NPB games, news of Aug. 4, 2019

The SoftBank Hawks went into Sapporo on Friday with their Pacific League lead on the line, leading the Nippon Ham Fighters by half a game, but won their first two games, while the Yomiuri Giants dropped two in Yokohama, seeing their lead drop from 3-1/2 games to 1-1/2 over the DeNA BayStars.

Pacific League

Fighters 4, Hawks 3

At Sapporo Dome, Nippon Ham used its first true opener of the season, as Mizuki Hori threw a 1-2-3 first before giving way to Bryan Rodriguez (6-2), who got the win after allowing a run over five innings as SoftBank failed to sweep.

Hawks journeyman Akira Niho (1-3) held the Fighters down two times through the batting order but got whacked the third time around. An infield single a one-out hit and a hanging 3-0 two-seamer put the Fighters in front when Haruki Nishikawa drove it to the wall. Two more runs scored and the Fighters’ bullpen overcame a two-run hiccup from middle reliever Naoki Miyanishi.

“I thought he (Niho) was going to hold them to two runs in the inning,” Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo said. “I was too slow to act, so this is on me.”

Although the Fighters have made people notice through manager Hideki Kuriyama’s “short starters,” he hadn’t used a one-inning opener, unless that was his plan for Johnny Barbato’s five-run, one-inning start on May 25.

“I was told it a few days earlier it was only going to be one inning,” Hori said. “It’s been a while since I’ve pitched that well.”

Pro Yakyu News’ Yoshiaki Kanemura, who had been “offended” by the BayStars’ foreign manager batting Japan cleanup hitter Yoshitomo Tsutsugo second, praised Kuriyama’s style.

“If it were any other manager I don’t know,” Kanemura said. “But with Kuriyama, it takes you back to the old days to talk of (unconventional Hall of Fame manager Osamu Mihara’s) ‘Mihara Magic.'”

Game highlights are HERE.

Lions 5, Buffaloes 4

At Kyocera Dome, rookie Orix starter Daichi Takeyasu, now facing PL teams for the second time since being acquired as free agent compensation from Hanshin, got beat up for the second-straight week, allowing four runs in three innings in a loss to Seibu and could have easily given up more.

Shogo Akiyama absolutely smashed a leadoff homer in the first, tripled in the tie-breaking run in the seventh and helped save a run by robbing Masataka Yoshida of a one-out double in the ninth with a diving catch. Zach Neal started for Seibu and allowed three runs over five innings, while Kyle Martin worked a scoreless eighth to preserve the Lions’ late lead.

The Lions abandoned the DH in the bottom of the sixth when DH Tomoya Mori had to take over at catcher in place of Masatoshi Okada, who hurt his hand on a play at the plate.

Benches cleared in the second inning when Okada was drilled in the back. Although the Lions catcher took first base without complaint, Seibu first base coach Tomoki Sato began jawing with Orix pitching coach Ikuo Takayama and battery coach Fumihiro Suzuki, who went on to the field to join the discussion.

Game highlights are HERE.

Marines 11, Eagles 2

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Lotte right-hander Atsuki Taneichi (6-1) struck out five of the first six batters he faced and 10 total over seven innings in Lotte’s win over Rakuten.

New Marine Leonys Martin went 3-for-4 with a double a run and three RBIs.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

BayStars 3, Giants 2

At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA was without middle reliever Spencer Patton, who was deactivated after landing three punches to the door of the home dugout refrigerator on Saturday following a frustrating outing. The BayStars’ bullpen, however, got by, allowing an unearned run over the final for innings to complete a sweep of Yomiuri.

BayStars starter Shota Imanaga (10-5) allowed a run over five innings, and his teammates scored a pair of runs on groundouts. Yasuaki Yamasaki earned his 25th save as DeNA closed to within half a game of the Giants.

Carp 10, Tigers 5

At Mazda Stadium, Alejandro Mejia capped a five-run first inning with a three-run home run as Hiroshima blew out Hanshin to move within

Swallows 7, Dragons 2

At Jingu Stadium, rookie Munetaka Murakami and Norichika Aoki homered for Yakult, while funky leg-kicking lefty Keiji Takahashi (3-4) struck out seven while allowing two runs over six innings in Yakult’s win over Chunichi.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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