As players and umpires sported various bits of pink equipment for Mother’s Day, the Rakuten Eagles were riding on the wings of a nine-game win streak, while the two league champs, the Central League’s Yakult Swallows, and the Pacific League’s Orix Buffaloes appeared headed in opposite directions.
And I’d also like to share a touching story former Padres and Rangers reliever Akinori Otsuka told me a couple of years back in Peoria Arizona, about his mother and his career.
In other news, Lotte Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi, who has had precious few positive things to talk about, said Sunday that Roki Sasaki will make his next start on Friday against Orix at Osaka Dome, where he struggled a bit with the mound and the umpire on April 24.
Shall we get going?
Swallows 4, Giants 3: At Tokyo Dome, Kotaro Yamasaki‘s two-run ninth-inning double lifted Central League-leading Yakult past Yomiuri, whose rookie closer Taisei Ota (1-1) failed to convert a save attempt for the first time in 13 tries.
The CL saves leader took the mound in the ninth with a 3-2 lead but surrendered a one-out double, and an infield single before Yamasaki’s drive to Tokyo Dome’s warning track barely got over the glove of left fielder Soichiro Tateoka.
New import Adam Walker did the bulk of the offensive heavy lifting for the Giants. His fourth-inning leadoff single and some savvy base running allowed him to tie the game 1-1 on a sacrifice fly. Walker broke the tie with a two-run sixth-inning home run, his seventh, off Yakult starter Cy Sneed, who left with no outs and two on.
A.J. Cole inherited the mess, but got three outs to keep the game from slipping away, and Yakult made it a one-run game after reliever Nobutaka Imura loaded the bases with one out on a hit batsman and two walks. Tetsuto Yamada hit a sac fly off Rubby De La Rosa, but the right-hander won a classic at-bat with Munetaka Murakami, who had grand slams in each of the series’ first two games.
De La Rosa challenged Murakami with good fastballs in the zone, but Murakami could only foul them off, until a breaking ball completely fooled him as he struck out to end the inning. De La Rosa worked a scoreless eighth, and Swallows rookie Naofumi Kizawa (1-0) worked a perfect eighth to keep the game within reach.
Yakult catcher Yuhei Nakamura doubled with one out, and held his base when Yasutaka Shiomi beat out an infield single to short. After Yamasaki’s double, the Swallows threatened to turn the game into a rout. But Ota recovered and blew away the next two hitters to leave the bases jammed.
“His fastball may have been a little flat at times,” manager Tatsunori Hara said of Ota. “In various ways, I think this will be a good lesson for him, and what matters is how he builds on this.” For those of you not accustomed to Hara speak, “In various ways” is probably the one phrase he uses more often than “we don’t really have a quality second baseman.”
Swallows closer Scott McGough, however, retired the Giants in order in the home half for his ninth save.
Carp 17, BayStars 3: At Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, DeNA manager Daisuke Miura could have been forgiven for thinking things couldn’t get worse after reliever Kazuki Mishima was deactivated Sunday with shoulder tightness, and slugger Neftali Soto was dropped from the starting lineup with a tight back.
But, starting pitcher Katsuki Azuma (0-4) then surrendered seven runs in three innings, outfielder Taishi Ota left the game with tightness in his right leg.
For the Carp, it was little less than a field day. Ryan McBroom went 4-for-5 with two homers, a double, four runs and four RBIs, while Ryosuke Kikuchi had four hits and scored four runs, and Shota Suekane had a grand slam and a sac fly. Hiroshima starter Atsushi Endo (2-2) allowed three runs, one earned, over eight innings.
The win lifted the Carp into second place, ahead of the Giants.
Tigers 4, Dragons 3: At Nagoya Dome, Yusuke Oyama tied it 3-3 in the seventh with a two-run home run, his fifth, off Yuya Yanagi, while Takumu Nakano snapped his string of 159 consecutive plate appearances without a walk and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth off Yariel Rodriguez (1-1).
Two Dragons rookies homered. Kosuke Ugai hit a two-run shot in the fifth, his third of the season, to put Chunichi ahead 2-1, while Takuya Ishikawa’s fifth homer made it 3-1 in the sixth.
Raúl Alcántara (1-0) worked a scoreless seventh to earn the win, Atsuki Yuasa worked the eighth, and Suguru Iwazaki the ninth, for his fifth save.
Eagles 2, Buffaloes 1, 10 innings: At Osaka Dome, Rakuten extended its franchise’s longest winning streak as the Eagles won their 10th straight decision after Hiroaki Shimauchi, who must have the most deadpan hero interview routine in Japan, belted his second home run of the year in the 10th off Yuta Kuroki (0-2).
Yuma Tongu‘s first homer of the season made it 1-0 in the first off right-hander Takahiro Norimoto, but the Eagles scored an unearned in the third off Daiki Takeyasu on a single, an error, a sacrifice, a walk and a groundout.
Sung Chia-hao (1-0) earned the win in relief by getting Tongu to fly out to end the ninth after his two walks helped the Buffaloes load the bases, and Yuki Matsui got his 10th save.
The Buffaloes fell six games below .500 for the first time since Nakajima was promoted last year after serving as interim manager in 2020.
Hawks 8, Marines 4: At Chiba Marine Stadium, Akira Nakamura doubled in leadoff man Masaki Mimori in the first inning off Enny Romero (2-2), and tied it after Akito Takabe singled and scored on Tsuyoshi Sugano‘s first home run in the home half off Kazuki Sugiyama (1-1).
Singles by Kenta Imamiya, Yuki Yanagita and Nakamura tied it, and Masahiro Nakatani, whose pinch-hit extra-inning homer sank the Marines on Friday, put SoftBank in front with a sac fly.
The win was SoftBank’s sixth straight and kept them four back of the Eagles.
Lions 5, Fighters 1: At Seibu Dome, Hotaka Yamakawa drove in five runs with his 13th and 14th home runs off Toshihiro Sugiura (1-3), and Dietrich Enns (2-1) allowed a run over six innings to collect the win. Brian O’Grady walked ahead of each of Yamakawa’s home runs and doubled.
Active roster moves 5/8/2022
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 5/18