NPB games, news of July 20, 2019

The Fighters won their second straight game with a limited-use starting pitcher, a guy who is not intended to pitch to more than 18 opposing batters. I haven’t heard a lot of flack about it like I’ve heard about DeNA manager Alex Ramirez’s batting orders, but that might be because I’m not listening hard enough.

The split personality of Hideki Kuriyama

I’m thinking about how I might conduct a study about the efficiency of Fighters skipper Hideki Kuriyama’s method, but that might take a while. In the meantime it’s worth noting that Kuriyama, who loves to stand back and sort of encourage people to consider him the smartest person in the room without saying it, is kind of bipolar.

When Shohei Ohtani was at his peak in 2016, Kuriyama took credit for keeping Ohtani’s workload down and being strict about letting him play hurt, since Ohtani would try to bluff his way into playing when he was dealing with physical issues.

Kuriyama told a Tokyo press conference, “You have to be strict with players because they’ll try to play when they’re hurt. You have to step in.”

But the same manager who was so fastidious about protecting his players let Yang Dai-kang play with broken ribs in the heat of a pennant race without a day off for roughly a month.

In that case, it was a matter of “don’t ask don’t tell,” in which Kuriyama, the team’s trainer, and Yang were all to blame, because nobody was willing to be the adult in the room and say he shouldn’t play.

The trainer said, “Yang said he could play.” The manager repeated that when asked. The Fighters’ reporters were discouraged from following up a story from Taiwan that reported Yang was being compelled to play when hurt.

Having been asked about the situation by Yang’s agent at the start of September, I recommended Kyodo News’ beat writer ask the trainer, the player and the manager what was going on. That day, Yang got his first day off in nearly a month and played sparingly for a few days of rest.

Kuriyama is an early adapter in some areas, but at the same time, he’s pushing some seemingly very dumb ideas — like using closer Ryo Akiyoshi to pitch with a four-run lead on Saturday.

To be fair, Akiyoshi had the day off on Friday, but Akiyoshi has now appeared in 32 games for the Fighters and more than a quarter of those have been three-run save situations or games in which the Fighters have led by more than three runs.

Pacific League

Fighters 4, Marines 0

At Sapporo Dome, Hiroshi Urano (3-1) sparkled so well, striking out seven batters, in his 18-batter starting role that he ended up facing 20 over six innings. It was the first time a Fighters starter other than Kohei Arihara has gone six innings since June 18, when the Fighters’ other long starter, Naoyuki Uwasawa had a kneecap fractured by a line drive.

Chihaya Sasaki (1-1) pitched OK for the Marines, but the game unraveled in a four-run fourth.

The game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 1, Hawks 0

At Rakuten Seimei Park, an unearned run in the eighth inning made the difference in a pitchers’ duel with nine different hurlers on the mound. Rakuten’s Yoshinao Kamata and SoftBank’s Tsuyoshi Wada each struck out six without getting out of the fifth inning.

The Hawks, who led the Fighters by seven games after the all-star break, now lead by two, having lost six straight games.

A night after Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo response to his team’s not hitting was to sarcastically say the coaches needed to a better job, he simply said, “It isn’t for a lack of scoring opportunities. The hope that the batters will get motivated is now sustaining me, and I’m waiting for it to happen.”

The game highlights are HERE.

Buffaloes 3, Lions 1

At MetLife Dome, 24-year-old rookie right-hander Daichi Takeyasu (2-0), the Hanshin Tigers’ third pick in the 2015 draft, allowed a run over seven innings. Takeyasu was acquired over the winter by Orix as part of the compensation package for starting pitcher Yuki Nishi’s defection to Hanshin as a free agent.

Shinsaburo Tawata (1-4), fit to pitch for the first time since May 25, allowed just three runs over six innings in which he allowed nine hits, a walk and a hit batsman, while striking out four.

Masataka Yoshida’s 16th home run broke a sixth-inning tie for the Buffaloes, and Brandon Dickson, who blew the save on Friday night bounced back with a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his eighth save since being pressed into the closer’s role on June 19.

The game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Carp 4, Giants 2

At Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima’s Xavier Batista turned the game around with a pair of two-run home runs. He tied it in the sixth and put his team in front in the eighth against new Giant Rubby De La Rosa, handing Yomiuri its third-straight loss.

BayStars 4, Dragons 3

At Yokohama Stadium, lefty Kenta Ishida (1-0) struck out eight over five innings, while allowing a hit and a walk in his first start of the season as DeNA beat Daisuke Yamai (3-4) for the first time in three seasons.

The maligned top of the BayStars batting order did almost all the damage in a four-run third. With two outs and a runner on, leadoff hitter Yamato Maeda singled, Japan cleanup hitter Yoshitomo “doesn’t belong in the No. 2 spot because he’s a power hitter in the DH-less CL” Tsutsugo walked.
Neftali Soto doubled in two runs to make it 2-0, and Jose Lopez singled in two more.

Tigers 4, Swallows 3

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin starter Haruto Takahashi struck out 10 over seven innings, and Yakult wasted a chance to score more than the tying run off Rafael Dolis (4-3) and paid the price in the bottom of the ninth, when Hanshin rallied to win it against David Huff (1-2).

The Tigers scored twice in the eighth to take the lead, and pinch hitter Fumiya Hojo keyed a ninth-inning rally with a leadoff double in the ninth.

News

Hamstring KOs former Cub Wada

Tsuyoshi Wada limped off in the fifth inning of Saturday’s start against the Rakuten Eagles after feeling discomfort in his right hamstring.

It was the second-straight game the 38-year-old had made an early exit due to lower-body issues. This one, he said, was caused by poor traction on the mound in a game that was delayed by rain in Sendai.

“There was a lot of dirt sticking to the bottom of my spikes,” he said. “It’s my mistake for not taking it off. The trouble is just like what hindered me last time. I owe everyone an apology.”

Wada needed a little bit of luck in the game, missing with a fastball down the pipe with two on and one out in the second that Zelous Wheeler lined to the left fielder for an out. The lefty was not as sharp as he’s been for most of the season, but was still entertaining in his ability to lure batters out of their approaches and get them to swing at his pitches.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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