NPB news: June 5, 2023

Roki Sasaki pitched well but not well enough to overcome one of Sunday’s pitching Hiros, Hanshin’s Hiroto Saiki, while a pitcher was a batting star and batted in the No. 8 slot, although probably for the wrong reason. It was a good day to be a Hiro, with Saiki, Hiroto Takahashi and Hiroya Miyagi combining for 25 scoreless innings.

I went over to Jingu before the game to talk to Cy Sneed for the podcast and do some other work on another story, and in the process heard a couple of interesting things.

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A new issue for the WBC

At Jingu, I talked with lefty Keiji Takahashi, who hasn’t pitched since May 5, and he said he had little trouble getting over WBC fatigue but has a different kind of issue.

“I think I’m OK now, but I was pretty bad there for a while,” he said. “I hadn’t thrown our (NPB) ball for months, and my finger has been catching on the seams, it messed everything up and I was getting blisters, too.”

Maybe they can just demolish the mound

Before the game, Rakuten manager Kazuhisa Ishii was asked about Takahisa Hayakawa’s comments about Jingu’s mound being hard to pitch from after he got rocked on Saturday.

“I don’t know about now, but during my career, Jingu’s mound made it hard to pitch,” said Ishii, who spent most of his career with Yakult. “Of course, one has to deal with that and learn to adjust somehow.”

Sunday’s games

Tigers 2, Marines 0: At Koshien Stadium, Roki Sasaki (4-1) would have needed his “A” command to keep up with Hiroto Saiki (4-3) and didn’t have it. Saiki struck out 12 over the distance, walked one and until allowing a pair of two-out hits in the ninth, had surrendered just a dribbler infield single.

Sasaki allowed one run on one hit over six innings. But he hit a batter and walked four. Two of those walks came on very close low fastballs—pitches that were later called third strikes on two hitters, who were less than happy with the ump’s inconsistent calls.

The Tigers opened the scoring on a sixth-inning leadoff walk to Takumu Nakano, two bounced splitters, and a line single on a splitter Sasaki was determined not to bounce and instead hung to Yusuke Oyama. Ryutaro Umeno, who struck out on one of those borderline called strikes to end the fourth with two on, homered in the seventh to complete the scoring.

Hanshin improved to 3-2 interleague, while the Marines dropped to 1-4 and fell out of first place in the Pacific League.

Tigers-Swallows highlights

Fighters 10, Giants 3: At Tokyo Dome, Koki Kitayama (3-2) did his Shohei Ohtani impression, going 2-for-4 in the No. 8 spot with a run and two RBIs, while allowing three runs over seven innings on the mound. Kitayama had never batted in an official game as a pro, even in the minors, so one wonders what the thinking was behind that.

Batting the pitcher eighth makes tons of sense, not when they can hit, but because they usually can’t and batting them ninth has a larger negative impact on run scoring because it puts them right in front of the top of the order than batting them in the middle of the tail end of the order.

He allowed a leadoff homer in the first to Yoshihiro Maru but singled in the tying run in the second before coming home on a Daigo Kawakamibata double. Yuki James Nomura belted a three-run homer in the third, and Kitayama singled in the first run of Nippon Ham’s four-run sixth. Kazuma Okamoto hit his Japan-best 13th home run for the Giants.

The Fighters improved to 4-2 interleague, while Yomiuri fell to 3-3. The Hawks banged out five straight hits off Kuribayashi (0-5) to open the fifth.

Hawks 3, Carp 2: At New Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, SoftBank improved to 3-3 when they overcame a 1-0 deficit in the sixth inning against closer Ryoji Kuribayashi, in his second game since coming back from fitness issues. Carp starter Drew Anderson walked three but allowed no hits over five innings.

Masaya Yano singled with one out in the first, stole second, went to third on catcher Takuya Kai’s throwing error and scored on Shogo Akiyama’s single off Koya Fuji (5-3), who left after walking three with one out in the sixth, and was charged with two runs, one earned. Livan Moinelo got his first save of the season for SoftBank.

Swallows 5, Eagles 2: At Jingu Stadium, Kosei Shoji (0-3) Rakuten’s top draft pick last year, gave up three runs on two one-out walks and three straight first-inning singles before being pulled after two innings. Yakult’s Reiji Kozawa (1-1) allowed a run over five innings, although setup man Noboru Shimizu nearly gave the game away.

Shimizu surrendered three no-out hits in the eighth but struck out the heart of the Eagles order and allowed just a run. Kazuto Taguchi then recorded his 12th save.

Like Hayakawa on Saturday, Shoji didn’t look all that comfortable either, but having pitched at Jingu for Rikkyo University until last year, I’m guessing the mound wasn’t his issue.

Dragons-Buffaloes highlights

Buffaloes 5, Dragons 0: At Nagoya Dome, Orix’s Hiroya Miyagi (5-1) struck out 10 in a two-hit shutout without issuing a walk as he outlasted his Japan WBC teammate Hiroto Takahashi. The Dragon’s starter struck out 13 over seven scoreless innings, but was yanked after throwing 118 pitches, and Tomoya Mori hit a three-run home run off Daisuke Sobue (2-2). Marwin Gonzalez doubled in another run before Miyagi capped the rally with a single that drove in the first run of his career.

DeNA-Seibu highlights

Deniers 5, Lions 4: At Yokohama Stadium, five scoreless innings were followed by a pair of big ones. DeNA’s Robert Gsellman worked 5-1/3 innings and was on the hook for the loss after allowing six straight batters to reach with one out in the sixth.

With the Lions cruising, DeNA got on the board on a Yamato Maeda pinch-hit double, a single and a throwing error by reliever Shunsuke Sato. Jesus Tinoco (0-2) couldn’t put out the fire in a five-run inning.

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