The weekend is going to tell us a lot about whether the Hiroshima Carp have any chance to reach the Central League playoffs. They entered Friday’s game against the Yakult Swallows with a magic number of 12 to reach the playoffs and knock the Giants out.
That shot will get a boost on Saturday, when they go head to head with Yomiuri at Tokyo Dome. The Giants started Friday with a magic number of four to clinch their fourth straight postseason berth.
The Swallows-Giants game was a bruiser, so I’ll leave that novella for the end of today’s reports. Just beware of bat flips, because Jose Osuna’s was a show-stopper.
While the CL serves us up the table scraps of makeup games, the heavily domed Pacific League is still giving us three-game series, with the fourth-place SoftBank Hawks fighting an uphill battle to make the postseason for the eighth straight season. To do that, they will have to help knock the Lotte Marines out of pennant contention.
The Orix Buffaloes, who like the Marines have a magic number of nine to win the franchise’s first championship since 1996—the longest drought for any of the eight teams still in the playoff picture—will be at the Nippon Fighters, who are one game back of the fifth-place Seibu Lions as those two teams battle to stay out of last place. The Lions, meanwhile, are in Sendai where the Eagles entered play of Friday, like the Giants, with a magic number of four to reach the postseason.
Marines 3, Hawks 1
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Hiromi Oka homered for the second straight game, taking SoftBank closer Yuito Mori (1-3) deep with two outs and one on the ninth to power Lotte’s walk-off win.
Lotte starter Daiki Iwashita allowed a run on three hits and four walks over five perilous innings, but four relievers allowed two runners, on a walk and an error over the final four innings. Closer Naoya Masuda (2-6) worked a 1-2-3 ninth to ensure at least a tie, clinching the Marines’ place in the playoffs for the second straight season.
Iwashita pitched out of trouble early. He walked the bases loaded in the first before a smoking liner was caught for the final out, and survived runners on the corners in the second with one out after a single and an error. Iwashita slipped off his tight rope in the fifth as Taisei Makihara manufactured a run. The Hawks’ leadoff man singled, advanced on a ground out, a fly out and scored on a wild pitch.
Hawks lefty Shunsuke Kasaya was nearly untouchable for four innings, but surrendered reserve catcher Shoma Kato’s second home run in the fifth.
Buffaloes 3, Fighters 0
At Sapporo Dome, Orix rookie Soichiro Yamazaki (2-2, 3.69) allowed two hits and a walk over six innings, Yutaro Sugimoto hit his PL-leading 32nd home run, driving in all three runs off Nippon Ham starter Kazuaki Tateno (4-2, 2.57), who went six innings,
Tateno walked Yuma Mune and rookie Kotaro Kurebayashi to open the fourth and Sugimoto took him deep. Ryoga Tomiyama, Tyler Higgins and Yoshihisa Hirano then closed out the three-hit shutout with one inning apiece. Hirano earned his 27th save.
Lions 5, Eagles 1
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Tatsuya Imai (8-7, 3.37) allowed four hits and four walks in his third complete game of the season, and Hotaka Yamakawa broke the game open with a three-run home run as Seibu
Eagles starter Ryota Takinaka (9-5, 3.32) allowed two runs, one earned, on five hits over seven innings. Singles from Takeya Nakamura and Yamakawa, and an error on shortstop Tsuyoshi Yamasaki put the Lions on the board in the second. Singles by Shuta Tonosaki and Tomoya Mori teed up Nakamura for a sac fly that made it 2-0 in the third.
Hiroaki Shimauchi’s 20th homer, in the fourth inning, made it 2-1, but the game slipped away from the Eagles after Takinaka’s exit as Yamakawa made it 5-1 with a two-out three-run homer off Kohei Morihara.
Despite their loss, the Eagles’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot dropped to three.
Swallows 8, Giants 7
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, NPB’s two best bullpens, according to Delta Graphs, played giveaway, surrendering a combined eight runs over six innings before the Swallows finished on top to cut their magic number to clinch to six games, while the Giants’ loss gave the idle Hiroshima Carp a magic number of 11 to reach the playoffs.
Jose Osuna made up for two rally-killing at-bats with a three-run seventh-inning homer that put the Swallows in front after two homers from Domingo Santana and one from Norichika Aoki helped the league leaders overcome an early deficit.
Hayato Sakamoto opened the scoring in the first with a one-out solo homer, his 19th, driving a fat 1-1 fastball to the opposite field. Kazuma Okamoto’s 39th home run, after a Yoshihiro Maru single made it 3-0. The only thing the Swallows managed to do in the first was to make Togo throw 28 pitches, with Osuna making the final out with two on. The right-hander, however, proved capable of tit for tat in a 10-pitch at-bat before he made the final out in the Giants’ second.
Santana homered for the second straight game with one out in the second, his 16th home run making it 3-1. Giants leadoff man Seiya Matsubara doubled to lead off the third, and took third on an error by Santana in right. Takanashi struck out Sakamoto but walked Maru and Okamoto to load the bases before getting an inning-ending double play.
Aoki made it a one-run game in the third, taking a borderline 2-2 pitch for Ball 3, before pulling a high straight fastball out to right for his ninth homer. Zelous Wheeler made an outstanding play to end the inning with tumbling catch of a foul fly in the left field corner.
After Takanashi’s sharpest inning of the night, he left for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fifth, when Yakult loaded the bases with two outs on two walks and an infield single. But for the second time, Togo escaped a two-out jam by retiring Osuna.
Singles by Maru and Wheeler off new pitcher Hiroki Onishi in the fifth put Giants on the corners with one out. A good stop by shortstop Hiyu Motoyama got a force at second as Maru scored to make it 4-2.
Togo came back out for the sixth to face the bottom half of the Swallows’ order. He surrendered a Yuhei Nakamura leadoff double on his 101st pitch, and left a 2-2 slider up on his 106th that Santana drove out for his 17th homer and a 4-4 tie.
Naoki Yoshikawa and Sakamoto untied it in a hurry, however, against Ryota Konno. Yoshikawa singled to open the seventh, was sacrificed to second and scored on a two-out Sakamoto single. Okamoto made it 6-4 with a two-out single that chased Konno. Yuma Oshita (1-0) retired Wheeler to end the inning and earn the win.
In the seventh Aoki walked and scored on a Tetsuto Yamada double to open the Swallows’ seventh against lefty Yuhei Takanashi (2-2). The Giants’ third pitcher, who walked Munetaka Murakami. Right-hander Seishu Hatake came in to face Osuna, who blasted his 13th home run into the left-field stands among the stunned Giants fans.
The weirdness didn’t stop once the big guns got into the game. Swallows setup man Noboru Shimizu surrendered Sho Nakata’s third home run as a Giant to lead off the eighth and a one-out Yoshikawa double. Giants closer Thyago Vieira stranded two in a scoreless eighth, but Scott McGough ended it in the ninth with the tying run on second base.
Despite letting Nakata blow out a candle on his 25th birthday cake, Shimizu tied Takuya Asao’s 2010 NPB record of 47 holds.
Saturday’s starting pitchers
Fighters vs Buffaloes: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Eagles vs Lions: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Marines vs Hawks: Zozo Marine Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Giants vs Carp: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Swallows vs Dragons: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 10/15/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/25