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NPB 2020 7-11 games and news

Buffaloes exploit reliever’s mistakes

The Orix Buffaloes won for the fifth time in seven games with a 5-3 win on Saturday over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome on Saturday.

With both teams giving away opportunities and then throwing away their chances, the Buffaloes finally broke up the 1-1 tie that had existed since the first inning.

Southpaw Katsuhiko Kumon (0-1), the sixth pitcher on a bullpen day for Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama, made two momentary lapses in the field and that was enough to turn the game Orix’s way. The lefty came in throwing strikes and executing his pitches for the most part.

With a runner on second after a leadoff single and a sacrifice, Yuma Mune hit a grounder to first. Kumon went to cover first, and though he’d been able to locate his pitches, he was unable to locate the bag. Only after taking the throw from first baseman Sho Nakata did he realize that he had stopped more than a stride from the bag as Mune sped past and reached safely with an “infield single.”

Mune stole second on the first pitch to left-handed slugger Masataka Yoshida, who after a steady diet of pitches targeting the low-away corner of the zone, chopped one back to Kumon. The southpaw hesitated for a split second to see the runner coming home, but then couldn’t find the ball in his glove. His delayed throw home gave his catcher no chance for a play as the Buffaloes took their first lead.

With lefty Takahiro Okada on deck, Kumon worked extra carefully to Adam Jones and walked him. It was at that point that the game got out of control. Kumon missed with a 1-0 slider in the heart of the zone to Okada. Although he’s having a tremendous start to the season, the Buffaloes slugger missed and popped it up.

But Kumon’s early ability to execute was now gone. He tried to go inside with a first-pitch fastball to Aderlin Rodriguez but missed high and over the plate. Rodriguez, who had demolished the Fighters the day before, put a beautiful swing on it and lined it over second for a two-run single.

The game marked an end to Kumon’s record-setting streak of 182 career games without a loss, and rather than sympathy, one suspects he is going to receive a heaping helping of pitchers fielding practice.

Kumon’s replacement walked the next to batters to make it 5-1, and Buffaloes right-hander Keisuke Sawada coughed up two runs in the ninth on Kotaro Kiyomiya’s second home run of the season before Brandon Dickson came in to face one batter, tough left-handed leadoff man Haruki Nishikawa. Dickson retired him on three pitches to earn his third save.

Buffaloes lefty Daiki Tajima allowed a run over five innings on three hits and three walks. Nakata singled home Nishikawa, after Tajima walked the first two batters he faced in the first.

Chihiro Kaneko, who won a Sawamura Award as Japan’s most impressive starting pitcher during his days as Buffaloes ace, led off the Fighters’ bullpen relay. He surrendered a leadoff single to Koji Oshiro, who scored from third on a wild pitch.

After Tajima left the game, Hirotoshi Masui and Nobuyoshi Yamada each worked a scoreless inning, as did new import Tyler Higgins (1-0) who earned the win in relief. Higgins located a good fastball with an effective change to more or less dictate things from the mound.

Marines power past Lions

The Lotte Marines took a bat to Seibu Lions starter Wataru Matsumoto (0-2) in a 6-4 victory at Chiba’s breezy Zozo Marine Stadium.

After an error put the leadoff man on, Marines No. 3 hitter Tsuyoshi Sugano fouled off three two-strike pitches before finding a straight fastball in the heart of the zone to his liking and pulling it well back into the right field stands.

Brandon Laird drew an eight-pitch walk after he popped up the seventh near first base. There, the wind prevented a catch in foul territory. Seiya Inoue followed homering for the second-straight game to make it 4-0 Lotte, hitting the first strike he saw, a low 2-0 fastball and powering it into the left field seats.

Marines starter Atsuki Taneichi (1-1) brought a lively fastball and was able to survive a third-inning scrape with just two runs scored off him. Over six innings, he gave up three runs on seven hits, two walks and two hit batsmen while striking out 10.

Frank Herrmann, Tsuyoshi Ishizaki and Naoya Masuda finished up for Lotte, with Masuda earning his fifth save.

