Yuki Matsui reached a milestone, a missed catch and a wild pitch dooms the Fighters, the Hawks and Swallows continued to be Week 1 juggernauts, and for the first time this season the DeNA BayStars won, while the Hanshin Tigers didn’t , because they were rained out in Hiroshima.
Eagles 1, Lions 0: At Miyagi Stadium, Matsui surrendered a leadoff double in the ninth, and walked the next batter before the Lions sacrificed both runners into scoring position, putting Matsui’s 200th career save in jeopardy.
With the fat in the fire, Matsui struck out one batter, but fell behind six-time PL home run leader Takeya Nakamura, who flied out to the warning track for the final out.
“I came out to the mound pretty tight, so I’m really glad we won,” said Matsui, who became the ninth pitcher to reach the milestone, and the youngest, at 27 years, five months.
He said he didn’t pay much mind to being the youngest to 200, but was thankful of getting the opportunity to pitch so much at a young age. After a disappointing rookie season as a starter, Matsui saved 33 games in 2015 as a 19-year old.
“Because I was allowed to pitch so much when I was young, I gradually came to understand what kind of mind set I needed to approach being successful,” he said.
The Eagles scored the only run they would need in the first off Chihiro Sumida (0-1). Ryosuke Tatsumi singled to open the inning and came around to score on a bases-loaded groundout. Takahisa Hayakawa (1-0) struck out five over six innings to pick up the win after Sung Chiah-hao and Naoto Nishiguchi set up Matsui, and the closer survived his scrape.
Marines 2, Fighters 1: At Chiba Marine Stadium, five scoreless innings from Hiromi Ito and another blank frame from Bryan Rodriguez allowed Nippon Ham to take a 1-0 seventh-inning lead.
After being held in check by new Marines C.C. Mercedes for six innings, Go Matsumoto, who had three hits, doubled and scored on Ariel Martinez‘s sacrifice fly. Conner Menez (0-1) issued a leadoff walk and just missed catching a shot through the box that put two on with one out.
Taisho Tamai walked the first batter he faced to load the bases. With two outs, his first pitch to Shogo Nakamura missed so badly that Kyota Fujiwara, the runner on second, was able to race around and score the go-ahead run.
Marines closer Naoya Masuda earned the save but not without a scare. With two on and two outs, Martinez drove a pitch to the track in right that was caught for the final out.
Swallows 5, Dragons 0: At Nagoya Dome, Yakult exploited five walks to. score three runs over five innings against Yuya Yanagi (0-1), while the Swallows’ defense mopped up any threats that emerged. Yakult has won five straight for the first time in franchise history with four shutouts.
Keiji Takahashi (1-0) struck out four, walked two and surrendered four hits. He had a little trouble, but a diving catch from right fielder Soma Uchiyama and a good throw from Norichika Aoki to nail Yanagi at the plate – you might want to read that last clause again – kept the Dragons offense from achieving escape velocity.
Hawks 5, Buffaloes 0: At Osaka Dome, one of Japanese baseball’s elder statesmen, 42-year-old Tsuyoshi Wada (1-0) pitched out of jams to work five innings, and WBC champion Kensuke Kondo walked, singled and doubled and drove in three runs as the Hawks made an aviary out of the dome’s base paths.
Kensuke Kondo’s two-run double.
Wada became the oldest player in the Hawks’ long franchise history to earn a pitching win.
BayStars 2, Giants 0: At Yokohama Stadium, Toshiro Miyazaki continued to be the BayStars’ only big bat in the early going, with an RBI single and a solo homer off import debutant Yohander Mendez (0-1), and for the first time this season, DeNA’s pitching and defense kept an opponent quiet.
Kentaro Taira (1-0), who had Tommy John surgery in 2021 earned his first win since October 2020. He struck out seven over six innings, Taisei Irie pitched out of a two-on, no-out seventh-inning predicament, Hiromu Ise worked a 1-2-3 eighth and Yasuaki Yamasaki did the same in the ninth for the save in DeNA’s first win.