Let’s call this one “comeback Saturday.”
We had a 30-year-old rookie prophesize a Hanshin Tigers comeback, a castoff lead a huge comeback, a big game from a teenage catcher not named Ko Matsukawa, and an a pitcher’s emotional personal comeback from elbow surgery.
We also had a new way of looking at baseball that was out of this world this weekend. The Yomiuri Giants’ sister company and broadcaster, Nippon Television experimented with using 67 cameras to create 3D volumetric video of the game.
Shall we get started?
Tigers 10, Giants 3: At Tokyo Dome, a terrific pitchers’ duel started by Yomiuri’s Matt Shoemaker and Hanshin’s Aaron Wilkerson came undone in the seventh inning, when reliever Nobutaka Imamura (0-1) located his pitches about as well as I might, greasing the Tigers’ way to a fifth straight win.
Trying to hit corners, he missed out of the zone, trying to throw strikes, he missed in the zone, en route to walking five and giving up a two-run single. Seishu Hatake took over but issued a bases-loaded walk and surrendered a two-run single.
Gregory “El Coffee” Polanco also belted his fourth home run of the season, and the 100th of his major league career between Japan and the States.
The game was the second using volumetric video. Here’s a shot of Teruaki Sato‘s home run on Friday.
Shoemaker allowed two runs, one earned, on four hits and a walk over six innings. He struck out nine and bunted in the Giants’ second run. Wilkerson allowed two runs while striking out six over five innings.
If I can do it
The winning pitcher was 30-year-old lefty Yuta Watanabe who attended Aoyama Gakuin University before playing independent ball with Niigata Albirex before being taken sixth in the 2017 developmental draft by SoftBank
Watanabe was added to their 70-man roster on the very last day the Hawks were able to control him as a developmental player, Aug. 31, 2020 and pitched well but felt discomfort in his left elbow.
He was released last year, but signed with Hanshin on another D contract after last year’s NPB tryouts, and added to the Tigers’ 70-man roster just prior to Opening Day.
After his win, Watanabe, fittingly prophesied that it was not to late for Hanshin this year.
“In the same way that I’ve managed to win my first game as a 30-year-old, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility for the (last-place) Hanshin Tigers to turn things around and win the pennant,” he said.
Former Carp closer Shota Nakazaki (1-4), however, gave up back-to-back singles in the home half. Atsuya Horie hit a batter with one out before allowing an RBI single to Shohei Kato and a sac fly to 140-year-old pinch hitter Kosuke Fukudome.
Closer Raidel Martinez earned his seventh save in a game where Chunichi used every position player but rookie reserve catcher Yota Ishibashi.
Swallows 2, BayStars 0: At Jingu Stadium, Cy Sneed (2-0) went six innings and four relievers combine on a six-hit shutout with Scott McGough striking out two in the ninth en route to his seventh save. Yakult’s 19-year-old rookie catcher Soma Uchiyama walked and scored in the third against Taiga Kamichatani (2-2), singled in the fourth and followed Jose Osuna‘s sixth-inning double with one of his own to make it 2-0.
“Not the best stuff I’ve ever had, but it was a great team win. We challenged a lot and made some great plays,” said Sneed, who also congratulated teammate Norichika Aoki, who drove in Yakult’s first run, on his 1,500th NPB game.
Aoki’s total of 2,258 major league games in Japan and the States are second among active NPB players behind Kosuke Fukudome’s 2,607.
Eagles 7, Hawks 6, 11 innings: At Miyagi Stadium, Haruki Nishikawa gave Nippon Ham Fighters fans yet another reason to ask if their team knows what it’s doing. Signed by the Eagles after he was non-tendered in Sapporo, the 30-year-old Nishikawa made it a 3-2 game in the fifth by singling in Rakuten’s first two runs. He tied it in the ninth with a three-run home run, his fifth, off Livan Moinelo before he walked with two outs and scored the winning run in the 11th.
The Hawks got off to a solid start against lefty Takahisa Hayakawa but managed just two runs in a first-inning that included a bases-loaded walk and a home run. Masaki Mimori homered to open the game, before two singles and two walks made it 2-0. A good throw from center fielder Ryosuke Tatsumi cut down Yuki Yanagita at the plate to help control the damage.
Kodai Senga started for the Hawks, struck out four, walked three, allowed three hits and two runs, both unearned, over five innings.
Buffaloes 3, Lions 2: At Osaka Dome, the Orix Buffaloes wore their nicknames on their uniforms, and Masataka Yoshida not only wore Bryce Harper‘s name on his back but channeled the MLB slugger with three hits and a pair of late home runs.
Buffaloes lefty Sachiya Yamasaki struck out three in the first after Brian O’Grady plated Sosuke Genda with a double, and Orix tied it in the home half on a Kodai Sano leadoff double, a Yuma Mune single and a misplay in the outfield. Yoshida broke the tie in the sixth with his fourth home run, off rookie lefty Chihiro Sumida.
Seibu’s Shoya Makino tied it off Cesar Vargas in the top of the seventh after his broken-bat triple and a sac fly. With the score tied 2-2 in the eighth and lefty Jesse Biddle getting the day off, right-hander Taisuke Kondo (1-0) retired pinch-hitter Takeya Nakamura, a six-time PL home run champ. Yoshida, who was intentionally walked in the ninth the night before, batted with one out and none on in the eighth and blasted one into the third deck in right.
The homer, and Yoshihisa Hirano‘s PL-leading ninth save, earned Kondo his first win since 2018. Kondo, Orix’s second-round pick after the Buffs selected Yoshida first in 2015, had Tommy John surgery in September 2019, was non-tendered last December – although unlike the Fighters, the Buffaloes didn’t make the politically incorrect mistake of calling it that – and signed to a developmental contract. He was re-signed to a standard NPB contract on April 25, and was pitching in his second game after striking out 12 batters in 7-2/3 Western League innings this spring.
“It was a hard two years, but day after day, I kept at it, giving my all with a goal in mind of returning to this mound in this ballpark and pitching in front of you fans,” he said in his postgame hero interview. “I felt your support propelling me forward like a tailwind. I’m so grateful to all of you.”
Marines 7, Fighters 3: At Chiba Marine Stadium, Ayumu Ishikawa (3-1) allowed three unearned runs on six hits over seven innings, while Koki Yamaguchi singled in a run in both the first and third innings and hit a two-run homer, his third of the season, as the Marines came from a run down in a three-run fifth against Naoyuki Uwasawa (0-4).
Eagles vs Hawks: Miyagi Stadium 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT
Marines vs Fighters: Chiba Marine Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Buffaloes vs Lions: Osaka Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT
Giants vs Tigers: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Swallows vs BayStars: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Dragons vs Carp: Nagoya Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Active roster moves 4/30/2022
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 5/10