NPB news: April 23, 2024

Roki Sasaki threw his fastest pitch of the season, although it’s nothing like he used to back when he was really young, while the powerless Chunichi Dragons are really feeling the burden of this year’s dead baseball. While only two teams were shutout Tuesday, only three managed to score more than two runs.

On Tuesday, I published research on the relative pitchers’ elbow sprain situations in the United States and Japan, and what that means for the future, including that of Roki Sasaki. Speaking of Sasaki there seems to be a growing feeling in Japan that he is headed for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but if that is the case, and something untoward has happened, we’ll never learn of it from Japan’s mainstream media, where news goes to die.

Tuesday’s games

Buffaloes 2, Lions 1: At Osaka UFO Dome, Daiki Tajima (2-1) allowed an unearned run over five innings, and four Orix relievers struck out seven batters over the final four innings to lock down the win over Seibu as the three-time defending PL champs moved over .500 for the first time this year.

Yuma Tongu’s leadoff double sparked a two-run second inning off Kaima Taira (1-2), capped by Shuhei Fukuda’s run-scoring single, with Lions center fielder Shinya Hasegawa throwing out Yuma Mune out at the plate. Takeya Nakamura’s second hit, a leadoff double, two walks and a fumble by Mune at third brought home a fourth-inning run. Nakamura, a six-time PL home run champion was batting second for the first time in his career.

Orix’s Andres Machado struck out three in the eighth, and Yoshihisa Hirano worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save.

Hawks 4, Marines 2: At Chiba Marine Stadium, SoftBank’s Kohei Arihara (2-2) went the distance, striking out nine and getting enough run support to absorb a pair or solo homers among his three hits and a walk. Roki Sasaki (2-1) sat at 159 kph for seven innings and even threw one pitch at 161, his fastest of the season, but surrendered three runs, two earned.

Three singles off Sasaki forkballs, two up in the zone and one on a good swing at one out of the zone from Kensuke Kondo, put the Hawks up 1-0 in the fourth.

Kondo’s hit against Sasaki was his first in 19 career at-bats against him.

Sasaki got a double-play groundball to first but the throw to short hit the runner, allowing Yuki Yanagita to score and put runners on the corners with one out. Sasaki threw Kondo out at the plate on a would-be squeeze.

Arihara 13 straight batters before Koki Yamaguchi took him out deep to left for his second home run. Taisei Makihara made it 3-1 Hawks in the seventh. He singled with two outs, stole second and scored when Yuto Kawamura’s fly got over the head of Gregory Polanco in left for a double. Polanco’s fourth homer made it 3-2 in the seventh.

Yuki Kuniyoshi took over from Sasaki in the eighth and walked Yanagita, who scored on a Ryoya Kurihara single to make it 4-2. Arihara struck out Polanco to tend the game and consign the Marines to their fourth straight loss.

Kondo, who came within a hair or two of winning a triple crown last season, felt discomfort in his knee and left the game in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Giants 2, Dragons 0: At Hitachinaka Stadium, Iori Yamasaki (2-0) allowed three hits, a walk and a hit batsman over 6-1/3 innings as Yomiuri snapped a six-game winless streak (three losses and three ties).

Rui Okoye doubled and scored on a Hayato Sakamoto first-inning single off Shinnosuke Ogasawara (1-1). A dropped fly at short put a Giants runner at second with one out in the fourth and rookie Masaya Hagio singled him in. Taisei Ota worked around a two-out Seiya Hosokawa double in the ninth to earn his fifth save and consign the Dragons to their fifth straight loss.

Chunichi has not scored now for 23 innings, and do not have a home run in 13 consecutive games for the second time since Japanese pro ball expanded and split into two leagues in 1950. The last time it happened was April 1956 in the heart of a dead-ball era.

Carp 2, Swallows 0: At Jingu “Tokyo’s Sacrifice to Corporate Greed and Governmental Malfeasance” Stadium, Hiroshima’s Hiroki Tokoda (2-1) struck out seven over eight innings, and Koki Ugusa broke the ice in the seventh. Kaito Kozono singled, and with two outs, Ugusa did well to hit a 2-2 fastball on the inside corner from Kojiro Yoshimura (1-2) and pull it out to right for his second homer. The Carp are unbeaten in six games (four wins and two ties), while the Swallows their third straight.

Fighters 4, Eagles 3, 12 innings : At Miyagi Stadium, defensive substitute Daigo Kawakamibata singled in defensive substitute Yua Tamiya in the 12th to extend Nippon Ham’s unbeaten run to six games (five wins and one tie).

Chusei Mannami walked, stole second and scored on Ariel Martinez’s fourth-inning single off Cody Ponce and a throwing error from center fielder Ryosuke Tatsumi. Hiroto Kobukata led off the home half with a single and stole second before scoring on a Hideto Asamura sac fly off Sachiya Yamasaki. Nippon Ham went ahead in the sixth after three no-out singles. Go Matsumoto scored on a Kotaro Kiyomiya sacrifice fly, and Mannami scored on a Kazunari Ishii single.

Tatsumi doubled and scored in the Eagles’ sixth to make it a one-run game. Eigoro Mogi’s pinch-hit homer tied it 3-3 in the eighth. Fighters closer Seigi Tanaka pitched left the bases loaded in the 11th to earn the win.

BayStars 1, Tigers 1, 12 innings: At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA’s Yudai Yamamoto singled in Shugo Maki in the second to open the scoring off Shoki Murakami. Hanshin tied it in the sixth on a walk by Andre Jackson to Takumu Nakano, a Shota Morishita double and a throwing error.

The Tigers extended their unbeaten streak to eight games (six wins and two ties).

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