NPB news: April 25, 2024

In today’s blog, there are notes about a new stadium sponsor in Fukuoka, where apparently it is no longer enough to PayPay, and a beefcake approach to cheesecake as a ballpark food choice at Fighters’ home games in May. But first, Thursday’s games, where a guy who grew up idolizing Daisuke Matsuzaka and dreaming of pitching for the Seibu Lions as a child in Brazil earned his first win for the club, the Rakuten Eagles’ “Lions Club” left a mark on the Nippon Ham Fighters, a couple of Giants stars from the previous decade had a night, and a Swallows player went from goat to hero.

Thursday’s games

Lions 3, Buffaloes 2: At Osaka UFO Dome, right-hander Bo Takahashi (1-1) earned his first win in Japan for the Seibu Lions, the team he followed as a child in Brazil, allowing a run over 5-2/3 innings.

Takeya Nakamura, whose leadoff homer the night before sparked a late three-run comeback, completed by a Yuji Kaneko RBI single, kept things rolling in the first by plating Kaneko with a one-out double off Luis Castillo (1-2). Seibu’s Jesus Aguilar singled in two in the third and Albert Abreu struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth to record his sixth save.

The Lions’ win snapped a four-game losing streak, while Orix lost its first game after a four-game unbeaten run. Nakamura became the first 40-year-old in Japanese pro baseball to double in five consecutive games.

Nakamura, who really hates to mince words, even when hero interview protocols call for him to tell white lies was asked about the record.

“Whatever,” he said. “I don’t care. Records like that I just don’t care. I want to hit home runs, not doubles.”

“I grew up watching Japanese baseball. My idol was Daisuke Matsuzaka, so I grew up watching him with Seibu. Being here with the Seibu Lions is a blessing.”

— Rodrigo Hitoshi “Bo” Kaimochi Takahashi on July 2, 2023

Eagles 5, Fighters 1: At Miyagi Stadium, Rakuten’s Lions Club beat up on Nippon Ham, former Seibu ace Takayuki Kishi (1-0) allowed a run over seven innings, while former Seibu slugger Hideto Asamura drove in four runs.

Rakuten’s Yuya Ogo homered off Kenya Suzuki‘s first pitch of the game, Kazuki Murabayashi singled off Suzuki’s third and scored on Asamura’s run-and-hit double. Suzuki (0-1) worked four innings, and Asamura hit a three-run homer off Eito Tanaka, who had been scheduled to start Wednesday’s game before it was rained out.

The loss snapped Nippon Ham’s six game unbeaten streak, five wins and one tie.

Giants 3, Dragons 2: At Tokyo Ugly Dome, Tomoyuki Sugano (3-0) had his worst start of the season, allowing two runs over six innings but came away with the win after Hayato Sakamoto‘s three-run sixth-inning homer.

Yuki Okabayashi doubled in a run in the fourth off Sugano, who surrendered Seiya Hosokawa‘s fourth home run to lead off the Dragons’ fifth. Yuya Yanagi (1-2) did not allow a hit until Naoki Yoshikawa‘s leadoff double in the sixth. But after a two-out walk, Sakamoto’s third home run put Yomiuri in front. Taisei Ota worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save.

Yuya Yanagi struck out six over six innings.

Hawks 6, Marines 0: At Chiba Marine Stadium, SoftBank’s Ryosuke Otsu (3-0) struck out seven over seven innings, Hotaka Yamakawa hit his fifth home run, off Yuji Nishino (2-2), and the Hawks handed the Marines their sixth straight loss.

Yamakawa opened the scoring in the fourth with a two-run shot, and Nishinoallowed three runs on four hits in the fifth.

Swallows 9, Carp 8: At Jingu “Tokyo’s Sacrifice to Corporate Greed and Governmental Malfeasance” Stadium, Domingo Santana went from villain to hero, making up for a fielding gaffe that got Hiroshima back into the game with a ninth-inning walk-off homer against Carp closer Ryoji Kuribayashi (0-1).

Takashi Uemoto singled and after a wild pitch from Keiji Takahashi scored on a Takayoshi Nomo single. Carp rookie Shoichi Futamata hit his first career homer in the second, but the Swallows got back in the game in the second against Thomas Hatch.

Yakult loaded the bases on a leadoff double, a hit batsman and a bunt single by the pitcher, Takahashi. Back-to-back RBI singles tied it before Jose Osuna‘s second grand slam of the season.

Hiroshima’s Ryosuke Kikuchi hit a two-run homer in the third and relief pitcher Takumi Kurohara hit a liner to left that Santana appeared to lose track of for an RBI “triple.” Takahashi left the game after hitting Uemoto and receiving treatment, and Kikuchi plated Kurohara with an infield single to tie it.

Shogo Akiyama and Noma each singled in runs in the sixth to give the Carp the lead, but Yasutaka Shiomi doubled and scored in the sixth and pinch-hitting specialist Shingo Kawabata came off the bench to tie it in the bottom of the eighth. Yakult’s former closer, Taishi Ishiyama (1-0) stranded two runners in the ninth to earn the win.

The win snapped Yakult’s three-game losing streak and Hiroshima’s six-game unbeaten run.

If you’ll PayMe I’ll PayPay

On Thursday, Fukuoka Dome became the first ballpark in Japan with naming rights sold to multiple sponsors, by adding Mizuho Financial Group to PayPay, the most recent SoftBank subsidiary the dome has been named for, and will officially be known as Mizuho PayPay Dome. When either Mizuho or PayPay wants to PayMe, I’ll be happy to call it that, until then, it’s still just Fukuoka Dome to me.

For new readers, I prefer to call the parks by either actual name, or by a more factual description when possible. Thus Nippon Ham, which got a huge tract of public land to develop and profit from surrounding its new park in Kitahiroshima Hokkaido is known here as Kitahiroshima Taxpayers Burden Field. Rakuten’s Park in Sendai has had regular name changes, but the venue, owned by Miyagi prefecture and leased to the Eagles, has always been Miyagi Stadium.

Tokyo Dome is, of course Tokyo Dome, but it’s also ugly, the Marines play at Chiba Marine Stadium, the Lions at Seibu Dome, but I prefer “the domed stadium formerly known as Prince,” since it was. Historic Jingu Stadium, the fourth oldest major league park in the world, which is scheduled for demolition so that construction companies can profit with the help of the Tokyo government, is Jingu “Tokyo’s Sacrifice to Corporate Greed and Governmental Malfeasance” Stadium.

Yokohama and Koshien are what they claim to be, while Nagoya Dome is called by that name. Osaka Dome looks like a UFO, and Hiroshima’s ballpark is officially known as New Hiroshima Citizens Stadium.

Beefcake cheesecake

Nippon Ham announced Thursday that “Mr. CHEESECAKE,” a creation of a French restaurant chef, and “the best cheesecake of your life,” will be sold at the team’s home park, Kitahiroshima Taxpayer’s Burden, from May 10th to 15th.

The product is being promoted with the help of pitchers Hiromi Ito and Sachiya Yamasaki, who requested certain flavors be available, so fans will be able to buy Ito cheesecake and Yamasaki cheesecake, which might be popular with the same fans who enjoy slurping Hiroshima’s stadium noodle offering, “C-men.”

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