The Hanshin Tigers, looking to end their streak of 15 seasons without a pennant, ended another drought on Tuesday, Yomiuri Giants manager had some harsh words for his players, and the Orix Buffaloes did something they haven’t done for seven seasons…
Balentien a free man
Wladimir Balentien’s Pacific League detour with the SoftBank Hawks ran its course on Tuesday, when he was released. This means that none of the other 11 teams in NPB were willing to pick him up for the final weeks of the season and the postseason by making a waiver claim.
Balentien, who in 2013 set Japan’s single-season home run record with 60, has said he wants to play next year, and there are teams that could probably use him.
Tatsunami on deck as next Dragons skipper
The Chunichi Dragons offered their managing job to Hall of Fame infielder Kazuyoshi Tatsunami on Tuesday, the same day the Central League club accepted the resignation of current skipper Tsuyoshi Yoda, Chunichi Sports reported.
Yoda is in the final year of a three-year deal. The Dragons finished third in 2020 when they were over .500 for the first time since 2012, but could not make the postseason since the CL went without even an abbreviated Climax Series last year.
Tatsunami served as batting coach for Samurai Japan at the 2013 World Baseball Classic at the same time his former teammate Yoda was Japan’s pitching coach.
Tatsunami was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019. He had long been a candidate to take over the Dragons, whose fortunes have plummeted since they fired the franchise’s most successful manager Hiromitsu Ochiai after the 2011 season.
Ochiai’s firing came at a time when the downturn in the newspaper business had hit the team’s parent company and meant an end to spending on free agents.
Hawks 5, Fighters 0
At Sapporo Dome, Nao Higashihama (4-3, 3.70) struck out seven over seven innings, Richard Sunagawa broke the ice with a two-run second-inning double off Ryusei Kawano (3-6, 2.86), who worked six innings without allowing another run. Taisei Makihara singled in a two-out ninth-inning insurance run for SoftBank, and Nobuhiro Matsuda followed with a two-run pinch-hit triple.
Buffaloes 2, Marines 2
At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Yuma Mune hit a game-tying eighth-inning home run, allowing Pacific League-leading Orix to secure a tie with second-place Lotte after Buffaloes closer Yoshihisa Hirano and Marines closer Naoya Masuda worked scoreless ninths to end it as the Buffaloes clinched a spot in the postseason for the first time in seven years.
Both southpaw starters allowed two runs over eight innings. Orix’s Daiki Tajima struck out seven without issuing a walk, but surrendered eight hits. Kazuya Ojima allowed six hits while striking out one, walking one and hitting one.
Brandon Laird put a high slider into the seats to break the ice in the fourth inning with his 26th home run. Takashi Ogino tripled to open the Marines’ sixth and Shogo Nakamura singled him home.
Ojima protected that lead until Ryo Ota singled with one out and, with two down, Yuma Mune drilled a first-pitch fastball off the facing of the third deck in right field for his eighth home run.
Tigers 2, Giants 1
At Tokyo Dome, Hanshin closer Robert Suarez, who earned a five-out save on Saturday against Yakult, took the mound with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth against Yomiuri and retired all four batters he faced to log his 40th save—six shy of the team’s record of 46 set by Kyuji Fujikawa in 2007.
Koyo Aoyagi (12-5, 2.69) scattered six hits and two hit batsmen over seven innings to earn the win as Hanshin clinched its season series against the Giants, snapping the Tigers’ 13-year run of not managing a winning record against Yomiuri, the longest since the two clubs began slugging it out in 1936.
“This time now, these past few months, we haven’t had many guys stand up and be men,” said the skipper who leaked over the weekend that he’d be open to returning as manager for 2021.
The Giants’ loss meant that there will be a new champion for the first time since the Hiroshima Carp won their third straight pennant in 2018.