Niho outlasts Kishi as Hawks slam Eagles

Journeyman right-hander, who somehow got a spot in the SoftBank Hawks starting rotation, showed why he deserved that chance as he outpitched veteran Takayuki Kishi in an 8-4 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Niho (1-2) entered the game with eight career wins. He allowed four runs on four hits, a walk and a hit batsman over seven innings while striking out three. In a game that seemed like a hopeless mismatch, Niho executed his pitches, while the Hawks ran the bases better and fielded better than the Hawks.

Yasuhito Uchida blasted a three-run second-inning homer in an inning led off by good at-bats from Hiroaki Shimauchi, who walked, and Stefen Romero, who singled.

The Hawks scored twice in the second thanks to some opportunistic base running that the Eagles failed to counter. With two outs and a man on in the third, Nobuhiro Matsuda tied it when he appeared to be looking for a first-pitch changeup from Kishi and drilled it for his second home run of the season and second in two games.

Yuki Yanagita, who doubled in the first and walked three times, walked to open the seventh and broke the 4-4 tie on a double by Kenji Akashi, who had scored in both the second and third innings.

Akashi’s first run was simple theft. After he singled and went to second when Matsuda walked, Takuya Kai singled to center. The Eagles appeared to have Matsuda hung up between second and third, but while they focused on him Akashi sprinted home. The throw went home late and both runners advanced. Matsuda then scored on a squibber down the line. Catcher Hikaru Ota went to field it but could not tag Matsuda as he ran past to score.

Big fish inning defeats Dragons

Shogo Itakura, a 22-year-old catching prospect had a pair of RBI singles in the third inning and went 4-for-5 with a walk and a double in the Hiroshima Carp’s 19-4 demolition of the Chunichi Dragons at Nagoya Dome.

The Carp broke a 1-1 tie with nine runs in the third, five off right-handed starter Akiyoshi Katsuno (0-1), while Hiroshima lefty Hiroki Tokoda (1-1) allowed three runs over six innings to earn the win.

Hiroshima’s Jose Pirela went 2-for-5 with a walk and a home run on the game’s first pitch, while the new Dragons new, 24-year-old Cuban Ariel Martinez batted third and went 2-for-4 with an RBI double and two strikeouts to keep his average at .500.

New Carp import D. J. Johnson made his debut and allowed one run in the ninth.

Takahashi out again, rookie Ishikawa to get call

Dragons captain Shuhei Takahashi injured his left hamstring as he was striding to first base in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game and is expected to be out between three weeks and a month according to a report in the Nikkan Sports.

Takahashi posted a career-high .345 on-base percentage last season when he missed 26 games, largely due to a leg injury. He will be deactivated on Sunday

According to the report, Takahashi will be replaced on the roster by slugging rookie Takaya Ishikawa, whom Chunichi won the rights to in a draft-day lottery after he was picked first by three clubs.

The 19-year-old who starred for Japan’s U-18 team last summer, suffered from inflammation in his right shoulder during camp. He has played in all nine of the Dragons’ farm club’s Western League games, batting fourth and playing third.

Ogawa pitches Swallows past Giants

Right-hander Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa” (3-0) allowed two runs over six innings while striking out six to earn the win as the Yakult Swallows beat their Tokyo rivals, the Yomiuri Giants, 9-2 at Hotto Motto Field Kobe.

Swallows shortstop Alcides Escobar had his 1.85-meter frame to thank for being able to reach up and snag a flyball in a run-saving first-inning catch. Munetaka Murakami doubled off Angel Sanchez (2-2) to open the Swallows fourth and scored the tie-breaking run on a Yuhei Takai sac fly.

Norichika Aoki homered, doubled, scored twice and drove in three for the Swallows.

Sanchez allowed four runs, three earned, on four hits and two walks in 5-1/3 innings. He struck out eight.

Soto finishes dramatic DeNA comeback

Neftali Soto capped a three-run ninth-inning rally with a two-run homer off Kyuji Fujikawa (0-2) in the DeNA BayStars’ 4-2 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium.

Soto walked and scored in the eighth to make it a 2-1 game. With one out in the ninth, Takayuki Kajitani walked. Substitute outfielder Kai Ueda, who had entered in the bottom of the eighth as a pinch runner, let Masayuki Kuwahara’s single get past him, allowing Kajitani to score from first. Soto then blasted a 2-1 fastball for his fifth home run.

