Category Archives: Live blog

NPB 2020 8-11 live blog

Live blog: Hawks vs Buffaloes

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

Tonight we have two of Japan’s premier pitchers, Kodai Senga of the SoftBank Hawks against Yoshinobu Yamamoto of the Orix Buffaloes.

Top 1st

Buffs leading off with Tatsuya Yamaashi, whose liner to right holds up long enough to be caught. Shuhei Fukuda the shorter strikes out looking at a pitch away. Masataka Yoshida takes a pitch low for Ball 4, bringing up Adam Jones, who sat out his first game of the year on Sunday.

Jones goes down swinging at a splitter. A pitch that is usually a nightmare for hitters has been mediocre this season for Senga. But that 0-2 pitch was a beauty.

Bottom 1st

Two good fastballs followed by a good curve and Ukyo Shuto is Yamamoto’s first strikeout victim of the evening.

Yuki Yanagita is batting second. He’s jammed but loops it into shallow right for a single. We were talking on the Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast about manager Kudo’s lineup selection.

Akira Nakamura, batting third, hits one high and far down the line for a two-run home run. We’re going to get a video review of the ball. It was hit high over the foul pole, so I don’t know how they were going to dispute it.

Nakamura, of course, famously hit a home run on a foul ball against the Buffaloes thanks to a video review that overturned the correct call. Hawks 2 Buffaloes 0

The curse of the live blog continues as Ryoya Kurihara walks and Kenji Akashi doubles him home from first. Hawks 3 Buffaloes 0 Yamamoto settles down and gets a pair of groundouts to leave Kurihara at second.

Top 2nd

The broadcasters are saying that the difference between good Senga and bad Senga is that when he’s having trouble, he’ll give up runs right after his team scored. I don’t think it’s that simple. He’s missing bats with his fastball and splitter. I think that’s probably a better indicator.

Takahiro Okada and Aderlin Rodriguez back after missing 10 days with a contusion on his arm where he was hit by a pitch make easy outs. Senga issues his second two-out walk of the game.

Senga caught a huge break when he missed with a splitter up in the zone with too much spin and Ryoichi Adachi takes it for Strike 3, and he’ s out of the inning. Hawks 3, Buffaloes 0

Bottom 2nd

Two easy outs for Yamamoto in the second. Then a straight fastball that misses up in the zone and Shuto singles. Yanagita hits another straight fastball and drives it into the home run terrace in right center. Hawks 5, Buffaloes 0

Top 3rd

The Buffaloes go down in order in the third.

Bottom 3rd

A one-out single by Kenji Akashi puts a man on, but Aderlin Rodriguez catches a low liner at first and gets an easy double play.

Top 4th

Masataka Yoshida singles to center for Orix’s first hit. Jones chases a cutter away and misses for Senga’s sixth strikeout. Takahiro Okada tees off on a high fastball and doubles to the gap in right to put runners on second and third for Rodriguez.

Good split for the second strike and Rodriguez swings under a good fastball. That’s seven K’s for Senga. Ryo Nishimura can’t hold up on a 2-2 pitch Senga buries on outside and that promise of an inning is gone.

Bottom 4th

Takuya Kai miss-hits a cutter and grounds into an easy out. Nice cutter, fastball combination gets the No. 8 hitter Hikaru Kawase going down swinging. Matsuda swings under a high fastball and fouls out. Triumph of a sort for Yamamoto in his first 1-2-3 inning.

Top 5th

Tough spot for Senga after his second baseman Kawase fumbles a grounder, and Kenya Wakatsuki gets enough of an 0-2 fastball up and in to get it through the infield for a single. Kawase drops the throw from short on a double play ball for his second error of the inning and the bags are juiced.

A groundout brings in one run, and Yoshida puts an easy swing on a cutter at the letters and hits it into left for an RBI single. Hawks 5, Buffaloes 2

A good at-bat by Jones taking two borderline low pitches, and a badly missed 3-2 fastball results in a walk and the bases loaded with one out.

Senga misses another fastball up in the zone and straight to Okada who lines it into the home run terrace for his sixth homer of the season. Buffaloes 6, Hawks 5

Bottom 5th

A good at-bat by Ukyo Shuto gives the Hawks a leadoff walk. Yamamoto gets ahead of Yanagita and goes inside with a fastball. Shuto takes off on the 2-2 pitch and steals second as Yanagita chases a splitter for Strike 3.

I am mystified why catcher Wakatsuki and Yamamoto think a disciplined hitter like Nakamura is going to become a hacker after all these years and chase pitches when he’s ahead in the count. Now they HAVE to work the edge and hope for a strike and walk him. Two on and one out and their feet are in the fire.

Another disciplined hitter in Ryoya Kurihara, and they start him off with a splitter out of the zone. Madness. Surprised him with a curveball away that hung up a bit and Kurihara flies out.

Visit from the pitching coach as Yamamoto misses badly with a couple of pitches and the bases are loaded with two outs. Seiji Uebayashi puts a good swing on an inside pitch but hits a soft liner to second, and Yamamoto escapes.

Top 6th

Senga is missing still but gets three easy outs. Yamamoto is done after 106 pitches.

Bottom 6th

Rookie right-hander Ryo Yoshida on the mound for the Buffaloes. The announcer said “He did well on the farm but didn’t get results on the first team.” That’s true, but I’d wager it’s hard to get any kind of good results in just 4-1/3 innings. Yoshida strikes out Kai on three pitches, but walks the next batter, Kawase, so if anything, he’s being efficient.

The Buffaloes’ center fielder, Nishimura, is pulled well over toward right center against Nobuhiro Matsuda, as if to rub it in that he’s batting ninth.

Matsuda walks and Senga really wants to pitch the seventh, since out in front of the dugout warming up with one out.

Pitching change: Ryo Yoshida leaves for lefty Koki Saito to face Yanagita.

The Hawks star nearly comes out of his shoes trying to hold up on a slider but gets the bat on it and hits a one-handed home run as his helmet flies off. That’s home run No. 14 for him and it’s Hawks 8, Buffaloes 6.

Top 7th

With a two-run lead, Senga is done after six innings and 114 pitches.

Rei Takahashi on for the Hawks. Masataka Yoshida doubles with one out for his third hit. He also walked. Adam Jones singles Yoshida home. Hawks 8, Buffaloes 7.

Hawks skipper Kudo pulls the plug on his submarine righty with Okada coming up from the left side.

Pitching change: LHP Shinya Kayama on for Rei Takahashi with one out and one on.

Given manager Nishimura’s propensity to play for one run when behind and sort of wish for the best, I’m surprised he’s not gone to a pinch-runner for Jones on first.

Pitching change: LHP Shinya Kayama on for Rei Takahashi with one out and one on. Okada pops up for the second out, and with Aderlin Rodriguez up, the Hawks go with a right-hander, so lovers of the one-point relievers nonsense that passes for strategy can be happy.

Pitching change: Rookie RHP Keisuke Izumi on for LHP Shinya Kayama and gets Rodriguez to ground out.

Bottom 7th

It’s the Hawks’ “Lucky Seventh,” and lefty Nobuyoshi Yamada is on for Orix to face Ryoya Kurihara. Yamada misses the target slightly on a 3-2 pitch. A leadoff walk and a sacrifice and the insurance run is at second. I’m sure there’ s reason for asking your pitcher to locate perfectly against a leadoff hitter instead of focusing on throwing a 3-2 strike, but I don’t see it.

Another walk and my favorite right-handed-hitting grinder is up. Keizo Kawashima pinch-hits and smokes the first pitch to center but lines out. Yamada unpickles himself by getting pinch-hitter Kenta Imamiya to ground out to third.

Top 8th

Changes: LHP Livan Moinelo on the mound, while Hiroaki Takaya is catching and Shuto moves over from short to second and Tetsuro Nishida comes off the bench to play short.

Moinelo strikes out Nishimura. Five outs to go.

A walk on another pitch at the knees that ump Yuta Suyama is not buying. Moinelo, like Senga and Yamamoto before him, mouths his displeasure in Japanese, causing the announcers to comment on his language skills.

A double-play ball to first, but the Hawks infield are not on the same page and only get one out. Nishida tags the runner thinking first baseman Kenji Akashi stepped on the bag when he didn’t. There’s a little meeting to figure out what went wrong. But all’s well that ends well for the Hawks as pinch-runner Yuya Oda is thrown out stealing.

