Manager Kimiyasu Kudo and his four-time defending champion SoftBank Hawks appear to be going in a death spiral. The Hawks entered Saturday’s game with the first-place Orix Buffaloes having lost seven straight for the first time in nine years. The Hawks went up against Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who tied a franchise record.
Also on Saturday, the Central League’s top two teams, the first-place Yakult Swallows and second-place Hanshin Tigers squared off for the second of their three games in Tokyo, and more fun ensued, while the Hiroshima Carp hosted the third-place Yomiuri Giants with Hiroshima’s hopes of a longshot last-gasp playoff berth still a faint possibility.
Fighters 4, Marines 2
At Sapporo Dome, Drew VerHagen (5-8, 4.15) allowed two unearned runs over six innings on five hits and two walks while striking out nine as Nippon Ham beat pennant-chasing second-place Lotte for the second straight day.
A first-inning leadoff Takashi Ogino leadoff double and an infield single had VerHagen facing runners on the corners with no outs. Catcher Shingo Usami cut down Koshiro Wada trying to steal second, and VerHagen struck out two of the next three hitters to put up a zero.
Kensuke Kondo rewarded him in the home half. With Go Matsumoto on second with two outs after a leadoff double, Kondo singled him in, took second on the throw and scored on a Yuto Takahama single off Fumiya Motomae (1-2 5.23).
Lotte tied it in the top of the fourth on a one-out error, an Adeiny Hechavarria single and a two-out Yudai Fujioka single, before Ryota Yachi’s one-out RBI single scored Chusei Mannami and chased Motomae.
Usami hit his first home run, off Frank Herrmann in the sixth. Mizuki Hori, Bryan Rodriguez and Toshihiro Sugiura each worked a scoreless inning of relief for the Fighters with Sugiura getting his 26th save.
Eagles 2, Lions 1
Kishi got out of a fourth-inning pickle with a double play, and Eigoro Mogi gave Rakuten a lead in the fifth, when he tripled and scored on a Yoshiaki Watanabe single. The Eagles loaded the bases in the sixth with no outs and the seventh after there were two outs, but failed to score, allowing Seibu to even things up in the bottom of the seventh on a Hotaka Yamakawa walk and pinch-hit singles from Tomoya Mori and Takumi Kuriyama.
The Eagles stranded two more runners in the eighth before two walks and a Hiroaki Shimauchi RBI single recovered the lead in the ninth against closer Kaima Taira (2-4). Tomohiro Anraku allowed two runners in the ninth but held on for his second save while Naoto Nishiguchi (5-1) earned the win after a 1-2-3 eighth.
Buffaloes 6, Hawks 2
At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Yoshinobu Yamamoto (17-5, 1.42) allowed two runs over six innings and tied a franchise record by winning 14 consecutive decisions, while Steven Moya went 4-for-5 with two home runs, three runs and three RBIs for the Buffaloes as the four-time defending Japan Series champion Hawks dropped their eighth straight game.
Orix took a 2-0 lead in the fourth on a Yutaro Sugimoto leadoff double and Moya’s 12th home run, off Hawks starter Shunsuke Kasaya (2-4, 4.91), who allowed two runs over four innings.
Akira Nakamura’s seventh home run, his second in two days, made it 2-1 in the fifth before Moya singled in the sixth and scored from third when the Hawks forgot about him on a two-out delayed double steal. Alfredo Despaigne and Ryoya Kurihara singled to open SoftBank’s sixth to set up their second run and make it 3-2, but Moya homered in the eighth, and Kenya Wakatasuki capped that rally with a two-run homer, his fifth.
Tigers 2, Swallows 1
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Yakult stranded seven base runners over the first three innings, as Tigers starter Takumi Akiyama made some incredible pitches with to get out of three jams, and Kairi Shimada smoked a fat pitch from Ryuta Konno (7-1) off the first bag and over first baseman Jose Osuna for a tie-breaking RBI double.
Raul Alcantara (3-2) relieved Akiyama in the sixth and pitched out of a jam to earn the win. He was followed to the mound by Suguru Iwazaki, and Robert Suarez, who entered while his brother Albert was still in the game for Yakult. Robert got five outs, the last two with the bases loaded against two of Japan’s best hitters, Tetsuto Yamada and Munetaka Murakami, to record his Japan-best 39th save.
Yakult lefty Keiji Takahashi issued two first-inning walks, including a tough 3-2 take by Jefry Marte, that set the table for Yusuke Oyama to single in Koji Chikamoto. The Tigers center fielder then saved two runs in the bottom of the first with by hauling in Osuna’s two-out drive to the wall in center. A leadoff walk and a single in the Swallows’ second put runners on the corners with no outs, but Akiyama struck out three straight to dodge another bullet.
Yakult’s third inning, however, proved to be the charm. A Norichika Aoki leadoff double and a one-out intentional walk to league home run leader Munetaka Murakami allowed Yuhei Nakamura’s second single to tie it with two outs. Akiyama walked the bases loaded before making another great escape.
Takahashi allowed a run on three hits and three walks while striking out eight over five innings. Taichi Ishiyama struck out two in the sixth, but Konno allowed a leadoff single to Mel Rojas Jr. After a sacrifice Shimada hammered a 2-2 cutter to put the Tigers in front.
Dragons 4, BayStars 2
At Yokohama Stadium, Chunichi came from a run down in the ninth, tying it on three no-out singles off Hiromu Ise. Yoshiki Sunada loaded the bases with a one-out walk before two runs scored on Yota Kyoda’s infield single.
Katsuki Matayoshi (3-2) worked the eighth to earn the win, while Raidel Martinez ran with the lead in the ninth to earn his 21st save as DeNA wasted seven scoreless innings from Masaya Kyoyama.
Masayuki Kuwahara manufactured a DeNA lead in the fifth off starter Yariel Rodriguez with a one-out seven-pitch walk before reaching third on a stolen base and wild throw and scoring on a groundout.
Pinch-hitter Kazuki Kamizato doubled to open the seventh against Daisuke Sobue and scored on a Taishi Kusamoto single before Chunichi’s Ariel Martinez hit a pinch-hit homer in the eighth off lefty Edwin Escobar.
Carp 7, Giants 1
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Koya Takahashi (5-7, 5.28) worked five scoreless innings Shogo Sakakura drove in three runs and scored on as fourth-place Hiroshima moved to within seven games of third-place Yomiuri.
Takahashi escaped a first-inning jam and the Carp took the lead in the home half. Ryoma Nishikawa singled with two outs and scored on a double by Seiya Suzuki, who scored on a Shogo Sakakura single.
Rookie Koki Ugasa tripled to open Hiroshima’s third and scored on a groundout, and the Carp chased vs Shosei Togo (9-7, 3.91) in the fourth after Sakakura’s leadoff walk and a Ryosuke Kikuchi single. Rookie Kota Hayashi made it 4-0 with a sac fly off lefty Kyosuke Takagi.
Sunday’s starting pitchers
Fighters vs Marines: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Lions vs Eagles: MetLife Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Hawks vs Buffaloes: PayPay Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Swallows vs Tigers: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
BayStars vs Dragons: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Carp vs Giants: Mazda Stadium 1:30 pm, 0:30 am EDT
Active roster moves 10/9/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/19