NPB news: June 26, 2024

On Wednesday in Japan, the Hiroshima Carp deactivated their most productive hitter this season, the Chunichi Dragons did the same with one of their big guns, while Orix named lefty Hiroya Miyagi to make his first start since April 30 against the Hawks on Thursday.

On the field, Gregory Polanco brought the big power, and opened the door for closer Naoya Masuda to give us the quote of the day and his sudden urge to have a chat with his former pitching coach, whose team saves record he surpassed. We also had what football announcers would call a pulsating draw, between the Hanshin Tigers and Chunichi Dragons.

Wednesday’s games:

Marines 4, Eagles 1: At Chiba Marine Stadium, Takayuki Kishi (2-7) returned to duty in his first start since June 9 and Polanco welcomed him back with two-run homers in the first and third innings. Maikel Franco got Rakuten on the board when he led off the fifth with a double and scored on Yuya Ogo’s sacrifice fly.

Shunsuke Nakamori (1-0) started for Lotte and allowed one run over 5-2/3 innings on five hits but no walks. Kishi went seven innings. He allowed eight hits but no walks. Lotte right-hander Masuda set a franchise saves record with the 228th of his career, surpassing the mark of his former pitching coach, Masahide Kobayashi. The two are now tied at 228, because Kobayashi’s final save came with the Yomiuri Giants.

“When he was coaching, he used to say, ‘Until you tie my record, I don’t want to hear you complaining about anything you little shit.’ So now, I think I need to give him a call.”

Carp 5, Swallows 1: At New Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, Allen Kuri (4-4) allowed an unearned run on five hits and a walk over seven innings to protect a first-inning lead.Three no-out singles from Shogo Akiyama, Takayoshi Noma and Takashi Uemoto were followed by a Kaito Kozono sac fly as the Carp took a 2-0 lead against Yasuhiro Ogawa (2-3).

A day after he dropped a popup that ended up costing the Swallows three runs, Hideki Nagaoka singled in Haruki Nishikawa, who had reached on an error.

Shogo Sakakura‘s solo homer made it 3-1 in in the fourth. Nishikawa returned the error favor in the fifth, when his misplay of Akiyama’s one-out single put a runner on second for Uemoto to double home with two outs. A throwing error on a routine grounder to second allowed Uemoto to score, and ushered Yakult’s bullpen into the game.

Yakult second baseman Tetsuto Yamada had to be helped off the field for treatment after fouling a pitch off his left knee but returned to the game.

Hawks 5, Buffaloes 1: At Osaka UFO Dome, Ryoya Kurhihara hit a two-run first-inning homer, his sixth, and Ryo Ota halved the score by homering in the bottom of the first off Kohei Azuma (3-4). Tomoya Masaki singled after a Kensuke Kondo leadoff walk and a Tatsuru Yanagimachi single to make it 3-1 Hawks in the sixth before Kurihara and Kondo each drove in a run in the seventh as SoftBank ran its latest unbeaten streak to five games (four wins and one tie.)

Tomohisa Ozeki (5-0) worked eight innings to get the win for the Hawks.

Tigers 1, Dragons 1, 12 innings: At Koshien Stadium, there was a cracker of a game. Hanshin starter Kotaro Otake pitched out of a one-out bases-loaded first-inning jam, and then more or less cruised. Former Tiger Yutaro Itayama continued his revenge series against his former club, throwing out Yusuke Oyama as he tried to score from second on a two-out second-inning single to right.

The Tigers took a fourth-inning lead on a two-out Ukyo Maegawa single and a Teruaki Sato triple off Hideaki Wakui. Seiya Hosokawa tied it with a sixth-inning homer. The Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the ninth against reliever Shinya Matsuyama, but the 24-year-old got out of the jam to force extra innings.

The Dragons loaded the bases with one out in the ninth against reliever Taisei Ishihara, who got Orlando Calixte to hit into a twin killing, and the Tigers celebrated. Raidel Martinez avoided any drama in the home half with a seven-pitch 1-2-3 and the Dragons celebrated. So go ties in Japan.

Lions 2, Fighters 2, 12 innings: At Omiya Stadium, both teams were starved for chances, and Seibu blew its best one, when one of my favorite young Lions, 22-year-old Shinya Hasegawa overran third base on a two-out 10th-inning single and was thrown out by Shun Mizutani in left.

The Fighters needed another big play in the 12th to preserve the tie when new Lion Seiya Matsubara hit a routine deep fly to left with two outs and runners on first and second. In a rational world, left fielder Ryota Isobata would simply drift back and catch it, but the Fighters were employing Japan’s popular suicide outfield shallow defense to prevent the runner from second from scoring on a ground single.

Isobata had to hightail it back and make a diving over-the-shoulder catch just before the warning track to end the game.

A Chusei Mannami leadoff double and a Daiki Asama single set the table for a Mizutani RBI single and a Yua Tamiya sac fly as the Fighters opened the game with two quick runs off rookie lefty Natsuki Takeuchi. The Lions, however, tied it without the help of a hit against Ren Fukushima, who issued back-to-back no-out walks. A run-scoring error and an RBI groundout tied it.

Takeuchi, came into the game bidding to start his career 5-0 in his first pro season, something that hadn’t been done since 2015 by Giants right-hander Hayato Takagi. He was knocked over in the fifth inning when he was hit by a piece of a broken bat on an inning-ending ground out, but returned to pitch the sixth.

Carp home run leader Suekane dropped

Shota Suekane, who is slashing .285/.338/.472 and leads the CL’s first-place Hiroshima Carp with six home runs en route to his first season as an everyday player, was deactivated Wednesday with a tight left hamstring. The 27-year-old first baseman-corner outfielder was replaced on the active roster by Kento Nakamura, who has a .375 on-base-percentage this year in the pitcher-friendly Western League.

In Saturday’s game against Chunichi, Suekane left after feeling discomfort following a sliding catch in left field. Before Tuesday’s game against Yakult, Suekane was seen walking and jogging with a trainer and took BP, but the affected area failed to respond. He was deactivated after being examined in a Hiroshima hospital.

“We can’t push this too far,” Carp skipper Takahiro Arai said. “Most of the season is still ahead of us, so I want him to come back fit.

Dragons drop Nakata

Chunichi Dragons first baseman Sho Nakata, who has slumped since returning from an injury suffered when he fouled a ball off his left foot on May 15, was deactivated Wednesday. He is currently slashing .218/.255/.290. He was replaced on the active roster by third baseman Takaya Ishikawa, who has played in 25 major league games this season. He’s slashing .277/.413/.369 on the farm but had been sent back down in early June after a 1-for-14 stretch over five games in interleague.

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