NPB games, news of July 3

Thirty-eight-year-old lefty Tsuyoshi Wada, who famously capped his first win under Cubs manager Joe Maddon by telling a TV crew, “I am badass,” continued to be a badass as he outpitched Rakuten’s Takayuki Kishi in a win that left the SoftBank Hawks four games ahead of the second-place Eagles in the PL standings.

Pacific League

Hawks 4, Eagles 1

At Yafuoku Dome, a dream matchup between two veterans making comebacks, SoftBank southpaw Tsuyoshi Wada, and Rakuten right-hander Takayuki Kishi proved to be more than nostalgia with 6-1/2 scoreless innings before Alfredo Despaigne’s seventh-inning grand slam settled it.

Wada, who hadn’t won at home in nearly two years due to shoulder trouble, rarely missed in the heart of the zone and gave the Eagles one good chance. But with two on and one out, he jammed Ryosuke Tatsumi and popped him up on an inside fastball and then got a called third strike on a borderline pitch outside.

Kishi, who was injured on Opening Day, pitched out of one jam after another, was razor sharp with runners in scoring position, but he walked Yurisbel Gracial to load the bases in the seventh with one out. Kishi’s control was not sharp, and he kept missing his locations to Despaigne who didn’t get a great swing on a low fastball over the plate, but still knocked it out to center for his 18th home run.

Wada (2-1), who came out after seven, has struck out 11 over his last 12 innings while walking two and allowing one run to earn his second straight win. It was the same approach as last time, relying heavily on his fastball and changeup, although his fastball appeared to have a little more zip and better location.

As he approached 100 pitches, Wada faced Zelous Wheeler with two outs in the seventh. Wada got to 0-2 with three fastballs and then switched to the change, but missed badly with three straight but never wavered. He stuck with the change but got it in the zone and Wheeler waved at the 3-2 pitch.

“It’s been two years since I’ve won here. Sorry,” Wada said. Kishi is a great pitcher, so I thought it would all come down to allowing a single run or not, so that was my plan, to pitch so I wouldn’t give up the first run.”

“Since my first game back was here (on June 5), my pitches have gotten better and better. Tonight, I followed Takuya (Kai). His pitch calling made everything possible, and in the end, I pitched well.”

Asked what it meant to pitch well for a club that is riddled with injuries this year, Wada looked back on his lost 2018 season.

“Last year, I was one of those injured players. I watched the night games, and when we played in the daytime, I followed on TV while I was doing my rehab. Overall, it was a really hard year, but I expected to come back here. I did that in June, and now as I pitch, I feel so much joy.”

“We have a lot of guys who are hurt right now. They are coming back one by one, and when they do, we’re going to be a strong Hawks team.”

The highlights are HERE.

Marines 12, Buffaloes 6

At Kyocera Dome, Lotte’s hitters barelled up one fastball after another from Orix rookie Yudai Aranishi (1-1) in a seven-run, third inning to take an 8-1 lead.

Mike Bolsinger (2-3) allowed two runs through the first five innings, but left with a blister on his foot after Chris Marrero’s two-run, pinch-hit single in the sixth. Bolsinger was charged with six runs over 5-1/3 innings but earned the win.

Steven Moya homered in his first at-bat as a Buffalo after being traded over the weekend from Chunichi with a game-tying solo blast into the upper deck in the second inning.

The highlights are HERE.

Fighters 5, Lions 3

At Sapporo Dome, Seibu starter Ken Togame (3-3) missed too many locations, dropped a ground ball and Nippon Ham got a couple of lucky bounces in a four-run, fourth inning that blew the game up for food against Nippon Ham.

Five Fighters relievers came in after Toru Murata allowed two runs in three-plus innings, with Naoki Miyanishi, Bryan Rodriguez and Naoya Ishikawa each striking out as they shutout the Lions over the final three innings.

The highlights are HERE.

Central League

Giants 7, Dragons 6

At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri’s Daiki Masuda laid a sweet sacrifice bunt down the third base line, and third baseman Shuhei Takahashi’s low throw to first bounced and Akihiro Wakabayashi scored the winning run against Chunichi.

Giants closer Kota Nakagawa blew the lead with a first-pitch fastball that Takuya Kinoshita hit out to straight-away left for his third career home run, one that wouldn’t have gone out at any of the other main parks in Japan.

The highlights are HERE.

Tigers 4, BayStars 3, 11 innings

At Yokohama Stadium, Koji Chikamoto doubled in the 11th inning, scored the go-ahead run on Kento Itohara’s sac fly, and Rafael Dolis escaped a two-on, no-out jam in the bottom of the inning to record his 15th save as Hanshin came from behind to beat DeNA.

BayStars starter Haruhiro Hamaguchi allowed a run over five innings, but the Tigers tied it against Spencer Patton and Edwin Escobar in the eighth inning.

Swallows 6, Carp 2

At Mazda Stadium, 19-year-old Yakult rookie Munetaka Murakami drove in five runs, four with his 20th home run in a win over struggling Hiroshima.

“I want to keep practicing so I can do better,” said Murakami, who leads the CL with 61 RBIs.

Swallows starter Hayato Terahara (2-1) allowed just two runs over five innings in which he walked four.

Right-hander Casey Lawrence (0-1) made his Japan debut for the Carp after going 3-3 with a 3.25 ERA in 13 Western League games this year. On the farm, he struck out 46 batters in 69-1/3 innings while walking eight. Lawrence allowed six runs over five innings in which he walked four and struck out three.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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