On Saturday’s episode of “Stupid Relief Tricks,” Hall of Fame Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara tried the baseball equivalent of calling a time out to force the opposing American football kicker to ponder a last-minute clutch field goal, or at least that seemed to be why he switched pitchers with an 0-2 count on light-hitting Tatsuhiro Shibata with the game tied 1-1 in the seventh with runners on second and third.
It’s one of those things, where if it works people go, “OK” and suck air through their teeth, and perhaps call Hara a managing genius, again. But I doubt we’ll be seeing any “managing genius” stories tomorrow as Shibata drove in the first of five runs in the inning.
Hara, who occasionally cloaks answers to questions about his tactics in ambiguity as if protecting state secrets, declined to give any explanation for his move.
BayStars 7, Giants 2
At Tokyo Dome, Tatsuhiro Shibata made two big plays at second, robbing the Giants of a third-inning leadoff single, and turning a tricky double play to prevent the go-ahead run in the sixth before shrugging off manager Hara’s head game by driving reliever Ryusei Oe’s fat first pitch for a tie-breaking seventh-inning sacrifice fly. To put an exclamation point on his game, Shibata hit his second homer of the season in the eighth.
The Giants remained 1-1/2 games of the Tigers, but saw their lead over the third-place Swallows trimmed to half a game.
Oe walked rookie reserve catcher Yudai Yamamoto and rookie Shugo Maki pinch-hit, blasting his 13th homer off Yohei Kagiya to make it 5-1, and three more hits made it 6-1 DeNA. After Shibata homered in the top of the eighth, Kazuma Okamoto reached 30 home runs for the fourth straight season in the home half with a solo homer.
DeNA starter Fernando Romero got a second-inning lead on Neftali Soto’s 16th home run, off Shosei Togo (8-5, 3.91). Romero allowed a run over 5-1/3 innings. Veteran left-handed hitter Yasuyuki Kamei chased him in the sixth with his third hit of the game.
Reliever Yoshiki Sunada walked pinch-hitter Sho Nakata, in his first Giants plate appearance, to load the bases, and then failed to glove a shot off the bat of Zelous Wheeler. The ball, however, deflected to Shibata, who stepped on second and fired to first to end the inning and save a run.
Dragons 6, Tigers 2
At Vantelin Dome Nagoya, new Hanshin pitcher Akira Niho (1-1, 5.28) allowed three runs on five hits, a walk, a hit batsman and an errant pickoff throw in three innings. It was the kind of game where eight different Dragons players either drove in a run or scored and career minor leaguer Hayato Mizowaki sparked the offense from the No. 8 spot with four hits, two runs and an RBI.
Ariel Martinez started behind the plate with Cuban compatriot Yariel Rodriguez on the mound and singled in a first-inning run.
Rodriguez struck out eight but was pulled for a pinch-hitter Nobumasa Fukuda in the fourth after 93 pitches having allowed two runs over four innings. Fukuda blasted a two-run double that made it 5-2.
Mel Rojas Jr. continued to find his stroke with three hits including two doubles and a run for the Tigers.
Swallows 8, Carp 3
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Norichika had four hits, including three doubles, scored a run and drove in two, while being thrown out at home twice.
The Swallows scored a first-inning run off Haruki Omichi (4-3, 4.22). Aoki doubled following a leadoff hit batsman, and Tetsuto Yamada singled in a run. Seiya Suzuki, however, threw out Aoki to limit the damage.
Yakult’s Cy Sneed (1-1, 5.09) allowed two runs over five innings, on sac flies in the first, to tie it, and the third, as Suzuki plated Takayoshi Noma to put the Carp in front. The Swallows regained the lead in the fourth on a Yuhei Nakamura double and Domingo Santana’s eighth homer.
The visitors made it 5-2 in the fifth when Aoki doubled, Yamada singled and both scored on a Munetaka Murakami double. Rookie reliever Hiroki Onishi got two outs in the sixth, but a double, an infield single and a wild pitch made it a two-run game.
Aoki reached for the third time in the seventh, but was out at the plate, this time on a good relay after a two-out Jose Osuna double.
The Carp stranded two runners in the bottom of the inning after a rain delay, and Aoki’s third double, the 300th of his Japan career, drove home two in the top of the eighth.
Buffaloes 2, Lions 0
At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Hiroya Miyagi (11-1, 2.01), who will reach legal drinking age in Japan, 20, on Wednesday, took over the NPB pitching-wins lead in his final start as a teenager. The lefty, whose poise defies his age, struggled with his command all day but never stopped attacking the strike zone to get ahead in counts, allowing his defense to bail him out of a couple of tough spots as he outdueled Tatsuya Imai (6-4, 2.80).
Imai has some electric stuff, but he goes through phases when you know he can’t throw a strike, and when he gets into one of those spells, it’s like watching an airliner crash in slow motion. With the game scoreless in the third, he appeared headed for disaster with back-to-back two-out walks bringing up all-star slugger Yutaro Sugimoto. Imai snapped out of it, got ahead in the count and caught Sugimoto looking.
The Lions starter was victimized in the sixth, when Sugimoto smashed a 3-2 pitch in the heart of the zone back through the box with two outs. Takahiro Okada then rocketed a high 1-2 fastball off the wall in right. Imai went the distance but surrendered another run in the eighth after two singles and a walk to Sugimoto loaded the bases before he hit Okada.
Seibu loaded the bases against Tyler Higgins with two out in the eighth, but Yoshihisa Hirano worked a 1-2-3 ninth to record his 15th save.
Eagles 8, Fighters 4
At Sapporo Dome, Takayuki Kishi (6-6, 3.14) threw his seventh straight quality start after being extremely inconsistent over the first two months of the season. Kishi struck out nine over six scoreless innings, allowing three hits and no walks. The Eagles’ Daichi Suzuki and Hideto Asamura each scored twice, while Hiroaki Shimauchi and Takero Okajima each drove in two.
After some sterling relief work in the Olympics, Hiromi Ito (7-5, 2.80) returned to his day job, but allowed six runs, five earned, over five innings.
Marines 8, Hawks 6
At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, reliever Sho Iwasaki (2-3) allowed Lotte to break up a tie game with three ninth-inning runs for the second straight day. Takashi Ogino singled, and scored after a sacrifice, a ground out and a Brandon Laird infield single. Pinch-runner Koshiro Wada stole second, and Toshiya Sato blasted a two-run home run, his fourth.
Hawks starter Shuta Ishikawa struck out 11 batters for the second straight game, but minutes after four-run sixth made it 5-0, the right-hander retired just one of the four batters he faced in the seventh. Shinya Kayama walked pinch-hitter Katsuya Kakunaka. Hiroshi Kaino got one out before Kyota Fujiwara doubled in two and Shogo Nakamura doubled in two more to tie it.
Alfredo Despaigne made it 1-0 in the second with his first home run since he went deep off Lotte, his former team, in March. But Manabu Mima regained control until the sixth, when three runs scored on a double by Ryoya Kurihara, who scored on an Akira Nakamura single.
Lotte’s Frank Herrmann struck out the side in the seventh, and the Hawks ran themselves out of the eighth against Chihaya Sasaki (6-0).
Pinch-runner Ukyo Shuto stole second but was picked off second when Kurihara couldn’t bunt a pitch that missed well outside. Kurihara then doubled but was out trying to steal third on a play that was ostensibly reviewed, although likely on a monitor that would have been obsolete in 1955.
The Hawks paid for their sins in the ninth. Although they fought back for a run in the home half of the ninth against Yuki Kuniyoshi, the reliever, acquired from DeNA in a June trade, held on for his first save since 2015.
Fighters vs Eagles: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Buffaloes vs Lions: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT
Hawks vs Marines: PayPay Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT
Giants vs BayStars: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Dragons vs Tigers: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Carp vs Swallows: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 8/21/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/31