NPB news: June 28, 2022

It’s Tuesday and Japan, and though we had a game on Monday, one of those annual parties SoftBank Hawks owner throws for his employees at Tokyo Dome by holding a Hawks game there, this was the real start of the baseball week.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any showdown series like last week, but every game the Hawks or Eagles play has a chance to impact who is leading the Pacific League. The Hiroshima Carp, meanwhile, will see if they can snap Yakult’s streak of 12 straight series wins, while Adam Walker made a different kind of statement with his arm than he’s been making so far.

Another player tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, and I’ll tag my pennant race projections at the bottom of the post. So let’s get to it.

Kai, Despaigne join Hawks COVID caravan

The SoftBank Hawks have postponed Wednesday’s game in Fukuoka against the Lotte Marines after five more positive tests. The cancellation is NPB’s 10th this year, surpassing the nine scratched last season.

Designated hitter Alfredo Despaigne and starting catcher Takuya Kai became the latest Hawks players to test positive for COVID-19, after the club sidelined pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada, outfielder Yurisbel Gracial, pitcher Shinya Kayama and infielder Isami Nomura over the weekend as well as two other pitchers who were classified as close contacts.

The original group also included one coach and a member of the major league staff. Tuesday’s haul included coach Arihito Muramatsu and two more staffers.

Tuesday’s games

Eagles 4, Buffaloes 2: At Kobe Green Stadium, I don’t hold with that “Orix going to Orix” stuff, like they’re doomed to make low-percentage moves on the ballfield, but man did the Buffaloes run into a pair of easy outs at the plate tonight.

Trailing 2-0 in the fifth, Kenya Wakatsuki singled with two on and two out, and right fielder Takero Okajima was so shallow that he had time to make a slightly awkward catch, double clutch and still throw out Keita Nakagawa by six feet.

After that display, I’m pretty sure Wakatsuki wasn’t pumping his fist on the way to first base when he singled with two outs in the seventh and a runner on second, since Ren Wada fielded the ground ball and threw out Ryoichi Adachi by a mile.

Takahiro Norimoto (6-2) allowed nine hits but no walks while striking out 10. He left with a run in, one on and one out in the eighth with the game now hanging by a thread and the meat of the Buffaloes’ order up, two-time reigning batting champ Masataka Yoshida, and reigning home run champ Yutaro Sugimoto.

Rookie Sora Suzuki retired Yoshida on two pitches, and Naoto Nishiguchi struck out Sugimoto. The Eagles got some insurance in the ninth from Daichi Suzuki’s second homer and Hideto Asamura’s 13th. Adachi did finally make it to home plate, homering in the ninth off Yuki Matsui, who secured his 18th save.

Lions 5, Fighters 2: At Seibu Dome, Kenta Uehara (2-2) had one bad inning and it sank Nippon Ham as Seibu scored three in the first despite having a runner make the first out at third base, when Tomoya Mori’s RBI single opened the scoring. Shuta Tonosaki tripled in Mori and scored on a Takumi Kuriyama single.

Seibu starter Wataru Matsumoto (5-2), held on to 3-2 lead by pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, after which the Lions’ bullpen faced little danger, and Kuriyama blasted his second home run, with a man on, in the eighth. Tatsushi Masuda picked up his 21st save.

The Lions remain 2-1/2 back of the second-place Eagles, who are half a game back of the Hawks.

Swallows 6, Carp 3: At Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, Munetaka Murakami brought Yakult from behind with a three-run home run, his 27th, in a four-run sixth inning against Hiroki Tokoda (7-4) snapping his three-game win streak and his string of four straight quality starts.

Like Tokoda, Yakult’s Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa (5-3) was in complete control until disaster struck in a three-run third, when the Carp got their share of good bounces. Ogawa stayed in long enough to leave for a pinch-hitter after five, allowing him to get the win when the Swallows rallied after the first two batters made out.

Jose Osuna put the final nail in the coffin in the seventh with his eighth home run. Scott McGough got his 23rd save, passing Giants rookie Taisei Ota for the league lead.

Giants 6, Dragons 2: At Yamagata, the much-maligned arm of Adam Walker proved to be a cause for celebration as the left fielder ended the Dragons’ fourth by throwing a runner out at the plate from shallow left field, as Yomiuri players surged on to the field to celebrate.

The throw, which was absolutely on the money, left Toshiki Abe in disbelief, as if saying, “they told me he couldn’t throw,” and left the game tied 1-1, for Yoshihiro Maru to untie in the fifth with his 16th home run, off Shinnosuke Ogasawara (3-5).

Giants-Dragons highlights

BayStars 6, Tigers 2: At Yokohama Stadium, Neftali Soto homered, doubled and singled, scored two and drove in three as DeNA overcame a two-run first-inning deficit against Yuki Nishi (4-6). Shinichi Onuki (5-3) struck out six while allowing two runs, one earned, on four hits and a hit batsman over seven innings.

Pennant race projections

For those who missed last week’s projection debut, these are based on:

  • Each team’s existing record (the easy part)
  • An estimate of each team’s current strength, based on a 143 game season, with the current Pythagorean winning percentage weight at the the number of games played, and a .500 record weighted with the number of remaining games.

This brings all the teams toward the middle of the pack more, although it’s not enough to prevent a projection that the Yakult Swallows are still going to win the Central League pennant by a margin that will exceed the franchise’s largest (11 games in 1997).

Central League finish projected from June 27


Pacific League finish projected from June 27


Wednesday’s tarting pitchers

Lions vs Fighters: Seibu Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Dietrich Enns (4-4, 2.30) vs Kosei Yoshida (1-2, 4.08)

Buffaloes vs Eagles: Kobe Green Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Daiki Tajima (3-3, 2.39) vs Takayuki Kishi (5-2, 2.73)

Giants vs Dragons: 郡山 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Iori Yamasaki (2-3, 4.46) vs Hiroto Takahashi (2-3, 3.63)

BayStars vs Tigers: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kenta Ishida (1-1, 4.10) vs Joe Gunkel (3-4, 2.58)

Carp vs Swallows: Hiroshima Citizen’s Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Atsushi Endo (3-4, 2.67) vs Juri Hara (5-3, 4.31)

Active roster moves 6/28/2022

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/8

Central League


GiantsP47Yuki Takahashi
CarpC40Yoshitaka Isomura


CarpOF5Hisayoshi Chono

Pacific League


BuffaloesC44Yuma Tongu
FightersOF8Kensuke Kondo
LionsIF60Takeya Nakamura


HawksP28Rei Takahashi

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