out liner, only for new Swallow Alcides Escobar to save the game.

Yamamoto stops Tigers

Twenty-year-old Takumi Yamamoto (1-1) allowed two runs over five innings, while Zoilo Almonte doubled, walked and scored twice, and Dayan Viciedo singled in a couple of runs as the Chunichi Dragons beat the Hanshin Tigers 6-3.

Jerry Sands singled in a run for the Tigers, while Justin Bour hit his first home run in Japan, a ninth-inning consolation shot.

Dragons add catcher Martinez to roster

The Chunichi Dragons inked 24-year-old Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez to a standard contract on Wednesday. Martinez, signed to a non-roster developmental contract in 2018, hurt his right knee playing in Cuba’s Series Nacional prior to camp the Chunichi Sports reported.

He rejoined the Dragons for practice games from June 2 after completing his rehab.

Marines’ Futaki, Buffaloes’ Nakagawa dropped

Because Japanese baseball has no options and players can be activated or dropped from the active roster an unlimited number of times. So it’s common for a player, ostensibly on the active roster because the manager believes in him, to get sent down for a couple of bad plays.

Two heads rolled on Wednesday after poor performances the night before. The Lotte Marines deactivated right-handed starting pitcher Kota Futaki after the Rakuten Eagles teed off on too many first-pitches in Lotte’s 15-4 loss. The defeat snapped the Marines’ eight-game winning streak.

The Orix Buffaloes pulled the plug on 24-year-old utility infielder Keita Nakagawa, who finished fourth in the rookie of the year voting last year, for not hitting and for making a throwing error that led to the Seibu Lions’ third run in a 3-2 loss. The Buffaloes have lost seven straight.

Here are the announced starting pitchers for NPB’s games of Wednesday, July 1

Pacific League

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

NICK MARTINEZ (0-1) vs Shuta Ishikawa (0-0)

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

Hideaki Wakui (1-0) vs Kazuya Ojima (1-0)

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

Tatsuya Imai (0-1) vs Kohei “K” Suzuki (0-1)

Central League

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

CRISTOPHER MERCEDES (0-1) vs Shuto Sakurai* (-)

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

Takumi Yamamoto (0-1) vs Takumi Akiyama (0-0)

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

ALBERT SUAREZ (1-0) vs KRIS JOHNSON (0-1)