Live blog: Hawks vs Buffaloes
For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.
Tonight we have two of Japan’s premier pitchers, Kodai Senga of the SoftBank Hawks against Yoshinobu Yamamoto of the Orix Buffaloes.
Buffs leading off with Tatsuya Yamaashi, whose liner to right holds up long enough to be caught. Shuhei Fukuda the shorter strikes out looking at a pitch away. Masataka Yoshida takes a pitch low for Ball 4, bringing up Adam Jones, who sat out his first game of the year on Sunday.
Jones goes down swinging at a splitter. A pitch that is usually a nightmare for hitters has been mediocre this season for Senga. But that 0-2 pitch was a beauty.
Two good fastballs followed by a good curve and Ukyo Shuto is Yamamoto’s first strikeout victim of the evening.
Yuki Yanagita is batting second. He’s jammed but loops it into shallow right for a single. We were talking on the Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast about manager Kudo’s lineup selection.
Akira Nakamura, batting third, hits one high and far down the line for a two-run home run. We’re going to get a video review of the ball. It was hit high over the foul pole, so I don’t know how they were going to dispute it.
Nakamura, of course, famously hit a home run on a foul ball against the Buffaloes thanks to a video review that overturned the correct call. Hawks 2 Buffaloes 0
The curse of the live blog continues as Ryoya Kurihara walks and Kenji Akashi doubles him home from first. Hawks 3 Buffaloes 0 Yamamoto settles down and gets a pair of groundouts to leave Kurihara at second.
The broadcasters are saying that the difference between good Senga and bad Senga is that when he’s having trouble, he’ll give up runs right after his team scored. I don’t think it’s that simple. He’s missing bats with his fastball and splitter. I think that’s probably a better indicator.
Takahiro Okada and Aderlin Rodriguez back after missing 10 days with a contusion on his arm where he was hit by a pitch make easy outs. Senga issues his second two-out walk of the game.
Senga caught a huge break when he missed with a splitter up in the zone with too much spin and Ryoichi Adachi takes it for Strike 3, and he’ s out of the inning. Hawks 3, Buffaloes 0
Two easy outs for Yamamoto in the second. Then a straight fastball that misses up in the zone and Shuto singles. Yanagita hits another straight fastball and drives it into the home run terrace in right center. Hawks 5, Buffaloes 0
The Buffaloes go down in order in the third.
A one-out single by Kenji Akashi puts a man on, but Aderlin Rodriguez catches a low liner at first and gets an easy double play.
Masataka Yoshida singles to center for Orix’s first hit. Jones chases a cutter away and misses for Senga’s sixth strikeout. Takahiro Okada tees off on a high fastball and doubles to the gap in right to put runners on second and third for Rodriguez.
Good split for the second strike and Rodriguez swings under a good fastball. That’s seven K’s for Senga. Ryo Nishimura can’t hold up on a 2-2 pitch Senga buries on outside and that promise of an inning is gone.
Takuya Kai miss-hits a cutter and grounds into an easy out. Nice cutter, fastball combination gets the No. 8 hitter Hikaru Kawase going down swinging. Matsuda swings under a high fastball and fouls out. Triumph of a sort for Yamamoto in his first 1-2-3 inning.
Tough spot for Senga after his second baseman Kawase fumbles a grounder, and Kenya Wakatsuki gets enough of an 0-2 fastball up and in to get it through the infield for a single. Kawase drops the throw from short on a double play ball for his second error of the inning and the bags are juiced.
A groundout brings in one run, and Yoshida puts an easy swing on a cutter at the letters and hits it into left for an RBI single. Hawks 5, Buffaloes 2
A good at-bat by Jones taking two borderline low pitches, and a badly missed 3-2 fastball results in a walk and the bases loaded with one out.
Senga misses another fastball up in the zone and straight to Okada who lines it into the home run terrace for his sixth homer of the season. Buffaloes 6, Hawks 5
A good at-bat by Ukyo Shuto gives the Hawks a leadoff walk. Yamamoto gets ahead of Yanagita and goes inside with a fastball. Shuto takes off on the 2-2 pitch and steals second as Yanagita chases a splitter for Strike 3.
I am mystified why catcher Wakatsuki and Yamamoto think a disciplined hitter like Nakamura is going to become a hacker after all these years and chase pitches when he’s ahead in the count. Now they HAVE to work the edge and hope for a strike and walk him. Two on and one out and their feet are in the fire.
