NPB wrap 5-11-21

Let’s be friends.

Giants 4, BayStars 2

At Yokohama Stadium, an entertaining game was made more so by a single out in a scoreless inning with no runners on base, when DeNA BayStars reliever Edwin Escobar finished the seventh inning by retiring a former teammate on the friendliest putout you’ll see today.

Yomiuri got a leg up in the starting-shortstop-out-injured-after-a-head-first-slide series, after both Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto and BayStars shortstop Toshihiko Kuramoto were sidelined over the weekend. Hiroaki Wakabayashi, who threw out a runner at the plate in the second inning, broke a 2-2 tie in the ninth of incumbent DeNA closer Kazuki Mishima, who surrendered another to Naoki Yoshikawa – who started for the Giants at short.

Takayuki Kajitani and Zelous Wheeler put the visitors up with no-out doubles in the first off Shinichi Onuki. Tyler Austin hit his sixth home run in 85 at-bats this season in the first, off Shosei Togo to tie it. Justin Smoak reached the seats in the fourth with his second home run, and Austin tied it in the fifth with an RBI single after a leadoff walk and a sacrifice, when Togo stranded two to prevent more runs.

Wheeler was praised as a No. 2 hitter by Dave Okubo and Hiroki Nomura because he was willing to go to the opposite field – as evidenced by his first-inning double off the right-field wall, and his intelligence: two of the attributes attached to ideal No. 2 hitters, smarts and a willingness to not just pull the ball (going for selfish home runs).

Togo walked five and allowed five hits, but just two runs over six innings, while Onuki struck out seven, walked two and gave up five hits.

The game appeared headed for a tie after Escobar’s zero in the seventh and former closer Yasuaki Yamasaki’s scoreless eighth before Mishima let it get away. Giants lefty Kota Nakagawa earned his first save.

Tigers 4, Dragons 4

At Koshien Stadium, Jefry Marte singled in a first-inning run off Shinnosuke Ogasawara, who allowed three runs over six. Marte drew a leadoff walk and scored in Hanshin’s two-run fourth, when Teruaki Sato doubled on a ball Mike Gerber misread at the right-field wall and scored and Mel Rojas Jr., KBO’s 2020 RBI leader, got his first in Japan with a groundout.

Dayan Viciedo singled to lead off Chunichi’s second and scored on Shuhei Takahashi’s first home run, a kind of awkward shot that somehow carried out at Koshien off Yuki Nishi. Takahashi walked and scored in the fourth on Takuya Kinoshita’s third home run off a Nishi mistake.

The Tigers came back to tie it in the seventh. Daisuke Sobue, who’d lost his setup job allowed a two-out infield single, and lefty Hiroto Fuku allowed the run to score on a walk and a Kento Itohara single. Robert Suarez stopped the Dragons in the ninth, and Raidel Martinez did it to the Tigers in the home half to seal the tie, with the help of a botched sacrifice, that cost Hanshin a runner in scoring position with no outs.

Buffaloes 9, Fighters 1

At Tokyo Dome, the Orix Buffaloes hammered their former ace, Chihiro Kaneko (0-2) for six runs over 3-1/3 innings, while 19-year-old rookie southpaw Hiroya Miyagi (4-0) struck out nine over eight innings while allowing a run on four hits and no walks.

Yutaro Sugimoto hit a massive two-run first-inning home run, his eighth, and enigmatic utility man Kenshi Sugiya hit a solo homer in the home half for Nippon Ham. A Masataka Yoshida double and a Sugimoto broken-bat sac fly pushed across two more runs and the Buffaloes never looked back.

Eagles 3, Lions 3

At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, former Seibu ace Takayuki Kishi continued to struggle, the right-hander, without a win since April 6, allowed three runs over five innings, the same figures posted by new Lions import Matt Dermody in his second outing.

A Tomoya Mori two-run homer, his fifth, opened the scoring in the first, but Rakuten tied it on an assortment of bad pitches and good swings. Hiroaki Shimauchi doubled in two and added an RBI single in the third. Cory Spangenberg’s fourth-inning single tied it, but Alan Busenitz caught him looking to end the sixth with two on.

Seibu’s Ryosuke Moriwaki pitched out of a seventh-inning jam by retiring Hideto Asamura. An error and a walk opened the door for the Lions but Yuki Matsui struck out two batters to preserve the tie, and Reed Garrett ended the game with three straight swinging strikeouts. Lions setup man Kaima Taira, the PL’s 2020 rookie of the year, worked a 1-2-3 eighth on nine pitches for his 20th straight game without allowing a run.

