NPB 2020 6-20 live

Before the nitty gritty about today’s live blog, here are some other NPB quick hits.

Baby shark warning

367 days after he introduced the Baby Shark to Washington Nationals fans, Gerardo Parra hit his first regular season home run in Japan in the Yomiuri Giants’ 11-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers. We don’t know what the Giants players were doing during their layoff but they apparently had been doing their baby shark homework assignments.

Yamada 28, 29 and counting

Tetsuto Yamada is going to have to hustle to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in a 120-game season, but he’s off to a good start. He hit his second home run on Saturday and grabbed his first stolen base in Yakult’s 6-2 win over the Chunichi Dragons.

The Swallows second baseman is the only player in NPB history with more than one season with a .300-plus average, and 30 or more steals and home runs. This accomplishment of .3, 30, 30 is mangled in Japanese as the “Triple Three.” Yamada has done it three times.

Kyodo News’ coverage of Saturday’s games.

Suzuki goes deep twice

Although scouts have been salivating over the possibility of Yamada playing in the majors, more of them seem certain that the other guy with two homers this year, Seiya Suzuki of the Hiroshima Carp will go.

Here’s my profile of the Carp outfielder

Suzuki homered twice on Saturday in a 10-5 win over the DeNA BayStars. Veteran minor league pitcher Michael Peoples allowed one run over six innings and striking out seven for the BayStars.

Wada strong, but Hawks lose

Former Chicago Cub Tsuyoshi Wada struck out seven, while allowing a run over 6-1/3 innings–on a leadoff homer by former Yankee Brandon Laird in the second–in the Hawks’ 3-2 loss to the Lotte Marines. Former Cleveland Indians reliever Frank Herrmann picked up the in relief.

The balls are jumping, but

Home runs have not been more frequent this year than they were over the same period last year. Last year, there were 29 hit out over 215 innings. Although two pitchers homered on Friday, there have been 21 over 216 2/3 innings the first two days of the 2020 season.

Lions Fighters live blog June 20, 2020

Switching to the Pacific League today and the Lions-Fighters game from empty MetLife Dome.Top of 1st

Wataru Matsumoto on the mound for the Lions. According to Delta Graphs, he gave up 29. 1 percent hard contact last year, 2nd best among Lions pitchers with 50-plus innings, but had the fourth-worst DER behind him (.692). Flyball pitcher primarily fastball, cutter, split last year.

Top 1st

  1. Haruki Nishikawa strikes out on a steady diet of fastballs to open the game.
  2. Taishi Ota singles, hits a cutter away off the end of the bat.
  3. Kensuke Kondo strikes out swinging at a 3-3 fastball, Ota caught stealing for the DP.

Bottom 1st

Fighters starter Takayuki Kato played an important role as a rookie in 2016, when the Fighters starting rotation was without Shohei Ohtani for much of the summer. Kato, the second pick the previous autumn, went 7-3 as the Fighters won the PL pennant and the Japan Series.

He’s a lefty with a low-velocity(137 kph avg) fastball and has thrown about every pitch in the book

  1. Corey Spangenberg strikes out on five pitches, slider, slider, splitter, fastball and splitter out of the zone.
  2. Sosuke Genda, LHB, strikes out swinging at a high 1-2 fastball away after being set up with a slider and a curve out of the zone.
  3. Tomoya Mori, last year’s PL MVP, lays off three two-strike pitches away and singles off a 3-3 fastball.
  4. Hotaka Yamakawa, the 2018 MVP and two-time defending PL home run champ flies out on a 1-0 fastball away.

Top 2nd

  1. Sho Nakata, the biggest power threat in the Fighters lineup since the departure of Ohtani (Angels) and Brandon Laird (Lotte Marines) refused to chase three out of the zone but flies out on a low 145-kph fastball. Matsumoto is throwing harder today than he did for most of his 2019 rookie season.
  2. Wang Po-Jung flies out on a first-pitch curve in the zone.
  3. Ryo Watanabe, one of the big surprises for the Fighters last year, again declines to chase three pitches out of the zone but grounds a 3-1 fastball to short.