Bottom 8th

Buffaloes right-hander Tyler Higgins on and strikes out Matsuda on a called third strike away. It looks like one of those egregious outside strikes that have been very common this year. Higgins has been very tough this year, his first in Japan. He records three easy outs, so it’s going to come down to whether Orix can score off closer Yuito Mori in the ninth.

Top 9th

Here’s Mori and he misses the first two pitches to pinch-hitter Torai Fushimi, who miss-hits a ball to second for the first out. The right-hander missing the target with about half his pitches but is executing with two strikes.

Masataka Yoshida has yet to make an out tonight. Mori can’t hit the low target but gets the diminutive slugger out on high fastballs. It’s Mori’s 11th save.

Final score: Hawks 8, Buffaloes 7

Wasn’t the pitchers’ duel we were hoping for, but it was fun.

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NPB 2020 6-21 live

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Giants sweep Tigers

Angel Sanchez, who went 17-5 last year in KBO for the SK Wyverns, had a rocky start in his NPB debut Sunday, but earned the win as Kazuma Okamoto and Gerardo Parra homered to lift the Yomiuri Giants to a 7-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers and a three-game series sweep at Tokyo Dome for the defending CL champs.

Sanchez allowed one run, on a leadoff homer to Koji Chikamoto, allowed four walks and four hits, but lasted 5-2/3 innings.

Morishita shines in pro debut for Carp

Masato Morishita, Hiroshima’s top draft pick out of Meiji University, struck out eight in his pro debut against the DeNA BayStars. The righty, who I had a look at in the spring, walked two and gave up four hits in a 104-pitch, seven-inning outing at Yokohama Stadium.

Unfortunately, there was no fairy tale finish in Morishita’s debut as four-straight BayStars batters hit line drives off Tyler Scott in the ninth. Toshiro Miyazaki finishes it off by finding the gap against the drawn-in outfield and two runs scored to end it.

“I believe that our strategy was good but that guy was real good. He has the potential to be an ace pitcher. I was glad they took him out of the game,” DeNA skipper Alex Ramirez said.

BayStars right-hander Kentaro Taira allowed a run over six innings on a walk and five hits, while striking out two.

“It was a great game all the way from the beginning. Taira did a great job from the beginning and the relievers did a great job.”

Yuki Kuniyoshi worked two scoreless innings of relief, and Spencer Patton, who worked the eighth, got the win.

Lions rookie Yoza solid in losing debut

Kaito Yoza allowed three runs over six innings in his first-team for the Seibu Lions, but the bullpen blew up over the final three innings in a 12-2 loss to the Nippon Ham Fighters. Solo homers from Sho Nakata and Taishi Ota gave the visitors an early lead they would never give up.

Mima wins Marines debut

Manabu Mima, who joined Lotte over the winter as a free agent from the Rakuten Eagles, allowed a run while striking out nine in just five innings in the Marines’ 5-1 victory over the SoftBank Hawks.

Seiya Inoue homered in the second off reliever Yuki Tsumori after the Hawks starter, journeyman Akira Niho loaded the bases by hitting Shogo Nakamura in the head. Pitches that strike a batter in or around the head are referred to as “kikenkyu” (dangerous pitches) and call for an automatic ejection for the pitcher.

Former major leaguers Brandon Laird and Leonys Martin reached base before Nakamura was hit and scored as Inoue put the game out of reach early.

June 21 Live blog: Buffaloes vs Eagles

Off to a bit of a slow start on Sunday, folks. Having a look at Orix and Rakuten today, because my favorite Japanese pitcher, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is on the mound for the Buffaloes.

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

Top 2nd

Yamamoto has consistently the best stuff in Japan, and it looks like he’s put some muscle on his once spindly frame. He struck out the side in order in the first and got a one-run lead in the home half, but two ground balls in the second produced the Eagles’ first hit.

  1. Dangerous Hideto Asamura grounds out softly to 2nd.
  2. Hiroaki Shimauchi gets a grounder through between 1st and 2nd
  3. Former Buffaloe Stefen Romero grounds to short and the enigmatic Ryoichi Adachi starts the inning-ending double play.

Bottom 2nd

Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi went 8-7 as a rookie last year and was second on the team in innings pitched with 127-1/3 because the club’s two best starters, Takayuki Kishi and Takahiro Norimoto missed time with injuries

Ishibashi’s average fastball velocity last year was 145.2 kph, and he’s a four-seam, cutter, splitter, and two-seam guy, although be aware the two-seam description generally encompasses two distinctly different pitches, a hard running fastball and a two-seam sinking fastball–which is the rarer of the two in Japan.

