NPB news: Sept. 17, 2022

It’s Saturday and was a rare night out with the missus, did some dancing, and said hi to some friends. It was fun, but full disclosure: It meant missing almost all of the games, so I won’t be able to report on anything I saw through careful observation of whole games because for the most part I didn’t.

There was some fun stuff, however, and

Yoshinobu Yamamoto stood in the way of the Hawks lowering their magic number, while the Chunichi Dragons are once more playing the role of the troll under the bridge the Yakult Swallows need to cross. The DeNA BayStars, meanwhile, were playing THEIR kryptonite team, the Hiroshima Carp.

The Rakuten Eagles sent Masahiro Tanaka to the mound with a chance to put Rakuten into third place, while the Hansin Tigers sent Yuki Nishi against the Yomiuri Giants’ Shosei Togo in their battle for the CL’s third-place spot in a game decided by home runs.

Elsewhere, a full crowd nearly brought one Fighters player to tears, while Chunichi skipper Kazuyoshi Tatsunami spills on Munetaka Murakami‘s failures.

Pitching metrics

The last two weeks I’ve been analyzing pitches, with batters’ runs created per pitch a key measure. I’m sticking with runs created per pitch but have switched to a fielding-independent model, that prevents the anomaly of Manabu Mima’s 85 mph fastball getting the highest rating of any starting pitcher’s fastball in Japan. It doesn’t miss many bats, doesn’t get called for strikes an unusual amount and is not hard to put in play, but when it has been put in play, very few have failed to find gloves this season.

With this new tweak, Hanshin reliever Atsuki Yuasa’s heater ranks as the most effective pitch thrown 400 or more times this season through Saturday, with batters creating .0113 runs per pitch he throws, to edge out Roki Sasaki’s .0117.

Let’s get to the games, shall we?

Buffaloes 2, Hawks 0: At Osaka Dome, Yamamoto (14-5) won a pitchers’ duel with Yugo Bando (2-3), with both starters allowing four hits over the distance. Yamamoto allowed four singles and a walk over nine while striking out seven. Bando Keita Nakagawa’s first-inning home run and walked three, two of which allowed Orix to load the bases in the third and score an insurance run on a Yuma Tongu sac fly.

Bando retired 17 of the last 18 batters he faced, but it was too late. The game could have gone south in the top of the first for Yamamoto after a five-pitch leadoff walk to Ukyo Shuto, but he struck out Yuki Yanagita to end the inning with the speedster on third.

“Hat’s off to him,” Hawks skipper Hiroshi Fujimoto said. “His pitches were perfectly located one after another and it never felt like we could get two straight hits off him. Tomorrow, I expect (ace Kodai) Senga to pitch the way Yamamoto did.”

The Hawks’ magic number remained at nine with Orix two back in second place.

Eagles 3, Lions 0: At Seibu Dome, Tanaka (9-10) pitched out of a first-inning jam, and Seibu’s Wataru Matsumoto (6-6) failed to do the same when he was challenged with the same two-on one-out jam in the third. Daichi Suzuki doubled in two on a 3-2 fastball, and Takero Okajima singled in another, and that was the ball game.

Tanaka allowed four hits and a walk while striking out four over seven innings as he continued his up-and-down second season in Japan, and two relievers, Naoto Nishiguchi and Yuki Matsui, retired the final six batters. Matsui’s save was his 31st and the 196th of his career.

Fighters 5, Marines 4: At Sapporo Dome, before Nippon Ham’s first home crowd of 40,000-plus since the pandemic, a two-out eighth-inning Kotaro Kiyomiya single and Arismendy Alcántara’s 14th homer erased a two-run deficit off reliever Yuki Karakawa, and Daigo Kawakamibata singled in the game winner with two outs off Taiki Tojo (4-3).

Kiyomiya opened the scoring in the second inning with his 17th home run, and Yuma Imagawa, whose connection with Nippon Ham goes back to his elementary school days when he was a member of the Fighters’ fan club, homered to lead off the sixth.

“When I was little, I thought the coolest thing would be to hit a home run here before sell-out crowd. And when it happened, I remembered that as I circled the bases and came darn close to crying. I was definitely in jeopardy there,” Imagawa said.

Hiromi Ito, who’s been Nippon Ham’s consistently best starter this year, scattered four hits and a walk through seven innings before the hammer fell. Kenta Chatani singled to third, Takashi Ogino bunted his way on, before a sacrifice and a Shogo Nakamura double tied it.

Seiya Inoue hammered a fat fastball to left, and Imagawa nearly threw the runner out at the plate, but, when the lumbering Inoue tried to take second on the throw, Fighters catcher Shingo Usami tried to nail him but his throw sailed and rolled to the outfield wall, allowing Inoue to cruise home for a two-run lead.