The Tigers had led since the second inning, when Justin Bour hit his fourth home run of the season, off BayStars southpaw Shota Imanaga, who left after six innings.

Four relievers finished up for the BayStars, with lefty Kenta Ishida (1-0) working the eighth to earn the win, and Yasuaki Yamasaki stranding two in the ninth to earn his fifth save.

The ninth-inning comeback spoiled a solid start by Hanshin right-hander Yuki Nishi, who struck tout seven over 6-1/3 scoreless innnings.

NPB 2020 7-8 GAMES AND NEWS

Dobayashi powers Carp to 1st home win

Despite having struggled to field and hit for the bulk of his career, one-time prospect Shota Dobayashi has people talking about his future again.

On Wednesday, he singled in a run and belted a grand slam in the Hiroshima Carp’s 6-3 win over the DeNA BayStars at Mazda Stadium.

So far this season, Dobayashi is playing third base with confidence, chasing less, forcing pitchers to throw strikes and making better contact — although he is still striking out a lot.

The BayStars took a 3-2 lead into the eighth after a scoreless inning of relief from lefty Edwin Escobar. But Spencer Patton hit Seiya Suzuki with one out, allowed a single to Ryuhei Matsuyama and another walk loaded the bases for Dobayashi. The one-time would-be wunderkind belted a 1-1 fastball that got too much of the outside half of the plate and drilled it over the center field fence.

In the ninth, the Carp turned to 30-year-old journeyman right-hander Yasunori Kikuchi, and he held on to earn his first save, partly thanks to a big play from his namesake, Ryosuke Kikuchi, who turned what looked like an infield single that would have loaded the bases with no outs into a force at second.

Carp lefty Kris Johnson allowed three runs over seven innings on six hits and two walks. BayStars lefty Haruhiro Hamaguchi allowed just two runs despite surrendering nine walks and six hits and hitting a batter in his 5-1/3 innings on the mound.

Swallows, Dragons draw after 10

There were few points of interest about this game at Nagoya Dome that was tied 5-5 after four innings and stayed that way until the coronavirus 10-inning limit ended it. The main one was the red-hot start of 24-year-old Chunichi Dragons catcher Ariel Martinez.

Martinez’s first-inning double.

Martinez, who had been crushing balls in the minors, struck out in his July 3 debut as a pinch-hitter. In 12 at-bats, he’s had five singles, a double and a walk, while looking competent behind the plate. Having been in Japan for two-plus seasons, he appears able to have some conversations in Japanese.

Fighters’ Martinez rock solid against Buffaloes

Nippon Ham’s Nick Martinez (1-2) located and executed all his pitches in a dominant effort against the Orix Buffaloes in a 10-4 Fighters win at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

The right-hander, who missed all of last season, allowed a run over six innings on five hits and a walk while striking out five. His fastball was crisp and he mixed in his splitter and curve for effect. The one run he surrendered was on a mammoth sixth-inning homer from Adam Jones that reached the third deck.

Lions’ Imai rides tailwind in win over Marines

Seibu Lions right-hander Tatsuya Imai came in hoping the gusting winds at Zozo Marine Stadium could give his pitches extra life, and it worked out in a 3-0 win over the Lotte Marines.

Imai walked five and hit a batter, but few Marines got good swings as he located his hard stuff while letting his two-seamer and breaking pitches knuckle and twist in the wind off Tokyo Bay.

Lotte lefty Kazuya Odajima (1-2) who tends to work away to everyone and continued to be troubled by left-handed hitters. Cory Spangenberg doubled to the fence in the first and scored from third on a Shuta Tonosaki single.

Imai faced a couple of tough situations, but both times was able to get out of trouble on miss-hit balls off well-located fastballs.

Asamura blast helps Wakui survive beating

Hideto Asamura homered for the fourth-straight game with his ninth home run of the season, a second-inning two-run shot off inexperienced 23-year-old Shunsuke Kasaya in the Rakuten Eagles’ 12-8 win over the SoftBank Hawks.

Kasaya (0-1) surrendered seven runs over two innings, allowing Rakuten starter Hideaki Wakui (3-0) to pick up a win in which he threw a lot of straight pitches and gave up six runs in a five-inning, 124-pitch effort.