Hanshin loaded the bases with two outs in the second on singles by Mel Rojas Jr., Teruaki Sato and pitcher Aoyagi before leadoff man Koji Chikamoto shot a 3-2 pitch through the infield for a 2-0 Tigers lead against C.C. Mercedes (7-5, 3.58)
Right-hander Toyoki Tanaka got three outs in the fifth with runners camped on second and third after a Chikamoto double and a Mercedes throwing error put runners on the corners and sent the southpaw packing.
The Giants got to Aoyagi for a run in the sixth. Singles by Seiya Matsubara and Kazuma Okamoto put two on with two outs, and a Yoshihiro Maru double scored one. Aoyagi hit pinch-hitter Yoshiyuki Kamei to load the bases before a strikeout ended the inning.
Setup man Suguru Iwazaki allowed a hit and two walks, forcing Suarez to take on Zelous Wheeler with the bases loaded.
Dragons 3, Swallows 2
At Vantelin Dome Nagoya, CL ERA leader Yuya Yanagi (11-5, 2.12) allowed two runs, one earned, over eight innings allowing Chunichi to come from behind and beat league-leading Yakult. (9-5, 4.03)
Yasutaka Shiomi opened the scoring, leading off the fourth with his 14th home run, the Swallows’ first hit off Yanagi on a floating 0-1 changeup that looked like a mistake from the instant it left his hand.
Ogawa stranded Dragons runners on the corners in the home half, and Yanagi retired Yasuhiro Ogawa to end Swallows’ fifth with two on. The Dragons put two on again in the fifth on an Ogawa throwing error and a two-out walk, but once more went nowhere with it.
The Swallows needed four pitches to make it 2-0 in the sixth. Third baseman Shuhei Takahashi missed backhanding a grounder down the line, Shiomi reached on the two-base error and Norichika Aoki singled him home.
The Dragons, just when they were looking incapable of hitting with runners in scoring position, got a one-out two-run double from Takuya Kinoshita, after a Yohei Oshima single and a Takahashi double. The Dragons catcher drove a 1-2 splitter low, away and out of the strike zone after he’d watched a 1-0 changeup waddle through the top of the zone.
The Swallows threatened again in the seventh, but with one out and runners on the corners, shot themselves in the foot on a suicide squeeze. Yanagi doubled to open Chunichi’s seventh, off Ryuta Konno, Yakult’s third pitcher, and only a couple of balls hit straight to his infield prevented a run.
Dayan Viciedo doubled to open the Dragons’ eighth off setup man Noboru Shimizu (3-6), whose one-out intentional walk to Kinoshita backfired when Masaru Watanabe took a borderline 3-2 pitch to load the bases allowing rookie Wataru Takamatsu to deliver a sacrifice fly.
Raidel Martinez worked the ninth to secure his 22nd save.
Carp 3, BayStars 0
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Seiya Suzuki ripped an ice-breaking RBI double, tore off pitcher Katsuki Azuma‘s glove with a single, and belted a two-run eighth-inning homer to power Hiroshima to its sixth straight win. The Carp now trail the third-place Giants by five games.
Allen Kuri (12-7, 3.99) allowed a hit, two walks and hit a batter while striking out five over seven innings. Azuma (0-2, 3.86) struck out eight, but allowed a run on five hits and a walk.
After three perfect innings of Azuma looking like he’d never heard of Tommy John surgery, the Carp opened the scoring in the fourth. One-out singles by Kaito Kozono and Ryoma Nishikawa set the table and Suzuki doubled in one.
Kuri left for a pinch-hitter after 106 pitches. A leadoff walk and a two-out Masayuki Kuwahara single off Sotaro Shimauchi ushered in Kyle Bird, who struck out the only batter he faced to end the inning.
Edwin Escobar took over in the seventh and surrendered a leadoff single to Kozono before Suzuki homered with one out. Carp rookie Ryoji Kuribayashi worked the ninth for his 32nd save.
Wednesday’s starting pitchers
Fighters vs Lions: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Eagles vs Hawks: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Buffaloes vs Marines: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Giants vs Tigers: Tokyo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Dragons vs Swallows: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Carp vs BayStars: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 10/12/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/22