NPB news: July 4, 2023

Japan was no country for old pitchers Tuesday, when home runs were flying. And after one epic butt-kicking pitcher who managed a rare and unfortunate feet under his former skipper, repeated it with his new one, Gregory Polanco managed a true walk-off in a game when it became clear the Seibu Lions have not been doing their homework.

Also, Leandro “Leo” Cedeno, hit his first homer in Japan, and it was a pip.

Tuesday’s games

Buffaloes 9, Eagles 7: At Tokyo Dome, a week after he won a duel with 42-year-old Tsuyoshi Wada at the same venue, 34-year-old Masahiro Tanaka got a caning at the hands of Yuma Tongu, who hit a first-inning grand slam and a fourth-inning two-run shot for his 10th homer of the season. Leandro Cedeno, who drew a bases-loaded walk in the first, got what they’ll call a “memorial arch,” his first Japan home run off Tanaka in the second. Tanaka (4-5) allowed nine runs on 11 hits and two walks over four innings.

Yuma Tongu’s second home run of the game.

The nine runs were the most Tanaka has allowed in a Japan game, after allowing seven runs in four-plus innings against the Buffaloes on May 23.

“I’ll do what I have to do while figuring out the cause of that,” Tanaka said.

Hideto Asamura made the scoreline look a bit better with a third-inning RBI single and a fourth-inning grand slam.

Hideto Asamura’s grand slam.

Fighters 10, Hawks 3: At Fukuoka Dome, Wada (5-4) was left the mound accompanied by the trainer in the fourth inning as he allowed a season-high five runs. While Hiromi Ito (5-4) pitched out of both of his early jams, Yuki James Nomura opened the scoring with a three-run first-inning homer, new Fighter Yuya Gunji hit his first career homer to lead off the second, and drew a bases-loaded walk in the third.

Chusei Mannami hit his PL-leading 15th homer in the fifth and another first-year Fighters, Torai Fushimi, went deep to lead off the two-run sixth. Ryoya Kurihara got two runs back in the bottom of the sixth with his ninth home run, but Fushimi doubled in two in the top of the seventh.

Chusei Mannami’s 15th home run.

Marines 1, Lions 0, 11 innings: At Chiba Marine Stadium, Lotte managed just two hits in 11 innings, with Kyota Fujiwara’s making the difference leading off the 11th against Jesus Tinoco (0-3). A sacrifice, a walk and two walks loaded the bases for Gregory Polanco, who walked in the walk-off run on six pitches.

Seibu’s Tatsuya Imai allowed four base runners over eight innings to no avail, thanks seven innings from Lotte’s Yuji Nishino, who struck out six batters over seven. Reliever Takahiro Nishimura (1-0), who joined Lotte from Nippon Ham in a March trade, stranded two runners in the top of the 11th to earn his first win in four years.

That all came about because Seibu was napping when its advanced scouts — called “scorers” in Japan — reported how good Lotte has been at sniffing out squeeze bunts recently. With Tsuyoshi Shinjo acting the part of the gaudily attired magician’s assistant on June 25, Tatsuhiko Tamura twice called pitch outs on squeezes and made two Fighters runners disappear.

Tamura did it again in the seventh inning, allowing, the Marines to keep the game tied. You’ve got to love the look on the Lions’ coaching staff’s faces.

Tatsuhiko Tamura makes another runner disappear from third base.

Of course, it wasn’t just that. Credit both teams with some outstanding defense, such as this catch by Kyota Fujiwara for Lotte.

Carp 9, Tigers 1: At New Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, Yuki Nishi (5-5), who was once on the end of a rare public scolding from former manager Akihiro Yano, managed that feat with his new Hanshin manager, Akinobu Okada after surrendering six runs in three innings.

“I’m deactivating him,” Okada said after the game. “It would be ridiculous to have him pitch again.”

Shogo Akiyama turned back the clock in center field with a good play that kept two runs off the board, and Kosuke Tanaka capped a five-run Carp first with a three-run homer, and just to show that Nishi wasn’t the Tigers’ only problem, Ryoma Nishikawa—who singled in two in the first—hit a three-run jack in the seventh off Ren Kajiya.

Kosuke Tanaka’s three-run first-inning homer.

Hiroki Tokoda (7-1) kept Hanshin off the board until Sheldon Neuse led off the seventh with a home run. The win pulled third-place Hiroshima to within 2-1/2 games of the first-place Tigers.

Swallows 4, Deniers 3: At Yokohama Stadium, Yakult’s ace pinch-hitter broke a 3-3 ninth-inning tie off DeNA closer Yasuaki Yamasaki (0-5) with a two-out double that allowed Hideki Nagaoka to race from first for his second run of the game.

The Swallows’ real hero was Yasuhiro Ogawa, who threw a season-high seven innings in sapping high heat and humidity. He pitched out of a bases-loaded jam after Domingo Santana just missed a catch in right that set up DeNA’s tying run to score on a double play.

That’s how this game rolled, with big outs and weird runs. Yakult opened the scoring in the first on a fluke slow roller past short by Munetaka Murakami for an RBI single. Jose Osuna doubled in the Swallows second and scored on a perfect squeeze by Yuhei Nakamura. Another missed catch in right by Santana in right put two on with no outs in DeNA’s third. A grounder scored the tying run, while the go-ahead run scored on a double play.

Yakult tied it in the fifth on Kotaro Yamasaki’s two-out RBI single. When Shinichi Onuki’s third walk of the game loaded the bases for Murakami, DeNA skipper Daisuke Miura went to the pen for Edwin Escobar, and the lefty got Murakami to fly out just shy of the warning track. DeNA got three solid innings of relief to keep the game tied till the ninth.

Noboru Shimizu (1-2) worked a 1-2-3 eighth for Yakult and Kazuto Taguchi worked around a leadoff single to seal Yakult’s third straight win with his 17th save.

DeNA-Swallows highlights

Giants 5, Dragons 1: At Nagoya Dome, Yomiuri’s Iori Yamasaki (5-2) was getting tremendous drop on his splitter, struck out six over seven innings, singled on a fat pitch to lead off the Giants’ third against Shinnosuke Ogasawara (2-6) who hung a first-pitch curve to Yoshihiro Maru, that he hit for his 10th home run. Ogasawara was still on the mound in the eighth in a 2-1 game, when he gave up Takumi Oshiro’s three-run homer.

Dragons-Giants highlights

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