NPB news: June 18, 2023

Carter Stewart Jr. made his season debut, matchup with one of the hottest pitchers in Japan right now. Roki Sasaki took his stuff to Yokohama with a chance to derail DeNA’s hopes of winning the top prize in interleague that isn’t called a championship, while a couple of former Waseda University lefties took their mutual admiration society public.

I want to apologize for posting the incorrect runs scored and allowed total from interleague yesterday. As of Sunday’s games with three left to play, the PL leads 53-50, which is normal. What is unusual is that the two leagues have scored and allowed the same number of runs.

Interleague concludes with Nippon Ham at DeNA Monday, Rakuten at Yakult Tuesday, and Chunichi at Rakuten on Wednesday. If DeNA loses, four teams will finish with 11-7 records and a tiebreak will be used to determine–and I’m not making this up–which of the teams’ .611 winning percentages is the highest winning percentage.

Sunday’s games

Deniers 6, Marines 1: At Yokohama Stadium, I saw Roki Sasaki pitch live for the second time Sunday, and his ERA in those two games is now 6.51. Don’t tell him that or in a few years when we are able to just walk up and talk to him as if he were a normal player, he might not want to talk to me.

DeNA’s Kenta Ishida walked two of the first three batters he faced but surrendered his only run in five innings on Shogo Nakamura’s fourth-inning leadoff homer. Sasaki had better command than usual, but his fastball was straight, and DeNA hitters exploited that to foul him off mercilessly, time him and then hit him well.

Shugo Maki doubled off his WBC teammate in the second and singled in Taiki Sekine in the fourth.

As @JCoskrey wrote: Shugo Maki performs the traditional dance of “I went 3-for-3 with a double, a triple and two RBIs against Roki Sasaki” in the DeNA clubhouse.

After a trip to the mound by pitching coach Tomohiro “Johnny” Kuroki, Sasaki got Maki to hit a fly to the gap on the next pitch. With the outfield in, the ball went from having a slight chance of being caught for the third out to none. Maki wound up on third, and Toshiro Miyazaki lined a straight fastball over the wall at the right-field foul pole for an opposite-field home run.

Maki also doubled to finish the day 4-for-4.

DeNA-Marines highlights

Hawks 9, Tigers 0: At Koshien Stadium, Carter Stewart Jr. did well in a pitchers’ duel w­ith Hiroto Saiki. Both ran their pitch count up early with Saiki leaving after five scoreless innings, and Stewart after allowing a one-out single and a walk. After 108 pitches, he was pulled with Johan Mieses coming to bat after singling and being intentionally walked his first two times up.

Stewart had good life on his fastball and huge drop on that big curve of his as he struck out eight and walked two.

Mieses hit into a double play on the first pitch from rookie Ryosuke Otsu (1-0) to end the sixth. Former Hawk Ren Kajiya (0-1) gave up a leadoff double to Takuya Kai, issued a one-out walk and an RBI double to Taisei Makihara to put the first run on the board. Kensuke Kondo lined a double off the next pitcher, a two-out hit batsman and back-to-back RBI singles by Isami Nomura and Kenta Imamiya made it 5-0.

Instead of the Hawks’ real hero, Stewart, Otsu was required to do the postgame on-field interview because his first win demanded, by tradition, that he be asked who he was going to give the winning ball to, with the required answer “My parents” modified Sunday due to Fathers Day.

  • You’re going to give your dad a big present aren’t you?
  • “I play baseball because of my dad. He taught me how to play all along, and I think this (winning ball) will make him happy.”

He was the eighth player to earn his first win in Japan on one pitch.

Tigers-Hawks highlights

Lions 11, Carp 4: At New Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, Hiroshima gave Seibu a head start on a ninth-straight loss. Kaima Taira (5-2) retired the first two hitters before a walk, a double and three straight balls came to Sosuke Genda by way of the Twilight Zone. A tough play and a throwing error on the five-time Golden Glove winner was followed by a pop fly he lost in the sun, and another tough grounder and a second throwing error gave the Carp a 3-0 lead.

Taira, however, was untouchable through the remainder of his seven innings and picked up the win.

David MacKinnon singled in the fourth and scored on Shinya Hasegawa’s fourth homer to make it 3-2. Rookie Kento Watanabe capped a three-run fifth inning with a two-run homer, his second. Shuta Tonosaki hit his ninth homer for the Lions and Junichiro Kishi his first.

Carp-Lions highlights

Eagles 2, Giants 1: At Tokyo Dome, Tomoyuki Sugano (1-1) in his second start of the season, got a 1-0 lead on first-inning doubles by Hayato Sakamoto and Kazuma Okamoto, took a shot off his foot in the third inning that resulted in Rakuten’s first hit.

The Eagles took the lead in the sixth, when a runner reached on a one-out error when four-time Golden Glove winner Sho Nakata swiped at a chopper to first and missed. Sugano hung a curve to Ryosuke Tatsumi, who put it in the seats for his fifth home run.

The Pro Yakyu News crew followed the predictable script and blamed the Giants’ loss on Sugano’s inability to sacrifice in the fifth after the first two runners reached base against Takayuki Kishi (2-2), who allowed a run over five innings.

Yuki Matsui saved a one-run lead for the second straight day, recording his 14th of the season.

Fighters 4, Dragons 0: At Nagoya Dome, Koki Kitayama (4-3) kept the Dragons from putting the barrel on the ball, allowing one hit while striking out seven and walking two over 6-2/3 innings. Kotaro Kiyomiya and Gosuke Kato walked in the first and scored on RBI singles by Chusei Mannami and former Dragon Ariel Martinez. Go Matsumoto singled in a run in the Fighters’ two-run seventh.

Dragons-Fighters highlights

Buffaloes 8, Swallows 5: At Jingu Stadium, the Swallows, having lost five straight, got the quality start they needed, six scoreless innings from Reiji Kozawa, who struck out five and walked none. Unfortunately, Hiroya Miyagi (6-2) stranded eight runners over six innings and earned the win after three Swallows relievers combined to allow six seven-inning runs.

Yuma Tongu hit the first pitch from Tomoya Hoshi (1-2) for his seventh home run, and Marwin Gonzalez capped the rally with his ninth homer, a grand slam.

Swallows-Buffaloes highlights

Wada, Otake go public

On Sunday with SoftBank playing the last game of a three-game set at Koshien, Hanshin lefty Kotaro Otake posted a photo on Instagram of he and his former teammate, Hawks lefty Tsuyoshi Wada shaking hands with the message, “Thanks for always giving me talking things over with me when I was in trouble. Getting my photo with him at Koshien made me so happy.”

In January 2022, when Otake joined Wada, also a Waseda alum, in offseason training, Otake posted “The first pro baseball game I saw was Wada starting for the Hawks,” and “Wada is my life role model.”

Both lefties are off to solid starts this season, with Otake going 6-1 after joining Hanshin through December’s active player draft.

After their Koshien reunion, Wada posted “I had my pitcher taken at Koshien with a super pitcher.”

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