NPB news: May 17, 2023

There were six games and a trade on Wednesday, which gave the Pacific League has a new league leader and a 42-year-old winner, while Shugo Maki arrested DeNA’s slide with a two-homer game.

Giants trade for pitching

In a story that could also be titled “trading in irony,” the Yomiuri Giants have shipped 26-year-old shortstop Taishi Hiraoka to the Orix Buffaloes for 29-year-old right-hander Kohei “formerly known as ‘K'” Suzuki. The Giants’ 4.31 ERA is Japan’s worst, and manager Tatsunori Hara has been vocal about his inexperienced relievers getting roasted the past few weeks.

The irony is that Hiraoka, acquired as cover for Hayato Sakamoto on March 1, 2021, cost the Giants a reliever they’d given up on, then 25-year-old Kazuto Taguchi. Since then, the lefty has turned his career around with the Yakult Swallows, where he has stepped into the closer’s role this season following the departure of Scott McGough to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Since that trade, Hiraoka has slashed .190/.263/.348 in 207 plate appearances over 115 games, while Taguchi has pitched in 93 games. The lefty’s 6-11. After going 5-9 in 100-2/3 innings in his first season at Jingu, Taguchi is 1-2 with 13 saves and 20 holds, striking out 48 in 49-2/3 innings while walking 12 and allowing one home run.

Wednesday’s games

Marines 7, Buffaloes 3: At Chiba Marine Stadium, Kazuya Ojima (4-1) allowed two runs over eight innings for his sixth straight quality start as Lotte edged into first place ahead of Orix on winning-percentage points.

Kenta Chatani and Hisanori Yasuda put Lotte on the board with back-to-back fourth-inning RBI singles. Chatani’s RBI double made it 3-0 in the fifth against Daiki Tajima (4-3). Marwin Gonzalez broke up Ojima’s shutout bid in the seventh with his seventh home run, a two-run shot.

Hisanori Yasuda doubles in his second run of the game in Lotte’s three-run fifth.

Tigers 3, Dragons 1: At Nagoya Dome, it was a clash of former longtime PL pitchers. Yuki Nishi (2-3) allowed a run over seven innings, and the Tigers won their sixth straight after getting off to a slow start against Hideaki Wakui (1-5)

Wakui retired the first 11 batters but didn’t get out of the fourth until three straight two-out walks forced in a run. Sheldon Neuse, whose two-out single started the fourth-inning rally, singled home Koji Chikamoto in the fifth. Teruaki Sato singled and scored in the sixth before second-chancer Seiya Hosokawa got a run back with a solo homer.

Sheldon Neuse makes it 2-0 Tigers with an RBI single.
Dragons-Tigers highlights

Fighters 3, Lions 0: At Kitahiroshima Taxpayers Burden Field, Naoyuki Uwasawa (4-2) struck out nine in a four-hit shutout, the fifth of his career and his first since 2018.

The Fighters chased Dietrich Enns (1-6) in the fifth. A Chusei Mannami leadoff single, a sacrifice and a walk preceded RBI singles from Yushi Shimizu, Arismendy Alcantara and Go Matsumoto.

Arismendy Alcantara‘s RBI single.

Giants 5, Swallows 4: At Jingu Stadium, Iori Yamasaki (3-1) struck out seven while allowing a run over seven innings, and Yomiuri’s hitters put some good swings on bad pitches from Swallows rookie side-armer Yuta Ichikawa (0-1), who was making his second career start.

Back-to-back no-out first-inning doubles from Naoki Yoshikawa and Yoshihiro Maru put the Giants on the board first. Yuto Akihiro drove in three runs for the second straight day, blasting his second homer, with two on in the second. His teammates celebrate his home run by attempting to tap the top of the 2-meter rookie’s helmet, ostensibly to show they can reach that high.

Yoshikawa singled and scored after an errant pickoff throw, a wild pitch and a hanging slider that Kazuma Okamoto hit off the wall in right for a double to chase Ichikawa in the fifth.

Like every other CL team, the Swallows rallied against the Giants’ bullpen, scoring all four runs over the final three innings.

Hawks 10, Eagles 1: At Yamagata, 42-year-old Tsuyoshi Wada (3-1) allowed a run over a season-high six innings to outduel the most sought-after pitcher from last year’s draft, Rakuten right-hander Kosei Shoji (0-2). The  22-year-old lefty who tied for the most sought-after player in the 2022 draft with Yomiuri’s 18-year-old outfielder Shogo Asano after both were named by two teams as their top picks. Shoji allowed three runs over 6-2/3 innings.

After getting poor swings against the rookie in the first, a single, a walk, a sacrifice and back-to-back RBI singles from Akira Kawase and Takuya Kai put SoftBank up 2-0 in the second. A couple of hard-hit balls, a Maikel Franco single and a Yuya Ogo triple made it 2-1. The game remained close until the Hawks got into the Eagles’ chicken coop and all hell broke loose in a six-run eighth.

DenialStars 7, Carp 4: At Yokohama Stadium, Shugo Maki twice brought DeNA from behind, with a two-run first-inning homer and a three-run eighth-inning shot, his eighth, off Carp starter Allen Kuri (2-2) as the DeniaStars snapped a six-game losing streak. Two-time CL home run champion Neftali Soto homered after Maki’s eighth-inning blast with his 150th in Japan.

Neftali Soto’s 150th home run in Japan

Maki’s second homer in three games, with a man on in the first, made it 2-1 DeNA after Ryan McBroom‘s RBI single put the visitors on the board minutes earlier. Ryosuke Kikuchi‘s two-run single restored Hiroshima’s lead in the second.

Takashi Uemoto doubled to open the fifth, was safe at third on a fielder’s choice when Shogo Akiyama tried to bunt his way on, and scored on a MacBroom sac fly.

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