NPB news: July 31, 2022

Pride was the big word in Sunday’s headlines, when Munetaka Murakami went off, the Chunichi Dragons did something for the first time in 10 years.

Also, an analyst shocked an announcer by extolling the virtues of high fastballs in a media environment where virtually every bad pitch is customarily declared to be high, and that pitchers who fail to work low in the zone can’t succeed.

Shall we get to it?

Sunday’s games

Swallows 4, Tigers 2, 11 innings: At Koshien Stadium, Yakult was heading toward its third straight loss after Joe Gunkel pounded the zone and held the league leaders scoreless for six innings and left with a 2-0 lead. Munetaka Murakami, however, belted three home runs.

The CL home run leader became the first visitor to do so since Koshien’s home run-distance-shortening inner fences were removed 30 years earlier, and the only one to do it since a uniform deader ball was introduced in 2011. Murakami hit his 35th in the seventh with an opposite-field shot, tied it against closer Suguru Iwazaki in the ninth by pulling it into the wind off Osaka Bay, and went the other way again with a runner on in the 11th.

Kazuto Taguchi (1-1) was electric in the 10th to earn the win before Scot McGough nailed his 26th save in the 11th, leaving him one shy of his Japanese career high 27 from 2020.

The Daily Sports ran a headline saying “Yakult’s Murakami hits 3 HRs in a game for the 1st time, snaps Yakult’s losing streak through his pride as the No. 4 hitter.”

Speaking of pride, in the morning, there was another headline asked: “Will pitcher: Yuki Nishi would be able to continue to show the pride in the second half that he’s recently displayed.”

File this as more of the dumb shit that gets said about sports in Japan: the implication that pride can overcome talent, ability, skill and luck. This is the same kind of nonsense that led the Imperial Japanese Army to spout that the fighting spirit of the individual Japanese soldier made things like supply, logistics, fire power and tactics more or less secondary, and is kind of a legacy of Japanese baseball’s weird history.

Dragons 6, Carp 5: At Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, Dayan Viciedo broke a 1-1 fifth-inning tie with an RBI single by plating Yohei Oshima, singled and scored the tying run in the seventh, and brought Chunichi from a run down with a two-run eighth-inning single.

Ryosuki Kikuchi homered and drove in two runs for the Carp, while Shogo Akiyama drove in three runs, including one in the ninth when the hosts threatened to come from behind against closer Raidel Martinez, who hung on for his 23rd save.

The three-game sweep in Hiroshima was the Dragons’ first in 10 years.

Hawks 4, Lions 2: At Fukuoka Dome, 41-year-old Tsuyoshi Wada was effective for five innings to improve to 3-2 although he allowed a soft run in the first because two flares to left that went for a double and a single. Three of his six strikeouts, however, got him out of innings with men on.

Four straight second-inning singles tied it for the Hawks, and 24-year-old Kenta Kurose, still wearing his three-digit developmental roster shirt, broke the tie in his first career start with his his first career RBI on a sac fly.

Yurisbel Gracial, who singled in the second, homered in the fourth off Dietrich Enns (6-6).  Tatsuru Yanagimachi, whose RBI single opened the scoring, walked, as did Kurose, to set up a Takuya Kai RBI double.

Brian O’Grady hit his 14th homer for the Lions, but otherwise SoftBank’s bullpen was outstanding.

In particular, Koya Fujii threw 16 consecutive fastballs as he overpowered the middle of Seibu’s order in a 1-2-3 eighth. His fastball had great spin on it and the Lions hitters could just not square it up, leading to three straight easy flies and this exchange between former Hawks triple crown winner Nobuhiko Matsunaka and the announcer.

Matsunaka: “You throw that elevated fastball with hop on it, and most guys have a hard time laying off it, even though it’s extremely hard to make contact on, unlike low fastballs.”

Announcer (in shock): “Really? (sounding like he wanted to ask if it was ok to say that on TV)”

Matsunaka: “Yes. A tremendously effective pitch. Even if they’re looking fastball, they’re getting under it.”

Announcer: “Wow.”

Eagles 10, Fighters 5: At Miyagi Stadium, Rakuten exploded for nine late runs, six in the seventh inning, including three off veteran lefty reliever Naoki Miyanishi (0-3) as the Fighters blew a four-run lead. Kotaro Kiyomiya tripled in two runs and scored the Fighters third in the third inning, and singled to lead off the two-run sixth.

But the final three Eagles relievers, Ryota Ishibashi (2-0), Alan Busenitz and Sung Chia-hao retired nine of the 10 batters they faced, allowing the offense to bring the hosts from behind.

Buffaloes 5, Marines 2: At Chiba Marine Stadium, Daiki Tajima surrendered Takashi Ogino’s second first-inning leadoff homer in three days, and fell behind 2-0 in the second on doubles by Adeiny Hechavarria and Hiromi Oka but finished eight innings to improve to 7-3.

Keita Nakagawa doubled in Tatsuya Yamaashi in the Buffaloes’ three-run third off Kota Futaki (2-3). Shuhei Fukuda scored on a groundout, and Nakagawa came home on an error. Thirty-nine-year-old Tomoki Higa worked the ninth to record his first save in three years.

Active roster moves 7/31/2022

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/10

Central League


SwallowsP16Juri Hara
DragonsP38Takahiro Matsuba


SwallowsP70Reiji Kozawa

Pacific League


BuffaloesP96Yuki Udagawa
MarinesIF44Seiya Inoue
EaglesP46Shoma Fujihira
HawksP49Ryo Akiyoshi
FightersP59Haruka Nemoto


BuffaloesP54Yuta Kuroki
MarinesP14Kazuya Ojima
HawksP38Yuito Mori

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