Marines 4, Hawks 1

At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Lotte’s Brandon Laird hit his fourth and fifth home runs, Kota Futaki (2-2) allowed a run over six innings, Naoya Masuda saved his ninth game.

Shota Takeda (2-2) allowed four runs over seven innings on seven hits and a walk while striking out six. Hawks reliever Kazuki Sugimoto walked three in a scoreless eighth, and Carter Stewart Jr. improved on that in the ninth with two walks and two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth.

Starting pitchers

Wednesday will see a pair of import pitchers make their season debuts, as the Seibu Lions’ Zach Neal takes on Takahiro Norimoto and the Rakuten Eagles, while big Chunichi Dragons right-hander Yariel Rodriguez will try to improve on his impressive 2020 season.

Pacific League

Fighters vs Buffaloes: Tokyo Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Takayuki Kato (2-0, 2.73) vs Yoshinobu Yamamoto (3-3, 1.92)

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

Takahiro Norimoto (2-1, 2.72) vs Zach Neal (-)

Hawks vs Marines: PayPay Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Tsuyoshi Wada (2-2, 4.15) vs Daiki Iwashita (3-2, 2.57)

Central League

Swallows vs Carp: Jingu Stadium 5:30 pm, 4:30 am EDT

Kazuto Taguchi (1-2, 4.02) vs Masato Morishita (3-3, 2.14)

BayStars vs Giants: Yokohama Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Haruhiro Hamaguchi (2-3, 3.55) vs Yuki Takahashi (5-0, 1.71)

Tigers vs Dragons: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Koyo Aoyagi (2-2, 2.13) vs Yariel Rodriguez (-)

Active roster moves 5/11/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 5/21

Central League

Activated

GiantsP11Ryuta Heinai
GiantsP20Shosei Togo
GiantsIF32Taishi Hirooka
GiantsIF66Kazuya Katsuki
BayStarsIF0Daisuke Nakai
BayStarsOF63Taiki Sekine

Dectivated

None

Pacific League

Activated

HawksP18Shota Takeda
FightersP57Toshihiro Sugiura
BuffaloesIF4Shuhei Fukuda

Dectivated

FightersP29Kazutomo Iguchi

NPB Wrap 5-10-21

Former ace day

If Friday is typically “Ace day” when teams’ Opening Day starting pitchers are most likely to go head-to-head, Tuesday is going to be “former ace day” at two Pacific League games.

At Tokyo Dome, the Fighters are going to host the Orix Buffaloes while starting former Buffaloes ace Chihiro Kaneko, while in Sendai, the Seibu Lions will go against their former ace, Takayuki Kishi, who will start for the Rakuten Eagles, and try to snap out of his recent funk — allowing 14 runs in his last 14-1/3 innings.

The Buffaloes’ game might be a case of back to the future, with extremely skilled 19-year-old rookie Hiroya Miyagi starting for Orix — a guy who could be their future ace.

The Lions will go with a newcomer, lefty Matt Dermody, who pitched well in his debut.

Pacific League

Starting pitchers

Fighters vs Buffaloes: Tokyo Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Chihiro Kaneko (0-1, 2.20) vs Hiroya Miyagi (3-0, 1.53)

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

Takayuki Kishi (2-3, 4.08) vs Matt Dermody (0-0, 0.00)

Hawks vs Marines: PayPay Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shota Takeda (2-1, 2.28) vs Kota Futaki (1-2, 2.90)

Central League

BayStars vs Giants: Yokohama Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Shinichi Onuki (1-3, 7.12) vs Shosei Togo (2-2, 3.77)

Tigers vs Dragons: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yuki Nishi (3-2, 2.54) vs Shinnosuke Ogasawara (2-2, 2.88)

Active roster moves 5/10/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 5/20

Central League

Activated

None

Dectivated

GiantsP35Toshiki Sakurai
GiantsIF6Hayato Sakamoto
GiantsIF98Estamy Urena
TigersP49Joe Gunkel
TigersOF53Kairi Shimada
BayStarsIF5Toshihiko Kuramoto
BayStarsOF61Tatsuo Ebina

Pacific League

Activated

None

Dectivated

MarinesP43Kazuya Ojima
FightersP52Takahide Ikeda
BuffaloesP17Hirotoshi Masui

NPB wrap 5-9-21

Okamoto goes boom

Giants 7, Swallows 5

At Tokyo Dome, Kazuma Okamoto, the Central League’s 2020 home run and RBI leader, made up for helping to kill a couple of early Yomiuri rallies by homering in the eighth to make it a one-run game and ending it with a three-run walk-off shot against Yakult closer Taichi Ishiyama (0-2).

