It’s Roki Sasaki Friday, and the 20-year-old had a run-of-the-mill start, going six innings and missing a lot, but also averaging 101.1 mph on his fastball as he matched up with Kodai Senga for the second time in two weeks.
After the game, Hawks skipper Hiroshi Fujimoto had some harsh words for Senga and regular catcher Takuya Kai over their lack of faith in the fastball, both of whom he yanked from the game after four innings.
In Hiroshima, Ryan McBroom went McBoom, while the Tigers and Giants played a wild one. Also, there was bad news for the Rakuten Eagles.
So let’s get to it, shall we?
Wakui kind of bent out of shape
The Rakuten Eagles found out Friday that they’ll be without right-hander Hideaki Wakui for about three months after he fractured his right middle finger in Wednesday’s game against Lotte. Wakui is 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA in six starts this season.
“On top of the crack in the bone, it was kind of dislocated, so I’m guessing it’s going to take a while,” Rakuten manager Kazuhisa Ishii said.
Marines 8, Hawks 1: At Fukuoka Dome, Sasaki (5-0) struck out nine, walked two and hit a batter while allowing six hits. He had the best velocity of his career away from home, but often missed badly with all his pitches, and many of his forkballs in the zone flattened out.
The Hawks did little with those cookies, however. I suppose when the guy can blow gas past you, and that’s what you’re expecting, everything else might be a tough slog.
Sasaki struck out six batters in a row before Yurisbel Gracial broke that string with another line-drive single off the kid’s heat.
Senga’s command, too was not there. The Marines loaded the bases against him with no outs on a Akito Takabe leadoff single, a Shogo Nakamura double and a walk by Leonys Martin. Brandon Laird drew a one-out walk and Hiromi Oka delivered a sacrifice fly.
Adeiny Hechavarria singled in two in the third, the first of this three singles. His third was the first of five straight two-out hits in a three-run eighth, while Toshiya Sato, who singled to open the two-run third, homered in the ninth.
Sasaki leads both leagues in strikeouts with 87 in 55 innings despite being on a 100-pitch leash all season. His 1.47 ERA is third best in the PL.
Other than Gracial forcing Sasaki to throw fastballs in the zone so he could smack them, Colin Rea’s three innings of sparkling relief was the other big Hawks highlight.
Fujimoto minces no words
Hawks skipper Hiroshi Fujimoto was unhappy enough with his battery of Senga and Japan’s top defensive catcher, Takuya Kai, that he yanked both of them after four innings.
“He didn’t throw his fastball at all. I think he threw fewer than last time, but it’s not like he’s going to get hit hard on his fastball. If you don’t throw your fastball, your secondary pitches won’t keep you alive. For that reason, I’ve asked for another battery meeting.”
“More than the forkball, he was threw a lot of cutters. When he got into trouble, he turned to the cutter. But the cutter and forkball are about the same speed, so the batters eyes can adjust. Even if they don’t get good swings, they can run into some. If you don’t throw your fastball, you can’t get by with your cutter and forkball.”
“He is our ace, and he’s hard to hit even if he doesn’t throw his fastball. I just want him to have more confidence.”
Fighters 5, Lions 3: At Sapporo Dome, Hiromi Ito (5-3) allowed two runs over seven innings, Yuki James Nomura had four of Nippon Ham’s nine hits and scored twice, while Shingo Usami’s three-run seventh-inning double off Seibu’s Kona Takahashi (4-3) gave the Fighters the lead. The Lions left the tying runs on base in the eighth before rookie Koki Kitayama’s 1-2-3 ninth earned him his fifth save.
Buffaloes 1, Eagles 0: At Miyagi Stadium, Daiki Tajima (1-2) scattered six hits, two walks and a hit batsman over even scoreless innings as he, setup man Jesse Biddle and closer Yoshihisa Hirano combined to strand 11 base runners and make Koji Oshiro’s third-inning home run off Ryota Takinaka (1-3) hold up.
BayStars 3, Swallows 1: At Yokohama Stadium, first-inning doubles by Masayuki Kuwahara, Neftali Soto and Shugo Maki put two runs on the board against Hirotoshi Takanashi (3-3) before Maki scored from second on a wild pitch.
Shingo Onuki (2-2) allowed a run over five innings, and five relievers completed the six-hitter with Yasuaki Yamasaki retiring the middle of the Swallows order 1-2-3 in the ninth for his sixth save.
Carp 11, Dragons 5: At Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, aptly named cleanup hitter Ryan McBroom opened the scoring with a first-inning grand slam, his sixth homer in Japan, off 2020 Sawamura Award winner Yudai Ono (2-4), Ryoma Nishikawa reached base four ttimes scored three and drove in two, while Kaito Kozono blasted a three-run fifth-inning homer, his second.
Daichi Osera (5-1) allowed five runs over eight innings, most of them in a four-run sixth after the Carp took a 10-run lead in the fifth. Dragons catcher Takuya Kinoshita returned to action for the first time in 12 days and blasted his third home run, a two-run shot in the sixth, while Toshiki Abe did most of the rest of the damage for the visitors with a second-inning solo home run and a two-run sixth-inning double.
Giants 6, Tigers 2, 12 innings: At Koshien Stadium, the Giants found the secret scoring sauce that had eluded both teams for most of 11 innings in the 12th. Raul Alcantara (1-1) surrendered three runs, two earned, one two hits, an error and a hit batsman in the 12th as the Tigers wasted a dramatic ninth-inning comeback, and the Giants took over the CL lead from the Swallows.
Rookie Raito Nakayama opened the 12th by reaching on an error, Alcantara hit the next batter and surrendered Yoshihiro Maru’s third hit of the game. With the bases jammed, Soichiro Tateoka, singled in one. Sho Nakata drove in two with a pinch-hit single off Yuta Watanabe.
Daichi Ishii replaced him, surrendered a single to Kazuma Okamoto and uncorked a run-scoring wild pitch. With two outs, the Tigers loaded the bases with an intentional walk before Ishii got out of the inning against Nakayama.
In the bottom of the ninth, Nobutaka Imamura was one strike away from getting his first career save on rookie Taisei Ota’s off day but allowed a two-out single to Teruaki Sato, and Rubby De La Rosa, ahead 0-2 to the next batter, surrendered Yusuke Oyama’s game-tying two-run homer, his seventh.
Tigers starter Koyo Aoyagi allowed two runs on seven hits and no walks while striking out eight, and the Giants made the most of their one chance against him. A Yoshihiro Maru double, an Adam Walker infield single and a sacrifice set the table for Kazuma Okamoto’s two-run single.
Giants starter Shosei Togo allowed four singles and issued three walks over eight scoreless innings while striking out six.
Saturday’s starting pitchers
Fighters vs Lions: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Eagles vs Buffaloes: Miyagi Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Hawks vs Marines: Fukuoka Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
BayStars vs Swallows: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Tigers vs Giants: Koshien Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Carp vs Dragons: Hiroshima Citizen’s Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Active roster moves 5/20/2022
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 5/30