NPB news: June 11, 2023

Sunday was Roki Day, and I’m sad if you missed it, because while the final results were less than perfect, his pitching was – until the fifth inning when a few things went awry – as good as I’ve ever seen from him, and I’ve seen virtually every inning he’s thrown as a professional pitcher.

As he did last Sunday, when he outpitched Sasaki at Koshien, Hanshin’s Hiroto Saiki dealt more disappointment to another PL club, while DeNA became one of the few teams to solve Hiroya Miyagi. In Fukuoka, Tomoyuki Sugano made his season debut for the Giants after being sidelined all spring with fitness issues.

Sunday’s games

Marines 5, Carp 4: At Chiba Marine Stadium, Roki Sasaki (5-1)’s principle Achilles heel has been the command of both his fastball and splitter, and for four innings on Sunday, it was as good as it’s ever been. He attacked the zone with both those two big pitches and decent hop on his fastball, which has been another sore spot for him since May 2022.

For four innings, the Carp could not make anything resembling good contact off him, and that continued into the fifth, when he gave up a scratch infield single on a little bouncer for a leadoff runner. He then got dinged by umpire Takahiro Tsuchiyama, who followed custom and declined to call 0-2 strikes on the corner to the next two hitters, one of whom, Kosuke Tanaka, took a tough high fastball for a well-earned walk.

Matt Davidson got the barrel on a slider Sasaki had been tormenting him with for the first solid contact in play by a Carp hitter. It was Sasaki’s 33rd pitch of the inning, and he began muscling up to get out of the inning and began throwing pitches with less movement. Ryutaro Hatsuki was able to foul off four two-strike pitches, including one at 165 kph (102.5 mph) matching the fastest pitch recorded in Japan by a domestic pitcher, a record he shared with Shohei Ohtani. Hatsuke then smashed a straight fastball between third and short for a two-run single.

Sasaki got a four-run lead in the third on Koki Yamaguchi’s grand slam. Sasaki allowed two runs on five hits while striking out 10 and walking one and throwing 109 pitches. It was a game that very early could have turned into an historic performance but didn’t but damn he was good, doing what he did in last year’s perfect game, throwing his splitter in the zone when he wanted to and locating his fastball.

Tigers 1, Fighters 0: At Kitahiroshima Taxpayers Burden Field, Hiroto Saiki (5-3) scattered two walks and four singles while striking out five over seven innings. Fighters starter Koki Kitayama (3-3) walked six over 4-2/3 innings but none of them contributed to the Tigers run, when Ukyo Maegawa tripled with one out in the second and scored.

After two games of seeing former Tiger Taiga Egoshi make hay at the expense of his former team, Ryo Watanabe, who was traded for Egoshi, singled in Hanshin’s only run of the day, and Saiki, Suguru Iwazaki and Atsuki Yuasa – who recorded his eighth save.

Giants 4, Hawks 2: At Fukuoka Dome, Yoshihiro Maru hit a pair of solo homers, his seventh and eighth, and Tomoyuki Sugano (1-0) allowed two runs on four hits, three walks and a hit batsman. He hit Isamu Nomura with one out in the fourth with no score in the game, Misaki Mimori singled, stole second and Akira Nakamura singled both of them home.

Maru led off the Giants’ fifth with a home run. Shinnosuke Shigenobu singled with one out, stole second, Hayato Sakamoto walked and Luis Okoye loaded them up with a pinch-hit single. Yuto Akihiro singled in one run to tie it, and Kazuma Okamoto put the Giants up for good with a sac fly. Maru made it 4-2 in the ninth with a home run off, SoftBank’s unrepentant domestic abuser closer.

Deniers 8, Buffaloes 4: At Kyocera Dome, Hiroya Miyagi (5-2) surrendered home runs to Masayuki Kuwahara, Shugo Maki and Toshiro Miyazaki as he got shelled for a career-worst eight runs over five innings.

“I wasn’t good enough,” he said. “I threw fat pitches and good hitters hit them.”

Yuma Tongu homered twice for the Buffaloes.

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