NPB games, news of Aug. 12, 2019

SoftBank Hawks southpaw Tsuyoshi Wada returned to action and the day brightened.

The 38-year-old lefty has no secrets. He’s going to throw his good changeup and his 88.2 mile-per-hour fastball a lot, and mix in a slider that is nothing really special but looks like the other two pitches coming out of his hand. He’s going to stay around the zone and more or less throw all his pitches where he wants them.

Having left his last two starts with discomfort in his right hamstring, Wada had not pitched since July 20. He was worth waiting for.

Pacific League

Hawks 6, Buffaloes 3

At Yafuoku Dome, Tsuyoshi Wada (2-1) announced his return to duty by striking out the side in the first inning, while Alfredo Despaigne homered twice to lift SoftBank past Nippon Ham and to a series sweep despite a slick performance from veteran right-hander Chihiro Kaneko.

“The way I left the mound in my last outing here — and the one before that — was pretty lame,” Wada said. “It took me about 22 days to be able to pitch again, but I’m pretty happy to be back.”

“I had the sense that everyone was concerned about the fitness of my leg, so I thought the best thing I could do was show people I was 100 percent. To do that, I wanted to come out pitching as well as I could, and that turned out OK.”

Game highlights are HERE.

Wada struck out leadoff man Haruki Nishikawa looking on three fastballs. A called first-strike slider started Taishi Ota, who missed badly on a 1-1 change and a 1-2 fastball. Compared to them, Kensuke Ota’s five-pitch at-bat was a prolonged siege. The Fighters’ leading hitter, too, went down flailing at a pitch out of the zone.

Yoshikawa (0-3) made his third “short starter” appearance since he returned to the Fighters in a trade from the Yomiuri Giants. His last one, on July 30 was moderately successful, two runs over four innings as the Fighters were shut out 2-0 by Eagles rookie Hayato Yuge. But overall, the lefty has now allowed eight earned runs in 8-1/3 innings.

My other favorite Hawk, grinding utility infielder Keizo Kawashima, returned to the lineup for the first time since June 1, and singled to open the game. After a sacrifice, Seiichi Uchikawa drove him home and then scored when Despaigne got under a fastball away that carried farther than he expected and landed on the other side of Yafuoku Dome’s inner fence near the right field foul pole.

After that, it was a case of Wada fooling batters and getting away with his mistakes. He missed with two fastballs to cleanup hitter Sho Nakata, who got under both of them for high fly outs. Wada had to pitch out of a two-out, two-on jam in the fourth, and another one in the fifth — when he surrendered a leadoff homer to Toshitake Yokoo.

“I used up a lot of my strength in the first inning, and as a result, I was missing with pitches in the second and third inning,” Wada said. “But somehow with the help of Takuya (catcher Takuya Kai), we got through it.”

“The team handed me the start having won Saturday and Sunday, and I didn’t want to be the one to drop the ball.”

Kaneko allowed three runners to reach in his five-inning stint, and two were erased on double plays. He left trailing by two runs because rookie Hiroshi Kaino came on in the top of the sixth. After two singles to open the inning, leadoff batter, Nishikawa (.378 on-base percentage) tried to bunt his way on for the first time this season and succeeded in sacrificing the runners into scoring position.

Rookie reliever Hiroshi Kaino, however, struck out two of the Fighters’ best, Ota and Kondo, on two-strike splitters to end the inning.

“He (Ota) a good batter, so I knew I had to be careful with him,” Kaino said. “Kondo, too, is a great hitter as well, so I had to trust in the pitches that my catcher called for and execute.”

Despaigne homered again in the bottom of the eighth to make it a 6-1 game, and the Fighters rallied for two in the ninth against Ren Kajiya. Closer Yuito Mori hit a batter to load the bases with two outs before recording his 24th save.

Lions 9, Marines 2

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Zach Neal (6-1) allowed one run — on Leonys Martin’s sixth home run — over 6-2/3 innings as Seibu handed Lotte its fourth-straight loss.

Mike Bolsinger (3-4) surrendered three runs, one earned, over five innings in which he walked five. But the Lions broke the game open in the seventh in a four-run seventh against the Marines bullpen.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 3, Buffaloes 2, 10 innings

At Rakuten Seimei Park, 22-year-old rookie Yoshiaki Watanabe doubled in the winning run from first base with two outs in the 10th innings of Rakuten’s win over Orix.

Frank Herrmann (5-3), who worked a 1-2-3 10th inning for the Eagles earned the win, while Buffaloes closer Brandon Dickson (2-1), who walked last year’s PL rookie of the year Kazuki Tanaka with two outs, took the loss.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Swallows 4, BayStars 3

At Jingu Stadium, ninth-inning home runs by Wladimir Balentien and Munetaka Murakami off DeNA closer Yasuaki Yamasaki (3-2) lifted Yakult to a walk-off win after Swallows closer Scott McGough (5-3) surrendered two runs in the top of the inning and was poised to take the loss.

Murakami’s 25th home run ranks him fourth in a season by players under 20-years-old and at 19 years, 6 months, the youngest player to hit a sayonara home run in NPB. Seibu’s Kazuhiro Kiyohara hit 31 as an 18-year-old in 1986 and 29 the following year, while Nishitetsu Lions Hall of Fame shortstop Yasumitsu Toyoda hit 27 in 1953 as an 18-year-old.

Dragons 5, Tigers 1

At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi’s second-round draft pick last autumn, Kodai Umetsu (1-0) won his pro debut, allowing a run over six innings and striking out seven to beat former Dragon Onelki Garcia (2-6) in a win over Hanshin.

Former Dragon Kosuke Fukudome opened the scoring in the first with an RBI double. Garcia struck out 10 over seven innings, but the Dragons had four hits in a two-run first, and Noamichi Donoue hit a two-run homer in the fourth.

Umetsu, who hit 151 kph with his fastball, was a teammate at Toyo University with Hawks rookie flame thrower Hiroshi Kaino and BayStars top draft pick Taiga Kamichatani.

Game highlights are HERE.

Giants 8, Carp 7

At Mazda Stadium, Alex Guerrero made Hiroshima pay for hitting him with a pitch in a four-run first inning by belting a two-run home run in the third as Yomiuri held on to beat Hiroshima in a 4-hour, 17-minute marathon.

The Carp, however, did not go quietly into that good night as the top of the order, leadoff man Ryoma Nishikawa and No. 2 hitter Ryosuke Kikuchi combined to reach base eight times, score five runs and drove in four.

Game highlights are HERE.

News

1,000 whiffs of Yamaguchi

Yomiuri Giants starting pitcher Shun Yamguchi, who spent the first half of his career as a closer for the BayStars, became the 150th pitcher in Japanese pro ball to reach 1,000 career strikeouts on Monday, when he caught Hiroshima’s Seiya Suzuki looking in the third inning at Mazda Stadium.

His first strikeout victim was South Korean slugging star Lee Seung Yeop, on June 29, 2006, who was in his first season that year with the Giants.

Rookie Yoshida set for 3rd start

Fighters rookie pitcher Kosei Yoshida, Nippon Ham’s top draft pick last autumn, has been penciled in to start against the Lotte Marines on Wednesday, when Nippon Ham stages a home game at Tokyo Dome.

Yoshida, who famously threw 1,571 pitches last summer (636 in the Akita Prefecture championship and another 881 in the national summer finals at Koshien). It will be his first start against Pacific League opposition, having started on June 12 against the Hiroshima Carp and again on June 23 against the Chunichi Dragons.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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