Sunday in Japan saw the Pacific League’s two top teams, the Lotte Marines and Orix Buffaloes, steam forward despite their opponents throwing Masahiro Tanaka and Kodai Senga at them.
The Central League’s top-two teams did the same as the Yakult Swallows and Hanshin Tigers overcame second-division opposition, while the third-place Yomiuri Giants had to settle for a disappointing tie.
Fighters 3, Lions 2
At Sapporo Dome, Ronny Rodrguez tied this one 2-2 in the eighth with his fifth home run, Nippon Ham catching up after Seibu scored twice in the second off Takayuki Kato. With two on and one out, Shuta Tonosaki doubled in the game’s first run, and a sac fly made it 2-0, but it would be the first of 23 consecutive outs that Kato and three relievers would record.
In contrast, the first 16 Fighters made out against Yutaro Watanabe, and Nippon Ham broke up the shutout on a Kensuke Kondo double and a Yuto Takahama single. Takahama was thrown out trying to score on Daiki Asama’s two-out double off Reed Garrett to end the inning.
With two outs in the eighth, Rodriguez tied it off former closer Tatsushi Masuda, and Kaima Taira (2-3) walked the bases loaded with one out in the ninth. With two outs, Haruki Nishikawa came off the bench and ended the game with a single. Fighters closer Toshihiro Sugiura got his 24th save.
Marines 2, Eagles 0
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Lotte lefty Kazuya Ojima (10-3, 3.85) struck out five while allowing three singles for his second shutout and third complete game in four starts to outduel Masahiro Tanaka (4-7, 2.91), who took the complete-game loss.
Tanaka gave up nine hits, three in the first inning when Brandon Laird doubled in one of the Marines’ two first-inning runs. Tanaka, who reached 2,500 major league innings pitched, was not dominant but he was a bulldog.
He was assisted in the seventh when the Marines put two on with no outs only to give away three straight outs in a way that made the old guys weep, two straight batters struck out on two-strike foul bunts – while the final out was made on the bases.
When teams win because they score via a sacrifice, the old guys love to say how the sacrifices were the key to victory. The Marines tried five sacrifices, two of which failed, and none led to runs, but it wouldn’t surprise me if someone said, that constant desire to scratch out a run is the key to their success, and not all their base runners and extra-base hits
Buffaloes 3, Hawks 0
At Kyocera Dome Osaka, it was a duel between pitchers who were once unwanted, Daichi Takeyasu (3-0, 4.33) outdueled Kodai Senga (7-3, 2.81) with each going six innings. Takeyasu joined the Buffaloes from Hanshin as free agent compensation for Yuki Nishi, while every NPB team passed on Senga as a potential draft pick out of high school until SoftBank took him as a non-roster developmental player.
Yutaro Sugimoto made it 1-0 leading off Orix’s second with his PL-best 29th home run, and after Ryoya Kurihara tripled in the fourth, Buffaloes third baseman Yuma Mune made a great diving stop to preserve the lead with a diving catch of an Alfredo Despaigne liner.
Mune then led off the Buffaloes fourth, when Ryoichi Adachi just barely made contact on a two-strike splitter with two outs, before singling up the middle to make it 2-0. With two on and one out in the fifth, Mune was credited with an RBI on a groundout.
Tomoyuki Kaida and Tyler Higgins each worked a scoreless inning before the Hawks had some tremendous at-bats in the ninth against Yoshihisa Hirano, but a leadoff runner was caught stealing and the game ended in a double play as the closer earned his 25th save.
Giants 3, BayStars 3
At Tokyo Dome, a Toshiro Miyazaki leadoff homer, his 16th, and a two-run Keita Sano double put three runs on the board in the fifth against Yomiuri’s Shosei Togo, but the Giants came back for two runs against Shota Imanaga on Taishi Hirooka’s fifth-inning pinch-hit homer, his fifth, and Yoshihiro Maru’s 18th, in the seventh.
Five Giants relievers kept it close, DeNA lefty Edwin Escobar worked a scoreless eighth, and then with a one-run lead, the BayStars asked 23-year-old right-hander Hiromu Ise, their third draft pick in 2019 to earn his first save.
He was one strike away when Takumi Oshiro doubled off the wall to tie it. The Giants then loaded the bases before Ise struck out Seiya Matsubara to end it.
Tigers 1, Dragons 0
At Koshien Stadium, Jefry Marte homered for the third straight game, with his 22nd, to settle a pitchers’ duel between Chunichi’s Shinnosuke Ogasawara (7-10, 3.91), who scattered seven hits and four walks over seven, and Joe Gunkel (9-3, 3.08), who went 6-1/3, while three relievers were nearly flawless in support with Robert Suarez getting his 36th save in style, striking out Dayan Viciedo and Kosuke Fukudome to end it.
Swallows 4, Carp 1
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Yakult’s Masanori Ishikawa had another of his machine-made starts, allowing a run over five-plus innings, while Hiroshima’s Masato Morishita held the Swallows to a run over seven.
Yasutaka Shiomi singled and scored in the first via a Norichika Aoki double and a Tetsuto Yamada sac fly, but appeared to have a leg injury and left the game. Ishikawa survived three straight one-out singles in the fourth, although it was a close call, the inning ending on a line out to third.
He was less lucky in the fifth, when Shogo Sakakura hit the third of three straight no-out singles to chase the 41-year-old lefty. But Hiroki Onishi needed four pitches to end the inning, and three more relievers, pitched shutout ball the rest of the way, with manager Shingo Takatsu going to his “B” relievers to close it out after Domingo Santana singled in two runs in the eighth.
With one out and runners on the corners, Yamada was caught off third base, and Hiroshima’s laborious run-down, put two runners in scoring position for Santana, who hit a flare off the end of the bat to earn a spot on the post-game hero interview.
Typically, when a runner gets caught off third on a groundout, the analysts blast him for bonehead base running, even when it costs his team nothing or in this case, improved the Swallows scoring chances.
But the analyst on the broadcast would have none of that. Instead, he was in full John E. Gibson mode, saying, “One throw, one throw tops, that’s all you need. But here are the Carp playing catch, with every throw representing a chance that the ball will get away. What a mess.”
With a two-run lead in the eighth, Takatsu gave the ball, not to setup man Noboru Shimizu, but to former closer Taichi Ishiyama, and to Albert Suarez instead of Scott McGough in the ninth for his first save in Japan and the second of the day for the Suarez family after Aoki’s seventh homer gave Yakult a three-run lead.
Active roster moves 10/3/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/13