NPB news: Oct. 10, 2023

Tuesday was part of a dream come true in a country where the schedule often means a week of meaningless makeup games. Before he left us, the late great Wayne Graczyk, spoke of his dream of the season being decided on the regular-season’s final game.

Although the pennants were both decided in September, the Pacific League playoff picture came down to the final out in Sendai on Tuesday.

We also had some news about Rintaro Sasaki, who was expected to attract major attention in this month’s NPB draft, while yesterday I published some research on outgoing Giants manager Tatsunori Hara and how much of his results he owes to Yomiuri’s ability to secure talent from rival teams each year. It’s a surprising amount.

Tuesday’s game

Marines 5, Eagles 0: At Miyagi Stadium, the Marines played a winner-take-all game against Rakuten. Their win knocked the Eagles out of the playoff picture, and pushed the Marines into second place ahead of SoftBank.

Lotte’s Kazuya Ojima (10-6) allowed six hits and a walk over seven innings, Koki Yamaguchi doubled off Takahiro Norimoto (8-8) in the second and scored on a Hiromi Oka single.

Hisanori Yasuda made it 2-0 in the fourth with his eighth home run and singled and scored in the seventh when Takashi Ogino beat out a two-out infield single off Sung Chia-hao’s leg. Toshiya Sato’s two-run eighth-inning double put the cork on the Eagles, who didn’t bring closer Yuki Matsui out until the ninth inning, as if manager Kazuhisa Ishii was saving him for a game the next day.

Sasaki to skip draft, play college ball in U.S.

Rintaro Sasaki, who is the current holder of Japan’s well-publicized high school home run non-record — because it includes practice games — declined to enter this month’s NPB draft, and said Tuesday he intends to attend college in the U.S. and play ball there.

“I’m still green as a baseball player,” said Sasaki, whose father is his Hanamaki Higashi High School manager, who also coached Blue Jays pitcher Yusei Kikuchi and Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani. “I want to practice from a place where I can aim higher still. I made my decision because I want to learn from the wider world.”

“I was worried until the very end. When I heard from the manager that a professional baseball scout was at Koshien to see me even though I wasn’t getting any results, I was really at a loss. Right now, I’m only thinking about what’s next.”

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