Giants ride Mercedes in win over Dragons
Cristopher Mercedes (2-2) allowed a run over seven innings and Kazuma Okamoto’s two-run eighth-inning double broke up a tie game in for the Yomiuri Giants’ 6-1 win over the Chunichi Dragons on Thursday at Nagoya Dome.
Lefty Hiroto Fuku (1-1), who has been solid for the Dragons all season, surrendered a leadoff single thanks to some good hitting by Yoshiyuki Kamei.
Although home plate ump Fumihiro Yoshimoto had been giving away wide outside strikes like Halloween candy all game, Fuku couldn’t buy one against Hayato Sakamoto, who smacked a 3-2 cutter in the heart of the zone for a double. Yoshihiro Maru walked to load the bases for Okamoto.
The Giants cleanup hitter pulled an inside pitch past the third-base bag for a two-run double. Maru scored on a groundout before Zelous Wheeler crushed a fat first-pitch fastball for his second home run.
Mercedes struck out eight while allowing six hits, a walk and a hit batsman. He got a 1-0 lead in the fourth on catcher Takumi Oshiro’s fourth home run only for the Dragons to tie it in the sixth.
Dragonst starter Yuichiro Okano allowed a run over five innings on three hits and a walk. The right-hander struck out seven.
Dayan Viciedo, who missed Wednesday’s game after being hit by a pitch on Tuesday, had the third of three-straight singles to bring in Yohei Oshima. The right-handed hitter adjusted to Yoshimoto calling strikes well off the outside corner by diving into those and collecting two hits.
Onuki pitches BayStars past Swallows
Shinichi Onuki (2-2) allowed a hit and two walks over seven innings, and the DeNA BayStars hammered lefty Keiji Takahashi (0-1) for three runs in the first inning in a 6-0 win over the Yakult Swallows at Yokohama Stadium.
Keita Sano, a 25-year-old with fewer than 400 career plate appearances was promoted to team captain and dropped into the cleanup spot following the departure of Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. Manager Alex Ramirez has come under fire for batting him fourth. The youngster has been raking, except with runners in scoring position and had no home runs through July 21.
On Wednesday, Sano homered in the first inning to open the scoring, and on Thursday, he singled in the game’s first run and added a late two-run homer.
Takahashi (0-1) lacked some of the explosive movement he’s had on his pitches in his good outings and was missing the strike zone more than he missed bats.
Morishita wins Fujinami comeback game
Masato Morishita, the Hiroshima Carp’s first draft pick last autumn, allowed two runs on a first-inning homer but struck out 10 over six innings and earned his first win in a 4-2 victory over the Hanshin Tigers.
The rookie right-hander matched up at historic Koshien Stadium with Shintaro Fujinami, the Tigers’ top pick in the 2012 draft, whose career has been on a steady downward slide for four years. This spring, he contracted COVID-19 and was also banished to the farm team for coming late to one practice too many.
With hopes always high in Tigers land that at any moment he might regain the quality of his first few seasons and become a plus in the rotation, his return to Koshien turned Thursday’s game into a highly anticipated matchup.
Fujinami pitched out of a first-inning jam before Yusuke Oyama’s two-run homer in the first gave him the lead. The game remained 2-0 until a single and a pair of one-out walks in the sixth, which Jose Pirela converted with a two-out grand slam. The opposite-field fly just landed fair inside the right field foul pole. It was the Venezuelan’s fourth home run of the year.
“I don’t know if it was going to be a home run, but I hit it hard. At least if it fell it was going to be a double. I was always looking for fastballs. He threw me a lot of fastballs and that’s what I hit for the homer,” Pirela said.
Yoza earns 1st win as Lions clip Marines
The Seibu Lions hitters made the most of their limited opportunities and the fielders preserved a slim lead in a 3-2 win over the Lotte Marines at MetLife Dome.
Rookie submariner Kaito Yoza (1-2) allowed two runs on six hits, two walks and a hit batsman over five innings, and clutch pitching and defense kept the Marines from catching up.
Yoza surrendered a booming two-out RBI double in the first to rookie Hisanori Yasuda, who scored on a Shogo Nakamura single. Although the Marines had numerous chances, they would be unable to add on.
