NPB news: Feb. 26, 2023

Samurai Japan wrapped up its stay in Miyazaki Sunday with its second pre-WBC exhibition, beating the SoftBank Hawks 4-2, in which five of the game’s runs were unearned.

Both teams’ hitters seemed fairly unhappy with umpire Yuta Suyama’s strike zone, with Tetsuto Yamada twice looking at a third strike with runners on base.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto started for Japan, and was fairly solid, his command was not up to its usual standards and he missed a fair number of pitches, leading to the two SoftBank runs on second-inning doubles by Tomoya Masaki and Freddy Galvis and a Munetaka Murakami throwing error.

Kensuke Kondo continued to hit the ball like crazy, although it is hard to see him getting much playing time unless the stiff obliques that scratched Seiya Suzuki’s preseason start on Saturday prove to be a bigger problem.

Manager Hideki Kuriyama selected a balanced team, and with the big bats not producing much, Japan’s speedsters, Takumu Nakano, Ukyo Shuto and Sosuke Genda held the Hawks’ feet to the fire and pressured them into making errors.

Sunday was a day for the guys who close for their clubs to pitch, with Yuki Matsui, Taisei Ota and Ryoji Kuribayashi all getting in an inning. Matsui had precious little command with the MLB ball, and Kuribayashi’s was iffy, but Ota, who had toyed with new mechanics in spring training with Giants, went back to his old ways and was devastating.

Japan now packs up and moves to Nagoya for games against the Dragons on Friday and Saturday.

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