NPB news: Aug. 2, 2022

Munetaka Murakami’s home run rampage came to an end on Tuesday, but not before he set a record, and moved within four of tying Kazuhiro Kiyohara for the most home runs by a 22-year-old, while the Yomiuri Giants came back from quarantine after 12 days off and six canceled games.

The Lotte Marines made Tuesday Roki Eve, by announcing Roki Sasaki as their starting pitcher for Wednesday’s game against the Rakuten Eagles. It will be his first real game since July 1, when he struck out 10 over four innings but left after breaking a blister on his pitching hand. He threw some fast but straight fastballs in All-Star Game 2, last Wednesday, but all-star games aren’t real games.

It will be Sasaki’s second straight start against Rakuten, but instead of facing Masahiro Tanaka again, the game will be contrast of opposites, against the softest tossing Eagles starter, Wataru Karashima who rarely strikes out anyone.

Tuesday’s games

Swallows 5, Dragons 0: At Jingu Stadium, Tetsuto Yamada and Murakami went deep back-to-back in the first inning. Murakami, who finished Sunday’s game by homering in his final three at-bats, said he dreamed of hitting a home run and figured he might make it four straight.

“If I got a fat one, I wanted to put a good swing on it,” Murakami said. “I got one and I did.”

In the third, Murakami hit one out on a full count from Yuya Yanagi (6-8) for his 39th of the season, this time to left center.

“I thought it would be cool if I hit five in a row, so I went up looking for a home run,” he said, in a violation of Japan’s code that requires home run hitters to deny they tried to hit home runs.

He said he wanted one more in the sixth, when he doubled, but found a way to rescue his hero interview reputation.

“When I fell behind in the count, I thought, ‘OK, I’d better just try and get a hit and reach base,’” he said with a kind of ironic smile.

Keiji Takahashi (7-2) struck out seven over seven innings for the Swallows.

Tigers 6, Giants 3: At Tokyo Dome, a day after announcing its team would somehow scrape together a lineup and four days after saying the team only had three healthy infielders, the Giants fielded a starting lineup of nine veterans and still managed to have five infielders on the bench.

Koyo Aoyagi (12-1) allowed three runs, one earned, over six innings. He became the first Tigers pitcher since Kei Igawa in 2003 to win nine straight decisions.

Yusuke Oyama homered in the second off C.C. Mercedes (5-4). Takumu Nakano tripled and scored in the third, but the Giants came from behind on a botched play in the fourth. Yoshihiro Maru singled in one run, before a one-out delayed double steal on a called third strike scored two runs on two errors.

Teruaki Sato, who played a key role in the defensive meltdown, singled in the tying run in the sixth, a Fumiya Hojo sac fly put Hanshin in front in the seventh, and Ryutaro Umeno iced it with a two-run single in the ninth, as three relievers retired nine straight to end it.

Giants-Tigers highlights

BayStars 2, Carp 5: At Yokohama Stadium, Shota Imanaga (5-3) allowed two runs in six innings and doubled in the tying run in the second inning. Masato Morishita (8-6) got the first two outs in the third before five straight hits put DeNA ahead 4-1.

Shogo Akiyama singled in a run for the Carp in the fifth but the DeNA bullpen gave the little opportunity to make up the difference.

Lions 4, Buffaloes 2: At Seibu Dome, Seibu scored three runs off Keisuke Honda (1-3) in the eighth. Sosuke Genda singled in the tying run with one out. A fielder’s choice and an intentional walk loaded the bases and Honda walked Takumi Kuriyama to force in the go-ahead run.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto stranded eight runners over the first four innings and left after allowing a run over six innings. Yuma Mune hit a two-run fourth-inning homer off Kona Takahashi. Genda tripled in a run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Fighters 6, Hawks 5: At Asahikawa, Ryusei Sato homered to break a 2-2 tie leading off the third against Shuta Ishikawa (3-6), who allowed another run after two walks and a Chusei Mannami double loaded the bases.

Takuya Kori’s two-run homer in the sixth made it 6-3.

Kensuke Kondo opened the scoring with a two-run first-inning homer, but Yuki Yanagita and Yurisbel Gracial tied it with solo homers off Hiromi Ito (9-7), who went six-plus, allowing four runs, two earned.

Marines 6, Eagles 4: At Miyagi Stadium, Shogo Nakamura hit a two-run first-inning homer off Takahiro Norimoto (6-6), who then loaded the bases and forced in a run with his third walk of the inning. Brandon Laird singled in a run in the second.

Daichi Suzuki made it 4-1 against his old team in the fourth, with an RBI single off Enny Romero (8-5).

Toshiya Sato, who singled in the first, singled to open the fifth, and Hisanori Yasuda doubled to set up a pair of sac flies.

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