NPB games, news of Sept. 6, 2019

Kodai Senga, who lobbied the SoftBank Hawks last winter in vain to post him, became the first player who turned pro after signing a developmental contract to throw a no-hitter.

He did it touching 98.8 mph with his fastball and throwing bulls eyes with his breaking pitches, and as the game went on shifting to more splitters, the pitch he ended the game with.

“Before the game I wanted to use more big breaking pitches, and (catcher Takuya) Kai called those really effectively.”

Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi said he instructed his batters to be aggressive on the first pitch, but it was no good.

“He located his breaking pitches well,” the skipper said. “We talked about swinging at the first pitch, but we weren’t able to get good swings against him.”

No hits are not enough

Senga led 2-0 in the ninth, when he walked the first two batters. With one out, he had a runner on third, and couldn’t afford a wild pitch, since even if he won 2-1 and didn’t allow a hit, it wouldn’t enter the record books in Japan, which doesn’t count no-hitters, but only no-hit shutouts.

Excluding Japan’s newest team, the Rakuten Eagles formed in 2005, the Hawks have gone the longest without having a pitcher throw a no-hitter. In fact, Senga’s was the first they’ve had since the Pacific and Central leagues were formed in 1950’s expansion.

The last Hawks pitcher to achieve the feat did so on May 26, 1943 in Kobe, when future Hall of Famer Takehiko Bessho beat Yamato, also by a score of 2-0.

Outsiders

In addition to Senga, who was undrafted in 2010 until taken by the Hawks in the fourth round of the subsequent supplemental draft, catcher Takuya Kai was taken shortly after, in the sixth round.

Can’t touch this

“His fastball and breaking pitches were amazing,” said Lotte slugger Seiya Inoue, who struck out to end the game with the tying runs on base. “It’s always fun facing him.”

“At the end, he was really throwing at his best. He didn’t throw me anything good to hit, so it would have been hard to just wait for him to throw something I could handle.”

Pacific League

Hawks 2, Marines 0

At Yafuoku Dome, SoftBank’s Kodai Senga (12-7) threw the 91st regular season no-hitter in Japan’s elite level pro ranks in a pitchers’ duel with Mike Bolisnger (4-5) thanks to two routine fly balls dropped in center field by Lotte’s Leonys Martin.

Martin let two nearly identical flies hit off the heel of his glove, one in the fifth, that led to the Hawks’ first run, and one in the sixth that scored an insurance run from first with one out.

Game highlights are HERE.

Lions 5, Eagles 4

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Takeya Nakamura was at it again with the bases loaded, hitting his 20th career grand slam as Seibu held on to beat Rakuten 5-4.

In his past three games, Nakamura has had two grand slams and a three-run double. Of his PL-leading 115 RBIs, 49 have come with the bases loaded.

“I was half laughing (when I came up with the bases loaded again), thinking this can’t be happening,” Nakamura said of his fly that just barely cleared the fence in left. “I got jammed a bit, but I did put a good swing on it.”

Game highlights are HERE.

Fighters 6, Buffaloes 2

At Sapporo Dome, Toshihiro Sugiura (3-4) won for the first time since May 23, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out six over six scoreless innings as Nippon Ham beat Orix to snap an eight-game losing streak and drop the Buffaloes into last place.

Taisuke Yamaoka (10-4) allowed five runs on five walks and nine hits over five innings to take the loss.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Swallows 5, Giants 2

At Jingu Stadium, Wladimir Balentien reached 30 home runs for the eighth time in his NPB career with a two-run shot in the first inning, and Masanori Ishikawa (7-5) allowed one run over six innings.

The Giants’ only run off the lefty came in the fourth, when the first four batters singled. The win was the 170th of his career.

Carp 6, Tigers 3

At Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima blew the game open in a five-run third against Hanshin’s Haruto Takahashi (3-7) to move within 4-1/2 games of the league-leading Giants.

Dragons 8, BayStars 4

At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi hammered DeNA right-hander Kentaro Taira (5-4) for seven runs over 3-2/3 innings to collect their fourth-straight win. Dayan Viciedo walked and scored in the first, broke a 3-3 tie with a two-run homer in the third and singled in a run in the fourth to lead the Dragons offense.

News

Chikamoto moving up in rookie ranks

Hanshin rookie Koji Chikamoto’s double and single on Friday against Hiroshima lifted his season hit total to 139, tying him with Shinichi Eto, who went on to win three batting titles, for fourth on the CL rookie hit list. The record is held by Hall of Famer Shigeo Nagashima with 153.

Blister disappoints scouts as Sasaki makes early exit

A flock of scouts who descended on Japan’s WSBC Under-18 World Cup game against South Korea on Friday were disappointed when flame throwing high schooler Roki Sasaki left the game in the first inning after breaking a blister on his pitching hand.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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