NPB news: Aug. 1, 2023

Japan’s baseball week got off to a banging start with a matchup between two starting pitchers coming off shutouts, a two-time Sawamura Award winner against a rookie with one game under his belt, and a two-time Sawamura Award winner coming off a tough loss. Ready?

Tuesday’s games

Swallows 1, Giants 0: At Tokyo Ugly Dome, lefty Taichi Yamano (1-0), Yakult’s second-round signing from the 2020 draft, worked seven scoreless innings in his first major league game since his abbreviated 2021 debut, striking out two, walking one over seven scoreless innings. Tomoyuki Sugano was almost as good, allowing one run over eight innings on six hits and a walk. When Yamano was done, Noboru Shimizu and Kazuto Taguchi each retired three straight. Taguchi, who was traded from Yomiuri to Yakult for a year’s supply of resin bags in 2021, notched his CL-leading 25th save.

“He changed speeds and at times was able to work low in the zone and get a basketful of ground balls,” manager Shingo Takatsu said. “He far exceeded my expectations.”

The hero interview, too, exceeded Yamano’s expectations. He was probably only prepared to take the winning ball from his pocket when instructed and say “My parents” when asked who he would give it to.

Instead, he got questions about his game and what went right, and the poor guy was a deer in the headlights. The hardest part was when asked about his tough struggles.

A second-round pick in 2020, Yamano allowed seven runs in 1-1/3 innings in his major league debut, and pitched in just one Eastern League game that season. After pitching in just six games in 2021, he was released and re-signed to a non-roster developmental contract. This year, the 24-year has a 1.75 ERA in 51-1/3 innings but has walked 21 batters while striking out 19. He was re-signed to a standard contract in July.

“You had some tough days?” he was asked, and began to wipe tears from his face before saying. “There were stretches of days where I didn’t want to play baseball anymore.”

Deniers 5, Carp 3: At New Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, DeNA’s Yasuaki Yamasaki (2-6) took over a 1-1 tie in the sixth and surrendered the led on a Shogo Sakakura double and a  Shota Dobayashi single, but got the win after the visitors’ three-run seventh.

Allen Kuri left with one on and one out, and Ryoji Kuribayashi (2-7) lost the battle of former closers in middle relief by surrendering Taishi Kusumoto‘s game-tying pinch-hit single, and three more hits. DeNA’s Toshiro Miyazaki singled in the go-ahead run in the seventh and doubled in a ninth-inning insurance run.

Tigers 10, Dragons 2: At Nagoya Dome, which for years has been Hanshin’s chamber of horrors, became a fun house. Koji Chikamoto doubled in Seiya Kinami in the second and rookie Shota Morishita singled him home. Seiya Hosoka went 3-for-3 with a game-tying homer in the third, but that was it for Chunichi.

Hanshin’s Jyunya Nishi (4-2), who led the 2018 U-18 World Cup in home runs as Japan’s DH, allowed two runs over six innings, and capped a four-run sixth inning with a three-run double.

Dragons-Giants highlights

Lions 5, Hawks 0: At Seibu Half Dome, there was not third-straight shutout for Seibu’s Kona Takahashi (8-6), but he did run his scoreless-inning streak to 25 before leaving after 115 pitches.

Shuta Tonosaki doubled off Kohei Arihara () to open the second and scored on a Shinya Hasegawa single. David MacKinnon and Takumi Kurihara singled in the fourth and scored on a double by catcher Yuto Koga. Arihara, who threw a shutout to beat Yoshinobu Yamamoto a week earlier, allowed two singles in the seventh before issuing three straight walks.

Fighters 3, Marines 2: At Chiba Marine Stadium, Nippon Ham overcame a two-run deficit, starting with a run in the fourth on doubles by Kotaro Kiyomiya and Yuki James Nomura.

C.C. Mercedes allowed a run over six innings for Lotte, but closer Naoya Masuda (2-3) surrendered back-to-back home runs by Chusei Mannami, his 16th, and Ariel Martinez, his 13th. Bryan Rodriguez (1-3) stranded two runners in a scoreless eighth to earn the win.

Buffaloes 6, Eagles 2: At Osaka Flying Saucer Dome, Yoshinobu Yamamoto (10-4) was throwing naturals, seven hits and seven strikeouts over seven scoreless innings, and got the run support Kohei Arihara prevented him a week earlier. Doubles by Tatsuya Yamaashi and Kotaro Kurebayashi made it 1-0 in the third off Takahisa Hayakawa (5-6)

Yuma Tongu had an RBI single and hit his 12th homer for the Buffaloes, whose catcher, Kenya Wakatsuki, who has a strong argument to be named the PL’s batting MVP for July, hit his fourth.

Yuma Tongu’s 12th home run for Orix.

Taisuke Yamaoka came in to put the 6-0 game to rest in the ninth but was yanked after walking in a run with two outs. Soichiro Yamazaki earned his fifth save.

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