There will be no talk of getting high today, although there is some discussion of changing scoring conventions, and an anecdote about how Japan’s official scorers can be extremely flexible in their decision making.
Futaki flummoxes Hawks
The Lotte Marines completed a three-game sweep of the SoftBank Hawks on Sunday, beating them 4-2 behind a solid six-inning effort from Kota Futaki (3-2). The win moved the Marines to within a half-game of the Pacific League-leaders and improved Lotte’s record this season against SoftBank to
Futaki kept the hosts’ hitters off balance for five innings and scraped by for one more, allowing two runs on four hits over six innings. He hit one batter and struck out six.
The right-hander had a mediocre splitter and occasionally filthy slider and by using them a lot, he kept the Hawks from zeroing in on a fastball with good life. The number of fastballs the Hawks took down the pipe suggested a lot of them were waiting on the splitter, which because it didn’t tumble was more of a change of pace that Futaki didn’t command well.
“As usual, we tried to establish a rhythm and get ahead in counts. I think I pitched really well through the fifth inning, but when they got to me in the sixth, it reminded me how much more I have to be able to do,” Futaki said.
Hawks starter Shuta Ishikawa is, at times, a picture-dictionary description of “effectively wild,” a right-hander with good stuff whose pitches are randomized by his annoying inability to locate consistently. Through four innings, he’d allowed no hits while striking out four, walking three and hitting one.
But in the fifth, the Marines took him down in textbook fashion.
After a leadoff walk and a sacrifice on the next pitch, Ishikawa left a fastball up, and Shohei Kato stayed on it, chopping it up the middle for a single. Kato took second when center fielder Yuki Yanagita missed the cutoff man and scored when Tsuyoshi Sugano lofted a hanging curve over third base for an opposite-field single.
Hisanori Yasuda upper-cut another hanging curve and pulled it into the right-field stands for 4-0 Lotte lead.
Akira Nakamura and Yanagita, the engines that power the Hawks offense, had come close to getting to Futaki in the fourth inning when they saw him for the second time. Nakamura finally timed a fastball and smashed it – straight at a defender, while Yanagita who had been fooled badly by some superior sliders in the first inning, drove a high hanger to the warning track in center.
Futaki hit the leadoff hitter in the sixth, and Ukyo Shuto drilled a low splitter for a one-out single. Nakamura lined a hanging slider for an RBI single and Yanagita again barely missed a home run, but this time hit a hanging splitter off the wall in center for an RBI double. With one out and runners on second and third, Futaki put all he had into some great fastballs and got out of the inning.
Two relievers, Taiki Tojo and Fumiya Ono combined to work a scoreless seventh, Yuki Karakawa got past the heart of the order in the eighth, and Frank Herrmann pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save with the Marines. He’d saved 19 over three seasons with the Rakuten Eagles but none since 2018.
Lions KO VerHagen, punchless Fighters
The Seibu Lions seized both of their scoring opportunities and starting pitcher Wataru Matsumoto seven runners over six innings a 4-2 win against the Nippon Ham Fighters, who left the bases loaded twice at Sapporo Dome.
Matsumoto (2-3) allowed five singles, three in the Fighters’ two-run second, and five walks while striking out five. Ryosuke Moriwaki, Kaima Taira and Tatsushi Masuda each put up one more zero on the board with Masuda earning his 16th save.
Drew VerHagen (5-3) issued a leadoff walk in the first, retired the next eight batters, and finished his seven innings by setting down the last 11 he faced. In between, however, was trouble.
The Lions tied it in the third on a two-out walk followed by back-to-back doubles by Shuta Tonosaki and Sosuke Genda, whose slicing drive landed just fair to make it 2-2.
Things took another wrong turn for the Fighters in the fourth.
Takumi Kuriyama was credited with an infield single when Christian Villanueva dove to stop his smash down the line and his good one-hop throw to first was in time but not caught by first baseman Sho Nakata. Ernesto Mejia followed with an opposite-field double to the gap in right.
With the infield in, reserve Lions catcher slashed a grounder past Nakata. He was playing even with the bag and nearly came up with it. VerHagen gave Yuji Kaneko a high fastball and he did his duty, bringing Mejia home with a sacrifice fly.
