Friday was opening day in Japan, with all 12 major league teams in action, and there was plenty of action.
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Swallows 10, Tigers 8: At Kyocera Dome, Domingo Santana trumped big games from Teruaki Sato and Yoshio Itoi with a 4-for-5 two-homer five-RBI night to propel Yakult to victory after they trailed 8-1 through five innings.
Yakult starter Yasuhiro Ogawa followed last year’s Swallows pitching plan by throwing strikes and refusing to walk batters, except the pitches he threw in the zone weren’t that good and Hanshin’s hitters took live BP, scoring four off 11 hits and no walks over three innings.
The Tigers, whose 114 steals last year made them the first CL team to lead NPB in steals since the 2008 Swallows stole 148, had two base stealers gunned down in the first inning. As a result, the Tigers managed just one run from five hits in their first five at-bats.
The hosts took the lead in the third when Takumu Nakano, Teruaki Sato, Kento Ishihara, and Yoshio Itoi each got his second crack at and second hit off Ogawa. The Tigers tacked on four more in the fourth, capped by Itoi’s 169th career home run, but the Tigers managed just one hit and one walk off the Swallows bullpen.
Scott McGough worked the ninth for the save, while new import Kyle Keller (0-1) surrendered three ninth-inning runs on four hits, including homers by Tetsuto Yamada and Santana.
Giants 4, Dragons 2: At Tokyo Dome, Dayan Viciedo broke a 1-1 fourth-inning tie with a leadoff homer, but Noaki Yoshikawa’s two-out chopper to first sparked a three-run Giants rally off Yudai Ono. A stolen base, a Taishi Hirooka double, a Gregory Polanco single and a Kazuma Okamoto single put Yomiuri up 4-2. Polanco went 3-for-4 in his debut
Yoshihiro Maru gave the Giants the early lead with the first home run of Japan’s season, while Tomoyuki Sugano (1-0) allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk over six innings. Rubby De La Rosa worked a scoreless inning of relief for the Giants, while their top draft pick, Taisei Ota, loaded the bases but held on to earn the save in his pro debut.
In addition to his homer, Viciedo twice drew leadoff walks and was hit by a pitch.
Carp 11, BayStars 3: At Yokohama Stadium, Daichi Osera (1-0) allowed three runs, two earned, over 6-2/3 innings and singled in a run in Hiroshima’s three-run second off Katsuki Azuma (0-1) who allowed four over five-plus innings before a bullpen collapse turned the game into a rout.
Hawks 4, Fighters 1: At Fukuoka Dome, Freddy Galvis had two hits off the bench and spoiled Tsuyoshi Shinjo‘s managing debut with an eighth-inning grand slam.
SoftBank ace Kodai Senga (0-1) was outdueled by Nippon Ham’s bullpen, surrendering only Kazunari Ishii‘s 13th home run in 1,042 pro at-bats.
Senga, ostensibly headed to MLB after this season, struck out eight over seven innings, while allowing four hits and three walks.
The game preceded by a unique opening ceremony in which Shinjo entered wearing an electrified uniform, and new Hawks skipper Hiroshi Fujimoto was carried in from the outfield, seated on a chair in a device that was something of a cross between the palanquin of a feudal Japanese warlord and a Japanese festival float.
Buffaloes 6, Lions 0: At Seibu Dome, Yoshinobu Yamamoto (1-0) struck out nine and walked two over eight innings to outduel Kona Takahashi (1-0). Takahashi who beat Yamamoto in their opener at the same venue last year, gave up two runs over seven innings. Yuma Mune‘s RBI double opened the scoring in the sixth, and he scored on a Masataka Yoshida single.
Brian O’Grady went 2-for-4 in his Japan debut for the Lions.
Marines 4, Eagles 0: At Miyagi Stadium, Ayumu Ishikawa (1-0) struck out four over seven innings while allowing three hits without a walk.
Takahiro Norimoto (0-1) surrendered a three-run sixth-inning lead on a walk, a good sacrifice that was misplayed, a hit batsman and back-to-back RBI singles from Shogo Nakamura and Brandon Laird that drove him from the game. Laird added an RBI double, while Tayron Guerrero struck out two in a scoreless eighth.
Saturday’s starting pitchers
NOTE: All pitcher’s stats from 2021
Eagles vs Marines: Miyagi Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Takayuki Kishi (9-10, 3.44) vs Kazuya Ojima (10-4, 3.76)
Lions vs Buffaloes: Seibu Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Chihiro Sumida (-) vs Hiroya Miyagi (13-4, 2.51)
Hawks vs Fighters: Fukuoka Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Nao Higashihama (4-4, 3.70) vs Mizuki Hori (3-2, 2.36)
Giants vs Dragons: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Iori Yamasaki (-) vs Akiyoshi Katsuno (3-6, 3.74)
BayStars vs Carp: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Shinichi Onuki (6-7, 4.34) vs Masato Morishita (8-7, 2.98)
Tigers vs Swallows: Osaka Dome) 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Ippei Ogawa (1-0, 2.95) vs Keiji Takahashi (4-1, 2.87)
In other news:
Eagles manager Kazuhisa Ishii said Friday that right-handed reliever Tomohito Sakai, whose 28 holds last season led the team and were second in the Pacific League last season behind Mizuki Hori’s 39 for Nippon Ham, is out with a muscle injury in his right thigh.