There were four ties among Saturday’s six games, causing each league’s leader to lose a half-game’s ground in the pennant race. Despite the lack of convincing results, there were some pretty good games. Three of the ties were terrific pitchers’ duels while one — is always the Lions and Fighters? — was kind of a dumpster fire.
Live chat with former NPB star Leon Lee
Monday, Aug. 30, 11 am Japan; Sunday, Aug. 29, 7 pm Pacific Daylight Time.
Lee, who played 1,255 games over 10 years in Japan from 1978 to 1987 for the Lotte Orions, the Taiyo Whales, and Yakult Swallows. In addition to his accomplishments, Lee is a keen observer with a knack for explaining complicated things simply.
Bring your questions and enjoy.
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Swallows 2, BayStars 2
At Tokyo Dome, Tyler Austin went 0-for-4 at the plate, but two strikes he threw from right field enabled DeNA to secure a tie against Yakult by deflating a fourth-inning threat and then ending the game as the hosts were rallying with two outs against closer Kazuki Mishima.
The game was largely a pitching duel between Yakult’s Cy Sneed and DeNA’s Fernando Romero. Sneed allowed three hits and a walk while striking out nine over six-plus innings, but all three of the hits were for extra bases, and two cleared the wall as the BayStars came back from a 2-0 deficit on Toshiro Miyazaki’s 11th home run to lead off the fifth and Keita Sano’s ninth to lead off the seventh.
Romero allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out four. The Swallows’ Munetaka Murakami hit his 31st home run with a man on in the first, taking advantage of the dome’s short power alleys to poke a 3-2 changeup away into the stands in left for an opposite-field shot after Tetsuto Yamada doubled with two outs.
Yakult threatened in the fourth on no-out singles by Yamada and Murakami. On a one-out fly, Yamada doubled down by trying for third but got doubled up by Austin.
Both bullpens were good enough, with Yakult’s Noboru Shimizu striking out the side in the eighth and Swallows closer Scott McGough working a 1-2-3 ninth and ending by striking out his United States Olympic teammate Austin on three pitches.
BayStars closer Kazuki Mishima started the inning in good form, with good life on his fastball and drop on his forkball. He went 3-2 on each of the first two batters he retired before line drive pinch-hit singles opened the door a crack for Yakult only for Austin to slam it shut by easily gunning down pinch-runner Daiki Watanabe to end the game.
Dragons 1, Giants 1
At Vantelin Dome Nagoya, Chunichi’s Yuya Yanagi allowed an unearned run over six innings while striking out nine, and Yomiuri’s Shosei Togo allowed one run over eight and also struck out nine before this one ended in a tie.
A day after his two singles drove in four runs, Dayan Viciedo opened his account on Saturday by leading off with his fifth homer this year against the Giants, and his 16th of the season. Someone on Twitter commented that Viciedo habitually destroys the Giants, but this is the first time he’s ever hit more than three home runs against them in his six Japan seasons.
The Giants tied it in the sixth, when Viciedo failed to stop a ball with one out for an error, and Takumi Oshiro delivered a two-out bases-loaded single. Kazuma Okamoto singled twice for the Giants, contributing to their sixth inning run and putting the potential go-ahead run on in the eighth before Katsuki Matayoshi got out of the inning.
Cuban Raidel Martinez worked a 1-2-3 ninth for Chunichi, and Brazilian Thyago Vieira did the same in the home half to seal the draw and set a team record for consecutive scoreless mound appearances with his 30th.
Carp 7, Tigers 6
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Hanshin rookie Shoki Murakami (0-0, 19.29) allowed five runs over three innings in his second pro appearance to put the league leaders in a hole they nearly climbed out of before Hiroshima rookie Ryoji Kurihara struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth to record his 22nd save.
Trailing by a run in the bottom of the first, Shogo Sakakura doubled in two runs for the Carp, Takayoshi Noma doubled in one more in the second, and homers by Seiya Suzuki, his 18th, and Ryosuke Kikuchi, his 10th, made it a 5-1 game after three.
Mel Rojas Jr. singled in Takumu Nakano in the first against Yusuke Nomura (0-4, 6.12), who was yanked in the fourth and allowed three runs. Rojas singled in another run to make it a one-run game in the sixth only for Carp rookie Kota Hayashi to blast a two-run homer, his sixth in the bottom of the inning.
Buffaloes 2, Hawks 2
At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Adam Jones’ ninth-inning pinch-hit single off Yugo Bando plated the tying run with one out, but the right-hander struck out the next two batters to strand the potential winning run on second.
Hiroya Miyagi continued to look like a shadow of the guy who was striking out a batter an inning through June. The lefty struck out five batters for the first time since the Olympics ended, and continued to attack the zone, allowing his defense kept him in the game, allowing a run on seven hits, a walk and a hit.
Shuta Ishikawa, who’d struck out 11 batters in each of his previous two starts, didn’t have that extra gear, but managed to hold the Buffaloes to a run over seven innings.
Ryoya Kurihara delivered the Hawk’s third single in the third-inning single to give them a 1-0 lead, while Ishikawa overcame a pair of no-out singles in the bottom of the first to keep the Buffaloes scoreless through five.
Orix got even in the sixth after Ishikawa retired the top two batters in the order. Masataka Yoshida walked on four pitches and Yutaro Sugimoto, who had been completely overmatched by Ishikawa’s curve, got a 2-2 hanger and lofted it over second for a single. Ryoichi Adachi hammered the next pitch, pulling an inside fastball high off the wall in left to tie it, while Sugimoto was out at the plate on a superb relay throw from shortstop Kenta Imamiya.
Cesar Vargas, who pitched for Mexico in the Olympics and who had been with the Ibaraki Astro Planets in the independent BC Challenge League before signing the past week, made his first team debut with one out and a man on in the seventh. The right-hander walked one and hit one but did not allow a run. His walk came when Yuki Yanagita took a 3-2 pitch down the middle for Ball 4.
The Hawks broke the deadlock in the eighth, when Alfredo Despaigne doubled off Tyler Higgins and speedster Ukyo Shuto scored after a bunt and a pinch-hit sac fly from Yuya Hasegawa.
Hiroshi Kaino worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and after Orix’s Keisuke Sawada survived a scoreless Hawks ninth, SoftBank lefty Shinya Kayama walked Masataka Yoshida and Sugimoto, happy to be rid of Ishikawa, hit a booming single.
Bando recorded his first strikeout before Jones struck but then made his getaway in overpowering fashion.
Marines 5, Eagles 1
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Lotte rookie Roki Sasaki (2-2, 3.22) allowed three hits and walked two while striking out five over five innings in the first scoreless outing of his career, while the Marines bludgeoned Rakuten starter Takayuki Kishi (6-7, 3.43).
Kishi, who was wildly inconsistent through in April and May, allowed more than two runs in a start for the first time since May 25. He gave up five runs on 10 hits, a walk and a hit batsman while striking out two.
Takashi Ogino teed off on a high straight 1-0 fastball to put Lotte in front after two pitches, and Kishi surrendered three straight singles. His first out came on a play at the plate that could easily have been overturned on obstruction if umpires actually thought that hard about it. A Brandon Laird sac fly sent Sasaki to the mound with a two-run lead.
Sasaki also started less than sharp, but a double play prevented two walks and a single from becoming a run. Three more Marines singles in the second, the third by Ogino, made it 3-0. Sasaki allowed a pair of infield singles in the home half but for the second time got out of jail with a strikeout.
Laird’s 20th homer in the third, and Leonys Martin’s 22nd, in the fifth, made it 5-0.
The Eagles’ lone run came in the ninth, on an RBI double by former Marines captain Daichi Suzuki.
The Marines’ win moved them to within 2-1/2 games of first place, a full game ahead of the third-place Eagles, who have a 1-1/2 game cushion over the fourth-place Hawks.
Lions 8, Fighters 8
At MetLife Dome 5 pm, there was a lot of thunder but not much clarity as Nippon Ham jumped out to a four-run first-inning lead and was up 7-0 before Seibu batted and scored four runs in the fifth.
Lions starter Tatsuya Imai lasted five innings and allowed seven runs on four walks and seven hits, including two solo home runs, Wang Po-jung’s third and Yuto Takahama’s seventh. Fighters starter Takayuki Kato stranded five runners over four scoreless innings before his good fortune ran out.
Sosuke Genda followed a one-out error with his second homer, and Shuta Tonosaki doubled in two. Trailing 8-4 in the seventh, Tonosaki homered for the second straight day, a two-run shot that was his fourth of the season. Aito Takeda, doubled in a run and scored the tying run on a single by Genda.
Sunday’s starting pitchers
Eagles vs Marines: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 5 pm, 4 am EDT
Lions vs Fighters: MetLife Dome 5 pm, 4 am EDT
Buffaloes vs Hawks: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT
Swallows vs BayStars: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Dragons vs Giants: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Carp vs Tigers: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 8/28/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/7