Hideaki Wakui improved to 6-3 on Opening Day in the Rakuten Eagles’ 8-2 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi on Friday as Nippon Professional Baseball’s two leagues went into action.
Wakui showed unusually good command of his breaking pitches, including a screwball I don’t remember seeing from him. After pitching according to form in the first inning by throwing a four-seam fastball with about half his pitches, the Nippon Ham Fighters went into Andruw “I’m still waiting for my pitch” Jones mode as they kept looking for fastballs that never came and making weak contact on everything else.
Fighters starter Naoyuki Uwasawa surrendered a home run on his first pitch of the game to Ryosuke Tatsumi, and kept the bases pretty much jammed with Eagles runners. He allowed six runs over 4-2/3 innings.
Tanaka out for 3 weeks
After two months of having virtually everything on the field in Japan overshadowed by every scrap of news about Masahiro Tanaka, the news that he will miss three weeks with a soleus muscle calf injury barely made a ripple. Thank goodness for Opening Day.
At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Shuta Ishikawa had a typical night, striking out six and walking three while allowing a run over five innings in the SoftBank Hawks’ 8-2 win over the Lotte Marines. Ishikawa retired the first nine batters he faced and allowed his one run in a backward Marines sixth inning in which Leonys Martin homered with one out and Lotte left the bases loaded.
Lotte starter Kota Futaki gave up five runs over five-plus innings, with all the runs scoring on home runs by Kenta Imamiya, Ukyo Shuto and Yuki Yanagita.
At MetLife Dome, Kona Takahashi allowed three runs over 7-1/3 to get the better of Yoshinobu Yamamoto in the Seibu Lions’ 4-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes with both right-handers making their first Opening Day starts. Three of the four Seibu runs were unearned, scoring with two outs after errors prolonged the first and third innings.
The wonderful Masataka Yoshida put Orix on the board in the sixth with a homer, Steven Moya doubled for the Buffaloes, and Adam Jones ripped a leadoff single off Tatsushi Masuda to put the tying runner on in the ninth before the righty closed out the game.
The loss was Orix’s Pacific League-worst 10th straight on Opening Day.
And since the PL is going to give them to us, let’s see some of their glove work.
In the Central League
Jerry Sands belted a pair of home runs, the second one, snapping a 3-3 tie and lifting the Hanshin Tigers to a 4-3 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium. Sands also singled and walked, while celebrity rookie Teruaki Sato opened the scoring with a sac fly.
Shintaro Fujinami had the kind of day one expects from him now and then. He walked five and gave up five hits but just two runs over five innings. Robert Suarez got the save for the Tigers.
At Tokyo Dome, the Yomiuri Giants got an old-friend sighting they wished they hadn’t but it all worked out thanks to a three-run homer by catcher Takumi Oshiro and a ninth-inning sayonara blast by pinch hitter Yoshiyuki Kamei that won it over the DeNA BayStars 8-7.
Shunta Tanaka, who basically did everything with the Giants except earn Tatsunori Hara’s trust at second base – because I suspect Hara simply doesn’t trust second basemen as a general rule – began his tenure with DeNA by matching his 2020 RBI total, driving in six runs with three hits and a sac fly.
Zelous Wheeler singled in a run in the first, walked and scored in the third, and doubled in a run in the eighth for the Giants.
Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano, who opted to stay in Japan for 2021 rather than sign in the States, surrendered three runs on eight hits and three walks over six innings.
Tanaka’s two-out, two-run single in the ninth off Kota Nakagawa tied it 7-7, but Kazuki Mishima, who was super as the DeNA closer since last summer, surrendered Kamei’s home run on his third pitch of the game.
Had Mishima gotten out of the inning, that would have been the first nine-inning tie this season since the owners decided this week to abandon extra innings in the name of faster games.
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Dayan Viciedo capped a five-run eighth inning with a two-run homer as the Chunichi Dragons beat the Hiroshima Carp 7-6. Carp ace Daichi Osera, who opened last season with back-to-back complete games and finished it in surgery, started on Opening Day for the third straight year, but allowed four runs, two earned, over 7-1/3 innings and only threw 87 pitches.
New Carp Kevin Cron singled in his first at-bat and scored but finished 1-for-4.