On a Central League Wednesday, with five teams battling for post-season positions, we had only one big showdown game, between Hiroshima and Hanshin, who started the day one back of the third-place Yomiuri Giants, whose manager Tatsunori Hara went all old school on us. In Nagoya, Munetaka Murakami had a difference of opinion about the strike zone with infamous umpire Kazuyuki Shirai.
Giants 2, BayStars 1: At Yokohama Stadium, Hara pulled out all the stops, and by that I mean he waved his sacrifice bunt wand.
Hara had slugging catcher Takumi Oshiro bunt two runners into scoring position in the fifth from where the go-ahead run could score on a groundout. Cleanup hitter Sho Nakata, who singled in the game’s first run, was asked to lay one down in the sixth with two on and no out. He got the job done, the next batter walked to load the bases.
Wednesday’s trio of Pro Yakyu News analysts, Hiroki Nomura, Tsutomu Iwamoto and Kenji Tomashino were doing their job to hold up the righteousness of the sacrifice bunt.
“Having Nakata bunt electrified the Giants bench. It’s special,” Tomashino said, to which Nomura and Iwamoto heartily agreed.
Including the subsequent walk, the Giants responded to being electrified by going into offensive shock making outs in 11 of their final 12 plate appearances.
Yomiuri’s Matt Shoemaker allowed just one run on three walks and four hits over four innings before leaving for a pinch-hitter. Rookie Taisei Ota recorded his 36th save to keep Yomiuri solidly in third place for now.
Carp 10, Tigers 4, 11 innings: At Koshien Stadium, two of the league’s top young pitchers, Hiroshima’s Masato Morishita and Hanshin’s Masashi Ito were both vulnerable.
Morishita issued three two-out walks in the first to set up Teruaki Sato’s two-run single.
Ito, stranded two runners in the first, but got only one out in the Carp’s four-run second for the quickest exit of his brief career. Shogo Sakakura led off with a home run, Kaito Kozono hit a two-run shot, and Ryan McBroom, who continued to pound the ball, capped the rally with a sac fly. Young right-hander Junya Nishi, who got the last two outs in the inning, worked 3-2/3, to keep it close and let the Tigers back into the game.
I don’t carefully watch every game at Koshien, but it seems to have a kind of unique magnetic field that summons weird throws and missed catches. I was surprised that there were only three errors charged, because it seemed like a lot more.
The error pit’s reputation continued as the Tigers got a run back in the fifth on a Ryusei Kikuchi throwing error. Morita was gone after five innings, and Daisuke Moriura surrendered a game-tying homer to Tigers catcher Ryutaro Umeno.
The Carp walked away with this one in the 11th when a one-out walk, and a throwing error on a sacrifice put runners on the corners. The Tigers brought the infield in, and Takashi Uemoto smacked on hard through the infield to put the Carp in front. Kikuchi did the same to make it 6-4. With the outfield playing shallow to prevent the next run, Ryoma Nishikawa’s deep fly went for a two-run double. McBroom completed the carnage with a two-run single.
The win kept Hiroshima one game back of the third-place Giants, with Hanshin another game back in fifth.
It was also Yoshio Itoi’s retirement game. Ito came on as a pinch-hitter for Nishi, and led off the fifth with a single, that set up Hanshin’s third run.
Swallows 6, Dragons 2: At Nagoya Dome, Munetaka Murakami went 1-for-3 with two walks, one intentional, but Yakult came back from a 2-0 deficit in the fourth on Domingo Santana’s three-run fourth-inning home run, his 15th off Takahiro Matsuba (6-7).
Masanori Ishikawa (6-4) allowed two runs in the third, when Yuki Okabayashi doubled in the game’s first run and scored on a Yohei Oshima single, but that was all Chunichi would get off the little 42-year-old lefty.
An error and a Patrick Kivlehan double made it 4-2, and Yakult put the game away in the eighth with two more runs.
Murakami struck out twice, once called on a low pitch that the slugger was visibly annoyed with but wisely didn’t say anything to the ump with Japan’s shortest fuse, and loudest called-strike shriek.
The win, and the BayStars’ loss trimmed Yakult’s magic number to four, and increased the Swallows’ lead over DeNA to seven games with 10 to play.
Thursday’s starting pitchers
Buffaloes vs Marines: Osaka Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
BayStars vs Giants: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Swallows vs Dragons: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 9/21/2022
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/1