New Swallows import Cy Sneed allowed three runs in four-plus innings in his Japan debut, while Giants lefty Nobutaka Imamura allowed a run in 5-2/3 innings.

Zelous Wheeler had two hits for the Giants, while Domingo Santana singled in a run in the eighth, when the Swallows scored four to take Sneed off the hook.

Giants-Swallows highlights

Tigers 3, BayStars 2

At Yokohama Stadium, 39-year-old former Japan international Yoshio Itoi got his second start of the season for Hanshin and did what he did in his first start on Friday, homer. His two-run shot capped a three-run Tigers fifth off Michael Peoples (1-1), who had retired 11 of the first 12 batters he faced.

Rookie wunderkind Teruaki Sato opened the fifth with a walk, scored the tying run on a Jerry Sands double, and Itoi put the CL leaders in front. Joe Gunkel started for the Tigers and allowed a run in three innings, but after having runners on second and third with no outs in the BayStars’ scoreless third – following a leadoff double by Peoples,  the right-hander left the game.

Gunkel is set to be deactivated on Monday with what appears to be stiffness in his right shoulder.

Hanshin’s bullpen, allowed one run over the final five innings, a homer from leadoff man Masayuki Kuwahara, who doubled and scored the game’s opening run in the first, but that was it. Robert Suarez recorded his ninth save.

Neftali Soto doubled twice for DeNA but was stranded both times.

Dragons 2, Carp 0

At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, Chunichi’s Yuya Yanagi (3-1) allowed two hits and a walk – all with two outs in the third inning, but struck out 11. Dayan Viciedo broke up the scoreless game with his fifth home run, a two-run shot in the fourth, and Raidel Martinez pitched around a pair of one-out ninth-inning singles to record his fifth save.

Yanagi’s 1.72 ERA is .01 back of the league leader, Yuki Takahashi of the Giants, while the Dragons right-hander leads the CL in innings, 47, strikeouts, 58, and WHIP, 0.77.

Hawks 3, Lions 1

At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Yuki Yanagita doubled and scored SoftBank’s first run in 21 innings to tie it in the sixth off Seibu’s Katsunori Hirai, and then singled in the go-ahead run in the seventh. SoftBank starter Yuki Matsumoto allowed the first two runners to reach in each of the first two innings but retired the next nine hitters and his bullpen colleagues maintained that pace with Livan Moinelo getting his third save.

Eagles 6, Fighters 3

At Sapporo Dome, Ryosuke Tatsumi hit a game-tying fifth-inning home run off former teammate Takahide Ikeda (2-4), and kick started Rakuten’s three-run sixth with a one-out infield single as Eagles’ rookie Takahisa Hayakawa (4-2) earned the win after allowing two runs over five innings.

Four walks lost it for Ikeda, traded to Nippon Ham in March, allowed three runs, two earned, in 4-2/3 innings. Fighters lefty Ryusei Kawano struck out Brandon Dixon to leave the bases loaded in the fifth, but first-year import Robbie Erlin let the game get away with three runs over two innings.

Taiwan’s Wang Po-jung doubled, singled and walked in the No. 3 spot for the Fighters, making the third straight game he’s looked like the guy they expected to see in 2019 after they signed him via the posting system.

Rakuten lefty Yuki Matsui worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his ninth save, making him the 16th player with 150 career saves.

Marines 7, Buffaloes 4

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Leonys Martin spearheaded the Lotte Marines counterattack after Kazuya Ojima (1-1) allowed three runs in the first. Ojima went five innings, and the Marines bullpen allowed a run over the final four, with closer Naoya Masuda notching his eighth save.

Orix starter Hirotoshi Masui (1-4) gave up five runs, four earned, in 3-2/3 innings. Back-to-back first-inning doubles by Takashi Ogino and Martin made it 3-1, and Brandon Laird’s two-out single plated Martin. Lotte tied it in the second on reserve catcher Tomoya Kakinuma’s first home run and scored with the help of an error in the third to take the lead.