Dragons 3, Swallows 3, 12 innings: At Nagoya Dome, Yakult’s Cy Sneed and Chunichi’s Shinnosuke Ogasawara each allowed a run on five hits and two walks over seven innings, although Ogasawara singled and scored the tying run in the sixth inning.

Both teams scored two runs in the 12th, the Swallows rally started when Munetaka Murakami doubled on a two-out 3-2 pitch off a new reliever, lefty Hiroto Fuku, who walked the bases loaded before surrendering pinch-hitter Shingo Kawabata’s two-run single.

Swallows closer Scott McGough then blew the save. A one-out hit batsman, and a two-out walk to Yohei Oshima set up Toshiki Abe for his second RBI single of the game. McGough walked Dayan Viciedo on four pitches to load the bases, and Takuya Kinoshita singled in the tying run.

Murakami, who is five shy of Japan’s single-season home run record of 60, and is pursuing Japan’s first triple crown in 18 years and the CL’s first since 1985, struck out twice, and walked three time, once intentionally.

Dragons skipper Kazuyoshi Tatsunami wasn’t taking credit for his team’s putting the brakes on the 22-year-old.

“If he could stay locked in the way he had been the who season, he’d probably hit around 100 home runs, but every batter goes through little ups and downs I think. Looking from the bench I have to think that relatively speaking, he’s not hitting that well,” Tatsunami said.

When asked if his team possessed a secret solution, Tatsunami said, “No, no, no. It’s not like our pitchers are beating him, but rather his own condition, because batters vary from day to day and from at-bat to at-bat.”

Carp 10, BayStars 3: At Yokohama Stadium, Hiroshima’s Ryoma Nishikawa doubled and scored to break a 3-3 sixth-inning tie off reliever Taisei Irie (4-1), and Shota Dobayashi’s two-out two-run pinch-hit single capped the three-run inning.

Carp starter Shogo Tamamura issued back-to-back walks to start the first inning, and both scored. Ryan McBroom’s two-run homer, his 16th, capped a three-run third and put Hiroshima in front, before Tamamura allowed back-to-back singles to open the fifth as DeNA tied it up 3-3.

With two outs, the go-ahead run on, and Shugo Maki, who had doubled twice, at the plate, former closer Shota Nakazaki (2-5) retired the second-year star on three pitches to end the inning and earn the win. McBroom singled in a run in a four-run eighth to put the game on ice.

The BayStars’ loss trimmed Yakult’s magic number to eight as they 6-1/2 games back.

Giants 3, Tigers 2: At Tokyo Dome, Teruaki Sato opened the scoring with a second-inning homer, his 19th, in the second off Togo (12-6). Yomiuri tied it off Nishi (9-9) on a fifth-inning Adam Walker triple and a Naoki Yoshikawa double, before taking the lead in the sixth on homers by Sho Nakata and Gregory Polanco, who each have 21 on the season. Giants rookie Taisei Ota got his 33rd save.

Hanshin remained 4-1/2 back of DeNA in third, with fourth-place Hiroshima and fifth-place Yomiuri just a half-game back.

On Sunday, the Giants start a two-game home series against DeNA, while the Swallows will be at Koshien for two.

Giants-Tigers highlights

Sunday’s starting pitchers

Fighters vs Marines: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Cody Ponce (3-5, 3.38) vs Kazuya Ojima (3-10, 2.81)

Lions vs Eagles: Seibu Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Kaito Yoza (10-6, 2.68) vs Takahiro Norimoto (8-8, 3.65)

Buffaloes vs Hawks: Osaka Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Hiroya Miyagi (10-7, 3.07) vs Kodai Senga (10-5, 2.03)

Giants vs BayStars: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Iori Yamasaki (5-4, 2.99) vs Shinichi Onuki (10-7, 2.63)

Tigers vs Swallows: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shintaro Fujinami (2-4, 3.84) vs Yasuhiro Ogawa (7-8, 3.02)

Carp vs Dragons: Hiroshima Citizen’s Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Atsushi Endo (4-7, 3.68) vs Akiyoshi Katsuno (0-4, 4.20)

Active roster moves 9/17/2022

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/27

Central League


TigersP16Yuki Nishi
BayStarsP12Kosuke Sakaguchi


BayStarsP47Yoshiki Sunada

Pacific League


BuffaloesP35Motoki Higa
BuffaloesIF9Tomoya Noguchi
MarinesP18Kota Futaki
EaglesC55Yuma Yasuda
HawksP60Ryota Nakamura
LionsIF5Shuta Tonosaki


BuffaloesP17Hirotoshi Masui
BuffaloesP66Ryo Yoshida
MarinesP12Ayumu Ishikawa
EaglesOF12Jose Marmolejos
HawksP61Masato Okumura
FightersP70Conner Menez
LionsOF35Gakuto Wakabayashi

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