Interleague spring break is over, and we’re back.
In between the end of end of the IL and the return to league play we learned that the Yakult Swallows have rewarded third-year manager Shingo Takatsu with a two-year extension. If he completes it, he will be tied for the third-longest tenure among the franchise’s skippers with Mitsuo Uno (1956-1960). Tsutomu Wakamatsu managed for six seasons from 1999 to 2005, and Katsuya Nomura from 1990 to 1998.
We also learned that the Chunichi Dragons have had enough carping about making shortstop Akira Neo a two-way player, and have re-registered him as a pitcher. Recently on the Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast, I said former BlueWave and Swallows reliever Jun Hagiwara was the only recent convert to go from being a full-time position player to a full-time pitcher, but once I really began searching, I began coming across more and more.
The two who most recently preceded Hagiwara were also Orix BlueWave guys, Fumiaki Imamura, first baseman, third baseman 1999, pitcher from 2001, and Toshihiro Kase, outfielder first baseman, touted as a possible two-way player from 1996, eventually moved toward being more a pitcher from 2000.
The thing about Orix in the 1990s was that the BlueWave were managed by a guy who thrived on going against the grain. Akira Ogi told Hideo Nomo to pitch in the way that worked best for him when everyone else predicted his bizarre tornado delivery would never work. Ditto Ichiro Suzuki and his pendulum leg kick.
On Friday, we also had a mouthwatering pitchers’ duel between Kodai Senga and Masahiro Tanaka that died a bloody death in Fukuoka, while Cy Sneed had some kind of game for the Yakult Swallows.
Shall we get started?
Hawks 9, Eagles 4: At Fukukuoka Dome, this started well for Rakuten despite one of those off-balance Yuki Yanagita home runs that took him a second to realize wasn’t going to be a routine fly.
The Eagles took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the third before Taisei Makihara, a career. 267 slap-hitting middle infielder who has been smoking hot at the top of the order so far this season, and was placed between Cubans Alfredo Despaigne in the cleanup spot and Yurisbel Gracial in the six hole.
He drove a pitch out to right center for his fourth home run, a three-run shot before two from Gracial had Tanaka (4-6) surrendering four homers for the first time in Japan (he’d done it four times in MLB) while giving up a Japan-worst seven runs over five innings.
“I was sandwiched between the big bats of Despaigne and Gracial, so I was thinking I should bat like a Cuban, too. Still, even when I hit it well, I was still running for all I was worth because I wasn’t THAT sure.”— Taisei Makihara in Friday’s postgame hero interview.
Eigoro Mogi hit his first of the year for the Eagles, while Akira Nakamura completed the beating with his second, with one on in the seventh.
Kodai Senga (5-3) allowed four runs over six innings on eight hits and two walks while striking out seven.
Swallows 7, Carp 2: At Jingu Stadium, Cy Sneed (4-1) threw eight innings, went 2-for-3 and scored the go-ahead run in Yakult’s three-run third after he allowed his only run, unearned, in the top of the inning, and singled in an insurance run in the fourth.
Daichi Osera (5-4) walked with one out in the Carp’s third, and scored, but allowed back-to-back no-out singles in the home half. Yasutaka Shiomi doubled in the tying run, and Tetsuto Yamada doubled in two more with one out.
Jose Osuna singled in a run in the fifth, and doubled and scored in the eighth. Scott McGough pulled into a tie for the Japan saves lead with his 21st after Taichi Ishiyama allowed four straight batters to reach in the ninth.
The Swallows moved eight games ahead of second-place Yomiuri, while Hiroshima’s hold on third was trimmed to a game over the Hanshin Tigers.
Dragons 2, Giants 0: At Nagoya Dome, Yudai Ono (4-5) wearing his nickname “U-Dai” on his shirt, was on course for a 27-batter one-hit shutout until he misplayed a come-backer with two out in the eighth and had to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam.
The Dragons were held to six singles over seven innings by Tomoyuki Sugano before scoring in the eighth against Nobutaka Imamura (0-2) on Toshiki Abe’s two-out two-run single. Raidel Martinez then closed it out for his 16th save.
Sorry but the Dragons often don’t publish highlights from or stream their home games with the Giants, so tough luck fans.
Tigers 7, BayStars 5: At Koshien Stadium, Shota Imanaga’s follow up to his no-hitter was worth one of his clenched-teeth smiles as he allowed four first-inning runs and allowed six over six as his record fell to 3-1.
Yusuke Oyama walked and scored in the Tigers’ first before continuing the home run rampage he’d begun in interleague, blasting a pair of solo shots. His second, his 16th of the season, made it 6-4 after Kazuki Kamizato hit his first of the season in the top of the sixth with two on.
Koyo Aoyagi (8-1) allowed four runs, three earned, over six innings on three hits, two walks and two hit batsmen while striking out six.
The Tigers, who started the season with a Central League-worst nine straight losses, are now one game out of third place.
Marines 7, Fighters 4: At Sapporo Dome, Lotte overcame a 4-0 deficit, scoring twice in the eighth off of Naoya Ishikawa, and five, four earned, off rookie closer Koki Kitayama (3-4) as the Marines moved past the Orix Buffaloes into fourth place.
Takashi Ogino doubled in Lotte’s first run in the eighth before a Shogo Nakamura sac fly made it 4-2, with one out in the ninth, the tying run scored on a wild pitch before Nakamura doubled in three runs. Closer Naoya Masuda then locked it down for his 15th save as Lotte passed Orix to move into fourth place.
Arismendy Alcantara hit his 10th homer in the second for the Fighters.
The game was broadcast on NTV’s BS satellite channel, and instead of switching to a commercial break, BS NTV showed the Fighters’ popular “Kitsune Dance” performed by their cheerleaders to Ylvis’ “The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?) “
Lions 4, Buffaloes 2: At Seibu Dome, Kona Takahashi (5-6) allowed two runs over seven-plus innings and held Orix hitless for five, Shuta Tonosaki doubled in Brian O’Grady and Takumi Kurihara off Taisuke Yamaoka (4-3) in the fourth, Hotaka Yamakawa’s 21st home run made it 3-0 in the sixth before Kuriyama singled and scored after another Tonosaki double and a Shohei Hiranuma sac fly.
Jesse Biddle returned to action for the first time since allowing two runs in three straight games in May and struck out two in a scoreless seventh after the Buffaloes made it a 4-1 game on Yutaro Sugimoto’s seventh-inning homer, his sixth, and an eighth-inning Yuma Mune RBI single off Kaima Taira.
Tatsushi Masuda surrendered Joe McCarthy’s second hit, leading off the ninth inning, but then struck out three straight batters to wrap up his 16th save.
Fighters vs Marines: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Hiromi Ito (5-4, 3.13) vs Enny Romero (4-4, 2.29)
Lions vs Buffaloes: Seibu Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Katsunori Hirai (3-3, 1.69) vs Yoshinobu Yamamoto (6-3, 1.72)
Hawks vs Eagles: Fukuoka Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Tomohisa Ozeki (4-3, 2.47) vs Wataru Karashima (2-0, 0.54)
Swallows vs Carp: Jingu Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Andrew Suarez (0-0, 5.52) vs Masato Morishita (4-4, 3.28)
Dragons vs Giants: Nagoya Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Hiroto Takahashi (2-3, 3.40) vs Matt Andriese (0-0, 1.59)
Tigers vs BayStars: Koshien Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Masashi Ito (2-2, 2.81) vs Haruhiro Hamaguchi (2-1, 1.82)
Active roster moves 6/17/2022
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 6/27