  1. Kenya Wakatsuki grounds out.
  2. Ryoichi Adachi singles to center.
  3. Shunta Goto singles to right to put runners on the corners for Takahiro Okada.
  4. Okada, who slid home headfirst to score on Keita Nakagawa’s sac fly in the first, singles in the Buffaloes’ second run.
  5. Aderlin Rodriguez looks like a player built for Japan, a smooth compact swing, who makes excellent contact. Ishibashi hangs a forkball and Rodriguez hits it high up the wall in left for an RBI double, Buffaloes 3, Eagles 0.
  6. Rodriguez, however, contributes an out on the bases, thanks to some slick defense by Eagles first baseman Ginji Akaminai. Ginji goes to a knee to stab a ball off the bat of Masataka Yoshida, makes the play at first and then throws behind Rodriguez who is trapped between second and third.

Top 3rd

  1. Akaminai, who wears “Ginji” on his uniform as his registered name, grounds out to second, topping 1-2 splitter.
  2. Catcher Hikaru hits a little comebacker to Yamamoto for the second out.
  3. Ryosuke Tatsumi, the PL’s 2018 rookie of the year swings and misses at a low fastball for another 1-2-3 inning. The thing about Yamamoto is that he has so many quality pitches, that it’s very common to see everyone guessing wrong and getting terrible swings even at mistakes in the zone.

Bottom 3rd

  1. Adam Jones had two hits on Saturday, and put a sweet swing on a straight fastball in the first for a single that contributed to Orix’s first run. Ishibashi gets a generous call on a low pitch from home plate ump Masanobu Suginaga, and Jones goes down looking.
  2. Keita Nakagawa, who had a strong rookie season playing all over the musical chairs game the Buffaloes’ infield resembled last year, flies out to left.
  3. Koji Oshiro, another of those versatile infielders from 2019, grounds out to short.

Top 4th

  1. Eigoro Mogi gets under a high 151-kph fastball and flies out to left.
  2. Daichi Suzuki, the former Marines captain who moved to Sendai as a free agent over the winter, swings under a high 1-2 running fastball to go down swinging.
  3. Jabari Blash, who struck out looking in the first, flails at a beauty of an 0-2 curve.

Bottom 4th

  1. Buffaloes catcher Kenya Wakatsuki launches a hanging first-pitch slider away to the warning track for an opposite-field leadoff double.
  2. Adachi tops an attempted sacrifice bunt in front of the plate, and Ota throws out his opposite number at third.
  3. Akaminai, playing in tight at first base, makes a good play on a little chopper by Goto.
  4. Okada, who raked in the spring and in practice games, pulled a high hanging forkball over Akaminai and down the right-field line for his second double of the game and a 4-0 Buffaloes lead. This is quite a turnaround for Okada, whose career has been in decline for nearly a decade, and who spent most of the 2019 season on the farm after a handful of sloppy at-bats and fielding misplays at first base.
  5. Ishibashi snaps off a nasty curve to send Rodriguez down swinging.

Top 5th

  1. Not a great fastball, but Asamura doesn’t get a great swing on it and pops up down the left field line.
  2. An easy fly to lefty by Shimauchi and Yamamoto appears to be operating on cruise control.
  3. He works carefully to Romero, who ends a good 6-pitch at-bat by fouling out.

Bottom 5th

Rookie right-hander Taisei Tsurusaki on the mound for the Eagles after Ishibashi gives up four runs in four innings. Tsurusaki is making his debut against the middle of the Buffaloes lineup. He looks to have a repeatable delivery, comes over the top and keeps his hand on top of the ball.

  1. Yoshida, one of the best hitters in the PL, swings at a huge 12-6 curve before taking a cutter on the outside corner for Strike 3.
  2. Jones provides less of a challenge, grounding a first-pitch fastball away to second.
  3. Nakagawa walks on seven pitches and steals second easily.
  4. Oshiro walks on 6 pitches.
  5. Wakatsuki flies out off the handle, and the rookie survives without any damage done.

