There were two games Thursday in Japan, but the nation’s fans could be forgiven for looking ahead to Friday, when two great matchups beckoned. In Chiba, the two best pitchers of this generation, Roki Sasaki and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, will go head-to-head for the first time.
in Sendai, Masahiro Tanaka, who closed out Game 7 of the 2013 Japan Series the year he went 24-0 in the regular season, will go up against 42-year-old lefty Tsuyoshi Wada, who as a youngster threw a complete game victory to clinch Game 7 of the 2013 Japan Series.
But there were games and there was news. Seibu’s Tatsuya Imai flirted with a no hitter, Hanshin’s Sheldon Neuse went really deep for the second straight day, and while a day after it seemed Japan’s WBC pitchers were cursed by getting batted around by their national team teammates, website CoCoKara published a story: “The pace of Japan’s WBC falling dominos show no sign of slowing.”
The story led with Swallows second baseman Tetsuto Yamada coming out of Wednesday’s game after running the bases in the fourth inning. Japan first baseman Hotaka Yamakawa is out with injury as is Seibu teammate and Japan shortstop Sosuke Genda, whose broken finger suffered in the WBC has not healed, while new Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida has been sidelined with discomfort in his right hamstring.
Lions 2, Marines 0: At Omiya Park Stadium, Tatsuya Imai (2-0) kept his ERA at 0.00 in his first shutout in four years, a 138-pitch, 11 strikeout effort in which he gave up two late hits, walked three and allowed two walks.
Rookie Lions shortstop Ryosuke Kodama and Mark Payton each singled and scored in the Lions’ two-run third off former Giant C.C. Mercedes (0-1). Imai needed some outstanding defense to keep the no-hitter alive. Second baseman Shuta Tonosaki, who drove in the game’s first run, fielded a wicked short hop for the first out in the eighth before Hisanori Yasuda stroked a clean single into the outfield on the next play.
Tigers 4, Giants 1: At Tokyo Dome, Sheldon Neuse, who blasted a long home run Wednesday for his first in Japan, earning a great quote from manager Akinobu Okada – “When he hits them they stay hit, but he had to start doing something because he couldn’t have kept on going the way he had been — did the same Thursday to open the scoring in the second inning.
Junya Nishi (1-1) gave up the lead in the home half on three straight hits and scraped through six innings. Ryo Watanabe, acquired from the Fighters in an off-season trade, blasted his first CL home run to lead off the fourth, and Hanshin added two more in the fifth.