NPB news: April 3, 2024

Wednesday brought us a showdown between last year’s PL rookie of the year, Orix’s Shumpeita Yamashita, and last year’s top pitching prize in the draft, Seibu’s Natsuki Takeuchi. We also got home runs from DeNA’s former import power duo, Tyler Austin and Neftali Soto, and a no-hit bid.

Due to rain across the country, every game played without benefit of a roof was rained out. In other words, NPB picked a good day to have five of its six major league games rain-proofed.

Wednesday’s games

Lions 3, Buffaloes 0: At Seibu Half Dome, catcher Ginjiro Sumitani is still playing baseball, back with the team he began his career with after three seasons each with the Giants and Eagles. He shepherded highly touted rookie lefty Takeuchi through seven scoreless innings in his pro debut during which he walked two and allowed a single.

Seibu scored in the first off Yamashita, who struck out the first two batters he faced in dominant fashion before Shuta Tonosaki walked, stole second and scored on a Jesus Aguilar single. Yamashita walked off the mound with no outs in the sixth, after running his walk total to seven with three straight to open the inning. Yamashita was charged with two runs over six-plus innings.

Dragons 5, Giants 2: At Nagoya Dome, Kaito Muramatsu and Hironori Miyoshi each hit two-run singles off Yohander Mendes, in the second and fourth. Mendes issued four walks over four innings, while Dragons ace Yudai Ono, whose 2023 season lasted all of one game and seven innings, left after throwing 66 pitches and allowing one run over five innings.

Makoto Kadowaki and Yoshihiro Maru singles set up a Giants run in the fourth and rookie Masaya Hagio‘s first career homer made it 4-2 in the eighth. Seiya Hosokawa, whose season’s first hit was a walk-off homer Tuesday, went 2-for-3 with a walk, a single, an eighth-inning solo homer and three runs for the Dragons.

Hosokawa, whose habit of eating white rice before games combined with a slump spurred manager Kazuyoshi Tatsunami to ban rice cookers from the Nagoya Dome dining hall last autumn, told me Saturday he’s getting all the rice he wants this year, and the stuff that went down last year was simply “one of those things.”

Fighters 4, Eagles 2: At Kitahiroshima Taxpayers’ Burden Field, Koki Kitayama was perfect through 6-1/3, when he issued a walk, allowed two hits, a run, and earned a well-deserved exit after striking out 10. Yuya Ogo broke up the no-hitter and Hideto Asamura ended the shutout bid.

Go Matsumoto singled, stole a base and scored on a Chusei Mannami first-inning single off Takayuki Kishi. Mannami, who tied for the PL home run lead a year ago, made it 4-0 with his season’s first.

Tigers 5, BayStars 2: At Kyocera UFO Dome, Shota Morishita made the difference with his power again as Hanshin came from behind to win.

DeNA’s Tyler Austin homered in the first off Masashi Ito, his first since Aug. 30, 2022, 100 plate appearances before. Taiki Sekine made it 2-0 in the second, singling, stealing second and scoring on a Taiki Ishikami single.

Yusuke Oyama halved the deficit with a fourth-inning RBI single off Haruhiro Hamaguchi, and Morishita, whose three-run bomb delivered Hanshin’s first runs of the season Sunday, put the Tigers ahead with a two-run shot in the sixth.

Koji Chikamoto led off the Tigers’ eighth with a homer, and Teruaki Sato singled in a run to make it 5-2.

Marines 4, Hawks 2, 12 innings: At Fukuoka Dome, Takashi Ogino‘s got a two-run 12th-innning double past Kensuke Kondo in left field after Aito Takeda and Yuta Fujioka reached against reliever Katsuki Matayoshi.            

SoftBank starter Nao Higashihama escaped a first-inning pickle and Kenta Imamiya led off the home half with a home run off C.C. Mercedes. Two-time CL home run champ Neftali Soto hit his first in the PL, tying it 1-1 in the sixth.

Former Marine Roberto Osuna allowed a two-out ninth-inning single, a stolen base and a pinch-hit single to Katsuya Kakunaka that put Lotte in front. Marines closer Naoya Masuda, however, blew his second straight one-run lead. After giving up two on Sunday to cost Roki Sasaki a win, the Hawks loaded the bases against him with one out in the ninth.

Masuda struck out Kondo on a 3-2 pitch, walked Ryoya Kurihara to tie it on five pitches before Adam Walker‘s sizzling line drive was caught in left for the third out.

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