Olympic tourney Day 1

A higher, faster, stronger virus

The “safe and secure” Tokyo Olympics announced their 169th infection less than a week into the games, while Tokyo and neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture and Japan as a whole set record single-day infection totals.

Japan topped 9,000 for the first time, while Tokyo broke the 3,000 barrier a day after a record 2,848, and Kanagawa broke 1,000.

Meanwhile, the Tokyo Olympic bid committee’s promised “mild and sunny summer” has forced the tennis to start its matches late because what might be “mild” for the liars who pulled off this heist, it’s unbearably hot and humid for athletes.

Japan 4, Dominican Republic 3

At Fukushima Azuma Stadium: Hayato Sakamoto capped a three-run ninth-inning rally with a one-out bases-loaded fly to the wall that broke a 3-3 tie and earned Samurai Japan a walk-off win in their Group A opener.

Japan and the Dominican Republic took turns melting down after six scoreless innings from starting pitchers Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Cristopher Mercedes.

Japan’s pros, who have an abysmal record in the Olympics, appeared ready to boot this one. Manager Atsunori Inaba pulled Yamamoto after 88 pitches, having allowed two hits and a walk while striking out nine, and Koyo Aoyagi promptly surrendered two runs on three hits, including a leadoff single by infamous former Giants, Juan Francisco.

Inaba, who chose not to include Rakuten Eagles closer Yuki Matsui in his roster and who won’t have another game until Saturday, could have stuck longer with Yamamoto before going to his best relievers, but went to an inclusive team-building plan with Aoyagi and Yasuaki Yamasaki that nearly cost him the game.

Afterward, pitching coach Yoshinori Tateyama said the plan was for Yamamoto to go seven innings or 100 pitches, whichever came first.

The Dominicans’ bullpen got Mercedes out of a sixth-inning jam when Hideto Asamura singled and Yuki Yanagita doubled with no outs. Asamura scored on a groundout, but reliever Luis Castillo protected the lead.

Tetsuto Yamada walked to open the eighth, and was sacrificed to second by Sakamoto but was gunned down at the plate by left fielder Johan Mieses when trying to score on Masataka Yoshida’s single. Inaba asked for a reply and argued obstruction, but it was a picture perfect play by catcher Charlie Valerio, who doubled in the Dominican’s first two runs.

The Dominicans got an insurance run in the ninth, when Kansas City Royals farmhand Erick Mejia doubled and scored his second run of the game on a Gustavo Nunez double off Ryoji Kuribayashi. But with one out and runners on second and third, the Carp rookie extricated himself with back-to-back swinging strikeouts.

With one out in the ninth against Jairo Asencio, Yanagita, pinch-hitter Kensuke Kondo and Munetaka Murakami delivered a run on three straight singles. Sosuke Genda, running for Kondo at third, was safe at home on Takuya Kai’s safety squeeze to tie it. Yamada singled to load the bases, and Sakamoto cracked Jhan Marinez’s first pitch to the wall in center.

The Olympic tournament

The six teams are split into two groups, with the DR, Japan and Mexico in Group A, and Israel, South Korea and the United States in Group B. After that, it becomes a complicated double-elimination style knockout tournament.

The two first-place teams skip the first round, while the second-place teams play off against each other and the third-place teams do the same. The loser of the third-place playoff finishes last.

In the next round, the first-place teams face each other, as do the winners of the two first-round games. The winners of those two games go into the first semifinal. The loser of the first semifinal goes into the second semifinal, whose winner will go into the gold medal game against the first finalist.

And I thought cricket was complicated.

In practice…

The Lotte Marines beat the Hanshin Tigers 9-2, the Yakult Swallows beat the Orix Buffaloes 4-3, while the SoftBank Hawks walked off, literally, 5-4 over the DeNA BayStars, Masahiro Nakatani drawing a ninth-inning bases-loaded walk.

NPB wrap 7-27-21

Practice, practice, practice

Tigers 6, marines 4: At Koshien Stadium, the game was like a try-out camp for top draft picks. Lotte’s Roki Sasaki (2019) started for the Marines, and hit 156 kph in his three innings but surrendered a two-run home run to Hanshin’s Teruaki Sato (2020).

Shintaro Fujinami (2012) opened for the Tigers and surrendered a solo homer in the second to Takuya Takahama (Hanshin 2007), and an RBI single to Takashi Toritani (Hanshin 2003).

Sasaki’s stuff was a mixed bag. He threw some good splitters and some good fastballs, but most of the four-seamers were too straight. Fujinami’s big issue was his location. He threw strikes but hung some fat pitches.

In the two other practice games, the SoftBank Hawks beat the DeNA BayStars 4-3, with Richard Sunagawa and new Hawks Masahiro Nakatani and Dariel Alvarez doing the damage, while the Yakult Swallows beat the Orix Buffaloes 5-2.

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In “safe and secure” fantasy land

Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures hosting the “safe and secure” Olympics, experienced a huge surge in coronavirus infections on Tuesday. Tokyo hit a record high of 2,848. Saitama Prefecture, which will host the golf, experienced a record one-day total of 593 confirmed infections.

Chiba Prefecture, host to a number of events, hit a new high of 509 on Monday, while Kanagawa Prefecture, where baseball and football are scheduled, reached 758 new infections, also a new high.

In Olympic softball…

Small-ball Japan defeated the power-oriented U.S. in the Olympic softball final 2-0 in a tremendous defensive game by both teams.

I wonder what the cricket equivalent of small-ball tactics are, because if you give Japanese a bat and a ball, you’re going to see sacrifice bunts and showy but meaningless head-first slides.

Japan opened the first with an infield single (head-first slide). Facing a pitcher who couldn’t throw strikes, Japan sacrificed on a 3-2 pitch with no outs and then ran out of outs.

On Shohei Ohtani

John E. Gibson and I taped a TV program on Tuesday with host Steve Zurcher on the subject of Shohei Ohtani. I really wanted to discuss Steven J. Gould’s discourse on how social Darwinism confuses people and encourages the kind of belief that led people in Japan and the U.S. to believe that Japanese stars couldn’t compete in the majors, but there wasn’t time.

writing & research on Japanese baseball