Another disciplined hitter in Ryoya Kurihara, and they start him off with a splitter out of the zone. Madness. Surprised him with a curveball away that hung up a bit and Kurihara flies out.
Visit from the pitching coach as Yamamoto misses badly with a couple of pitches and the bases are loaded with two outs. Seiji Uebayashi puts a good swing on an inside pitch but hits a soft liner to second, and Yamamoto escapes.
Senga is missing still but gets three easy outs. Yamamoto is done after 106 pitches.
Rookie right-hander Ryo Yoshida on the mound for the Buffaloes. The announcer said “He did well on the farm but didn’t get results on the first team.” That’s true, but I’d wager it’s hard to get any kind of good results in just 4-1/3 innings. Yoshida strikes out Kai on three pitches, but walks the next batter, Kawase, so if anything, he’s being efficient.
The Buffaloes’ center fielder, Nishimura, is pulled well over toward right center against Nobuhiro Matsuda, as if to rub it in that he’s batting ninth.
Matsuda walks and Senga really wants to pitch the seventh, since out in front of the dugout warming up with one out.
Pitching change: Ryo Yoshida leaves for lefty Koki Saito to face Yanagita.
The Hawks star nearly comes out of his shoes trying to hold up on a slider but gets the bat on it and hits a one-handed home run as his helmet flies off. That’s home run No. 14 for him and it’s Hawks 8, Buffaloes 6.
With a two-run lead, Senga is done after six innings and 114 pitches.
Rei Takahashi on for the Hawks. Masataka Yoshida doubles with one out for his third hit. He also walked. Adam Jones singles Yoshida home. Hawks 8, Buffaloes 7.
Hawks skipper Kudo pulls the plug on his submarine righty with Okada coming up from the left side.
Pitching change: LHP Shinya Kayama on for Rei Takahashi with one out and one on.
Given manager Nishimura’s propensity to play for one run when behind and sort of wish for the best, I’m surprised he’s not gone to a pinch-runner for Jones on first.
Pitching change: LHP Shinya Kayama on for Rei Takahashi with one out and one on. Okada pops up for the second out, and with Aderlin Rodriguez up, the Hawks go with a right-hander, so lovers of the one-point relievers nonsense that passes for strategy can be happy.
Pitching change: Rookie RHP Keisuke Izumi on for LHP Shinya Kayama and gets Rodriguez to ground out.
It’s the Hawks’ “Lucky Seventh,” and lefty Nobuyoshi Yamada is on for Orix to face Ryoya Kurihara. Yamada misses the target slightly on a 3-2 pitch. A leadoff walk and a sacrifice and the insurance run is at second. I’m sure there’ s reason for asking your pitcher to locate perfectly against a leadoff hitter instead of focusing on throwing a 3-2 strike, but I don’t see it.
Another walk and my favorite right-handed-hitting grinder is up. Keizo Kawashima pinch-hits and smokes the first pitch to center but lines out. Yamada unpickles himself by getting pinch-hitter Kenta Imamiya to ground out to third.
Changes: LHP Livan Moinelo on the mound, while Hiroaki Takaya is catching and Shuto moves over from short to second and Tetsuro Nishida comes off the bench to play short.
Moinelo strikes out Nishimura. Five outs to go.
A walk on another pitch at the knees that ump Yuta Suyama is not buying. Moinelo, like Senga and Yamamoto before him, mouths his displeasure in Japanese, causing the announcers to comment on his language skills.
A double-play ball to first, but the Hawks infield are not on the same page and only get one out. Nishida tags the runner thinking first baseman Kenji Akashi stepped on the bag when he didn’t. There’s a little meeting to figure out what went wrong. But all’s well that ends well for the Hawks as pinch-runner Yuya Oda is thrown out stealing.
Buffaloes right-hander Tyler Higgins on and strikes out Matsuda on a called third strike away. It looks like one of those egregious outside strikes that have been very common this year. Higgins has been very tough this year, his first in Japan. He records three easy outs, so it’s going to come down to whether Orix can score off closer Yuito Mori in the ninth.
Here’s Mori and he misses the first two pitches to pinch-hitter Torai Fushimi, who miss-hits a ball to second for the first out. The right-hander missing the target with about half his pitches but is executing with two strikes.
Masataka Yoshida has yet to make an out tonight. Mori can’t hit the low target but gets the diminutive slugger out on high fastballs. It’s Mori’s 11th save.
Final score: Hawks 8, Buffaloes 7
Wasn’t the pitchers’ duel we were hoping for, but it was fun.