Yuki Yanagita had three hits and two home runs for the Hawks.

Hawks’ Moore, Fighters Nomura deactivated

The SoftBank Hawks on Wednesday deactivated right-handed starting pitcher Matt Moore. The 31-year-old Moore suffered an injury to his left calf muscle during pregame practice on Tuesday at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome according to a Nikkan Sports report.

“I get a sense this might take some time but we need him to pitch,” Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said. “It isn’t going to heal all of a sudden, but I told him I want him back as soon as possible.”

The Hawks are replacing Moore on the active roster with 22-year-old rookie right-hander Kazuki Sugiyama.

Meanwhile, the Fighters will be without impressive 20-year-old rookie Yuki James Nomura after a batted ball broke his right pinky while he was playing third base in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s game against the Orix Buffaloes in Osaka.

Nomura is expected to miss about three months.

NPB 2020 7-7 GAMES AND NEWS

baseball and robots

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Senga opens with a win

Kodai Senga threw hard at the start, hitting 161 kph against his first batter but was missing all over, especially with his splitter, but it was good enough for a winning debut as the SoftBank Hawks beat the Rakuten Eagles 4-3 in the Pacific League on Tuesday.

Senga had been out with a calf injury compounded by arm issues, and only went five innings. Yuki Yanagita tied it with a two-run first-inning homer at PayPay Dome off Hayato Yuge (2-1). Ryoya Kurihara homered in the second to make it 3-2 only for Hideto Asamura to hit his ninth home run and tie it in the third. Yanagita broke the tie in the fifth with a hard-hit RBI single.

Albers corners Fighters in Buffaloes’ win

Andrew Albers (1-1) allowed two hits but no walks over seven innings while striking out eight for the Orix Buffaloes in their 7-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Aderlin Rodriguez opened the scoring against right-hander Toshihiro Sugiura (1-1) in the second with his second homer in three games, and Adam Jones’ two-run double made it 3-0 through three. Masataka Yoshida went 4-for-4 with a homer, two RBIs and two runs.

Former San Diego Padre Christian Villanueva went 1-for-3 in his Fighters debut.

Fighters activate Villanueva

The Nippon Ham Fighters activated third baseman Christian Villanueva on Tuesday. The infielder, who did not re-sign with the Yomiuri Giants over the winter following his first season in Japan, had an appendectomy in May.

In his place, the Fighters have played rookie Yuki James Nomura.

Marines wear down Lions

Seibu’s Kona Takahashi struck out nine batters but ran into a buzz saw in the fifth and sixth inning in the Lions’ 8-6 loss to the Lotte Marines at Chiba’s wind-swept Zozo Marine Stadium.

Leonys Martin’s two-out, two-run fifth-inning double broke a 1-1 tie, and rookie Hisanori Yasuda’s two-run homer capped a three-run sixth for the Marines.

Marines right-hander Yuki Ariyoshi (1-0) allowed two runs over six innings, but the bullpen coughed up four runs to make it close.

Dragons lose in 10th with no hitters left

The Chunichi Dragons loaded the bases in the bottom of the 10th inning but lost 2-1 to the Yakult Swallows. Dragons manager Tsuyoshi Yoda burned through his nine reserve position players and sent reliever Takuya Mitsuma up to pinch-hit with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th.

Mitsuma fouled off one two-strike pitch before swinging and missing to end the game.

Norichika Aoki led off the Swallows’ 10th with a walk. With one out and first base open, Yoda ordered an intentional walk of red-hot Naomichi Nishiura. But Taishi Hirooka walked with two outs, and 36-year-old career minor leaguer Suguru Ino walked on six pitches to force in the run.

With two outs and runners on the corners in the bottom of the 10th, Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu ordered the bases loaded to bring the Dragons pitcher’s spot up with no position players left on the bench.

“It was 100 percent my mistake,” Yoda said according to Sports Nippon. “I mean one has to have at least one position player on the bench. I was conflicted about that last change and it came back to bite me.”

There are days when robots might be preferable.

And then there was Takatsu’s turn…

Takatsu himself had one of Japan’s most famous relief pitcher pinch-hitting appearances. In 1995, Central League manager Katsuya Nomura ordered Takatsu to pinch-hit for Hideki Matsui after Pacific League skipper Akira Ogi called Ichiro Suzuki in from right field to face the future major leaguer. Suzuki pitched to future big leaguer, just not the one people wanted to see.

For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Live blog: Hawks vs Eagles

The Rakuten Eagles made it look easy last week taking five of six against the Lotte Marines in Sendai — when the Marines entered on the back of an eight-game win streak. The Hawks went 3-2 with a tie at Sapporo Dome against the Fighters.

Tonight will be the 2020 season debut of Hawks ace Kodai Senga. He injured his right calf on the first day of spring training, and hurt his right forearm when he was on the verge of returning to fitness.

Top 1st

Senga starts out Eigoro Mogi with hard stuff, hitting 161 kph on his 4th pitch and gets him looking at a 159 kph inside fastball. If he can keep this location up when he starts with his secondary stuff it could be a long night for the Eagles but a fast game.

Daichi Suzuki hits the first pitch that isn’t a four-seam fastball, a 1-2 cutter away down the line in left for a single. Blash is rung up checking his swing on a low 3-2 slider. That’s about the closest call I’ve seen on a checked swing strike this year. The umps have been pretty forgiving unless a guy has gone well around.

Senga and Kai try to get Hideto Asamura to chase on 3-2 but he’s not biting. It’s two on with two outs for Hiroaki Shimauchi, who survives a close call on a low 1-2 fastball to stay alive. Shimauchi fouls off a cutter inside. Senga misses straight and down the pipe and Shimiuchi drills it over Yuki Yanagita’s head in center for a two-run double. Eagles 2, Hawks 0.

Stefen Romero pops up a first-pitch fastball, and the Eagles are done in the first at the Casa de Pepe.

Bottom 1st

Ryoya Kurihara, who is in left today, to lead off for the Hawks against the 1.93-meter lefty Hayato Yuge. The lefty clips him on the arm and the leadoff man is on. Mr. “300 sacrifice-bunts” Kenta Imamiya is up, and the announcers, of course, have to mention that, although no show of displeasure that he’s not squaring around.

Imamiya misses a fastball and rolls to short, not hard enough for a GDP. Yuki Yanagita takes a big swing on a first-pitch cutter that floats up in the zone and he miss-hits it just a little but still propels it into the home run terrace in left. We’re tied. Hawks 2, Eagles 2.

Yuge tried so hard to stay away from Yanagita, and he had no business swinging at that pitch, but what are you going to do. He strikes out Coco Balentien on a bouncer that gets away from catcher Hikaru Ota for “furinige” as Balentien reaches on an uncaught swinging third strike.

Keizo Kawashima, the right-handed-slap-hitting utility infielder is batting behind Coco and playing first. It’s like manager Kimiyasu Kudo lost a bet with someone. Kawashima reaches on an infield single, and Nobuhiro Matsuda smashes a bouncer into left and the bags are juiced.

Yuge appears to have regained his composure and strikes out the lefty-swinging Seiji Uebayashi, and the pops up Takuya Kai on the first pitch and the Hawks leave them loaded.

Top 2nd

Ginji Akaminai leads off with a four-pitch walk, and now with the speed and the hit-and-miss location, it feels like Kodai Senga is REALLY back. Senga hangs a splitter up in the zone, but Eagles catcher Hikaru Ota looks at it for Strike 3.

Mogi grounds to first and Kawashima — can’t get used to him wearing No. 99 — gets the force at second for the second out. Daichi Suzuki up with runners on the corners but quickly down 0-2 and looks at a strike on the outside corner — that Senga was trying to go inside with.

Bottom 2nd

With one out, Ryoya Kurihara barrels up a straight 1-0 fastball in the heart of the zone and pulls it into the permanents seats in right. Hawks 3, Eagles 2.

Yuge’s location is also kind of here and gone. He loses Imamiya on a 3-2 pitch, to put a man on for Yanagita. Yuge misses in the zone with his first pitch, but Yanagita misses, too, and fouls it off. Two hard ones inside and Yanagita grounds out to first.

Balentien, who pretty much never saw anything over the plate in Sapporo, gets a fastball in the zone and one inside for 1-1. Yuget gets him on a changeup low in the zone that Balentien lines softly to short.

Top 3rd

Blash opens the third with a smash to short that nearly knocks Kenta Imamiya off his feet for the first out. But just like that, Hideto Asamura hits his eighth home run and we’re tied. That’s a decent curve from Senga, but Asamura is all over it and drives it 12 rows back in the permanent seats. Hawks 3, Eagles 3.

Very rare for the announcing crew to comment on the umpiring, but they do when Romero takes an 0-2 pitch down the middle and umpire Kunio Kiuchi dutifully gives the batter the benefit of the doubt. Romero hammers the next pitch through the box for a single, that Senga does well to duck. But Senga recovers by getting Akaminai on a pair of curves, that he apparently calls sliders.

Bottom 3rd

Kawashima grounds out to open the Hawks’ third and the Hawks go down in order.

Fun fact: On Jan. 1, 2008, Kawashima was traded by the Nippon Ham Fighters with pitcher Yoshitaka Hashimoto and Takehiko Oshimoto to the Yakut Swallows for lefty Shugo Fuji, right-hander Yataro Sakamoto and current Rakuten manager Hajime Miki. On July 20, 2014, the Swallows sent him and lefty Ryo Hidaka to the Hawks for Nagisa Arakaki and submarine right-hander Hirofumi Yamanaka — who has the distinction of being the only player to still be active after a trade involving Kawashima.

I was thinking about that last week, when Kawashima was starting against the Fighters, playing for a team that had won five of the last six Japan Series after being a middling piece in a trade over 12 years earlier.

Top 4th

With one out, Ryosuke Tatsumi walks for the second time but is cut down on a throw from Kai that reminded us what he was like back in 2018 as the Japan Series MVP basically for his ability to gun down runners.

Bottom 4th

Yuge needs 11 pitches, six of them on Kai, to get a 1-2-3 inning.

Top 5th

Senga gets Suzuki to fly out on an 0-1 fastball but runs the count full to Blash, who entered the game third in the league in strikeouts and second in walks. But Blash actually swings and misses this time for the second out.

Senga’s location is getting incrementally better as the game goes along. Asamura is up and he fouls a 1-1 fastball in the zone, and a high slider, too. Asamura nearly gets hit with a splitter that gets away and it’s 2-2. The inning ends with a strike zone as Senga hangs a splitter up high and Asamura misses it.

Bottom 5th

A throwing error by shortstop Eigoro Mogi allows Kenta Imamiya to start the inning at second, and Yuki Yanagita drives a fastball over the inside half of the plate toward the gap in right-center. What a beautiful swing, balanced, compact. Oh if it weren’t for service time manipulation. Hawks 4, Eagles 3.

Yuge gets Balentien to hit into a double play and survives a two-out Kawashima single. Yuge is up to 75 pitches.

Top 6th

Submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi, the PL’s 2019 rookie of the year, is on in relief for Senga, who allowed three runs on four hits and four walks while striking out six.

Bottom 6th

The first two Hawks go down on three pitches, and they have to rush Takahashi out of the clubhouse to start throwing on the sideline. Taisei Makihara goes up there and apparently has been ordered to take some time up there. He fouls off three, two-strike pitches before grounding out on Yuge’s eighth delivery.

Top 7th

The Eagles bat for catcher Hikaru Ota, and Yuya Ogo flies out on the first pitch. Umpire Kiuchi has not been a big fan of pitches at the bottom of the zone, and lets Tatsumi draw his third walk on a low 3-2 pitch.

Mogi flies out on the first pitch, but Suzuki smashes a hanging 0-1 breaking ball down the pipe and pulls it into right for a single, bringing Blash to the plate with Asamura on deck. Blash reaches when Kawashima can’t hang on to a low throw from Imamiya.

The bases are loaded for Asamura. He misses an 0-1 pitch in the heart of the zone, and Takahashi gets a perfect strike on the outside edge for 1-2. A fastball inside misses, 2-2. The right-hander misses up in the zone, and Asamura fouls out to Kawashima.

Bottom 7th

Right-hander Tomohito Sakai on for the Eagles. Yuge allows four runs, three earned, over six innings. He gave up six hits and a walk and hit a batter while striking out three.

Sakai jams Kurihara, and Imamiya chases a low 2-2 pitch and flies out. Yanagita swings at a first-pitch strike and flies out to center.

Top 8th

Cuban lefty Livan Moinelo on for SoftBank to take on the Eagles’ fifth, sixth and seventh spots. He strikes out two in a 1-2-3 inning.

Bottom 8th

Sakai on for his second inning of work and he keeps it close, retiring Balentien, Kawashima and Matsuda.

Top 9th

Yuito Mori is on to close out the one-run game against the bottom of the Eagles’ order. Kazuya Fujita offers at a first-pitch breaking ball up and grounds to short. Tatsumi grounds a 1-1 fastball to second, and Mogi flies out to short to end it.

Final score: Hawks 4, Eagles 3

NPB 2020 7-5 GAMES AND NEWS

Martinez makes his mark in Dragons’ win

Ariel Martinez became the first import to start a game at catcher in one of NPB’s top leagues since June 1991 on Sunday and had three singles for the Chunichi Dragons in their 6-4 Central league win over the Yomiuri Giants.

The game highlights are HERE.

The 24-year-old Martinez, who was signed to a regular contract on July 1, had been with the Dragons since 2018 on a non-roster developmental deal, which allow up to three years of team control.

He was activated on Saturday, ostensibly because of left fielder Zoilo Almonte’s fitness issues. Martinez came off the bench at Tokyo Dome on Saturday, when he drew a walk and cut down a would-be base stealer.

Dayan Viciedo, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Cuba, homered twice, walked twice, singled and drove in four runs to power Chunichi’s offense, while 23-year-old right-hander Kodai Umetsu (2-1) allowed three runs over six innings to earn the win.

Umetsu scattered five hits and four walks while striking out seven, and went 2-for-3 with an RBI to raise his average to .500 for the season.

Giants starter Angel Sanchez (2-1) allowed three runs over two innings to take the loss.

Tigers’ Bour batters Carp

Justin Bour broke a 1-1 third-inning tie for the Hanshin Tigers with a grand slam in an 8-3 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Mazda Stadium.

Yusuke Oyama, who was starting at third and batting cleanup in place of Jefry Marte, who hurt a calf muscle on Saturday, hit a two-run homer in the fifth. Jerry Sands also went deep for the Tigers in the three-run inning.

Yuki Nishi (1-1), the Tigers’ Opening Day starter, allowed three runs over eight innings to earn the win. The right-hander struck out seven and walked one.

Taira, Soto lead BayStars rout of Swallows

Kentaro Taira struck out eight over seven scoreless innings to earn the win as the DeNA BayStars whipped the Yakult Swallows 8-1 at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Neftali Soto, who has won the CL home run title in each of his previous seasons in Japan, homered for the third time in two games with a fifth-inning grand slam.

Taira (2-0) allowed three hits but no walks.

Nomura lifts Fighters past Hawks

The Nippon Ham Fighters took a hammer to journeyman starting pitcher Akira Niho in a 5-3 win over the SoftBank Hawks at Sapporo Dome, with Yuki James Nomura breaking a 3-3 fourth-inning tie with his second career home run.

Niho (0-2) walked the first two batters he faced before surrendering RBI singles to Kensuke Kondo and Sho Nakata in a three-run first after his teammates opened the game with an unearned run off rookie Ryusei Kawano.

The rookie southpaw three primarily fastballs and sliders and missed barrels, but proved unwilling to challenge any of the Hawks big hitters and that proved costly.

He walked Yuki Yanagita with two outs in the first, and a good swing by Wladimir Balentien on a fastball well off the outside corner — he saw a lot of those this past week — was launched to the wall in center. Center fielder Haruki Nishikawa went to get it but failed to catch it for an error that scored Yanagita.

The Hawks tied it in the third when rookie Ryuhei Kuki turned on a straight inside fastball for his first career home run. A Kenta Imamiya double off the left field wall that Kensuke Kondo gloved after it struck the wall, and another walk to Yanagita brought up Balentien.

The former Dutch international slammed a 2-1 fastball, off the outside edge of course, to right. Right fielder Taishi Ota tried to make a leaping grab but missed. The ball hit the wall and Ota kicked it before recovering.