To score is human
The scoring on the single that opened the Lions’ fourth seems to be really common this season. Has anyone else noticed this?
Balls that require good stops, where the throw was in time but is uncaught because it either bounces or is off target, would – it seems – have generally been called errors in the past, punishing fielders for making good stops.
From time to time, it seems, NPB has quietly adjusted its scoring and it seems to me like this is one of those times.
When I first arrived in Japan, very few errors were given. Outfielders who misplayed bouncing balls were rarely charged, with balls going between their legs being scored doubles and triples.
This practice stopped sometime over the past 20 years, and I’ll be damned if I know when or why. It could largely be the influence of watching MLB games and becoming accustomed to how they are scored. The outfield single-and-error scoring used to be very, very rare. Now it happens a few times a week.
We still don’t have the scoring convention of crediting a pitcher with an assist when a batted ball deflects off his body to an infielder, but who knows.
Willing to make exceptions
There was a time when former Carp first baseman Gail Hopkins said he couldn’t make an error to save his life. Locked in a battle for the 1976 Central League batting title with the Chunichi Dragons’ Kenichi Yazawa and the Yakult Swallows’ Tsutomu Wakamatsu, Hopkins said his team encouraged him to hit less. The CL had not had an import win the batting title since Wally Yonamine did it with the Giants in 1957, and no non-Asian had ever done it.
Hopkins said he botched two plays in a late summer series against the Swallows on grounders hit by Wakamatsu only to have his rival for the batting title get hits for his mistakes.
The next day, Hopkins tracked down the official scorer, who unlike in MLB, is an employee of the league, said his peace and backed off. Hopkins had a lot to do before games as he was studying to finish his PhD in biology, and often hit the books as much as possible in the spare time afforded him. He said he was willing to let it go, but that his interpreter ended up duking it out in the dugout with the unfortunate scorer.
Streaking Yoshida overpowers Eagles
Masataka Yoshida ran his hitting streak to 24 games with three hits, including two home runs and five RBIs to power the Orix Buffaloes’ 9-6 come-from-behind win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
The franchise and PL record is Atsushi Nagaike’s 32 games for the Hankyu Braves in 1971. The bigger news in Japan was that he has surpassed the mark of 23 that Ichiro Suzuki managed twice in 1994, his breakout season with the Orix BlueWave.
Yoshida’s 10th homer capped a six-run third inning as the Buffaloes overcame a 3-0 deficit against Eagles starter Yuya Fukui (0-4). His 11th, off Taiwan’s Sung Chia-hao, drove in three and provided the final margin for victory.
The Eagles scored twice in the bottom of the eighth off setup man Tyler Higgins, but Brandon Dickson worked a scoreless ninth to earn his ninth save.
Miyazaki blasts Carp
Toshiro Miyazaki went 3-for-5 with a home run, a sacrifice fly and four RBIs in the DeNA BayStars’ 8-5 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, where Monday’s scheduled game has been postponed in advance due to an advancing typhoon.
Carp starter Atsushi Endo, a nice surprise in their rotation this season, allowed four runs over three innings. The Carp took a 5-4 lead in the fifth on Hisayoshi Chono’s 11th home run, a two-run shot off BayStars starter Masaya Kyoyama (1-0), but the Carp bullpen could not keep up.
Neftali Soto’s sacrifice fly tied it in the sixth and Miyazaki’s one-out single plated his fourth run of the game and put the visitors ahead for good.
Ogawa rains on Dragons’ parade
Yasuhiro Ogawa (8-2) shook off a 30-minute rain delay at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, allowing one run over eight innings while the Yakult Swallows pounded Yariel Rodriguez (2-2) after the break in a 10-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons.
Rodriguez was dominant through five innings, but when play resumed and Ogawa needed just 11 pitches to work the top of the sixth, Rodriguez was unable to command his breaking pitches. The Swallows started shooting them around the ballpark.
Six pitches into the inning the game was tied on three-straight singles.
“When play resumed, perhaps it was a little thing about my rhythm,” Rodriguez said. “Things started going wrong and stayed wrong.”
Active roster moves 9/6/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/16
Starting pitchers for Sept. 4, 2020
Tigers vs Giants: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT