Senga wins marquee matchup vs Yamamoto
Kodai Senga got a late start to the season, and has struggled to consistently command his splitter and four-seamer, but things came together for him on Tuesday in the SoftBank Hawks’ 4-0 win against the Orix Buffaloes at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
“Today is the first day I’ve pitched the way one would expect from a starting pitcher,” said Senga, who had been relying more on his slider this year due to his inability to locate his fastball or get his splitter to tumble.
Senga (5-2) struck out nine over seven scoreless innings in a matchup of aces against Yoshinobu Yamamoto (3-2), who continued to struggle on the road. The Buffaloes’ loss was their first since Norifumi Nishimura stepped down on Thursday night and was replaced by farm skipper Satoshi Nakajima.
On this week’s Japan Weekly Baseball Podcast, Fighters pitcher Drew VerHagen talked about how well some hitters in Japan can wear pitchers down, spoiling good pitches by fouling them off and running up pitch counts. That’s what the Hawks did to Yamamoto, who allowed two runs over six innings.
The bottom of the Hawks order forced the right-hander to throw 27 pitches in a three-walk fourth inning despite his ability to end it by getting catcher Takuya Kai to ground into an inning-ending double play on two pitches.
Taisei Makihara opened the Hawks’ fifth by hitting a first-pitch fastball off the end of the bat and finding a hole for a leadoff single. He took second on a wild pitch that catcher Kenya Wakatsuki kept in front of him, and went to third on a groundout. Makihara and scored when Yuki Yanagita lined a low 0-2 splitter to center for a sacrifice fly, proving once more that Yanagita can do pretty much anything.
Yurisbel Gracial, who rejoined the Hawks’ first team last week after he and Alfredo Despaigne arrived in Japan from Cuba in July, followed with his first home run to make it 2-0. Yamamoto tried to go outside with an 0-1 fastball, his 91st pitch of the game, and Gracial nearly hit one of the Boston Dynamics Spot dogs that decorate the center field stands at the Casa de PayPay.
Yamamoto started the day having struck out one batter in 22 consecutive innings, one shy of the Japan record set by Yutaka Enatsu in 1968 with the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers. The Buffaloes 22-year-old ran the record to 25 innings before the Hawks fouled him silly in the fourth.
At home, Yamamoto has struck out 54 batters and walked four over 37 innings. On the road, he’s now struck out 24 and walked 15 in 29-2/3 innings.
Buffaloes officially need help
One stat that goes hand in hand with Japanese baseball’s perverse magic number calculating system is the “jiriki-V” the ability of a team to clinch a “V” for victory under its own power “jiriki” by winning enough of its remaining games regardless of its opponents’ results in other games.
Tuesday’s loss eliminated the Buffaloes’ chances of clinching by running the table. Like asking players what they intend to do in May when they compile the service time necessary to file for free agency, one of the duties of reporters in NPB is to ask the manager about such things as magic numbers and the jiriki-V.
“I don’t think we’re finished yet,” Nakajima said. “It’s something that happens in the final stages, too, when it comes and goes day by day. We’ll keep playing.”
Adam Jones, who hit four home runs in Orix’s previous three games, was removed for a pinch-hitter prior to his second at-bat. He’s been dealing with discomfort in his right heel and on Aug. 16 he skipped the Buffaloes’ last game in Fukuoka on Aug. 16.
NOTE: This story originally incorrectly identified Jones as not being on the game-day roster.
Marines blow up against Eagles’ Chargois
J.T. Chargois (0-3) hit the first batter he faced in a five-run seventh inning, allowing the Lotte Marines to overturn a one-run deficit en route to an 8-4 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Leonys Martin was plunked for the second time to open the seventh when a 1-2 back-foot slider became a front-knee breaking ball. Although pitchers are expected to tip their cap to batters they hit, Chargois didn’t although did have a word as Martin walked to first.
A hanging slider was hit for a single and Seiya Inoue hit a high fastball to tie it with a single for his second RBI of the game. Shuhei Fukuda, who also had an RBI in Lotte’s three-run first inning, doubled in the go-ahead run.
Mariners starter Manabu Mima, who left the Eagles as a free agent over the winter, allowed four runs over six innings to improve to 5-2.
“That was a bit of a hard game, a little frustrating,” Eagles manager Hajime Miki said afterward. “It became a game where there’s really nothing to say about it. We owe the fans an apology.”
