NPB news: April 20, 2023

There was plenty of drama in Japan Thursday. One catcher joked about his pitcher being more afraid of him than of the opposing hitters, while another got a strange vote of confidence from his skipper, while Chunichi is having more troubles than it looks like.

It’s also Roki eve in Japan, and if that’s not good enough for you, he’ll be matched up against diabolically difficult lefty Takayuki Kato, while the lefties with my two favorite fastballs in Japan, Keiji Takahashi and Shota Imanaga, will both be starting as will Masahiro Tanaka and Hanshin’s Koyo Aoyagi.

Forgot to mention this on Tuesday, when a reader, who I believe said his name was Ryan, who was wearing a Takumi Kuriyama Seibu Lions shirt, was kind enough to stop the Japan Times’ Jason Coskrey and I outside Tokyo Dome that afternoon and say hi. Thanks again for the kind words of support! And if your name isn’t Ryan, that’s my bad.

Minor blues

Speaking of bad, the Chunichi Dragons may not be last in the Central League, but their Western League farm team has NPB’s worst record. On Thursday,  Dragons broke the franchise’s record for minor league losses set last year with their 14th straight Thursday and are now two shy of the WL record of 16 straight defeats set by Hiroshima’s farm club in 1961.

Thursday’s games

Swallows 3, Dragons 2, 11 innings: At Jingu Stadium, Yakult’s Yuhei “Mucho” Nakamura, who caught Japan’s WBC final win over the United States, came off the bench for defense in the 10th inning, and singled in the winning run.

Swallows-Dragons highlights.

The Swallows scored twice in the first and both runs could easily have been unearned. Dragons shortstop Ryuku Tsuchida‘s throw skipped past first, allowing rookie Ryusei Takeoka to reach on an infield single. A walk and a Jose Osuna double made it 1-0 with two outs, and left fielder Aristides Aquino‘s third misplay of the series, allowed Domingo Santana to score from first.

The Dragons came back in the second on Takeya Ishikawa’s first homer, a Seiya Hosokawa double and a Takumi Kinoshita RBI single. The Dragons didn’t help their chances of knocking out Masanori Ishikawa by having two runners thrown out on the bases, and the 43-old lefty, who looked like he had no chance to get to the fourth inning, made it through five while allowing eight hits.

Yakult reliever Hiroki Onishi (1-0) earned the win after retiring all six batters he faced in the 10th and 11th. When asked to comment about the pitcher’s work, Nakamura said, “Of course he was good, he was desperate to pitch well so I wouldn’t be angry with him.”

When Yakult wins at Jingu, Yakult’s closer/orchestra conductor Kazuto Taguchi does his thing for the fans behind the Swallows’ bullpen.

Kazuto Taguchi, closer of the band.

Fighters 2, Marines 0: At Kitahiroshima Taxpayers Burden Field, slow submarine right-hander Kenya Suzuki (2-0) allowed a hit over six innings, and a third-inning leadoff walk by rookie Kota Yazawa and a Yuma Imagawa single set up Go Matsumoto‘s sac fly that gave the Fighters a 1-0 lead against C.C. Mercedes (0-2). Chusei Mannami made it 2-0 in the fourth when he doubled and scored on rookie Taiki Narama‘s sac fly.

Submariner Kenya Suzuki

Bryan Rodriguez, Seigi Tanaka and Naoya Ishikawa each put up a zero in relief as Nippon Ham snapped a four-game losing skid. Ishikawa’s save was his first.

Carp 7, Tigers 5: At Koshien Stadium, Drew Anderson wasted a two-run first-inning lead as most of the Tigers hitters put good swings on his pitches in the first two innings. Ryan McBroom opened the scoring with an RBI single, but Anderson gave up three runs on four hits, a walk and a sac fly in the first, and another run in the second before he stopped the bleeding on back-to-back strikeouts with the bases loaded.

The Carp came back with three in the fourth off Junya Nishi (1-2). Ryoma Nishikawa and Matt Davidson singled, Shogo Sakakura walked, and with the outfield playing shallow with one out, Ryuhei Matsuyama hit a ball to the warning track in left center that Koji Chikamoto couldn’t haul in and all three runners scored.

Hiroshima scored a pair of unearned runs in the eighth, and closer Ryoji Kuribayashi earned his sixth save but not before some Carp fans nibbled on their finger nails. Shogo Akiyama overran a leadoff single for a two-base error, Sheldon Neuse slashed a liner to make it two-run game and Yusuke Oyama walked to put the tying runners on.

First-year manager Takahiro Arai went to the mound with no outs and Teruaki Sato coming to bat.

“He told me, ‘It is a hitters’ dream to get a hit off you, so just go get them,’ Kuribayashi said.

Sato flied out, and Kuribayashi caught a break when shortstop Kosuke Tanaka speared a soft liner to start a game-ending double play.

Tigers-Carp highlights

Buffaloes 2, Eagles 1: At Osaka Dome, Sachiya Yamazaki (1-0) allowed one run on one hit and no walks over 6-2/3 innings, and Orix came from behind to beat Rakuten for the second straight night.

Rakuten’s Hikaru Ota opened the scoring with a third-inning solo homer, his first. The Buffaloes tied it after two were out in the bottom of the inning on a Yuma Mune single and a Tomoya Mori double and took the lead on Keita Nakagawa‘s first home run to open the fifth.

Rookie Tokumasa Chano made it 3-1 in the seventh. He reached on an error, stole second and scored on two-out Mune double.

Forty-year-old Tomoki Higa retired Maikel Franco for the final out in the seventh, before Soichiro Yamazaki and Jacob Waguespack each pitched 1-2-3 innings. Waguespack’s save was his first.

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