Top 6th

  1. Nice at-bat by Ginji, but he tips a 2-2 shoot into Wakatsuki’s glove for Strike 3.
  2. Backup catcher Ayatsugu Yamashita batting for his catching partner Ota and grounds out easily to first.
  3. Yamamoto is toying with Tatsumi, going after the corners with his hard stuff while getting three strikes with his curve. Tatsumi goes down swinging at one low out of the zone.
Thanks for that Jason. A Yamamoto curve is not fair to pinch-hitters.

Bottom 6th

Veteran lefty Wataru Karashima on the mound for the Eagles. He had a serviceable year in the rotation last season, going 9-6 in 117-1/3 innings. He is in middle relief this year with closer Yuki Matsui moving back into the rotation. He’s basically a fastball, slider, curve change guy.

  1. I love watching Ginji Akaminai play first base. He is everywhere on everything, and knows where to look and when to throw. Another good play opens the first as he throws out Adachi to open the seventh.
  2. Goto flies out to left.
  3. Okada’s confidence is dialed up to “11” now after floundering for several seasons. He is balanced at the plate and ready to attack EVERYTHING. He walks to bring up Rodriguez.
  4. And Rodriguez, short to the ball on an inside pitch and pulls it down the line in left for a double. Okada to third.
  5. Okada, a small guy with a quiet stance in the left-handed batters box, doesn’t look like he should be dangerous, but he has serious power and plate discipline. Not this time though, as Karashima gets him to ground to short.

Top 7th

Don’t remember when the PL started the innovation of playing the visiting team’s Lucky Seventh song on the stadium speakers, but it is a nice touch, since no matter what park you’re at in the top flight there will be at least five or six hundred fans on the visitor’s side of the outfield waving their flags and cheering on their guys.

With no fans in the stands, the Kyocera Dome scoreboard was showing Eagles fans cheering from home on streaming video while, the Eagles song, what Casey McGehee called the “Igloo song,” plays.

  1. Mogi grounds out to open the visitors’ seventh.
  2. Suzuki misses a 3-2 inside fastball for Yamamoto’s 10th strikeout.
  3. Blash grounds one up the middle for an infield single.
  4. Asamura miss-hits a cutter to short for an easy out.

Bottom 7th

Tomohiro Anraku, who made a name for himself in high school with his brutal pitch counts, comes in to pitch the seventh for the Eagles.

  1. Jones looks at two fastballs low and away before grounding out to second.
  2. Nakagawa lined a pitch to short right center, and nearly got caught out thinking it would get through when Tatsumi cut it off in center.
  3. Pinch runner for Nakagawa at first, and Yuya Oda swipes second. Oshiro flies out to center but not deep enough to send Oda to third.
  4. Wakatsuki grounds out and we’re going to the 8th with the Eagles trailing 4-0.

Top 8th

  1. Shimauchi flies out to first on the second pitch.
  2. Romero flies out to second on the second pitch.
  3. Yasuhito Uchida, batting for Ginji, who may have twisted something when he miss-stepped making that play to open the seventh, rips a single to right.
  4. Yamashita his what they call a “bonda” in Japanese, an easy out, on a grounder to second.

That’s 94 pitches for Yamamoto and with a four-run lead, he won’t be back. Thirty years ago, I guarantee, he’d be getting ready for the ninth. Back then, there was no good excuse for lifting a starter who was leading. “How can you take him out? It’s a close game” or “How can you take him out with that big lead.” You name it, there was an excuse for it.

Bottom 8th

Anraku, the Eagles’ top draft pick in 2014, is back for the ninth.

  1. Adachi lines out.
  2. Goto fouls off two, two-strike pitches before striking out swinging in an eight-pitch at-bat.
  3. Anraku finally makes Okada look like the guy who could possibly be lost at the plate as he hesitates on a 1-2 fastball on the inside corner for Strike 3.

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Top 9th

United States international closer Brandon Dickson on in the ninth. He was a productive starter for the Buffaloes for six seasons, but last year, with no one else to turn to, he was thrust into the closer’s role, where he’s been dynamite. He finished 2019 as the closer for Team USA in the Premier 12.

  1. Pinch-hitter Kazuya Fujita flies out to left.
  2. Mogi grounds out to second.
  3. Suzuki fouls off a tough two-strike fastball on the outside corner. Takes a ball low for 2-2, and puts a good swing on a fastball but lines it straight to Goto in center for the Buffs’ first win of the season.

Final score: Buffaloes 4, Eagles 0