September means compacted schedules, two- and four-game series, and Monday baseball, where some series that started on Sunday continued, with the top-two teams in each league going head to head.
The Swallows suffered a painful loss on the scoreboard, while their lineup also took a hit, when triple crown candidate Munetaka Murakami was hit by a pitch.
Tsuyoshi Shinjo’s Fighters became the first team to be eliminated from postseason contention, while Kosuke Fukudome began his farewell tour, visiting Koshien Stadium, where he played eight of his 24 seasons for the Tigers, despite not being on the Dragons active roster.
Let’s get to it.
BayStars 7, Swallows 1: At Yokohama Stadium, the winning pitcher drove in the winning run. After Yasuhiro Ogawa won 1-0 on Sunday, Shota Imanaga (10-3) pitched out of one tight spot after another and then singled in two runs off Juri Hara (7-6) to bring the BayStars from behind in a five-run fourth inning.
Hara, who’d gotten the BayStars’ big wheel Shugo Maki to fly out and end the DeNA third, gave up a leadoff single and then issued a pair of walks to load them for Imanaga. Leadoff hitter Masayuki Kuwahara, who had a fantastic weekend with the glove in center field, and robbed Yakult of a first-inning leadoff single ahead of Tetsuto Yamada’s solo homer, doubled to make it 3-1. Taishi Kusumoto singled in another before Kuwahara scored on a groundout.
Imanaga then retired nine of the last 10 Swallows hitters to keep the game out of reach as DeNA pulled to within 6-1/2 games of Yakult with 19 games left to play in a bid for the team’s first CL title since 1998.
In the eighth inning, Edwin Escobar hit Murakami on the right thigh with a 155 kph fastball.
“He was in pain, so I took him out,” Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu said. “I think it hurt so much since it hit him square. I haven’t talked to the trainer so I won’t know until tomorrow how he is.”
Shota Imanaga arsenal
Here’s a breakdown of Imanaga’s pitches with the average Runs Created of each pitch thrown, the rate of swings that miss bats, and the rate of taken pitches called strikes.
|Pitch||RC||Total||Miss rate||Called rate|
Imanaga’s deal is that his his cutter and fastball are both a little better than average, while his curve has been quite good this year. His fastball is comparable to Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s, although that’s Yamamoto’s third best pitch, but he’s fearless with it.
Tigers 6, Dragons 2: At Koshien Stadium, Tigers right-hander Hiroto Saiki continued to impress, although he ran his pitch count up early and left after allowing a run over just five innings. Yuya Yanagi (6-11) matched him for five innings, but last year’s CL Best Nine winner gave up two in the bottom of the sixth on Jefry Marte’s two-run pinch-hit single.
Fumihito Haraguchi and Teruaki Sato singled to open the inning. A sacrifice and a one-out walk brought up the pitchers’ spot and Marte got the job done to chase Yanagi. Sato singled in a run in the seventh and Mel Rojas Jr. hit a two-run pinch-hit homer in the eighth, his ninth of the season.
Dayan Viciedo had his fourth multi-hit game in the last five with a first-inning RBI single for the Dragons.
Before the game, Fukudome took batting practice, and reserved a warm ovation from the crowd when he knocked balls went over the fence.
“I’m so grateful to be given this chance at this ballpark I’ve come to love,” Fukudome said. “Koshien is the world’s best ballpark and I’m happy I was able to play here. It was a big part of what was a wonderful baseball career.”
Hawks 7, Lions 5: At Fukuoka Dome, Kenta Imamiya singled in two runs to bring SoftBank from a run down in the third off Dietrich Enns (10-7), and Alfredo Despaigne made it 4-1 when he plated Imamiya with his 10th home run. Hawks rookie Tomoya Masaki homered to lead off the fourth.
Hotaka Yamakawa hit a two-run homer, his 39th, to make it a two-run game off Nao Higashihama (10-6), who left with one on and two out. The Hawks relief was anything but inspiring after their starter split. After the Lions left the bases loaded in a scoreless seventh, Hikaru Kawase doubled in two off Burch Smith to ice the game for the Hawks.
Brian O’Grady singled twice, walked twice and scored twice driven in by Wu Nien-ting, but Livan Moinelo worked a 1-2-3 ninth against the middle of the Lions’ order for his 22nd save.
Eagles 8, Buffaloes 2: At Miyagi Stadium, Takahiro Norimoto (8-8) struck out nine while allowing a run on four hits and a walk over seven innings as Rakuten moved to within 1-1/2 games of the third-place Buffaloes, who delivered a comedy of errors that did anything but put a smile on the face of skipper Satoshi Nakajima.
Yuma Tongu led off Orix’s second with his 10th homer, but Takero Okajima tied it in the third, with a sharp grounder past first that right fielder Yutaro Sugimoto needed several tries to pick up. Okajima was generously awarded a triple and scored when Sugimoto’s throw got away from his infielders.
More hijinks ensued in the fifth, when Rakuten took the lead on Daichi Suzuki’s sweet two-run single. Chris Gittens opened with a single and with one out and runners on second and third a pop fly near short was dropped after shortstop Kotaro Kobayashi and left fielder Keita Nakagawa collided. The error prolonged the inning allowing Suzuki to drill a bad pitch from Miyagi to put the Eagles in front.
Gittens put the finishing touch on the rout with a three-run seventh-inning triple.
Marines 3, Fighters 0: At Chiba Marine Stadium, reliever Taiki Tojo needed eight pitches to escape a no-out bases-loaded pickle he inherited from starter Shoma Suzuki in the seventh to preserve Lotte’s early three-run lead.
Takashi Ogino led off the first against Takayuki Kato (6-7) with a flare that rookie right fielder Yudai Furukawa played into a triple and scored on an Akito Takabe single. In the third, Ogino drew a leadoff walk, went to third on a Takabe single and scored on a a sac fly.
“It (being eliminated from contention) was already decided,” Shinjo said. “This was a development year. Even the really young players were able to get experience. But the only conclusion I can reach about those who batted less than .220 is that they failed to seize their opportunity. Some of that is my fault. If you get a chance, you have to produce. But there’s nothing we can do about that now.”
“This part of the season is about battling a tough headwind to earn a regular position for next year.”
Tuesday’s starting pitchers
Eagles vs Buffaloes: Miyagi Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Marines vs Fighters: Chiba Marine Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Hawks vs Lions: Fukuoka Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Swallows vs Giants: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Dragons vs BayStars: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Tigers vs Carp: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 9/12/2022
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/22