Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The Yomiuri Giants went into Sunday’s game against the Hanshin Tigers with a magic number of 16 to clinch the pennant. Before they were back at their hotel that night, the magic was gone. Because the number – in Japan – only exists when you can clinch the pennant without having to beat your nearest pursuer. But with their loss to the Tigers and the BayStars’ win over the Carp, that condition no longer exists and…poof.
BayStars 3, Carp 2
At Mazda Stadium, Shota Imanaga (13-5) gave up two early runs but no more over 7-1/3 innings, while striking out eight to earn the win as DeNA beat Hiroshima. Neftali Soto tied it 2-2, in the sixth with his 34th home run, and Tatsuhiro Shibata put the visitors in front with a sacrifice fly.
Tigers 2, Giants 0
At Koshien Stadium, Yuta Iwasada (2-3) allowed three hits over six innings, while striking out six and walking none, and three relievers completed Hanshin’s shutout win over Yomiuri. Thirty-nine-year-old Kyuji Fujikawa converted his 11th-straight save opportunity with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Game highlights are HERE.
Swallows 3, Dragons 1
At Nagoya Dome, Wladimir Balentien ruined Yudai Ono’s day with a quality at-bat in which he singled in two first-inning runs, lining a fastball inside the opposite way, as Yakult held on to beat Chunichi.
Ono (7-8) allowed three runs over six innings. He tried to be a hero on the bases in the fifth inning. On third with one out, he was gunned down on a close play at the plate after a fly out to right fielder Yuhei Takai.
Norichika Aoki was hit by a pitch for the 100th time in the first inning and scored on Balentien’s single. He becomes the 22nd player to reach that painful plateau after he was hit for the first time in his career by current Lotte right-hander Hideaki Wakui in 2005.
Hawks 4, Lions 1
At MetLife Dome, Shota Takeda (5-3) had his best outing since his April 4 season debut, allowing a walk and four hits with eight strikeouts over six scoreless innings as SoftBank salvaged the finale of its three-game series with Seibu, leaving with a one-game lead over the Lions.
Yuki Yanagita and Nobuhiro Matsuda homered off Ken Togame (4-6).
Eagles 2, Fighters 1
At Rakuten Seimei Park, Jabari Blash opened the scoring with his 28th home run, and Ryota Ishibashi (7-6) allowed one hit and one walk over seven scoreless innings as Rakuten completed a sweep of slumping Nippon Ham.
Chihiro Kaneko (5-7) allowed two runs over four innings, leaving after throwing 55 pitches against 17 batters — with 18 usually being the trigger for Nippon Ham’s bullpen this season for most of their starters. But the Fighters jigsaw starting setup has been misfiring of late, and I wonder if it isn’t due to the non-news surrounding Mizuki Hori.
Marines 8, Buffaloes 6
At Zozo Marine Stadium, Leonys Martin hit his ninth home run in 129 NPB at-bats, a three-run shot that brought Lotte from behind in its win over Orix.
Dice-K still keen to roll
Despite nagging injuries and a fastball that would no longer dent bread, Daisuke Matsuzaka has no intention to go quietly into that good night, the Chunichi Dragons revealed Sunday.
Hiroyuki Kato, the club’s official representative to NPB, said he visited the right-hander where he was rehabbing to ascertain his intentions for next year.
“He wants to continue his playing career,” Kato told reporters at Nagoya Dome. “He’s been an important player in Japan’s baseball world. He’ll get special treatment, but he’s a player at about that stage…”
Matsuzaka pitched two games in July and has an 0-1 record. Last season he was NPB’s Comeback Player of the Year.