NPB news: May 19, 2023

Rain washed out two of Friday’s five scheduled games, when the Nippon Ham Fighters took their red-and-black-attack duds on the road, and the Hanshin Tigers put their win streak on the line.

Two teams that didn’t play, DeNA and Lotte, about their big name starting pitchers’ next starts, while one of Samurai Japan’s regulars is back in action for the first time since March’s final in Miami, as is Carter Stewart Jr. Reportedly a hit in winter ball, Stewart had not pitched on the farm this season.

I missed some big news Thursday, when it was learned that Hall of Famer Futoshi Nakanishi had died. I had the good fortune of talking with Nakanishi a lot over the years, and wrote a bit about him.

Yoshii: Sasaki to return on May 28

Lotte’s Roki Sasaki‘s next start has been set, Marines manager Masato Yoshii said. Sasaki, who raised a blister on his right middle finger while pitching against the SoftBank Hawks on May 5, had been penciled in to start Sunday.

Yoshii said he threw in the bullpen Friday in Sendai, but has been pushed back a week after rain washed out the game, although the blister, the skipper said is no longer a problem.

Let’s see if I get this. The Marines’ best pitcher is fit and ready to go, but you want to push him back seven days because of a single rainout.

This is extremely reminiscent of when Yoshii was the Fighters’ pitching coach in 2016, and Shohei Ohtani was out of the rotation for six weeks “because of a blister.” Ohtani would throw bullpens and Yoshii would report he was fine but not ready.

Out of the rotation, Ohtani was able to bat everyday, and really got the hang of that, but the official stories behind his absence from the mound all sounded fishy, and all summer Yoshii just smiled and reported everything was fine.

Let’s just say, I’ll believe Sasaki’s fine and back when he actually pitches, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s another issue Yoshii doesn’t want to talk about.

Meanwhile, in Yokohama, DeNA manager Daisuke Miura announced that his newest graduate of MLB’s domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse suspension program will not pitch again until next Tuesday in case anybody cares.

They’re back, at least in the minors

Seibu’s captain, shortstop Sosuke Genda, played his first game since March’s World Baseball Classic final on Thursday, in a Sendai Eastern League game against Rakuten, and went 2-for-2 with a triple and a single and played five innings at short.

Genda broke a finger in Japan’s Pool B game against South Korea on March 10 and returned to duty six days later for the quarterfinal against Italy in Tokyo and both of Japan’s games in Miami.

Meanwhile, Carter Stewart Jr, also made a belated debut due to abdominal muscle inflammation this spring after he impressed in Puerto Rico’s winter league. On Thursday, he struck out seven over five innings while allowing a run against the Carp’s Western League team.

Friday’s games

Fighters 1, Buffaloes 0: At Kyocera Dome, Takayuki Kato (3-2) allowed four hits over eight innings to outlast Taisuke Yamaoka. The Orix starter struck out eight over five innings, but Nippon Ham, wearing their red-and-black Tsuyoshi Shinjo uniforms, scored its only run in the eighth inning against the Buffaloes pen.

Daigo Kawakamibata drew a leadoff walk, Arismendy Alcanatara reached on an infield single and after a sacrifice, new Fighter Alen Hanson hit a bullet for an RBI single. Seigi Tanaka retired the Buffaloes in order in the ninth for his fifth save.

Carp 10, Tigers 7: At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin, fresh off a sweep at the Tigers’ chamber of horrors AKA Nagoya Dome, came home and were ambushed by the Carp, wearing their killer tomato road uniforms, with red letters and numbers on red shirts.

Tigers ace Koyo Aoyagi did not figure in the decision despite allowing seven runs over five innings, but after allowing 22 runs over his last 18-2/3 innings, manager Akinobu Okada said after the game that the side-armer was bound for a straightening-out farm assignment.

The Tigers clawed their way back on homers by Sheldon Neuse, Teruaki Sato and Yusuke Oyama, whose three-run shot capped a five-run fifth. Hiroshima’s Ryuhei Matsuyama, starting at first after a red-hot spell as a pinch-hitter put the Carp ahead for good in the sixth with his second RBI single of the game.

Hawks 5, Lions 4: At Fukuoka Dome, Kensuke Kondo belted a two-run first-inning homer for the Hawks, and Kenta Imamiya‘s two-run second-inning single made it a 5-2 game against Lions starter Wataru Matsumoto (2-3).

Hawks starter Shuta Ishikawa (3-1) struck out 10, but unlike those other games when he doesn’t walk four or five batters and dominates, he surrendered four runs, including solo homers to Shuta Tonosaki and former Tiger Naomasa Yokawa.

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