Open and shut Thursday
Thursday’s games in Japan were the stuff of nightmares for baseball old farts as three relievers made their first starts of the season, while five of the 12 starters took the mound with fewer than 10 career starts.
Fittingly, the day’s signature play–or rather misplay–was made by a reliever, and could someday be known as the “McPickoff.”
Hawks come back, salvage series tie
The Orix Buffaloes blew a two-run seventh-inning lead, allowing the SoftBank Hawks to win the get-away game 5-4 in their three-game series at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
A night after Hawks closer Yuito Mori blew a two-run ninth-inning lead en route to a 3-3 tie, former closer Hirotoshi Masui gave the Buffaloes a chance to win by allowing two runs over five innings. He left with a 4-2 lead after Yutaro Sugimoto singled in a run in the fourth and Masato Matsui followed with a three-run shot off Hawks sixth starter Akira Niho (4-4).
Orix got a scintillating sixth inning against the heart of the Hawks lineup from lefty Nobuyoshi Yamada. Rookie lefty Ryuga Tomiyama (0-1) was tasked with holding the visitors down in the seventh, but the 23-year-old issued a one-out walk before surrendering Nobuhiro Matsuda’s game-tying two-run homer and a solo shot to Hawks catcher Takuya Kai.
Against Hawks lefty Livan Moinelo in the eighth, Masataka Yoshida singled with two outs to run his hitting streak to 21 games, and Adam Jones walked. Ryoichi Adachi was en route to first after trying to check his swing on a 3-2 pitch until he was called out and sank to his knees on the first-base line.
Sugimoto singled to open the Buffaloes ninth against Mori, but the closer hung on to record his 18th save.
Kato, 3 relievers combine on 1-hitter
Lefty Takayuki Kato (1-1) faced the minimum over five hitless innings and three relievers completed the combined one-hitter as the Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Rakuten Eagles 4-0 at Sapporo Dome.
Kato, employed last year mostly as a “short starter” who could be trusted to go through the opposing lineup twice, was yanked after just 51 pitches. He hit one batter and struck out one. Toru Murata allowed the Eagles only hit, a single by rookie Hiroto Kobukata, in the sixth. Taisho Tamai walked two hitters in the eighth and lefty Naoki Miyanishi worked a perfect ninth.
Haruki Nishikawa doubled in a run off Yuki Matsui (1-2) in the first and tripled in another in the third. Sho Nakata singled him home in the first and delivered a sacrifice fly to plate him in the third.
Matsui allowed four runs, three earned, on five hits and a walk while striking out six.
Martin homers lift Marines over Lions
Leonys Martin’s 18th home run broke up a 2-2 fifth-inning tie and started a five-run inning as the Lotte Marines beat the Seibu Lions 8-5 at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Marines starter Daiki Iwashita (4-4) worked out of a no-out bases-loaded predicament in the first inning and a two-on, one-out pickle in the third, but the Lions got to the right-hander the third time around. A fifth-inning leadoff walk and a one-out home run by Yuji Kaneko, his first, tied it.
Lotte right-hander Frank Herrmann allowed the visitors to get a run back in the eighth on a Tomoya Mori double and Ernesto Mejia’s third hit of the game, but Martin canceled that out with his 19th home run in the home half.
Katsunori Hirai, the Lions’ middle-relief workhorse out of the bullpen until asked to make his first career start last week, took the loss. He gave up five runs over 4-1/3 innings.
Fukutani, Dragons shut down Carp
Koji Fukutani (3-2) worked 7-1/3 scoreless innings and two relievers completed the Chunichi Dragons nine-hit shutout in a 6-0 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Nagoya Dome.
Carp lefty Kris Johnson (0-7) was unable to command his pitches from the get-go, and after a one-out walk to Ryosuke Hirai, Nobumasa Fukuda crushed a slider inside for his fourth home run. Fukutani led off the Dragons’ third and scored on Fukuda’s no-out bases-loaded single. Back-to-back sacrifice flies made it 5-0, and Fukutani rubbed salt in the wounds with a sixth-inning RBI single.
Johnson allowed five runs on four hits and two walks over four innings while striking out five.
BayStars bullpen day bombs against Giants
Setup man Spencer Patton (2-2) made his first start in Japan as the front man in a bullpen relay but allowed nine runs in the DeNA BayStars’ 13-4 loss to the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome.
Giants cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the first, and a dropped flyball brought in the go-ahead run in the hosts’ three-run first. The Giants blew the game open in the second after starting pitcher Kazuto Taguchi drew a one-out walk. The Giants sent 14 batters to the plate in the 10-run inning that saw three home runs and a two-run double by the pitcher.
Taguchi (3-3) allowed a run on six hits over six innings. He struck out four.
Tigers take advantage of McPickoff
Reliever Scott McGough’s failed throw to an empty base allowed two inherited runners to score as the Hanshin Tigers overturned a one-run seventh-inning deficit in their 4-3 win over the Yakult Swallows at Koshien Stadium.
The Swallows tied it 2-2 in the fourth and took the lead in the top of the seventh when Tigers reliever Atsushi Nomi fumbled a ground ball. Singles by Justin Bour and pinch-hitter Naomasa Yokawa put the go-ahead runners on in the home half chased left-handed reliever Keiji Takahashi (1-3).
With leadoff man Koji Chikamoto at the plate, Yokawa stole second. Inexplicably, McGough threw to first, resulting in a balk, and both runners scored as the ball rolled in foul territory toward the corner.
“That was lucky,” Tigers skipper Akihiro Yano said.
Active roster moves 9/3/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/13
Starting pitchers for Sept. 3, 2020
Fighters vs Lions: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Eagles vs Buffaloes: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Hawks vs Marines: PayPay Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Swallows vs Dragons: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Tigers vs Giants: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Carp vs BayStars: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT