NPB games, news of July 8, 2019

By John E. Gibson
Guest Writer

The Tohoku Rakuten Eagles have lost the wind beneath their wings, and their fall from the top of the Pacific League standings continued Monday night in Yamagata Prefecture.

Orix used a Koji Oshiro sacrifice fly in the third inning, a two-out Yuma Mune RBI single in the seventh and seven scoreless innings from Taishi Yamaoka to send Rakuten to its 10th consecutive loss in a 2-0 decision.

Rakuten was leading the Pacific League when the skid started and is now at 39-39 and in fourth.

Yamaoka (6-2) fanned seven while holding the Eagles to one hit and one walk, and new closer Brandon Dickson tossed a perfect ninth for his sixth save as the Buffaloes won a close game at Kirayaka Stadium.

The skid is one shy of Rakuten’s franchise-worst mark, set in the team’s inaugural 2005 season.

The Buffaloes scored in the fourth when Ryoichi Adachi ran around catcher Kengo Horiuchi’s attempted tag on Oshiro’s fly to right. A replay request failed to overturn the call.

Steven Moya’s one-out single in the seventh opened the door for an insurance run. Keita Nakagawa forced the pinch runner at second, but stole second, and scored on Mune’s single.

Rakuten’s Zelous Wheeler got tossed in the eighth for arguing a strike call on a check-swing, perhaps showing the growing frustration amid the losing streak.

The Eagles will look to get a boost on Tuesday, when right-hander Takahiro Norimoto is slated to make his first start of the season.

The game highlights are HERE.

Fighters 5, Marines 3

Sho Nakata slugged a pair of two-run homers for Nippon Ham and Kenshi Sugiya added a solo shot to back Hiroshi Urano (2-1), who went five strong innings for the victory over Lotte at Zozo Marine Stadium.

The game highlights are HERE.

Hawks 8 Lions 7, 12 innings

Pinch-hitter Ryoya Kurihara of SoftBank hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to end a marathon battle against Seibu at Tokyo Dome in which both teams’ closers blew ninth-inning saves to send the game into extra innings.

Down to their last strike with a runner on in the ninth, Tomoya Mori hit a two-run homer to the opposite field off rookie Hiroshi Kaino, taking advantage of the shortest power allies in Japan. Lions closer Tatsushi Masuda returned the favor in the home half, surrendering a liner into the stands from Seiji Uebayashi to tie it.

The game highlights are HERE.

Dragons 3, Carp 2

Daisuke Yamai, at 41 NPB’s oldest pitcher, helped push Hiroshima’s skid to a season-worst nine games as Chunchi topped the Carp at Nagoya Dome.
Yamai (3-3) limited the Carp to a run on two hits with four walks and two strikeouts over 6.1 innings, and Zoilo Almonte, Dayan Viciedo, and Yota Kyoda all knocked in runs for the Dragons.

“I may be 41, but I don’t feel like I’m 41. I intend to keep plugging away, so please cheer for me,” Yamai said after his first win over the Carp in nine years.

Swallows 5 BayStars 3

Taishi Hirooka capped a four-run second inning with a two-run blast, and Hiroki Yamada (1-0) earned his first win in two seasons as Yakult topped Yokohama DeNA at Jingu Stadium.

Yakult’s bullpen allowed just two singles over the final 3-2/3 innings to close out the win with David Huff and Scott McGough working 1-2-3 innings in the eighth and ninth, respectively. McGough, who hasn’t allowed a run in 14 straight games, recorded his third save.

Giants 4, Tigers 3

Yang Dai-kang’s tiebreaking RBI h9t in the eighth was the difference as Yomiuri outlasted Hanshin at Koshien Stadium.

Closer Kota Nakagawa came in to pitch a scoreless eighth, while Scott Mathieson, in his second game back from an adductor strain, worked around a pair of two-out walks in the ninth to earn his first save of the season.

The game highlights are HERE.

The short and long of Hideki Kuriyama

–By Jim Allen

After two straight days of two-inning “short starters,” manager Hideki Kuriyama got five innings of one-run ball from Urano in a more-conventional start.

As John Gibson (@JBWPodcast) and I mentioned this week on the podcast, figuring out manager Hideki Kuriyama’s pitching staff usage would require some serious elbow grease. Urano was making his second start of the season after allowing two runs over two innings the previous Sunday. It was a short outing, but was it one of Kuriyama’s typical two-inning short starts? I have no idea. Until then, Urano had only been used as a middle reliever this season.

Even when he took the mound for the first time in a week, Urano was only allowed to throw 67 pitches. He wasn’t dominating, and one key to Kuriyama’s pitching staff jigsaw puzzle may well be Urano’s batter-faced total: 18. It could be that Kuriyama only expects his second-tier starters to go through the opposing lineup twice.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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