Active roster moves 5/9/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 5/19

Central League

Activated

CarpC40Yoshitaka Isomura
SwallowsP28Daiki Yoshida
SwallowsP54Cy Sneed

Dectivated

DragonsP22Yudai Ono
CarpC22Shosei Nakamura

Pacific League

Activated

None

Dectivated

HawksIF27Yurisbel Gracial

Tokyo: Bring out your dead

This week, Tokyo Olympics took another step toward actually happening when the International Olympic Committee arranged to provide enough vaccine doses for every member of every national Olympic committee’s team.

The program will make it safer for athletes and staff to take part this summer, addressing the largest issue that stands in the way of Tokyo hosting the Olympics while a pandemic rages through the city. The one and only reason the Olympics were postponed 15 months ago was a threatened boycott by U.S. sports federations over safety concerns.

Without U.S. swimming and athletics, the TV money that forces the Olympics to take place in the summer months when Tokyo becomes a sauna, the IOC had no choice put to demand a postponement while allowing then prime minister Shinzo Abe to announce it was his idea — for the sake of the world.

But left to its own devices, Japan would not give away a summer Olympics the way it had the Tokyo 1940 games. Japan abandoned that project in 1949 because it was busy fighting a war on and establishing puppet states on the Asian continent. The government felt the resources spent promoting Olympic ideals would be better used subjugating eastern China and Manchuria.

But the money spent on the 2020 Olympics is already gone, and the graft already distributed. There is nothing left to hold them, and there is no question that regardless of how many bodies might have piled up in the streets of Tokyo last summer, Japan would have gone forward with the Olympics had the IOC not backed out.

We know that, because that is what we are seeing now with a vaccination effort a cynic might say is designed to allow Japan to have its Olympics whether its people want it or not, or whether its people survive it or not.

By promising to vaccinate everyone whose health might be put at risk through competing in Tokyo, the IOC hopes to prevent another potential boycott in a country, which is currently deemed to unsafe for IOC president Thomas Bach to visit as planned this month, can press forward.

The IOC has suggested the vaccination of Olympic athletes and coaches should not run counter to local government policy, but that is just eye-wash. Japan’s policy is to only vaccinate Olympians if it doesn’t interfere with vaccinating front-line health workers and the elderly.

Japan is behind schedule now and is not planning to vaccinate all its residents over 65 until the end of July — after the Olympics open. The doses it expects — enough to vaccinate roughly 2,500 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and coaches will arrive this month.

Not everyone in sports is happy with the optics of athletes and coaches receiving preferential treatment, but Japan and the IOC has prepared for that: “These doses will not interfere with Japan’s substandard incompetent vaccination program, because they are in addition to the ones Japan had done a bad job in procuring for individuals with higher priority.”

It’s like telling the poor that the additional billion dollars we’re giving to your wealthiest compatriots doesn’t affect you, because it is not coming from the money already earmarked for social welfare, but was given to us by the IOC.

It’s complete and utter bullshit, and so a perfect symbol for the Tokyo Olympics.

Perhaps if Japan asks nicely, the IOC will subsidize a program to allow Tokyo’s government to secretly clear the dead from the streets surrounding the Olympic village so as not to spoil the image of Tokyo 2020.

You may scoff, but what we’ve seen from Japan and the IOC so far suggests it’s possible.

This could be the scene around the Tokyo 2020 Olympic village.

NPB Wrap 5-8-21

Japanese baseball is hard

Masahiro Tanaka will attest to this after he got hit hard on Saturday in his fourth start. All that despite locating most of his pitches pretty well and having good velocity on his fastball and the Nippon Ham Fighters coming off a week in which they were barely able to practice.

Tanaka spills on his 2nd loss

In a country where practice volume is considered the most important factor in success, every failure is often attributed to a lack of practice. The Fighters are now 2-0 since a coronavirus cluster shutdown the club after their game on May 1. But because lack of practice is fatal, their next loss, whenever that comes, will be attributed to their layoff, while every win between now and then will be treated as an anomaly.

Fighters 4, Eagles 1

At Sapporo Dome, Naoyuki Uwasawa (3-2), the Opening Day starter for the last-place Nippon Ham Fighters, beat Tanaka for the second time, holding Pacific League-leading Rakuten to a run over seven innings, while his teammates tagged Masahiro Tanaka (2-2) for five runs over seven.

Tanaka lacked command of his splitter and threw a lot of straight fastballs that the Fighters were able to square up, and after three games of announcers and analysts wondering when we might see the two-seamer he used to throw a lot in the majors, that pitch finally made its debut.

