The Pacific League’s postseason first-stage series is over as the SoftBank Hawks Gita’d the Seibu Lions, while the DeNA BayStars bounced back to even their series against the Hanshin Tigers and set up a decisive Game 3 on Monday.
The Lions’ loss came with the news we’d been expecting for some time, the announcement that manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji is stepping down, although there is no word yet on his likely replacement, expected to be Seibu’s farm manager, Kazuo Matsui.
Hawks 8, Lions 2: At Fukuoka Dome, Yuki Yanagita once more delivered the big blow. A day after his three-run third-inning homer got the Hawks started on their 17th straight postseason win, his third-inning grand slam more or less decided Game 2.
Nao Higashihama threw darts for a few innings and left after allowing one run over five. Lions starter Tatsuya Imai faced Yanagita with two outs after two walks and a hit batsman loaded them up. Yanagita hit one of those home runs that looked like it had zero chance when he swung, but carried over the fence into the right-field home run terrace.
PL TV did not provide uploads for their highlights, so we’re stuck with a link today.
BayStars 1, Tigers 0: At Yokohama Stadium, it was the turn of DeNA’s pitchers to decide the game. Shinichi Onuki struck out 10 over 6-1/3 innings, Hiromu Ise kept the tying run from scoring in the seventh and struck out three of the five batters he faced. In the ninth, Yasuaki Yamasaki had a good fastball the Tigers hitters couldn’t stay on.
DeNA had a chance for a big inning against Masashi Ito in the fifth inning, when Toshiro Miyazaki singled and Neftali Soto doubled. Former Tiger Yamato Maeda stung a single up the middle. Miyazaki scored but Soto was out by a mile.
The call at the plate might have been overturned on obstruction, since Tigers catcher Ryutaro Umeno decided to increase his chances for a tag at the plate by straddling the baseline as he awaited the throw from center fielder Koji Chikamoto. After fielding the throw he opened a path for Soto and then tagged him out.
Soto would have been out without obstruction. I saw a similar call this summer, and I’m guessing the umps now won’t call it if the runner would have been out anyway, even when the catcher is obviously impeding the runner’s path.
Hatsuhiko Tsuji is the fourth manager to quit his post this year, starting with Akihro Yano, who announced this would be his final year with Hanshin on Feb. 1.
Tsuji, a golden glove second baseman during a career spent mostly with the Lions, was tasked with turning around a decrepit defense, and took Seibu to second place in his 2017 debut, won back-to-back pennants in 2018 and 2019 with a well below-average pitching staff before finishing third in 2020 and 2022.
He tried to quit after finishing last in 2021 but was turned down.