Injury to closer Matsui puts pressure on Eagles
Yuki Matsui is expected to be out for around a month after suffering pain in his right thigh in practice on Wednesday, Nikkan Sports reported Thursday. The Eagles started the day second in the Pacific League, three games back of the Orix Buffaloes.
“There’s no chance he’ll be back in 10 days (when he’ll first be eligible for reactivation),” Eagles skipper and general manager Kazuhisa Ishii said. “I think to return to full fitness, it’s going to be closer to a month.”
Matsui is 0-2 this season with 0.63 ERA. His 24 saves are second in the PL.
Without Matsui, Sung Chia-hao took over in the ninth on Thursday to secure the Eagles’ win over Orix.
In the Central League, a pair of butt kickings left the Hanshin Tigers two games ahead of the Yomiuri Giants ahead of the weekend’s games.
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Eagles 7, Buffaloes 6
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Orix and Rakuten had the first decision of what was to be a three-game top-of-the-table Pacific League clash, and it turned out to be pretty entertaining after Tuesday’s game was rained out and Wednesday’s ended in a tie.
The Eagles built a 5-0 lead for Takahiro Norimoto (8-4, 3.63), who worked around a pair of one-out first-inning hits. Orix rookie Soichiro Yamazaki (0-1, 5.63) did the opposite. The right-hander fell behind everyone and got punished for it in a four-run first inning, capped by Ryosuke Tatsumi’s two-run single that left fielder Masataka Yoshida came within a hair of catching for the final out.
After sending nine batters to the plate in the first, the Eagles loaded the bases with one out in the second, as Daichi Suzuki scored his second run, on a Takero Okajima sac fly.
Masataka Yoshida got Orix a fourth-inning run with his 20th homer, but Hideto Asamura and Hiroaki Shimauchi, who’d each singled in a run in the first, teamed up to make it 7-1 in the home half. Asamura walked and Shimauchi established a career high with his team-best 15th home run.
The home runs kept coming in the sixth, when Yutaro Sugimoto hit his team-best 21st, with Yuma Mune aboard, and Adam Jones hit his fourth, trimming the Eagles’ lead to three.
That was all for Norimoto. He left after 5-2/3 inning with a runner on, having allowed four runs on nine hits but no walks while striking out five.
The Buffaloes, however, only picked up the pace against the bullpen, scoring twice against Tomohito Sakai in the seventh. Okajima prevented that runner from scoring when he leaped in right field to make the final out and rob substitute catcher Masato Matsui of an RBI double.
The Buffaloes got the leadoff man on in the seventh, but were denied a knockout punch of an inning after Shuhei Fukuda surprised the Eagles with a beautiful bunt only to stumble and fall coming out of the box for the first out. Mune and Yoshida singled to drive in one run and Sugimoto plated another with a sacrifice fly.
Orix threatened again in the eighth. Kotaro Kurebayashi, singled with one out to reach base for the fourth time, and put two on against Tomohiro Anraku. Fukuda’s poor luck continued as he smoked a ball down the line, where Brandon Dixon was playing to snare it for the second out. With two outs, Mune drilled a liner to center that Tatsumi got a good jump on and just caught up with.
Sung then worked a 1-2-3 ninth, retiring Yoshida, Sugimoto and Jones to end it in style, but other than a disappointing final inning, these Buffaloes are scary.
Lions 3, Hawks 0
At MetLife Dome, the Seibu Lions also had to make due on Thursday without their MVPs from 2018, Hotaka Yamakawa, and 2019, Tomoya Mori, who were deactivated as suspected close contacts of Yamakawa’s personal assistant, who tested positive for COVID-19.
Rookie Yutaro Watanabe (2-2, 2.74) worked five innings, walking three, striking out five and allowing two singles. Four relievers held the Hawks to two walks and a hit the rest of the way. Closer Kaima Taira earned his 12th save.
The Lions got on the board in the first via the home run as 38-year-old Takeya Nakamura, a six-time PL home run champion, hit his 11th with 37-year-old Takumi Kuriyama aboard after a two-out single.
Brandon Taiga Tysinger, filling in at first for Yamakawa was hit by a pitch to open the Lions’ fourth and scored on a single by Toshihiro Okada, who’s filling in for Mori.
Hawks starter Shunsuke Kasaya (2-3, 5.40) allowed all three runs. He walked three and struck out six, while surrendering five hits.
The win moved the fourth-place Lions to within 4-1/2 games of the idle Hawks.
Carp 11, Giants 2
At Tokyo Dome, Hiroshima gave Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano (2-5, 3.72) a hot reception in his first game since the Carp shelled him for four runs in 2-1/3 innings on July 1. Seiya Suzuki hit a two-run first-inning homer on a hanging 3-2 breaking ball, his 16th, and Shogo Sakakura followed with a solo shot, his sixth.
Suzuki stuck a fork in this game after reliever Chiaki Tone took the mound for the Giants in the seventh with a three-run home run, and Sakakura, not to be outdone by his teammate, blasted his seventh home run in the ninth, also with two on.
Allen Kuri (8-6, 3.74) allowed a run over six innings in which he gave up two hits but walked five. Kuri battled with umpire Kazuhiro Kobayashi over the definition of the strike zone, leading to a pair of walks that loaded the bases in the Giants’ fifth before the right-hander lost it and missed badly to Yoshihiro Maru forcing in a run.
The Giants’ other run came on Akihiro Wakabayashi’s fifth home run, in the seventh.
The Carp made it 5-1 in the sixth on a Sakakura single and a homer by Ryosuke Kikuchi, his ninth. Sugano threw a high slider away on an 0-2 pitch and Kikuchi swatted it out.
Giants left fielder Yoshiyuki Kamei saved Sugano a run with an inning-ending catch in the second, and Carp left fielder Ryoma Nishikawa prevented two from scoring when he ended the seventh by leaping for a drive at the wall with two runners on.
Tigers 9, BayStars 3
At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Hanshin’s Joe Gunkel (7-1, 2.38), pitching for the first time since the BayStars tagged him for three runs over five innings in his July 14 loss, allowed two runs, one earned, over 6-1/3 innings and scored the eventual winning run in the third inning.
DeNA lefty Yuya Sakamoto (4-3, 4.58) allowed five runs over four innings to take the loss after going six innings and beating the Tigers in his previous start.
Koji Chikamoto hit Sakamoto’s first pitch of the game for his ninth home run, and Tyler Austin returned the favor. After Gunkel pitched a 1-2-3 first, Austin led off the second with his 21st home run.
Gunkel, however, opened the Tigers’ third with a single and scored the tie-breaking run on a groundout after Chikamoto doubled. Jerry Sands blasted a two-run home run, his 20th, and Yusuke Oyama tripled and scored on a Teruaki Sato sac fly.
Austin walked and scored from first in the sixth when left fielder Mel Rojas Jr. failed to stop a Toshiro Miyazaki single. That proved to be little more than a delaying action as rookie Takumu Nakano singled in one run in a three-run seventh and another in the eighth for good measure.
Friday’s starting pitchers
Eagles vs Marines: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Lions vs Fighters: MetLife Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Buffaloes vs Hawks: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Swallows vs BayStars: Tokyo Dome 5:30 pm, 4:30 am EDT
Dragons vs Giants: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Carp vs Tigers: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 8/26/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/5
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