Taking 11 for the team
By getting hit twice, Martin moved into a tie with Seibu’s Hotaka Yamakawa for the unenviable Japan lead in being hit by pitches with 11 this season. Martin’s sleeve was brushed by a pitch from Tomohito Sakai to open the fifth. Like Chargois, Sakai did not appear to tip his cap.
Fighters’ Uwasawa beats Lions’ Takahashi
Go Matsumoto walked twice, scored twice and had an RBI triple for the Nippon Ham Fighters, allowing Naoyuki Uwasawa (4-2) to overcome a solid start from Seibu Lions right-hander Kona Takahashi (3-6) in a 4-3 win at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.
Matsumoto drew a one-out walk in the first and scored after two-out singles by Sho Nakata and Ryo Watanabe. Christian Villanueva, who missed nearly a month after fouling a ball off his foot, doubled in his first at-bat back and scored on Takuya Nakashima’s perfectly executed suicide squeeze. With two outs, Taishi Ota doubled and scored on Matsumoto’s triple to make it 3-0.
Uwasawa spent his last four innings on the mound getting himself out of trouble.
“My form wasn’t all that good today,” he said after walking four and hitting a batter. “I’m glad I could keep them off the board as well as I did.”
The Lions, who most often wear variations of blue or occasionally red or green, came dressed a little early for Halloween, wearing white uniforms with orange trim that made it look they were being sponsored by Starbucks’ pumpkin spice drinks,
Sugano’s season-opening streak rolls on
Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano remained unbeaten on the season, improving to 9-0 after allowing two runs over eight innings in an 8-4 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
The franchise record is 13 winning decisions to open the season, set by Tsuneo Horiuchi in 1966. It’s the longest by an Opening Day pitcher since Hall of Famer Victor Starffin’s nine straight in 1938. The Japan record for consecutive victories is the 28-0 stretch by former Rakuten Eagles ace Masahiro Tanaka spanning the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons.
Sugano struck out six without issuing a walk, while allowing five hits. He allowed two runs on four first-inning singles but only one hit the rest of the way.
“To be honest, I was wondering just how many runs they might score off of me (in the first),” said Sugano, who got a huge boost from a one-out double play before veteran Yuhei Takai singled in the second run.
The Giants tied it against 40-year-old lefty Masanori Ishikawa on a Hayato Sakamoto homer and a Zelous Wheeler RBI single but broke the game open against Swallows rookie surprise Hiroki Hasegawa (1-1) in a five-run seventh.
BayStars overcome Yamasaki blowup
Yamato Maeda’s two-out sayonara single won it for the DeNA BayStars 5-4 over the Hiroshima Carp at Yokohama Stadium after closer Yasuaki Yamasaki blew a two-run lead in his current role as the BayStars’ seventh-inning man.
Jose Pirela fueled Hiroshima’s comeback with two hits and two runs, while Ryuhei Matsuyama drove in two runs off the bench for the Carp.
Edwin Escobar took over in the seventh with one out and two in scoring position but couldn’t strand either one.
With Tatsuhiro Shibata on base in the ninth with two outs and first base open in a 4-4- game, the Carp opted to walk Takayuki Kajitani who was 4-for-4 with a double. Maeda followed with a booming single to the wall to end it.
The BayStars snapped a 23-inning scoreless streak in the second on a Keita Sano single and a Toshiro Miyazaki homer off Allen Kuri. Afterward Miyazaki had to say his only intent was contributing to the rally.
“I was only trying to set the table for the hitters behind me, ” he said, dutifully reading the orthodox script for describing most home runs hit in Japan.
Tiger Takahashi slays Dragons
Lefty Haruto Takahashi reeled off his third-straight solid start, allowing a run over eight innings as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Chunichi Dragons 5-1 at Koshien Stadium.
Takahashi (2-1) allowed six hits and struck out five while walking one, and Jerry Sands drove in the go-ahead run in a two-run third inning against lefty Shinnosuke Ogasawara.
Ogasawara (1-2) allowed five runs, four earned, over six innings, snapping a solid run by the Dragons’ pitchers, who allowed one run in their weekend series against DeNA.
Justin Bour hit his 10th home run, a two-run shot in the sixth.
Active roster moves 8/25/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/4
Starting pitchers for Aug. 25, 2020
Eagles vs Marines: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Lions vs Fighters: MetLife Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Hawks vs Buffaloes: PayPay Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Swallows vs Giants: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
BayStars vs Carp: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Tigers vs Dragons: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT