NPB Wrap 4-4-21

Miyagi wins rookie showdown

At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, 19-year-old Hiroya Miyagi (2-0) won a rookie southpaw showdown with Takahisa Hayakawa (1-1) Sunday in the Orix Buffaloes’ 4-0 Pacific League win over the Rakuten Eagles.

Miyagi struck out five over eight innings. He pinpointed his pitches when he needed to as in his masterful three-pitch strikeout of right-handed slugger Hideto Asamura in the fourth with a runner on.

Leadoff man Ryo Ota, Masataka Yoshida and Steven Moya each had three hits for the Buffaloes. Yoshida’s second homer, with Ota aboard, opened the scoring in the third.

Yoshida set the table with one of two singles in the sixth before Moya singled both home.

Unlike Hayakawa, whom four teams named as their first choice in last year’s draft, Miyagi was the Buffaloes’ second alternate pick after they lost a lottery pick for slugging infielder Shoya Ishikawa (Chunichi) and left-handed pitcher (Ryusei Kawano) Nippon Ham.

Miyagi struck out 16 batters in 16 innings last season, as he retained his rookie status for 2021.

At Sapporo Dome, lefty Takayuki Kato allowed a run on one hit and two walks over eight innings, and Toshihiro Sugiura completed the one-hitter for the Nippon Ham Fighters, who came from behind to tie the Lotte Marines 1-1 on Haruki Nishikawa’s eighth-inning RBI single.

Marines starter, rookie lefty Shota Suzuki allowed two hits and two walks and struck out 11 over seven scoreless innings.

At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Wu Nien-ting and top draft pick Kento Watanabe each homered for the Seibu Lions in their 4-2 win over the SoftBank Hawks, who lost their fifth straight.

Katsunori Hirai (2-0) allowed two runs over 5-2/3 innings in which he struck out eight, while the bullpen allowed three runners the rest of the way. Reed Garrett retired the heart of the Hawks’ order 1-2-3 in the ninth for his first save. Tsuyoshi Wada (0-1) gave up four runs on four walks and six hits over six innings.

BayStars win a game

At Yokohama Stadium, Kazuki Kamizato and Toshiro Miyazaki homered in support of rookie Kosuke Sakaguchi (1-0) who won his season debut and the DeNA BayStars’ first victory under new manager Daisuke Miura, 3-1 over the Hiroshima Carp.

The right-hander scattered three walks and three hits over five scoreless innings, and the BayStars’ pen held on for four innings, despite some danger from both former closer Yasuaki Yamasaki and his current closer Kazuki Mishima.

Gunkel wins 2nd for Tigers

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Joe Gunkel (2-0) allowed a run in 6-1/3 innings as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Chunichi Dragons 3-1 with Robert Suarez getting his second save.

Jerry Sands had two hits and a walk for the Tigers, who opened the scoring on Koji Chikamoto’s leadoff homer in the first, and broke a 1-1 sixth-inning tie on a walk and singles from Sands and Yosuke Yokawa.

Giants win virus bowl

At Tokyo Dome, the Yomiuri Giants responded to a string of coronavirus infections with a come-from-behind 2-1 Central League win against the Yakult Swallows, who are also without infected players.

Swallows rookie Yuto Kanekubo worked five scoreless innings, but the game unraveled in the eighth, when the tying run scored on a passed ball, and the go-ahead run came in on a routine two-out fly at the wall that was not caught after left fielder Kotaro Yamasaki and center fielder Yasutaka Shiomi nearly collided.

Taishi Hirooka, traded to the Giants in March for southpaw Kazuto Taguchi, was credited with an RBI triple on the play.

“He’s a player with many unseen talents,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said when asked about Hirooka without elaborating that one of those talents might be luck.

In-form Zelous Wheeler was scratched from his start in left field immediately before the start of the game and replaced by base-running adventurer Soichiro Tateoka.

Tateoka saved the game with a two-out bases-loaded catch in the second that held Yakult to a run. Hara declined to say anything about Wheeler’s situation, saying, “I’ll let the team announce that.” It was no surprise when the club then said Wheeler had tested positive, too.

Giants-Swallows highlights

Giants suffer NPB’s 2nd outbreak

Less than 10 days into the 2021 season, and Japan has already had two outbreaks among it’s top 12 teams, following positive tests by Yomiuri Giants players, Hochi Shimbun reported Sunday.

Positive tests were revealed Sunday for center fielder and two-time Central League MVP Yoshihiro Maru, and infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima. Both started Saturday’s game against the Yakult Swallows, who announced the league’s first outbreak, on Wednesday.

In addition to Swallows catcher Akihisa Nishida, who tested positive, the team sent five other players home out of concern for their contact with infected players and staff.

The Giants have also re-tested infielder Akihiro Wakabayashi, whose ninth-inning pinch-hit RBI double secured the hosts a tie against Yakult at Tokyo Dome.

Last season, when Nippon Professional Baseball played a 120-game regular season, one game was postponed out of concern for the virus, while two outbreaks were reported.

The Hanshin Tigers’ president resigned over his team’s infections, while Lotte Marines outfielder Ikuhiro Kiyota has been indefinitely suspended for breaking protocols on the road and becoming infected during an outbreak that caused the team to deactivate a third of its roster.

Players sidelined specifically for concern due to coronavirus infections can be re-activated in less than the usual 10 days when they are declared virus-free.

Active roster moves 4/4/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/14, unless marked with an asterisk. Those players are being deactivated under coronavirus protocol rules and may be reactivated when declared safe.

Central League

Activated

GiantsIF66Kazuya Katsuki
GiantsIF68Yuto Akihiro
GiantsOF39Soichiro Tateoka
BayStarsP12Kousuke Sakaguchi
SwallowsP38Yugo Umeno
SwallowsP48Yuto Kanakubo

Dectivated

GiantsIF0Daiki Masuda *
GiantsIF5Hiroyuki Nakajima *
GiantsIF37Akihiro Wakabayashi *
GiantsIF52Takumi Kitamura *
GiantsOF8Yoshihiro Maru *
GiantsOF9Yoshiyuki Kamei *
BayStarsP48Masaya Kyoyama
SwallowsP62Hiroaki Saiuchi

Pacific League

Activated

LionsIF8Kento Watanabe
LionsIF63Ryusei Tsunashima

Dectivated

LionsIF5Shuta Tonosaki

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