NPB games, news of Aug. 3, 2019

I’ve been working on an analysis of DeNA’s using their pitchers to bat eighth — which a colleague of mine who works in broadcast media said pitching coach Daisuke Miura is opposed to. It’s been maddeningly tricky, and I’m probably going to have to use a run expectancy table to sum up the net gains and losses.

Saturday was Round 2 of the two leagues’ top-of-the-table clashes.

Pacific League

Hawks 6, Fighters 3

At Sappporo Dome, SoftBank won its sixth straight game at Nippon Ham’s home park behind Cuban lefty Ariel Miranda (5-3), while Chihiro Kaneko (4-6) gave up four runs in the first — his first runs allowed in over a month.

As expected, Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo used closer Yuito Mori with a five-run lead in the ninth, when he allowed two runs. Mori didn’t pitch on Friday and with Monday off. It was probably a useful way to keep him involved.

Game highlights can be found HERE.

Buffaloes 4, Lions 1

At Kyocera Dome, Orix’s Yoshinobu Yamamoto (6-4) showed why he’s one of Japan’s best pitchers this season, with razor-sharp command of his fastball and cutter giving the Seibu hitters fits.

If that weren’t enough, the right-hander seemed able to snap off nasty curves and throw some impressive splitters just to keep the Lions from sitting on either the four-seamer or cutter. The 20-year-old Yamamoto gave up a couple of hits to open the ninth, when he lost his shutout bid, but Brandon Dickson came on and recorded his 10th save with a pair of strikeouts.

Yamamoto, who struck out 10, lowered his ERA to 1.84. In 24-1/3 innings against Seibu this season, he has allowed two runs, one earned.

“He has to be the best pitcher in the league right now,” Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji said. “Since if you go by ERA, you figure you’re not going to score more than two runs off him.”

Steven Moya, acquired in a July trade with the Chunichi Dragons, opened the scoring in the first with the third of three-straight one-out singles. He gave his hero interview in English.

Game highlights can be found HERE.

Marines 0, Eagles 0, 12 innings

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Lotte loaded the bases three times — the last time with one out in the 11th inning — and Rakuten juiced the bags twice before their futile night was put out of its misery by rules ending all games after 12 innings.

In the fifth inning, Eagles second baseman Hideto Asamura, whose strength is his offense, flashed some LEATHER.

Central League

BayStars 6, Giants 5

At Yokohama Stadium, Yomiuri came back from a 5-0 deficit on a three-run Kazuma Okamoto home run and a two-run double from Hayato Sakamoto, only to lose it on a passed ball by rookie catcher Yukinori Kishida, who had come off the bench to make his first-team debut.

Sakamoto began the day tied with DeNA’s Neftali Soto for the CL RBI lead with 71, but Soto finished the game with 75 after a first-inning sacrifice fly and a third-inning, three-run home run.

BayStars lefty Kenta Ishida struck out eight over six innings, and was never really in trouble. He allowed the Giants to tie it when pinch hitter Shingo Ishikawa reached on a “furinige” (literally “swinging and escaping” on an uncaught swinging third strike). After a two-out walk, Ishida threw a high-straight 1-1 fastball to Okamoto, who lined launched it into the stands in left for his 18th home run.

Post-game Rami-chan

DeNA skipper Alex Ramirez might not watch the game more intensely than any other manager, but nobody looks more intense than he does on the bench. Here’s his post-game interview:

“You can tell they are the No. 1 team in the league. They never give up. It was hard at the end. We were able to come back and win the game, but man those last three innings were very tough.”

“He (Ishida) did a tremendous job right from the beginning until the end. Of course, he gave up that three-run home run, but he did a really good job.”

“A couple of runs we got, a two-base hit, a sacrifice fly, bringing the guy in. Small things like that, small baseball, that’s what wins games and that’s what we were able to do today.”

“It’s not going to be any easier for tomorrow’s game. We’ve got to continue and stay focused and come back ready to win tomorrow.”

The announcer, of course had to add an NPB public service announcement: “You heard the manager reconfirm that small baseball wins games. And now to the highlights…”

Tigers 4, Carp 1

At Mazda Stadium, Yuki Nishi (5-7) allowed a run over five innings, rookie Koji Chikamoto broke a 1-1 tie with his eighth home run, and Kyuji Fujikawa saved his fourth straight game as Hanshin kept Hiroshima from moving to within two games of the CL lead.

The four saves are the most for the former Cub since he saved 24 in 2012, the 39-year-old’s last in Japan before Tommy John surgery.

Dragons

At Jingu Stadium, Nobumasa Fukuda homered for the second-straight day, tying it with a third-inning, two-run home run and leading Chunichi’s comeback against Yakult.

Tetsuto Yamada hit his 26th home run for Yakult, while rookie Munetaka Murakami hit his 22nd.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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