NPB games, news of Sept. 15

Definitely not “all right”

When Japanese fielders are in danger of converging on a fly ball, one player is supposed to call for the ball by shouting, “ohrai! ohrai!” (all right). This is also the phrase used when one is instructing drivers with obstructed views that it is OK to turn or back up.

I learned that this was the phrase because of Sunday’s Lions-Marines game, and I guess Lotte left fielder Shohei Kato has since been asked by coaches whether he knows it or not.

Moving near the warning track toward left-center, Kato strode into center fielder Takashi Ogino, who appeared oblivious that his teammate was also tracking the ball. The ball was not caught and rolled away, as Lions batter Fumikazu Kimura circled the bases for all he was worth.

Typically, the losing team in a walk-off game, walk off, but from the looks on the faces of Kato and Ogino, neither appeared to be in any hurry to head to the visitors’ clubhouse at MetLife Dome.

“It was a routine ball,” Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi said. “If you make mistakes, you lose.”

Akira Otsuka, the team’s outfield defense coach, said, “An outfielder catches the ball, even if there’s a collision.”

Credit goes to Kimura for hustling from the instant he hit the ball. A moment’s hesitation and he’s on third base with a chance this game remains tied 5-5 and heads to the 12th inning. An outfielder, Kimura was open to the possibility that the ball might drop.

“When evening approaches in this ballpark, it gets dark outside and you can lose track of the ball,” he said.

As a result, the Seibu Lions won 6-5, moved into first place in the Pacific League with a magic number of nine to clinch the pennant and booked their place in the postseason.

For the second day in a row, the Lions blew a ninth-inning lead. This time it was principle middle reliever Katsunori Hirai, pitching in his 76th game of the season and his fourth game of the week, who allowed Lotte to tie it.

Starter Daiki Enokida gave Seibu a solid outing through six innings. At that stage, he had allowed one run on six hits and a walk. But he stayed in the game until after he loaded the bases with two outs and surrendered a tie-breaking three-run triple to Lotte’s Daichi Suzuki.

Elsewhere in the Pacific League

Fighters 7, Hawks 5

At Sapporo Dome, SoftBank rookie Hiroshi Kaino (2-5) missed up in the zone a few times in the eighth inning, and they were pounced on for RBI singles by Sho Nakata and Kotaro Kiyomiya as Nippon Ham came from behind.

Hawks third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda drove in the game’s first run in the second inning when he became the 72nd player in Japanese pro baseball history with 300 career doubles.

Game highlights are HERE.

Buffaloes 7, Eagles 1

At Kyocera Dome, Orix’s Yoshinobu Yamamoto (7-5) scattered six hits and three walks, allowing a run over seven innings to earn his first win since being sidelined for an oblique muscle strain in August. Stefen Romero broke the game open with a three-run, eighth-inning double.

“There weren’t many pitches I was really happy with, but I think I made some solid adjustments,” said the 21-year-old, who is now 12-1/3 innings shy of qualifying for the league ERA title with his 1.72 figure in just his third season out of high school ball.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Giants 6, Tigers 5

At Tokyo Dome, Alex Guerrero’s 20th home run, an eighth-inning, two-run shot, brought Yomiuri from a run down, and Rubby De La Rosa worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his seventh save. Hanshin’s Pierce Johnson (2-3) took the loss, while Scott Mathieson (2-2) pitched a perfect eighth to earn the win.

Sugano shelled again, bound for farm

Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano, activated after allowing four runs in two innings on Sept. 4, when he was diagnosed with lower back trouble, is bound for deactivation again after allowing four runs over four innings against the Tigers without control or command.

“If I am on that mound any longer, I’m being a burden,” he said.

Pitching coach Kazutomo Miyamoto said, “I don’t know if 10 days was enough for his back trouble, but he was not able to put anything into his pitches.”

Game highlights are HERE.

BayStars 6, Dragons 2

At Nagoya Dome, Jose Lopez broke a 2-2, fifth-inning tie with a two-run home run, his 29th, as DeNA beat Chunichi as Edison Barrios (1-1) allowed two runs over five innings to earn the win.

Swallows 8, Carp 7

At Mazda Stadium, journeyman right-hander Kengo Tagawa, Yakult’s second draft pick in 2012, allowed a run over 5-2/3 innings to earn his first career win thanks to two home runs and five RBIs by reserve shortstop Taishi Hirooka in a win over Hiroshima.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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