NPB news: April 12, 2023

Wednesday brought another day in Japanese baseball, and another gem from a rookie pitcher. Two veterans, however, did not get off easy in their league games against Japan WBC teammates. In other surprises, the Chunichi Dragons scored a bunch of runs, the Swallows’ bullpen, unscored upon through 10 games, gave up a bunch, and Lotte’s hefty first baseman Seiya Inoue had a vision of himself that included speed.

Wednesday’s games

Dragons 5, Carp 2: At Nagoya Dome,  Dragons right-hander Koji Fukutani retired the first nine batters before Ryoma Nishikawa singled in two with one out and the bases loaded.

Second-chance draft acquisition Seiya Hosoya singled and scored in the bottom of the fourth on Ryuku Tsuchida sac fly off Atsushi Endo (1-1).

Zoilo Almonte, back in Japan for the first time since he played for the Dragons from 2018 to 2020, homered to lead off the Dragons’ sixth to tie it. Hosoya doubled and scored on a Takumi Kinoshita single, and new import Aristedes Aquino made it 5-2 with a two-run pinch-hit home run. Raidel Martinez earned his third save.

Dragons-Carp highlights

Tigers 2, Giants 1, 10-innings: At Tokyo Dome, rookie right-hander Shoki Murakami retired all 21 batters he faced, but failed to earn his first win as a pro. He was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, and his replacement, Daichi Ishii surrendered the lead on Kazuma Okamoto’s first home run.

Sheldon Neuse blasted his first Japan home run off fellow first-year import Yohander Mendez to put Hanshin up 1-0 in the fourth.

Sheldon Neuse’s 1st home run

Yomiuri’s fourth pitcher, Taisei Ota, became the first of Japan’s WBC hurlers not to metaphorically hurl Wednesday, despite putting one runner on with a throwing error and walking the bases loaded. Hanshin’s Koji Chikamoto singled in the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th for the Tigers, whose new closer, Japan reliever Atsuki Yuasa avoided the day’s curse to record his fourth save.

Tigers manager Akinobu Okada was golden in his postgame winning-manager’s interview, when asked about pulling his 24-year-old starter who entered the game with a grand total of 6-1/3 major league innings under his belt but who led the Western League last season in ERA, winning percentage and strikeouts.

“He was really something, but he’s also inexperienced and we have a plan. I started thinking about when he might be done in the sixth inning, then it was the seventh inning, but finally it happened when his turn came up in the order,” Okada said.

“It’s hard. I’ve never had a pitcher with a perfect game on the line before. But every member of our team was determined that this would be a team perfect game.”

“All spring we were watching what he was doing and he impressed us. I talked to the catchers and they said how good his fastball and stamina was, so I really wanted him to be a starter.”

“As for Ishii, our relievers have gotten burned on some first pitches this year and need to be aware that they can use their breaking balls. It was a new experience for him pitching here, where it’s really easy to give up home runs, and I guess a burned hand teaches best.”

Buffaloes 7, Eagles 2: At Miyagi Stadium, Ryo Ota followed a leadoff walk with his first home run, and Yutaro Sugimoto made it 3-0 in the first with his fourth. With a 4-0 lead in the seventh, the Eagles chased Buffaloes starter Daiki Tajima (1-1). With one out, Japan reliever Yuki Udagawa maintained the evening’s theme by walking the first two batters he faced and force in Rakuten’s first run. Orix’s Koji Oshiro, however, put the game on ice in the eighth with a two-run pinch-hit single.

Ryo Ota and Yutaro Sugimoto supply the power in Sendai.

BayStars 6, Swallows 1: At Jingu Stadium, Domingo Santana doubled and scored the first run of the season of Katsuki Azuma () on Munetaka Murakami’s first-inning single. The BayStars took their first lead of the series when Shugo Maki hit his first homer, off his Japan WBC teammate Keiji Takahashi (), with a man on in the third.

DeNA was close to adding a third in the inning, but catcher-outfielder Soma Uchikawa added another outstanding outfield catch to his portfolio, recording the final out on a sinking liner and save a run.

Takahashi left after five, and Yudai Yamamoto’s sixth-inning RBI triple made it 3-1 BayStars, with the first run all season charged to Yakult’s bullpen. The visitors added another in the seventh on Toshiro Miyazaki’s fourth home run, and two more on a two-out two-run double that would have been caught for the third out had manager Shingo Takatsu played his outfield at something approaching normal depth.

Hawks 5, Fighters 2: At Fukuoka Dome, Takuya Kai plated Japan WBC teammate Taisei Makihara in the second off Japan WBC teammate Hiromi Ito before the Fighters tied it in the fourth on a Kotaro Kiyomiya single and a Yuki James Nomura double. The Hawks reclaimed the lead in the fifth when Japan’s Kensuke Kondo took his former Fighters teammate deep for his second home run.

Kenta Imamiya, who recorded his 350th career sacrifice hit in the second, doubled in the seventh and scored when, you guessed it, WBC champion Ukyo Shuto doubled off Ito to make it 3-1. Doubles by Kondo and Yuki Yanagita knocked Ito out.

By deciding to celebrate Imamiya’s 350th sac bunt with a dynamic image of him taking a big cut, is Pacific League TV trying to tell us that bunts are boring?

In case you’re curious, Imamiya is now 58 shy of No. 3 on Japan’s all-time list, Shinya Miyamoto’s 408. Masahiro Kawaii, whose surprisingly strong Hall of Fame candidacy rests on him having won six gold gloves, and being Japan’s all-time bunt king, has 533.

Marines 5, Lions 3: At Seibu Dome, the Marines opened the game with back-to-back singles to set up Koki Yamaguchi’s sacrifice fly off Chihiro Sumida (0-2). Shuta Tonosaki tied it 1-1 in the bottom of the first with his first home run only for Yuji Nishino to retire seven straight and reclaim the lead in the fourth on two walks, a Gregory Polanco RBI single and a two-run Seiya Inoue double.

Inoue tried to stretch it into a triple and, despite both the throw in from the outfield and the relay from second both bouncing, was thrown out easily at third.

Sotozaki walked and scored in the fourth on a David McKinnon single to make it 4-2. Takeya Nakamura’s 455th career homer.

Nishino, a former closer, struck out five and walked one over six for the win. Lotte’s fourth pitcher Naoya Masuda, recorded his fourth save.

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