A Kenshi Sugiya single and doubles by Kensuke Kondo and Wang Po-jung made it 2-0 in the first. A Sho Nakata single, a Wang double and a walk set the table for Shingo Usami’s RBI single. After Eigoro Mogi opened the Eagles’ fifth with his sixth homer, Kondo hit his sixth in the home half to complete the scoring. “There was nothing positive to take away from my pitching today but that (going seven innings),” Tanaka said according to Tokyo Sports Web reported.

Buffaloes 5, Marines 2

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Orix’s Daiki Tajima (2-1) allowed two runs, one earned, over six innings, while the Elmore Leonard gang, Yuma Tongu and Yuma Mune, each homered for the Buffaloes. Tongu hit a two-run shot in the second, his fifth, and Mune a solo shot in the sixth for his fourth of the year. Adam Jones also had a pinch-hit RBI single in the ninth, when Steven Moya and Stefen Romero both singled and scored.

Tajima allowed four hits while striking out six without issuing a walk. Marines starter Manabu Mima (2-1) struck out nine but allowed three runs on five hits and a hit batsman over seven innings. Leonys Martin had a hand in both Lotte runs, singling in the first and doubling to help set up the second.

Three weeks shy of his 42nd birthday, Orix’s Atsushi Nomi earned his second save and struck out Brandon Laird to become the 57th pitcher with 1,500 career strikeouts and the oldest in history when he reached the milestone.

Lions 2, Hawks 0

At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Seibu’s Reed Garrett walked the bases loaded in the ninth inning before jamming SoftBank star Yuki Yanagita with a 98-mph fastball for the final out.

After scoring nine runs for Nick Martinez (1-1) in his Hawks debut, SoftBank managed just five hits and a walk over six innings against Wataru Matsumoto (3-3). Takumi Kuriyama singled in a first-inning run, and Wu Nien-ting singled with two on and two outs, but Yanagita threw a strike to the plate from right field to end the inning. A Cory Spangenberg walk, a sacrifice and an Aito Takeda double made it 2-0 in the fifth. Martinez last seven innings. He allowed five hits and a walk while striking out four.

SoftBank Hawks outfielder-infielder Yurisbel Gracial left the game with a hand injury that was diagnosed as a broken right ring finger that will likely keep him out of action for a month.

Tigers 4, BayStars 1

At Yokohama Stadium, the Hanshin Tigers gave the DeNA BayStars the rookie treatment as lefty Masashi Ito (3-0) allowed a run over eight innings, while striking out five and Teruaki Sato singled twice and drove in a run each time. Sato was the Tigers’ top pick last autumn and Ito their second, while shortstop Takumu Nakano, Hanshin’s sixth pick, singled and scored a run.

Jerry Sands also singled twice for the visitors, while Robert Suarez earned his eighth save.

First-year import Fernando Romero (0-1), who tested positive for coronavirus when he arrived in Japan, allowed four runs over five innings in his NPB debut.

Tyler Austin singled and doubled for the BayStars, while DeNA rookie Shugo Maki accounted for his team’s run with his seventh home run. Mel Rojas Jr, who led KBO in RBIs in 2020 after Sands led that league in 2019, made his Japan debut, too, going 0-for-4 with two punchouts and gdp.

Carp 4, Dragons 3

And speaking of rookies, at Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome rookie Hiroshima closer Ryoji Kuribayashi earned a five-out save after entering the eighth inning with the bases loaded, getting a double play and then stranding two runners in the ninth for his ninth save.

Carp starter Allen Kuri (4-3) allowed two runs over six innings to earn his first win since April 10, while Chunichi’s Opening Day starter, Koji Fukutani (1-3) gave up four runs over 6-1/3 innings to take the loss. Fukutani did, however, contribute to two Dragons runs with a sacrifice and a game-tying RBI single.

Carp rookie Ryutaro Hatsuki homered and then singled in his team’s second run, while Ryosuke Kikuchi doubled in the tie-breaking run and scored an insurance run in the seventh. 

Starting pitchers

Sunday is going to see a tasty Central League matchup between two pitchers who had mixed results in their 2020 debut seasons but who have started 2021 on the right foot, Hanshin’s Joe Gunkel and DeNA’s Michael Peoples.

In the Pacific League, the Fighters-Eagles game will be a matchup between the phenom and the castoff, as lefty Takahisa Hayakawa, one of the prizes in the 2020 draft, goes against Takahide Ikeda, a former second-round Eagles pick. Ikeda has pitched well for the Fighters since the Eagles dealt him in March for slugging reserve infielder Taketoshi Yoko.

