Although a typhoon prevented two games in western Japan from being played as scheduled, the Yomiuri Giants could have used an indoor storm warning in Tokyo.
Swallows 8, Giants 2
At Tokyo Dome, Yakult rookie Yasunobu Okugawa (7-3, 3.36) allowed a first-inning run and pitched out of a pair of pickles to go seven innings without allowing another, while Domingo Santana broke a 1-1 tie with his 12th homer, Tetsuto Yamada added on with his 28th and Yasutaka Shiomi stuck a fork in the Giants with an eighth-inning grand slam, his 11th homer as the Swallows moved one game ahead of Yomiuri and within two of the CL-leading Tigers.
Yuki Takahashi (10-5, 3.13) got a one-run lead to work with on a Naoki Yoshikawa leadoff single, a hit batsman and a Hayato Sakamoto single, but the rookie right-hander started a double play on a comebacker Japan home run leader Kazuma Okamoto and ended the inning with a strikeout.
With the lead in the hand, the lefty avoided challenging the Swallows sluggers, fell behind hitters and only got one out before loading the bases because former Carp manager Kenjiro Nomura said Swallows hitter Yuhei Nakamura was too focused on hitting behind the runners after failing to sacrifice that he swung and missed a fat two-strike pitch.
Nomura’s mild criticism was refreshing from a TV analyst. Typically, they beat the drum for the sacrifice bunt, saying how hard it is to do properly, and then berate those who fail as if it’s the easiest thing in the world to do, while glossing over the hypocrisy like they are wearing MAGA hats. But Nomura said, “he’s got to flip that switch. He went up there with a mission to get a bunt down, but he has to get over it and put a good swing on that ball.”
Takahashi found some stomach for challenging hitters in the third, and showed his stuff would play in the zone, when he struck out Munetaka Murakami and Jose Osuna with two on and one out. But Santana homered after a leadoff single by Nakamura in the fourth, and the Takahashi’s replacements didn’t fare much better.
Yamada hit a long shot off Toyoki Tanaka and journeyman Yuri Furukawa gave up four more in the eighth on a textbook Tokyo Dome special by Shiomi, a high straight fastball that would be a fly out in most other Japan parks, but just sneaks over the dome’s wall to straight-away left or center.
I used to have a boss at the Daily Yomiuri, Jim Nishi, who loved to say of warning track fly outs at Tokyo Dome, “That would be a home run at Hiroshima/JIngu.”
I got used to hearing that until I learned the majestic dome, with its box-shaped field, had Japan’s shortest distance to the alleys. After that when there was a warning track fly to straight-away left or right at Hiroshima or Jingu or Yokohama, I’d parrot his phrase back to him and savor his grumbles.
Saturday’s starting pitchers
Fighters vs Marines: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Eagles vs Hawks: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Buffaloes vs Lions: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Giants vs Swallows: Tokyo Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Tigers vs Dragons: Koshien Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Carp vs BayStars: Mazda Stadium 1:30 pm, 0:30 am EDT
Active roster moves 9/17/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/27