NPB wrap 10-1-21

The Orix Buffaloes recaptured first place for the first time since Sept. 7, following their three-game sweep of the Lotte Marines in Chiba, they came from behind to beat the fourth-place SoftBank Hawks in Hiroya Miyagi’s best start in months, setting the Hawks up for a clash with Yoshinobu Yamamoto on Saturday, which should be fun.

Otherwise, the big news was the retirement of Yuki Saito. Coming out of Waseda University after a stellar high school career in which he locked horns in the national championship with Masahiro Tanaka, Saito was highly prized more for his competitiveness than the quality of his pitches, which pretty much maxed out during his first year in college. He became the forever project of manager Hideki Kuriyama, who was convinced the right-hander would eventually turn the corner. Kuriyama’s insistence on bringing up Saito to the first team in 2012 after showing nothing on the farm led pitching coach Masato Yoshii to walk away from the Fighters (for the first time).

Highly sought after in the 2010 draft, Yakult Swallows fans are forever grateful Saito signed with the Nippon Ham Fighters after a draft-day lottery, allowing Yakult to take Tetsuto Yamada with their alternate pick.

Also, in honor of Shohei Ohtani becoming the first American or National leaguer with a 45-homer, 25-steal 8-triple season, I offer you another major leaguer who came awfully darn close, because in 1950 there was a seaason…

Friday’s games

Lions 4, Fighters 2

At Sapporo Dome, Nippon Ham, whose forever hope, former high school idol Yuki “Handkerchief Prince” Saito, will soon be in their rearview mirror after announcing his retirement, took the lead on a sixth-inning Kensuke Kondo double. Hotaka Yamakawa basically dictated the game after that, leading off the seventh with his 19th home run, and hitting a three-run shot in the eighth.

Reed Garrett (3-3), Seibu’s fourth pitcher, worked 1-1/3 innings to earn the win, and Kaima Taira earned his 19th save.

Eagles vs Marines

At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, rained out…

Buffaloes 2, Hawks 1

At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Orix rookie Hiroya Miyagi (12-3, 2.44) threw his best game in nearly three months, allowing a run on seven hits but no walks while striking out six over seven innings. SoftBank’s Taisei Makihara broke a scoreless tie in the fifth when he singled, took third on a wild throw as he stole second, and scored on a Nobuhiro Matsuda single.

Torai Fushimi, whose error contributed to the Hawks’ run, tied it in the sixth after he doubled, was sacrificed to third and scored on a Yuma Mune single off Shuta Ishikawa.

The Buffaloes took the lead on back-to-back poorly hit seventh-inning singles by Yutaro Sugimoto and Steven Moya against Sho Iwasaki (2-5), a sacrifice and a wild pitch. Iwasaki limited the damage by getting two outs with runners on second and third, but Tyler Higgins shut the Hawks down in the eighth for his 22nd hold, and Yoshihisa Hirano got the last two outs in the ninth with the tying runner on second to record his 24th save.

Hirano threw forkball after forkball to Alfredo Despaigne with Yuki Yanagita on second, but surprised him completely with a 3-2 hummer of a fastball when he was looking fork and sent him muttering back to the dugout.

Giants 3, BayStars 2

At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri came from two down to snap a streak of five straight losing decisions. A fourth-inning Neftali Soto RBI double and a sixth-inning leadoff homer by Keita Sano, his 14th, made it 2-0 off Tomoyuki Sugano, but Yomiuri rallied on four straight no-out singles, the last by Yoshihiro Maru driving in two, in the bottom of the sixth against Fernando Romero.

Against lefty Yoshiki Sunada (2-2), the Giants took the lead on an Akihiro Wakabyashi one-out single, a Hayato Sakamoto double and a sac fly by Yoshiyuki Kamei, who singled and scored the tying run in the sixth. The Giants wasted a chance to score more when the final out was made on the base paths.

Giants lefty Kota Nakagawa (2-2) got out of a two-on one-out jam in the seventh on a double play to earn the win, before Rubby De La Rosa worked the eighth and Thyago Vieira the ninth–for his 17th save.

