NPB wrap 9-1-21

Wednesday night was like watching a sort of terminator version of Tomoyuki Sugano, not the pitcher we knew and loved with the extreme command of his fastball, split and slider, but a version of him with a cutter born of future AI and robotics and returned to today’s baseball via time travel.

The cutter had right-handed-hitting Swallows batters flailing at pitches 10 inches off the outside corner like that was some kind of normal for them.

A 2nd opinion on Dariel Alvarez

A cursory glance at new Hawks outfielder Dariel Álvarez did not ring any bells for my, suggesting he might be a diamond in the rough, somebody overlooked or a victim of horrendously bad timing.

Bill Thompson, who is more concerned with unaffiliated ball than virtually anyone I know, took time to point out that Álvarez had success in his past.

Álvarez had two winter league seasons in Mexico where his batting stats were significantly better than the average for his team, in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 with Jalisco. Other than that, in Triple-A, in the Mexican League (LMB), he’s posted consistently solid numbers that were, however, right about his teams’ averages.

I can’t say much about Álvarez’s physical skills other than he does appear to have a strong accurate arm. Rather than saying he “hasn’t done anything anywhere,” it would be more accurate to say his performance stats have done little to demonstrate he was an overlooked star.

The thing about stats from other leagues is that while continued statistical excellence is a strong indicator of a player’s ability to compete in a tougher league, there are many possible reasons why players fail that are very hard to know, especially in farm leagues, where the need for skill development can run counter to the goal of winning games.

Giants 2, Swallows 0

At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Tomoyuki Sugano (3-5, 3.27) took advantage of a spectacular cutter to strike out eight over eight innings, including six of the first nine batters he faced, and his teammates got four good swings in the third inning against lefty Keiji Takahashi (2-1, 2.55), taking a 2-0 lead on Yoshihiro Maru’s 16th home run, off a 1-1 changeup that floated into the heart of the zone.

Except for that one inning, Takahashi held the Giants at bay with his fastball and change. He struck out six over seven innings while allowing one walk and four hits.

Giants closer Thyago Vieira roared again in the ninth inning, a 1-2-3 affair in which he hit 164 kph (101.9 mph) on his first pitch as he recorded his 16th save in his 32nd consecutive scoreless outing, the longest streak by an import pitcher.

He had been tied with former Hawk Brian Falkenborg. The Japan record is 39 games, set this season by Seibu’s Kaima Taira.

Giants-Swallows highlights

BayStars 7, Carp 2

At Yokohama Stadium, Shogo Tamamura (2-5, 3.90) surrendered two first-inning runs on extra-base hits by Masayuki Kuwahara, Keita Sano and Tyler Austin. Sano doubled for the second time in the third and scored on a single by Austin.

DeNA starter Shinichi Onuki (5-5, 4.70) allowed four hits through the first three innings, and a run on two fourth-inning singles. His juggling act continued through six innings as he allowed a run on eight hits and a walk while striking out two.

The BayStars chased Tamamura in the sixth as two-out RBI singles by Yamato Maeda and Taishi Kusumoto made it 5-1. Robert Corniel allowed two more runs in the seventh, with Sano singling and scoring on an Austin double, and Shugo Maki delivering a sacrifice fly.

Tigers 2, Dragons 1

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin rookie Masashi Ito (7-6, 3.08) allowed an unearned run on four hits over seven innings, while striking out six and walking none. The Tigers came from behind against Takahiro Matsuba (2-3, 4.00) in a two-run sixth. Matsuba, who left the bases loaded in the first, couldn’t get out of trouble in the sixth.

Hanshin tied on a Koji Chikamoto leadoff single, a sacrifice and a Jefry Marte RBI single. Jerry Sands reached on an error, and Yusuke Oyama’s two-out RBI single off Shinji Tajima gave Hanshin the lead.

Errors, which have unfortunately become the Hanshin Tigers’ story this year, opened the door for a Dragons run in the fourth. An infield single and a bounced throw from shortstop Takumu Nakano, his Japan-worst 14th error, put a runner on second, and Yohei Oshima singled him home.

Suguru Iwazaki worked a 1-2-3 eighth for Hanshin, setting the stage for Robert Suarez, who recorded his 28th save, tying him with Lotte’s Naoya Masuda for the most in Japan.

Fighters 12, Buffaloes 1

At Sapporo Dome, Nippon Ham’s Drew VerHagen (2-6, 5.33) continued his impressive run with six scoreless innings in which he struck out seven, allowed one hit and one walk.

Nippon Ham took a 1-0 second-inning lead on a two-out walk and a Kazunari Ishii triple high off the wall against Daiki Tajima (5-6, 3.51), but that was just a warmup. The lefty began throwing live BP in a five-run third, and was allowed to stay on the mound to give up two more in the fourth.

Daiki Asama’s three-run triple made it 5-0 in the third. He singled in another run in the fourth, and reached on an error and scored in the seventh.

VerHagen has yet to allow a run since the Olympic break. On Aug. 15, he gave up one hit in three innings. Nine days later he allowed two hits and no walks while striking out six over four innings.

Lions 14, Marines 7

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Seibu ambushed Lotte starter Daiki Iwashita (8-6, 4.52) for six first-inning runs. Takeya Nakamura singled in two runs with one outs, Takumi Kuriyama doubled in another with his 1,997th career hit, and Hotaka Yamakawa hit a three-run home run, his 16th.

The Marines came back to score twice against Zach Neal after a leadoff double and two walks. With two outs, Koki Yamaguchi bounced an infield single to third, and a throwing error scored another run. Yudai Fujioka made it 6-3, leading off the second with his third home run.

Seiji Kawagoe led off the Lions’ fourth with his fourth home run, and Tomoya Mori’s second double of the game plated Sosuke Genda to make it 8-3. Kuriyama singled and scored in the Lions’ four-run sixth to move within two hits of 2,000 for his career.

Starting pitchers

Fighters vs Buffaloes: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Ryusei Kawano (2-3, 2.36) vs Daichi Takeyasu (2-0, 5.00)

Hawks vs Eagles: PayPay Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kodai Senga (3-1, 4.22) vs Takahiro Norimoto (8-4, 3.63)

Giants vs Swallows: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shun Yamaguchi (2-3, 3.53) vs Masanori Ishikawa (3-2, 2.53)

BayStars vs Carp: Yokohama Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Yuya Sakamoto (4-3, 4.58) vs Allen Kuri (8-6, 3.74)

Tigers vs Dragons: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shintaro Fujinami (3-3, 4.70) vs Yariel Rodriguez (0-2, 4.76)

Active roster moves 9/1/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/11

Central League


BayStarsP64Ren Kazahari
SwallowsP24Tomoya Hoshi


BayStarsP26Haruhiro Hamaguchi

Pacific League


FightersP47Kenya Suzuki
FightersOF69Hokuto Miyata


FightersIF2Kenshi Sugiya
BuffaloesP11Sachiya Yamasaki

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