Pacific League

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

Takahide Ikeda (2-3, 3.23) vs Takahisa Hayakawa (3-2, 3.41)

Marines vs Buffaloes: Zozo Marine Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Kazuya Ojima (0-1, 4.03) vs Hirotoshi Masui (1-3, 4.28)

Hawks vs Lions: PayPay Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Yuki Matsumoto (1-2, 6.00) vs Katsunori Hirai (3-1, 3.60)

Central League

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

Nobutaka Imamura (2-1, 2.37) vs Cy Sneed (-)

BayStars vs Tigers: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Michael Peoples (1-0, 0.00) vs Joe Gunkel (5-0, 2.29)

Dragons vs Carp: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Yuya Yanagi (2-1, 2.08) vs Shogo Tamamura (0-1, 7.20)

Active roster moves 5/8/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 5/18

Central League

Activated

TigersOF24Mel Rojas Jr.
BayStarsP42Fernando Romero

Dectivated

TigersP14Chen Wei-Yin
BayStarsP49Kevin Shackelford

Pacific League

Activated

HawksOF24Yuya Hasegawa
BuffaloesP29Daiki Tajima

Dectivated

HawksP47Jumpei Takahashi
BuffaloesP45Shota Abe

Tanaka Episode 4

I wasn’t planning to write much about Masahiro Tanaka’s fourth start, in some ways his worst so far, although he did manage to go a season-high seven innings in his second loss of the season to the Nippon Ham Fighters. Tanaka, who is from western Japan but went to high school in Tomakomai, an hour or so from Sapporo, lost his first game at Sapporo Dome since he was a rookie in 2007.

He couldn’t locate the splitter at all and although he threw a lot of really good sliders as he usually does, one of the ones he missed got hammered, and his changeup was also problematic.

A week after his fastball command was really poor, he was throwing hard, but everybody was able to square it up. So either it wasn’t spinning as much or without his split the Fighters hitters were sitting on it the way they had in his April 17, when the ones he threw dead center got hit over the wall.

He mixed in some two-seam fastballs, which for a while had been a bread-and-butter pitch with the Yankees, but one he’s admitted he’s never had a great feel for. It did make the broadcast crew go nuts since the two-seamer has had kind of a cult status since Japan’s hitters struggled against it at the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Anyway, the reason I gave in and did a Tanaka post was I saw this on Youtube, and translated the bulk of his comments below.

“The Fighters beat me last time, so I came out wanting to get them back, but they got me again. I gave up early runs and put my team in a bad situation.”

“I want to thank you for so many comments.
Among those was a request about the pitch that was the turning point and hitters who impressed me.”

“Today, it was the first run, in the first inning.”

“There’s no mistaking (Kensuke Kondo) is a really good hitter. In the first inning, I had to throw good pitches to get him out. But he doubled off me when my control was poor and I left a pitch in the heart of the zone.”

“(In the third) there were no outs runners on second and third and then I loaded the bases with a walk. I got an out and then two. I was thinking that if If I can get out of that and hold them scoreless, things might turn around. My first pitch to (Shingo) Usami got more of the plate than I wanted it to, and he hit it for an RBI single.”

“Having gotten two outs, that was really a wasted opportunity for me. Had we gotten out of it, the game could have gone differently, but it turned out the way it did.”

“Then my teammate hit a home run and the lead was cut to 3-1. And then then Kondo hit a home run in the next half inning. Was that a bad way to allow runs? Well in order to win, there are points when you have to prevent them from scoring. Today, that’s when they hit me. So that was the reason my pitching lost us the game. After a game like this, it’s really hard to talk to anyone.”

“I changed my approach a bit, used my two-seamer, changed the axis of the spin. I think the best thing today was my in-game adjustment.”

“Until today, I’d only thrown six innings, but today I threw seven and was around 100 pitches. Of course, I felt I could have gone eight. I need to build up my strength, and go deeper. Of course, allowing fewer runs is important, but so is beinga able to throw more innings, and hand it over to my teammates in good fashion or even go the distance. That’s what I want.”

“Today was unfortunate. I can’t just leave it with them getting the best of me. Next time I pitch against the Fighters, I want to get them back. My next opponent will be a different team, but starting tomorrow I want to prepare my best so that I can do well in that game.”

writing & research on Japanese baseball

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