Rookie Shohei Suzuki led off the first with a hustling double off Daiki Iwashita (3-1) and scored when Sosuke Genda stroked a fat first-pitch fastball up the middle.
The Lions were unable to bring Genda home from second, but a Corey Spangenberg triple and a long home run, the first of rookie Seiji Kawagoe’s career, made it 3-2.
The Marines should have tied it or taken the lead in the fourth. WIth two outs and runners on second and third, Yoza somehow snared Shuhei Fukuda’s line drive for the third out. Perfect innings from Katsunori Hirai and Kaima Taira got the game to the eighth, where Reed Garrett took over for the Lions.
With two outs and pinch-runner Hiromi Oka on first, Seiay Inoue launched a drive that Suzuki tracked down and caught with a leaping grab before it struck the fence in dead center. Tatsushi Masuda then worked a scoreless ninth for his eighth save.
Fighters’ VerHagen stops Hawks
Drew VerHagen (2-1) allowed two runs over six innings, and catcher Shingo Usami belted a three-run second-inning homer in the Nippon Ham Fighters’ 3-2 win over the SoftBank Hawks at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
VerHagen surrendered a run in the bottom of the first on a leadoff walk and a Yuki Yanagita triple. But after a walk, VerHagen recorded two of his eight strikeouts to hold the Hawks to a run.
Hawks lefty Shunsuke Kasaya (0-1) retired the first five batters he faced before a walk and a Christian Villanueva single brought the light-hitting Fighters catcher to the plate. Kasaya missed with a 1-1 slider and Usami drilled it well back in the seats for his first home run since he hit for for the Yomiuri Giants in 2017.
VerHagen didn’t need much help from his defense but he did get a gem from second baseman Kenshi Sugiya to catch a flare for the third out of the third inning and rob Yanagita of a single.
The Hawks narrowed the gap in the fifth on a walk, a double and a Ryoya Kurihara sac fly, but neither team would record a hit after that as three Fighters relievers closed it out and Ryo Akiyoshi earned his sixth save.
Kasaya was pulled after three innings, but the Hawks got four stellar innings of long relief from Yugo Bando, who struck out five while allowing a walk and a single.
Mission accomplished as Buffs play for tie
For the second straight night, Orix Buffaloes skipper Norifumi turned to the sacrifice bunt when trailing in the late innings on the road. Although the Buffaloes scored six runs in the ninth on Wednesday and did better than tie, Nishimura got what he paid for this time.
Adam Jones singled in two runs as Orix came from behind to finish in a 2-2 tie with the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Lefties Hayato Yuge of the Eagles and Sachiya Yamasaki of the Buffaloes each threw five scoreless innings. Yuge worked around a leadoff single in the sixth before the Eagles scored in the home half.
Hiroto Kobukata, Rakuten’s top draft pick last autumn, and Eigoro Mogi singled to open the inning. After a Daichi Suzuki sacrifice, Kobukata did well to score around the tag at the plate after Stefen Romero’s fly to medium deep right field.
Hideto Asamura singled in a second run, but the Buffaloes got to Yuge in the eighth.
After a walk and a hit batsman, No. 2 hitter Koji Oshiro sacrificed and slugger Masataka Yoshida walked. Jones then ripped a game-tying single off Alan Busenitz and was replaced by a pinch-runner. Both teams wasted scoring opportunities before the game was called at the conclusion of the 10th inning.
NPB finally backs down on bigger crowds
Nearly a week after Japan’s government asked event promotors not to expand the sizes of their audiences from Aug. 1, Nippon Professional Baseball on Thursday said it would follow suit.
Prior to Thursday’s announcement, only two teams had said they would back from their plans to admit crowds up to half of their venues’ capacity. Since July 10, NPB and pro soccer’s J-League have limited their audiences to a maximum of 5,000 fans.
See the Kyodo News story here.
Tigers lose Itohara with broken hand
Kento Itohara, the Hanshin Tigers’ 27-year-old second baseman broke the hamate bone in his right hand during Wednesday’s game against the Hiroshima Carp. He was deactivated on Thursday, snapping his string of playing in 312 consecutive games since Opening Day 2018.
Active roster moves 7/23/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/2