NPB wrap 8-15-21

There’s a first time for everything

…and sometimes there are more than one, as we learned Sunday when Carter Stewart Jr., who has made a bunch of starts in the minors since he turned pro in Japan in 2019, made his “first pro start” according to Japan’s sports media on Sunday.

Stewart who has started exhibitions with the first team as well was making his first-team official game starting debut and it was pretty impressive, leading to a six-pitcher no-hit relay for the SoftBank Hawks.

Yakult rookie Yasunobu Okugawa also struck out nine on Sunday, and Seibu’s Yutaro Watanabe, the Lions’ second pick out of high school in 2018, won his first career game, so three rookie starters won — or rather deserved to win in Stewart’s case.

Lotte rookie Roki “Rocket” Sasaki, however, only lasted five and got banged up a bit preventing it from being a complete rookie pitcher banner day, but nobody’s perfect.

Hawks 0, Fighters 0

At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Carter Stewart, Jr. struck out nine over five innings in his starting debut and five SoftBank relievers completed the day without allowing a hit, making it a combined no-hitter to you and me, but not in the eyes of Japanese pro baseball, where those are exclusively individual accomplishments.

Stewart, starting in the place of Tsuyoshi Wada, who is suffering from arm issues, brushed the arm guard of the first batter he faced before retiring the next 15.

The Fighters, behind Drew VerHagen, who allowed one hit over three innings, while striking out three, used five pitchers to complete a three-hit shutout.

The Hawks had a scoring opportunity in the eighth against Bryan Rodriguez with one out and speedy Ukyo Shuto on third but tried to squeeze him home. Rodriguez bounced the pitch. The batter, Hawks catcher Takuya Kai, who repeatedly showed his bunting chops during the Olympics, missed it. Fighters catcher Ryo Ishikawa caught it and made the putout when Shuto ran out of the baseline to avoid the tag.

The Hawks’ final pitcher, Hiroshi Kaino, pitched for the first time since 2019 after last year was wiped out by injury and surgery and hit 98 mph in a 1-2-3 ninth.

The Fighters, who lost on Friday and Saturday, struck out 41 times in 27 innings over the weekend.

Lions 10, Eagles 2

At MetLife Dome, it was a different day, and a different former Lions ace as Seibu smacked around Hideaki Wakui (6-7, 5.18), hammering him for six runs in two innings.

Seibu rookie Yutaro Watanabe (1-2, 3.50) allowed a run over five innings to earn his first pro win, knocking the Eagles 1-1/2 games back of the first-place Buffaloes.

Buffaloes 5, Marines 3

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Lotte rookie Roki Sasaki allowed three runs in five innings, took a shot off his body and surrendered a two-run Adam Jones home run, his third, but didn’t figure in the decision. Sachiya Yamasaki (5-6, 3.45) allowed three runs over five innings but earned the win because Yutaro Sugimoto smashed a two-run sixth-inning double off Fumiya Ono (0-2).

Giants 4, Dragons 2

At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri starter Shosei Togo worked four scoreless innings but was yanked with two outs in the fifth after hitting pinch-hitter Ariel Martinez to force in Chunichi’s second run. 

Dragons lefty Shinnosuke Ogasawara (6-5, 2.93) allowed a pair of solo homers, in the first to Hayato Sakamoto, his 12th, and in the fourth to Takumi Oshiro, his ninth. The Giants’ Zealous Wheeler singled in a pair of runs in the third.

Thyago Vieira worked a 1-2-3 ninth to record his 11th save.

Giants-Dragons highlights

Swallows 4, BayStars 1

At Niigata’s Hard Off Eco Stadium, Jose Osuna bounced a two-run bases-loaded single through the infield to give rookie Yasunobu Okugawa (5-2, 3.88) the lead after the right-hander surrendered a run on Toshiro Miyazaki’s ninth homer in the second.

Okugawa struck out nine over seven innings, while allowing four hits and no walks, while Shota Imanaga (3-3, 3.50) gave up three runs over 6-2/3 innings on two walks and six hits. He also struck out nine.

Swallows relievers Noboru Shimizu and Scott McGough each struck out two in a scoreless inning, with McGough fanning fellow Team USA Olympic silver medalist Tyler Austin in the ninth as he recorded his 17th save.

Tetsuto Yamada, the Olympic tournament MVP, singled, doubled, walked twice and scored twice for the Swallows.

Tigers 3, Carp 0

At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Hanshin’s Takumi Akiyama (8-4, 3.12) escaped a series of tight spots as he allowed six hits and two walks over five scoreless innings thanks to seven strikeouts. Koji Chikamoto opened Hanshin’s first with his seventh home run, and singled and score the Tigers’ second off Haruki Omichi (4-3, 4.20) on a third-inning Jerry Sands RBI single.

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