Bottom 2nd

  1. Shuta Tonosaki swings at the first two strikes he sees and knocks the second, a 1-1 fastball over the fence in left center.
  2. Takeya Nakamura takes two inside fastballs for strikes before missing a splitter out of the zone
  3. Takumi Kuriyama, who is along with Giants outfielder Yoshiyuki Kamei, one of the favorite veteran grinders of the Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast. He fouls off a pair of two-strike pitches before singling on the eighth pitch.
  4. The plate discipline theme is in mid-season form as Lions No. 8 hitter Fumikazu Kimura walks on six pitches.
  5. Yuji Kaneko hits a potential double play grounder to second, but Watanabe fumbles it and they can only get the force.
  6. With two out and runners on the corners, Spangenberg grounds a first-pitch fastball to second.

Top 3rd

  1. Kazunari Ishii flies out on a curve. Seeing quite a few from Matsumoto today.
  2. Yuki Nomura, who was born in the States, and made his top-flight debut on Friday and went 0-for-2, walks.
  3. Catcher Yushi Shimizu grounds into a double play, something the Lions were pretty good at on defense last year.

Bottom 3rd

  1. Genda flies out on five pitches.
  2. Mori flies out to center
  3. Yamakawa singles on a 3-2 splitter that Kato leaves up and over the plate.
  4. Sotozaki walks on five pitches.
  5. Nakamura strikes out, again, on a split out of the zone, again.

Top 4th

  1. Nishikawa opens with a single when Matsumoto misses up and in with a fastball.
  2. Matsumoto strikes out Ota with a big beautiful curve that drops out of the zone.
  3. Kensuke Kondo, who walks as much as anyone in Japan, took four and is on first base, inviting a mound meeting.
  4. It didn’t produce the desired results. Nakata goes with a straight 1-0 fastball away and drives it off the top of the wall in right for a two-run double. Fighters 2, Lions 1. This ends 12 scoreless innings by the Fighters to open the season.
  5. Wang strikes out swinging at a splitter that had virtually no spin on it. If they weren’t prevented from licking the ball, I’d be suspicious of that one.
  6. Watanabe walks and the Lions bench is restless.
  7. But Matsumoto escapes further damage against Watanabe, who can’t handle a pair of high-inside fastballs and pops out.

Bottom 4th

  1. Kuriyama leads it off for the Lions with a walk. It’s not really a surprise that guys are having trouble locating. They typically enter the season after nearly two months of bullpens and preseason games. This year they started with that, then stopped, and went back to work at the end of May.
  2. Kimura gets jammed on a fastball and flies out.
  3. Kaneko pokes a fastball away into right and there’s two on.
  4. Spangenberg up. Kato throws low 3/4 and when he throws his splitter away to lefties, it looks a lot like the slider, but Spangenberg is able to foul those off. He has no answer for the slider away though, and goes down swinging.

Top 5th

  1. Nomura pops out to first on the first pitch.
  2. Shimizu pops out to short as Matsumoto is using the fastball-cutter combination to miss barrels.
  3. Nishikawa completes the game of “Three Flies out” by popping out to second on a high fastball.

Bottom 6th

New pitcher for Nippon Ham. 28-year-old right-hander Shota Tamai, who pitched in 65 games last season. Fastball, two-seamer, cutter, curve. Has had his best results with a shoot (essentially a reverse cutter) and the cutter last year.

  1. Mori strikes out looking at 2-2 fastball that nails the bottom of the zone.
  2. After four outside pitches to the right-handed-hitting Yamakawa, Tamai gets him on an inside fastball.
  3. A 2-1 fastball runs in on Tonosaki and he also grounds it to third, where the 19-year-old Nomura makes a nice grab and throws on the run.

Top 6th

  1. Matsumoto, among the league leaders in infield fly percentage last year, gets his fifth straight to open the sixth as Ota flies out to first.
  2. Kondo, who drew 103 walks last year, draws his third of the year.
  3. Nakata flies out to left.
  4. Wang grounds to first.

Bottom 6th

  1. Nakamura avoids striking out for the third time by popping up a 143-kph first-pitch fastball from Tamai to second.
  2. Kuriyama singles singles to right.
  3. Kimura watches three running fastballs before flying out on a cutter.
  4. Kaneko flies out to left to end an easy inning for Tamai.

