Matching tops and bottoms
Friday was a night for both leagues’ last-place clubs to make statements in home games against their league’s leaders as the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles pulled into Sapporo Dome against a Nippon Ham Fighters team that hadn’t played since Saturday—when the club became classified as a coronavirus cluster.
In Yokohama, the DeNA BayStars, who struggled out of the gate this season under new manager Daisuke Miura welcoming the Hanshin Tigers, who have dominated the early going in the Central League.
Fighters 6, Eagles 1
At Sapporo Dome, Drew VerHagen (1-2) allowed a run over five innings while striking out nine, while Nippon Ham utility man Kenshi Sugiya homered to open the scoring against Hideaki Wakui (4-1) and then drove in a fifth-inning insurance run with a suicide squeeze
Wakui surrendered all six runs on eight hits and a walk over six innings.
Marines 7, Buffaloes 5
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, both starting pitchers took their lumps, with Lotte’s Ayumu Ishikawa (2-1) surrendering four runs over seven only to be outdone by Orix’s Taisuke Yamaoka (1-3), who gave up five over five. Seiya Inoue made it 5-0 Marines in the fourth with a three-run home run, his first of the season. Brandon Laird added a two-run double for the Marines.
All five Buffaloes’ runs came via the home run, a three-run shot in the fifth by rookie Ryo Ota and two solo homers by Yutaro Sugimoto, who has six on the year.
Hawks 2, Lions 2
At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Seibu tied it on solo homers by Hotaka Yamakawa and Takumi Kuriyama. It was the second for each of the veterans who have spent most of the season rehabbing.
Yamakawa, a two-time PL home run champ, was in his first game back since he both homered and hurt his left hamstring on March 30. Kuriyama was hurt on Opening Day and wasn’t reactivated until April 20.
Hawks right-hander Shuta Ishikawa allowed two runs over eight innings on four hits and a walk while striking out eight. Seibu’s Kona Takahashi gave up two runs, one earned, over seven innings. Kaima Taira pitched out of trouble in the Hawks’ eighth. After SoftBank southpaw Livan Moinelo retired the Lions in the ninth, Reed Garret, back from taking a shot off the knee on Tuesday, did the same in the home half to seal the tie.
Swallows 6, Giants 4
At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri ace Tomoyuki Sugano was pulled for a pinch-hitter after four sparkling innings with a 3-0 lead, only for lefty setup man Kota Nakagawa to surrender four Yakult runs in the eighth.
After the game, the Giants revealed that Sugano left the game due to discomfort in his right elbow, which was not at all apparent from his pitching, which appeared — at least in the first inning — as precise and effortless as I think I’ve ever seen from anyone.
Hayato Sakamoto and Zelous Wheeler hit back-to-back one-out homers off Albert Suarez in the first. The pair reached base in the third to set up a Kazuma Okamoto sacrifice fly.
Norichika Aoki doubled and scored on Yasutaka Shiomi’s pinch-hit single off Ryoma Nogami. Shiomi homered off Nakagawa with one out in the eighth. A walk and four straight two-out singles put the visitors in charge. Sakamoto lined a first-pitch fastball down the pipe from Scott McGough over the wall in center for his seventh home run, but the right-hander struck out three to keep the hosts from tying it.
Domingo Santana opened the Swallows’ ninth with his fourth home run.
BayStars 12, Tigers 6
At Yokohama Stadium, Hanshin’s Chen Wei-Yin cruised through three innings but blew a 2-0 lead when DeNA chased him with one out in the BayStars’ four-run fourth. But after the Tigers came back to tie it 6-6 on Jefry Marte’s seventh-inning RBI single, Tyler Austin led off the BayStars’ seventh with his fifth home run in 22 games this season.
The Tigers came back from a 6-2 deficit on Yoshio Itoi’s first homer, a solo shot off Edwin Escobar, and three runs off new import Kevin Shackelford, but a pair of relievers combined to strand two runners and the BayStars blew out the Tigers’ bullpen. Neftali Soto just missed a fourth-inning grand slam and had to settle for a bases-loaded RBI single on a ball that hit high off the wall in right. He walked, singled three times, scored twice, and drove in two. Toshiro Miyazaki also had three hits, scored twice, and drove in three.
Fighters vs Eagles: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Marines vs Buffaloes: Zozo Marine Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Hawks vs Lions: PayPay Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT
BayStars vs Tigers: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Dragons vs Carp: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Active roster moves 5/7/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 5/17