NPB news: May 18, 2023

We had five games on Thursday as two teams completed three-game sweeps that were unusual in one way or another, while one team kind of swept–a tie followed by two wins, and two bounced back from Game 1 losses to take two out of three, including the Fighters in their red-and-black Tsuyoshi Shinjo uniforms.

I’ve also got some thoughts on Chunichi Dragons manager Kazuyoshi’s attempt to model his managing style on that of his mentor, the late great Senichi Hoshino, and why it ain’t working.

Thursday’s games

Tigers 4, Dragons 1: At Nagoya Dome, where the Hanshin Tigers have a long history of surprising futility, Hanshin swept a road series against Chunichi for the first time in six years, and equaled their 1985 Japan Series championship team by being 10 games over .500 37 games into the season.

New import Johan Mieses crashed Dragons starter Yuya Yanagi‘s party early with a two-out three-run first-inning double. Koji Chikamoto, who sparked the three-run first with a leadoff single, doubled in Seiya Kinami in the second, and lefty Masashi Ito (2-0) didn’t allow a run until the sixth inning.

Dragons-Tigers highlights

Giants 6, Swallows 3: At Jingu Stadium, Yakult pulled off a play that would have made the bad old mistake-prone Orix Buffaloes cringe, when pitcher Cy Sneed (2-1) fielded a sacrifice and threw to first only for neither of his teammates near the bag trying to catch it.

Giants pitcher Kai Yokogawa (2-1), who allowed a run over six innings, was safe on the play, Naoki Yoshikawa followed with an RBI single to tie it 1-1, and Hayato Sakamoto put Yomiuri in front for good, hitting his sixth home run, with two outs and two on.

Because these are the Giants and giving up late runs, is their trademark this year, Jose Osuna belted a two-run ninth-inning homer to make the scoreline look better.

The Giants’ sweep was their first of the season.

Swallows-Giants highlights

Fighters 6, Lions 2: At Kitahiroshima Taxpayers Burden Field, Hiromi Ito (2-3) allowed two runs over seven innings. Chusei Mannami opened the scoring for the Fighters with a two-run fourth-inning double, and Ito punched out the dangerous Shuta Tonosaki to end the Lions fifth with the bags juiced.

Seibu tied it in the seventh on a run-scoring David MacKinnon single, but Seibu’s pitchers issued seven walks, and Ryota Yachi singled in two-way rookie Kota Yazawa, who reached on a seventh-inning free pass to break the tie. Yazawa singled and scored when Nippon Ham put the game away in a three-run eighth.

Hiromi Ito strikes out Shuta Tonosaki to end the fifth inning.

Marines 5, Buffaloes 1: At Chiba Marine Stadium, Pacific League-leading Lotte came within one out of using seven pitchers in a shutout, as the Marines bounced back to take two from Orix after their series-opener ended in a 12-inning tie, with only Marwin Gonzalez‘s ninth-inning RBI single for Orix breaking up what would have been an unusual achievement.

DenialStars 13, Carp 3: At Yokohama Stadium, Keita Sano hit a three-run second-inning homer, singled and drew two bases-loaded walks for five RBIs and three runs in what was an epic beating a night after Shugo Maki homered twice to bring the hosts from behind.

Asked about the butt-kicking, first-year Carp manager Takahiro Arai said essentially that compared to Wednesday’s tough loss, his team really stunk and that this would be easier to put behind them.”

Even better news than the win was Tyler Austin‘s return for his 2023 debut after an injury-hit 2022 season in which he was limited to 38 player appearances.

DeNA-Carp highlights

Kazuyoshi Tatsunami: The apprentice

Yesterday, Dragons manager Kazuyoshi Tatsunami continued to emulate the old-school style managers were fond of when he was a teenage pro in the late 1980s by publicly ripping the pitch selection of one of his most productive hitters this season, second-chancer Seiya Hosokawa.

Since he was named manager, Tatsunami has tried to walk the walk taken by his first skipper, the gruff and sometimes physically abusive Senichi Hoshino. Hoshino would on occasion let his fists do his talking and choose one player on the team to ride mercilessly. But he was also extremely big hearted and in my humble opinion, he sometimes got frustrated when players he was fond of chose not to listen and sometimes that boiled over.

Tatsunami, who is an extremely good communicator with an encyclopedic knowledge of hitting, but he seems to make up for those talents with a shortage of empathy, something Japan’s most successful managers now seem to have plenty of. Instead, Tatsunami, who has a lot of the fire Hoshino had, has simply copied Hoshino’s gruff outward style but without any of the real feeling his mentor possessed.

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