Top 7th

  1. Watanabe draws a 6-pitch leadoff walk on Matsumoto’s 90th pitch.
  2. Ishii smashes a grounder to first after costing himself two strikes trying to bunt.
  3. That’s all for Matsumoto. Stocky, hard-throwing righty Kaima Taira comes in to face Nomura, who hits a low fastball on the screws but straight to Tonosaki at second.
  4. No. 9 hitter Shimizu strikes out looking at slider.

Bottom 7th

Time for the Lions “Lucky 7th.” With no fans in the park, the scoreboard is showing fans on a streaming app singing the Lions’ team song, while the mascots and cheer leaders perform.

Lefty Katsuhiko Kumon up for the Fighters, with Spangenberg probably happy not to see anymore of Kato’s sliders leading off.

  1. Unfortunately, the new import doesn’t have any more luck with Kumon’s slider than he did Kato’s, and goes down swinging for the third time, low and away.
  2. Genda walks to put the tying run on base.
  3. Mori flies out to center after Genda steals second.
  4. Yamakawa up, but the lefty gets him to hit the first pitch to Nomura at third. Inning over.
And Hotaka Yamakawa cleans up on the piano as well.

Top 8th

Trailing by a run, the Lions bring in Tetsu Miyagawa to make his pro debut. The 24-year-old righty was the Lions’ top draft pick last autumn out of corporate league club Toshiba.

  1. Nishikawa flies out on a 2-1 fastball.
  2. Ota, who was a No. 1 draft pick in his previous existence as the Yomiuri Giants “Next Hideki Matsui” fans on some nasty sliders.
  3. Kono gets ahead in the count before smashing a ball off the rookie pitcher’s glove for an infield single — fun fact: pitchers in Japan get no assist when the ball comes off their glove or body on a ground out.
  4. Miyagawa is trying to paint corners, and walks Nakata on five pitches.
  5. More avoidance of the strike zone brings pitching coach Fumiya Nishiguchi to the mound as Wang walks and the bases are loaded with two outs for Watanabe.
  6. Watanabe hits a shot back to Miyagawa, who knocks it down and ends the inning.

Bottom 8th

Naoki Miayanishi, the Fighters veteran lefty middle reliever is on.

  1. Sotozaki strikes out swinging at a high backdoor slider from Miyanishi.
  2. Nakamura also strikes out on a pitch away after Miyanishi plays cat and mouse with umpire Kazuhiro Kobayashi, who isn’t inclined to cut the lefty any slack on that side till a 3-1 fastball misses completely and Miyanishi gets one on credit. Nakamura then swings at Miyanishi’s 3-2 pitch just as far out of the zone away and misses.
  3. Kuriyama strokes a single to right but is called out trying to steal. Shimizu bounces the throw, but Kuriyama’s wheels aren’t what they were 11 years ago, when he last stole 10 bases in a season, and he’s out after a video request.

Top 9th

Second-year right-hander Ryosuke Moriwaki up for Seibu.

  1. Ishii lines out to first.
  2. Nomura flies out center.
  3. Shimizu doubles to the warning track in left.
  4. Nishikawa up with a chance to purchase some insurance with a base hit but walks on seven pitches. Two on for Ota.
  5. Moriwaki balks on a 0-2 pitch to Ota, both runners advance. He’s called for not pausing three seconds. Ota grounds to third and is ruled safe at first as Shimizu crosses the plate. The call is overturned on appeal and we go to the bottom of the ninth with the Fighters leading 2-1.

At least until 2019, NPB owners were too cheap to give the umpires real TV monitors to view the replays, forcing them to use these 8″ portable monitors, which resulted in the fans in the stands getting a better view of the play than the umps under the stands did.

Bottom 9th

Right-handed side-armer Ryo Akiyoshi, acquired from Yakult after the only poor season of his career in 2018, became the Fighters’ closer ikn 2019 and saved 25 games. He’s on now looking for Save No. 1.

  1. Kimura flies out on a 2-2 slider away to open the inning.
  2. Kaneko battles and battles and battles before watching a backdoor slider cross the plate for Strike 3.
  3. And for the first time in the game, Spangenberg gets to face a right-hander, but strikes (again) although this one was in the dirt.

Final score: Fighters 2, Lions 1

Haruki Ishikawa, whose hit was the 1,000th of his career is sporting his “1,000 hits” T-shirt for his post-game hero interview.

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