NPB wrap 9-14-21

The Lotte Marines seem to be full of surprises and determined to take control of the Pacific League pennant race this month, and started their week on Tuesday in what looked like a clash between their irresistible force and an immovable object, SoftBank Hawks ace Kodai Senga, wheeled out on five-days rest to see if he could arrest the Marines progress.

The Central League’s week also began with a clash of two contenders as the Hanshin Tigers came to Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium to take on the Swallows in which each of NPB’s two Suarez brothers had a role to play for his team.

Eagles 4, Buffaloes 1

At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Rakuten’s Takahisa Hayakawa (8-5, 3.63) won a matchup between two left-handed rookies who in April appeared ready to set the PL on fire. Hayakawa had one of his best starts of the season, while Orix 20-year-old Hiroya Miyagi (11-2, 2.26) continued his struggles.

Miyagi surrendered a first-inning homer to Hideto Asamura, who hit his 12th. Asamura hit 30 or more in each of the last three seasons but might not reach 19 for the first time since 2015.

When the season started, Miyagi was striking out about one batter per inning and walking about two to three per nine with a WHIP less than one. First, he stopped striking people out as often, and the hit totals began to climb but he continued to attack the zone. But the walks, too, are now on the rise.

The Eagles took a 2-0 lead on three two-out fifth-inning singles, and Miyagi made it 3-0 by issuing back-to-back walks. Yuma Mune, who had three of Orix’s five singles, brought in a run with an infield single in the eighth. And Eigoro Mogi made it 4-1 in the home half with his 13th home run.

The Eagles, who may be without closer Yuki Matsui this year, got a three-run save from Tomohito Sakai, his second.

Marines 3, Hawks 1

At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, red-hot SoftBank ace Kodai Senga (5-2, 3.12) struck out 14 but lost a pitchers’ duel with former Dragon Enny Romero. Taisei Makihara drilled Romero’s second pitch for a home run, but the lefty escaped a one-out bases-loaded jam to keep it 1-0.

Senga retired 10 straight after a one-out walk in the first before Shogo Nakamura doubled in the fourth and scored a Katsuya Kakunaka single. Lotte’s bullpen did not allow a base runner after Romero’s six impressive innings.

Senga, who had already thrown 103 pitches on five days rest, watched his command evaporate in the Marines’ two-run eighth. Yudai Fujioka led off with the second of his three singles. A sacrifice and four-pitch walk put two on and a Koki Yamaguchi’s single off a bad pitch loaded them.

After going to 3-2 by missing a pair of splitters below his knees, Brandon Laird finally made contact with a low pitch and grounded it into center for a two-run single. Chihaya Sasaki (5-2) pitched the eighth to earn the win, and Naoya Masuda recorded his 32nd save by striking out the side in the ninth.

The Marines deactivated Leonys Martin after he developed a fever, but his PCR test came back negative, so he could be activated for Wednesday’s game.

Lions 3, Fighters 1

At MetLife Dome, Seibu’s Kona Takahashi (10-5, 3.22) allowed an unearned run on three hits and two walks over six innings while striking out seven. Takumi Kuriyama singled three times and scored the Lions’ first run on a two-run second-inning Junichiro Kishi single.

The Fighters run came in the third on a dropped throw by Takahashi at first and a Haruki Nishikawa double.

Kuriyama singled home Tomoya Mori in the third to make it 3-1 against Fighters starter Takahide Ikeda (3-10, 3.98).

Lions closer Kaima Taira saved his 15th despite allowing two hits in the ninth, although the Fighters lost their leadoff runner when Yuki James Nomura was out trying to take second on a wild throw from Kaima, who fell on his butt to avoid getting hit by the barrel of Nomura’s broken bat.

Swallows 3, Tigers 3

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Yakult’s Albert Suarez opened the game and his younger brother, Robert – who has 31 saves, finished it with a 1-2-3 ninth to secure the tie after Jefry Marte’s three-run ninth-inning homer, his 18th, tied it off Swallows closer Scott McGough.

Marte also beat the Carp on Saturday when his three-run sixth-inning homer lifted the Tigers to a 4-1 win in Hiroshima.

Swallows cleanup hitter Munetaka Murakami had a hand in Yakult’s first three runs, with leadoff singles in the second and fourth off side-arm righty Koyo Aoyagi. He didn’t score, however, until he led off the sixth with his 34th home run to make it 3-0.