Giants-BayStars highlights

Tigers 5, Dragons 2

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin rookie Masashi Ito (8-7, 2.80) allowed two runs over seven innings, on Nobumasa Fukuda 7th and 8th home runs, and the Tigers took the lead on Yusuke Oyama’s fourth-inning homer with Jefry Marte aboard, his 18th, off Shotaro Kasahara (0-1, 1.64), who let the game get away after two outs in the fifth. Marte followed a two-out Koji Chikamoto double and a Takumu Nakano walk with his 20th home run to make it a 5-1 game.

Suguru Iwazaki worked the eighth, and Robert Suarez nailed down his 35th save in the ninth.

Swallows 5, Carp 4

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Yakult snapped a two-game losing streak by winning a see-saw game against Hiroshima, buoyed by three RBIs from Jose Osuna, and an eighth-inning tie-breaking single by catcher Yuhei Nakamura about 15 minutes after he got his bell rung in a collision at home plate and needed to be helped off the field.

Yakult starter Juri Hara allowed a first-inning run on an error, a Kaito Kozono single and a Ryoma Nishikawa sac fly—the first of 18 consecutive outs he would record before Nishikawa singled to open the Carp’s seventh with Yakult leading 2-1.

Daichi Osera held the Swallows scoreless through five, but he loaded the bases for Osuna by hitting a batter with two outs after singles by Yasutaka Shiomi and Tetsuto Yamada. Osuna’s flare single drove in two. After the bullpen got a workout to start the week at Jingu against the BayStars, manager Shingo Takatsu kept Hara on the mound in the seventh. Nishikawa and Seiya Suzuki singled before Shogo Sakakura reached on a little squib single.

The Swallows got an out at home, but Nishikawa accidentally slammed into Nakamura, laying him out near home for a few minutes. Hara struck out Ryuhei Matsuyama thanks to a couple of really bad calls from umpire Takanori Yamamoto, but Hara missed badly in the zone to the next hitters as Tsubasa Aizawa singled in two and pinch-hitter Hisayoshi Chono one.

Ryuta Konno (6-0) stranded two runners by retiring the side in the seventh on one pitch to earn the win after Yakult scored three off Makoto Kemna (2-2) in the eighth. A Norichika Aoki single, a walk, a wild pitch and a groundout plated one. Osuna tripled in the tying run and Nakamura singled in the go-ahead run off Sotaro Shimauchi. Hiroshima threatened in the eighth but setup man Noboru Shimizu escaped on a slick double play started by Yamada at second. Scott McGough retired the side in order in the ninth for his 24th save.

Saturday’s starting pitchers

Fighters vs Lions: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Drew VerHagen (4-8, 4.68) vs Tatsuya Imai (7-6, 3.69)

Eagles vs Marines: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Takayuki Kishi (7-9, 3.66) vs Kota Futaki (5-5, 3.92)

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

Yoshinobu Yamamoto (15-5, 1.50) vs Carter Stewart, Jr. (0-1, 5.09)

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

Seishu Hatake (3-3, 3.18) vs Masaya Kyoyama (2-5, 4.53)

Tigers vs Dragons: Koshien Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Haruto Takahashi (2-1, 2.25) vs Yariel Rodriguez (0-3, 3.86)

Carp vs Swallows: Mazda Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Koya Takahashi (4-6, 5.29) vs Hirotoshi Takanashi (3-1, 3.35)

Active roster moves 10/1/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/11

Central League


GiantsIF32Taishi Hirooka
GiantsOF43Shinnosuke Shigenobu
TigersIF00Yasuhiro Yamamoto
BayStarsP35Tomoya Mikami
BayStarsP42Fernando Romero
CarpP46Mikiya Takahashi
SwallowsP16Juri Hara


GiantsIF10Sho Nakata
GiantsIF68Yuto Akihiro
TigersIF38Ryuhei Obata
BayStarsP19Yasuaki Yamasaki
BayStarsP65Ryosuke Miyaguni
CarpP42Kyle Bird
SwallowsOF42Tomotaka Sakaguchi

Pacific League


LionsP44Kaito Yoza
LionsOF65Daisuke Togawa
FightersP41Bryan Rodriguez
BuffaloesP26Atsushi Nomi


LionsOF53Aito Takeda
EaglesP23Hayato Yuge
FightersP19Chihiro Kaneko
BuffaloesP29Daiki Tajima

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