NPB news: June 30, 2024

On Sunday, the SoftBank Hawks and Yakult Swallows completed series sweeps, with one requiring a huge comeback that left Tigers manager Akinobu Okada assigning blame, while the Chunichi Dragons avoided a sweep despite a second straight excellent start from one of DeNA’s import pitchers. Rakuten also avoided being swept by Seibu, largely thanks to some huge defensive plays. In Chiba, Ayumu Ishikawa, once the mainstay of the Marines rotation, returned from shoulder surgery to earn his first win in almost two years.

Sunday’s games:

Giants 3, Carp 2: At Tokyo Ugly Dome, Tomoyuki Sugano (6-1) got a three-run first-inning lead with Kazuma Okamoto, new Giant Gakuto Wakabayashi and veteran catcher Seiji Kobayashi each driving in one. The Carp loaded the bases against Sugano in the second, but he retired Shogo Akiyama to keep them filled with fish. He left with one out in the sixth and two on, and Shogo Sakakura doubled in one.

The Carp loaded the bases in the ninth against Taisei Ota on a one-out single and a pair of two-out walks, before the closer retired Kaito Kozono. Ota, pitching in his first game since May 3, recorded his eighth save in what was a shaky weekend for closers.

Swallows 6, Tigers 5: At Jingu “Tokyo’s sacrifice to corporate greed and governmental malfeasance” Stadium, Cy Sneed surrendered eight hits in six innings but no walks while striking out four, while Hanshin’s Yuki Nishi worked six innings and left with a 4-1 lead after Yusuke Oyama and Ryutaro Umeno each drove in two runs. Hanshin got an unearned run in the eighth before two Hanshin relievers combined to allow five runs on four hits and two walks in the eighth.

With two outs and two on, Munetaka Murakami singled in a run, Domingo Santana walked to load them up, and Hideki Nagaoka cleared the bases with a double. Singles by reserve catcher Naoki Matsumoto and Tetsuto Yamada gave the Swallows the lead.

After, Tigers manager Akinobu Okada pointed a finger at his pitching coaches, Yuya Ando on the bench and Tomoyuki Kubota in the bullpen, for not having on of either right-hander Javy Guerra or lefty Suguru Iwazaki ready in case of trouble in the eighth inning. When lefty Takuma Kirishiki faltered, he had to go with right-hander Taisei Urushihara.”

“I didn’t intend to use Urushihara, but I had no choice because neither Guerra nor Iwazaki were ready,” Okada said. “That is not something that should be allowed to happen. It’s an educational issue. We need to check all the boxes.”

The Swallows didn’t go to lefty closer Kazuto Taguchi until two were out. He walked the first batter he faced and earned his seventh save when pinch-runner Kai Uchida was thrown out at home to end the game trying to score from first on Teruaki Sato‘s third double.

Oyama hit a solo homer for the Tigers, and Jose Osuna homered for the Swallows.

Dragons 3, BayStars 0: At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi’s Takahiro Matsuba went five scoreless innings, and DeNA’s Anthony Kay threw six only for the Dragons to score three in the seventh off reliever Soma Tokuyama (0-1). Mikiya Tanaka had a two-out two-run RBI single, and Orlando Calixte doubled in another. The Dragons’ bullpen faced a minimum of trouble over four innings with Raidel Martinez earning his 24th save as Chunichi salvaged the final game of the series after back-to-back 5-1 defeats.

Hawks 10, Fighters 3: At Kitahiroshima Taxpayers Burden Field, Livan Moinelo (5-2) worked six scoreless innings in a left-handed pitchers’ duel with Takayuki Kato (3-6) who escaped a perilous fourth inning in which the Hawks loaded the bases after Ryoya Kurihara‘s leadoff homer.

Chusei Mannami singled in the fifth and Japan’s outfield assists leader suffered the ignominy of being thrown out at second on a lineout to right to help Moinelo out of the fifth inning. The Hawks added a run in the sixth when former Fighter Kensuke Kondo singled and scored on a Tomoya Masaki double. With the starters out of the game, the Hawks scored eight late runs to the Fighters’ three. Franmil Reyes hit a two-run homer for Nippon Ham in the ninth.

Eagles 2, Lions 1: At Miyagi Stadium, with Seibu going for a series sweep, new Lion Seiya Matsubara singled in a second-inning run off Masaru Fujii. Shortstop Kazuki Murabayashi saved him a run with a diving catch of a two-out bases-loaded liner to end Seibu’s second. Fujii, who had served up three ground ball double plays in each of his previous two starts, got one to defuse a third-inning threat that was ended on another superb play from 34-year-old Takero Okajima in left field.

Lions right-hander Bo Takahashi issued a leadoff walk in the third with the tying run scoring on a Ryosuke Tatsumi sacrifice fly to the warning track in dead center. Eagles reliever Shota Watanabe (4-0) stranded two runners in the seventh, Rakuten took the lead in the home half and cruised to the finish line with Takahiro Norimoto getting his 18th save.  

Marines 7, Buffaloes 0: At Chiba Marine Stadium, 36-year-old Lotte right-hander Ayumu Ishikawa (1-0) returned from shoulder surgery and earned his first win in nearly two years with five innings in a win over Orix. Ishikawa allowed three hits, three walks and struck out three.

Manager Masato Yoshii said he wanted to use Ishikawa as a starter but would give him extra time between starts as he is still working his way back.

Buffaloes manager Satoshi Nakajima, whose team won in extra innings Saturday, bemoanded the free passes – eight walks and a hit batsman – his pitchers gave up, “Today’s team was completely different from yesterday’s. That number (nine) says all you need to know.”

Orix starter Shumpeita Yamashita (0-3), last year’s PL rookie of the year, and body double for Shohei Ohtani, was pulled after allowing three runs and throwing 79 pitches through three innings in his first career outing at the Marines’ wind tunnel.

“It’s not easy on a new mound,” Nakajima said. “He couldn’t get his breaking balls in the zone to drop.”

Gregory Polanco homered for Lotte, while teammate Hiromi Oka set a Japanese major league record by doubling in his eighth consecutive game.

Orix second baseman Masahiro Nishino, whose career has been nagged by injury and illness, left the game with pain in his right hamstring, where an April injury sidelined him for about three weeks.

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