On Thursday we had three games, two in the Central League, where the two title chasers were in action, and one in the PL, where second-place Orix took on fifth-place Lotte, and ran into a monster.
The Swallows opened play with a magic number of four to clinch and a seven-game CL lead over the BayStars. Munetaka Murakami was looking for home run No. 56 since hitting two on Sept. 13.
BayStars 3, Giants 0: At Yokohama Stadium, reliever Hiromu Ise was the man of the hour, retiring all three batters he faced while keeping the bases jammed with Giants in the eighth inning to clean up the mess left by southpaw Edwin Escobar.
“Escobar is always the guy for us, securing wins,” Ise said. “I wanted to be the guy who could back him up tonight.”
Lefty Kenta Ishida (6-4) worked six scoreless innings, surviving his biggest scare when he retired cleanup hitter Sho Nakata to end the third with the bases loaded. The BayStars small-balled C.C. Mercedes (5-7) for a first-inning run on a Masayuki Kuwahara leadoff double, a sacrifice and a Shugo Maki RBI single.
Toshiro Miyazaki homered in the fifth off new Giants pitcher Ryuta Heinai, and added another insurance run in the seventh against Ian Krol, loading the bases on two walks and a single before a sac fly made it 3-0, although not without some painful Giants defense that would make one think the game was at Koshien.
The Giants had a runner trapped between second and third, but botched the rundown when the trailing runner moved toward second. He was forced back to first at the cost of not getting the third out on the play.
A single, a walk and a throwing error by Escobar loaded them up in the Giants’ eighth, but Ise did his stuff and closer Yasuaki Yamasaki saved his 36th game.
Dragons 3, Swallows 0: At Jingu Stadium, Munetaka Murakami struck out twice, flied out and hit into a game-ending groundout, as Yakult finished its disappointing season series against Chunichi, outscoring the Dragons 93-91, while going 10-14-1.
Hiroto Takahashi retired 14 of the first 15 batters he faced, allowing only a deflected infield single to rookie Swallows pitcher Hikaru Yamashita (0-1) in his major league debut. Takahashi retired the next 10 before he issued a pair of walks in a hitless scoreless seventh.
Yamashita allowed just two runs over 4-2/3 innings despite giving up nine hits and three walks without striking out a batter. Chunichi threatened in every inning except the third, when Yohei Oshima led off with an infield single and was thrown out trying to steal.
After getting hammered in his last three starts, Yakult right-hander Hirotoshi Takanashi came out of the bullpen for the first time this season in the seventh and was as ineffective in relief as he had been starting, issuing three walks and an RBI single to Shuhei Takahashi that made it 3-0 Dragons.
“I somehow had a real good rhythm tonight. This is a ballpark where it goes out easily, so I was extra careful to keep the ball down, and otherwise put the ball where (catcher Takuya) Kinoshita wanted it,” Takahashi said.
Chunichi setup man Yariel Rodriguez worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and Raidel Martinez survived a two-out walk to earn his 36th save when Murakami grounded the first pitch to second. Nine of his 31 saves against CL teams are against Yakult.
Since his last two home runs on Sept. 13, Murakami has:
- had balls called on pitches 8 percent more often,
- offered at 14 percent fewer pitches,
- on those he has missed 39 percent more often,
- fouled off 32 percent fewer pitches,
- had strikes called 14 percent more often on pitches he took.
Marines 13, Buffaloes 5: At Osaka Dome, Koki Yamaguchi homered three times, doubled, walked, scored four runs and drove in eight as Lotte cowed the Buffaloes.
Lotte bashed Taisuke Yamaoka (6-8) in a four-run first. Back-to-back one-out doubles by Katsuya Kakunaka and Shogo Nakamura put one run up a single and two walks made it 2-0, and Koki Yamaguchi doubled in two before Takashi Ogino was doubled off, caught in a rundown between third and home after a 4-3 putout.
Lotte gave back in the first, when Shuhei Fukuda singled, went to third on a wild pickoff throw from Manabu Mima (9-6) and scored on Yuma Mune’s sac fly. The Marines chased Yamaoka in the fourth after Koki Yamaguchi’s two-run home run made it 6-1, and Kakunaka made it 9-1 in the sixth with his third hit, a three-run homer.
The Buffaloes made the game closer if not close, with four late runs, but still fell a half-game back of the idle first-place SoftBank Hawks, whose magic number to clinch dropped to seven.
The Hawks have nine games to play, the Buffaloes just four.
Sorry, but Pacific League TV forgot to allow their video to be uploaded tonight. So all I’ve got is a link.
Friday’s starting pitchers
Eagles vs Fighters: Miyagi Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Hawks vs Marines: Fukuoka Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Swallows vs BayStars: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Dragons vs Giants: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Carp vs Tigers: Hiroshima Citizen’s Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 9/22/2022
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/2