NPB games, news of July 2, 2019

Tomoyuki Sugano, the winner of the last two Sawamura Awards as Japan’s most impressive starting pitcher, threw his first shutout of the season to lift the Yomiuri Giants to a four-game lead in the Central League ahead of the Hiroshima Carp, whose offense has continued to struggle.

The Carp, who led the CL in on-base percentage each of the last three seasons, rank fourth this year.

Central League

Swallows 3, Carp 1

At Mazda Stadium, Yakult won the first game of a series for the first time since May 11, as Yasuhiro Ogawa (3-8) struck out six and allowed a run over seven innings to earn the win over Hiroshima.

Shota Nakayama, the Swallows’ second draft pick last autumn, homered for third time in 37 pro at-bats when he helped spoil a second-straight strong start from Allen Kuri (3-4) with a second-inning solo home run. The Carp tied it in the fourth on a Seiya Suzuki walk and singles by Alejandro Mejia and Xavier Batista.

The Swallows, however, took the lead in the sixth on a Norichika Aoki single, a Kuri wild pitch and a two-out error on shortstop Kosuke Tanaka on a ball that missed his glove and went through his legs.

“It may have been an irregular hop, but I had to stop it,” Tanaka said. “I lack sufficient skill.”

“Because Kuri pitched so well, so I need to apologize. Everyone battled so hard without ever giving up but I was unable to maintain a good rhythm. For me to make a mistake like that led to our loss.”

Kuri, who was coming off his first career shutout a week earlier, allowed two runs, one earned, while striking out seven in six innings.

Giants 6, Dragons 0

At Tokyo Dome, Tomoyuki Sugano (8-4) struck out six and got himself out of a one-out, bases-loaded pickle to throw his first shutout of the season in Yomiuri’s win over Chunichi.

Yoshiyuki Kamei led off the first inning with a home run and Christian Villanueva, Hayato Sakamoto and Yoshihiro Maru each homered for the Giants.

The game highlights are HERE.

BayStars 4, Tigers 0

At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA rookie Taiga Kamichatani (5-3) struck out eight and walked one over 5-2/3 innings, and nine of the last 10 Hanshin hitters made out against the BayStars bullpen to stretch the Tigers’ scoreless inning streak to 23.

Keita Sano homered and had an RBI double, while Yamato Maeda continued to weave his late-inning magic by singling in two insurance runs in the eighth inning.

Pacific League

Hawks 8, Eagles 6

At Yafuoku Dome, Yurisbel Gracial drove in six runs, including two with an eighth-inning RBI single off Alan Busenitz (1-2) that reclaimed SoftBank’s lead and took Cuban compatriot Livan Moinelo (1-1) off the hook in a see-saw win over Rakuten.

Moinelo blew a 5-4 lead in the top of the eighth by issuing a one-out walk to Jabari Blash and a two-run homer from left-handed-hitting Ginji Akaminai. The Hawks, however, loaded the bases on three singles off Busenitz in the eighth, and Gracial, who blasted his 17th home run in the first inning, singled in two runs.

“It’s not easy to get the hits that win the game for your team, but I’ve been hitting very well, and I’m happy to get six RBIs,” said the 33-year-old Gracial.

Hiroshi Kaino struck out two in the ninth to record his fourth save as understudy for absent frontline closers Dennis Sarfate and Yuito Mori. The rookie has struck out 38 batters in 29-1/3 innings.

The win lifted the Hawks three games clear of the second-place Eagles at the top of the PL standings.

The game highlights are HERE.

Fighters 9, Lions 1

At Sapporo Dome, Nippon Ham continued to beat up on Seibu right-hander Kona Takahashi (7-5), who lasted a season-low 2-2/3 innings his last time out against the Fighters.

Takahashi left a lot of pitches up in the zone in the second, the Fighters put good swings on them and the first eight balls in play all went for hits in an eight-run inning.

Catcher Shingo Usami, who joined the Fighters in a four-way trade last week, got his first hits with Nippon Ham, going 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. It was the first three-hit game of his career.

“We’d been losing ever since I got here, so it feels good to win,” he said.

The game highlights are HERE.

Buffaloes 6, Marines 5, 10 innings

At Kyocera Dome, with the score tied 5-5, Orix loaded the bases in both the ninth and 10th innings, with both innings ending on video replays in a win over Lotte.

The first one overturned the call on the field and kept the game alive when Lotte center fielder Takashi Ogino threw a runner out at the plate to end the ninth. The 10th ended when the Marines were unable to get the force at home plate on a grounder to short that was ruled an infield single.

Brandon Laird hit his 22nd home run to leadoff the Marines’ three-run seventh — assisted by two walks and an error by Buffaloes’ first baseman Chris Marrero. However, Marrero’s second homer of the season, a leadoff shot in the bottom of the inning, tied it 5-5 and gave him something to celebrate on his 31st birthday.

Brandon Dickson retired the Marines in order in the eighth, and his teammates loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the inning on a double, an intentional walk and an error by Laird at third base. But Marines closer Naoya Masuda struck out a batter and got a fly out to shallow center that Koji Oshiro very nearly scored on.

Tyler Eppler (4-2) worked around a two-out single in the 10th, and earned the win on Oshiro’s one-out RBI infield single.

The game highlights are HERE.

News

Carp send Shimozuru to Eagles

The Hiroshima Carp have agreed on a trade with the Rakuten Eagles that will send 31-year-old minor league outfielder Ko Shimozuru, who made brief but high-impact contributions to the Carp’s pennants in 2016 and 2018, in exchange for 26-year-old minor league infielder Takumi Miyoshi.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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