Albert Suarez worked four-plus, receiving an automatic ejection for hitting Takumu Nakano in the head to open the fifth. A single and a Jefry Marte walk loaded the bases with no outs, but Hanshin failed to score. Nakano singled in a run in the seventh off deposed closer Taishi Ishiyama who left with no outs and two on for Ryuta Kono, who popped up Marte before striking out Yusuke Oyama and Yoshio Itoi.

A Norichika Aoki single and a Jose Osuna RBI double gave the Swallows some breathing room in the eighth, but the insurance couldn’t ensure a victory.

McGough walked two to bring Marte to the plate with one out, and the Tigers first baseman put a good swing on a slider that McGough left in the lower half of the zone and drilled it over the wall in left-center.

Giants 3, BayStars 2

At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri’s Shun Yamaguchi (2-5, 3.33) fell to 1-3 with a 4.09 ERA against his former team, DeNA, allowing two runs over 7-1/3 innings while striking out seven, walking one, hitting one and allowing three hits, including Masayuki Kuwahara’s 10th homer, tying the game to open the sixth. 

With one out in the seventh, Yamaguchi was gone after hitting Neftali Soto in the head. BayStars rookie Shugo Maki broke the tie by hitting new pitcher Toyoki Tanaka’s first pitch for his 17th home run.

The Giants chased DeNA starter Fernando Romero (2-2, 3.80) with one out in the eighth after a leadoff Takumi Oshiro double and an RBI pinch-hit single by new Giant Scott Heineman.

Venezuelan lefty Edwin Escobar struck out both batters he faced before closer Kazuki Mishima bounced from a three-run disaster five days earlier in his last game, also against Yomiuri, with a 1-2-3 ninth and his 21st save.

Giants-BayStars highlights

Dragons 10, Carp 1

At Vantelin Dome Nagoya, Chunichi resumed its September run surge after its 1-0 win on Monday. Catcher Takuya Kinoshita doubled in the ice-breaker in the second off Masato Morishita (6-7, 3.12), and an RBI single from 44-year-old Kosuke Fukudome made it 2-0 in the third.

Kaito Kaizono doubled to open Hiroshima’s fourth and scored on a single by Carp catcher Tsubasa Aizawa, but Dragons lefty Takahiro Matsuba (4-3, 3.21) allowed just one run on four hits and a walk over six innings. With Chunichi leading 3-1 after Yohei Oshima’s fifth-inning RBI single, Naomichi Donoue entered the game for defense and had a three-run sixth-inning double and a two-run eighth-inning single.

Starting pitchers

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

Ryota Takinaka (6-4, 4.48) vs Soichiro Yamazaki (0-1, 3.86)

Lions vs Fighters: MetLife Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Keisuke Honda (0-2, 3.57) vs Hiromi Ito (9-5, 2.54)

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

Carter Stewart, Jr. (0-1, 4.95) vs Manabu Mima (5-4, 5.32)

Giants vs BayStars: Tokyo Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Shosei Togo (8-6, 3.96) vs Shinichi Onuki (6-5, 4.46)

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

Yasuhiro Ogawa (7-4, 4.29) vs Masashi Ito (7-6, 2.98)

Dragons vs Carp: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Shotaro Kasahara (-) vs Shogo Tamamura (2-6, 3.89)

Active roster moves 9/14/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/24

Central League

Activated

GiantsIF52Takumi Kitamura
SwallowsP43Albert Suarez

Dectivated

TigersP16Yuki Nishi
SwallowsIF46Kengo Ota

Pacific League

Activated

HawksOF60Go Kamamoto
MarinesOF31Tsuyoshi Sugano
EaglesP47Masaru Fujii
FightersP52Takahide Ikeda

Dectivated

MarinesOF79Leonys Martin

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Endangered Eagles

The Rakuten Eagles’ pennant and playoff hopes were dealt a blow Tuesday when manager/general manager Kazuhisa Ishii revealed left-handed closer Yuki Matsui is no closer to taking the mound than he was on Aug. 25 when he was deactivated due to pain in his right thigh, Daily Sports reported.

The Eagles, who signed former New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka prior to camp, are in fourth place as they seek their first Pacific League pennant since Tanaka’s 2013 MVP season when he went 24-0 and earned the save when they clinched the Japan Series in Game 7 against the Yomiuri Giants.

Asked when Matsui is expected to pitch in a real game, Ishii said, “We still don’t know at all when that will happen. Right now, I think we’re still in a situation where there’s no guarantee he will return this season.”

“If he takes a chance with it and pitches, there is a chance of aggravating it. I don’t want this to be a rush job.”

Matsui has 24 saves with a 0.36 ERA, and the Eagles are 6-9 without him able to pitch in the ninth inning.

writing & research on Japanese baseball

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