Yanagita tried to score from first but was nailed 9-4-2 thanks to an accurate throw from second baseman Ryo Watanabe and a super tag by catcher Yushi Shimizu.

The Fighters took the lead in the fourth on Yuki James Nomura’s second career home run. Watanabe singled in Kondo with Nippon Ham’s final run in the fifth.

Kawano struck out four and allowed four hits, but stayed away from his curve and change. His command was inconsistent but his fastball and slider were good enough to work with.

Yamamoto hits 4 in win over Lions

Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto worked seven innings and got plenty of run support in an 8-5 win over the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.

Yamamoto (2-0) allowed two runs, one earned, on four hits. He hit four batters, including a record-tying three in one inning, and struck out four. A week after his secondary pitches deserted him, Yamamoto’s curve was back and he used it to effect.

He became the first pitcher to hit four or more batters and last more than six innings since the Hawks’ Kenichi Wakatabe on April 15, 1999. Daisuke Matsuzaka also did it in the 2006 playoffs — on Oct. 7, 2006 in his final game for the Seibu Lions before he signed with the Boston Red Sox.

Masataka Yoshida and Adam Jones each had three hits for the Buffaloes, while Takahiro Okada homered and drove in three runs. Aderlin Rodriguez singled, doubled, drove in two runs and walked twice.

Brandon Dickson earned his second save by getting the second batter he faced in the ninth to hit into a game-ending double play.

Asamura leaves Marine debris in his wake

Hideto Asamura hit his fourth home run of the series and his seventh of the season, a three-run, fifth-inning shot that broke a 1-1 tie and lifted the Rakuten Eagles to an 8-1 win over the Lotte Marines.

Trailing 1-0 in the third against former Eagle Manabu Mima (1-1), who joined Lotte as a free agent over the winter, former Lotte captain Daichi Suzuki, who moved to Sendai as a free agent, singled with two outs and scored on a Jabari Blash double.

Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi (1-2) only struck out one batter over six innings, but only walked two and didn’t give up a hit after the first. Takashi Ogino doubled to open the game and scored on an Ikuhiro Kiyota double.

NPB 2020 7-3 GAMES AND NEWS

Saturday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB.

Sugano outduels Ono with 1-hitter

Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano struck out 11, while allowing one hit in a 5-0 shutout of the Chunichi Dragons on Friday at Tokyo Dome.

Sugano (2-0) walked two and hit a batter, while Ono (0-2) allowed two runs, one earned, while striking out 10 over seven innings. Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto broke up the scoreless game in the sixth inning with a solo homer.

Dayan Viciedo, who broke up Sugano’s no-hit bid with a seventh-inning double, ended the game by grounding out to second.

Ariel Martinez, a 24-year-old Cuban catcher who was activated on Friday after a hot streak in the Western League, struck out in the eighth as a pinch-hitter in his first-team debut.

Balentien makes Arihara pay

Wladimir Balentien broke a 1-1 tie at Sapporo Dome with a two-run home run, his third in two games, off Kohei Arihara (0-3) in the SoftBank Hawks’4-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Coming to the plate after Yuki Yanagita singled in the tying run, Balentien extended his arms on a lazy first-pitch slider and drove it well past the wall in center for his fifth home run of the season.

In the eighth, Balentien didn’t reach the seats, but he did double off the dome’s ceiling. The ball that was headed out was deflected downward and bounced in front of and over left fielder Kensuke Kondo.

Cuba’s Livan Moinelo worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn the save.

Imamiya reaches sacrificial milestone

Although Hawks shortstop Kenta Imamiya has developed medium-range power, he’s still a shortstop and still expected to sacrifice like he did when he needed to cement his role on the team by bunting all the time.

On Friday, his sixth-inning sacrifice put a runner in scoring position, from where Yanagita singled him home. The 300th career sacrifice hit ties him for sixth all-time with former Nankai Hawks and Kintetsu Buffaloes star Hiromasa Arai.

Norimoto survives scrape for 3rd win

Takahiro Norimoto (3-0) got his pitching hand in the way of a fourth-inning batted ball but returned to the field after treatment and gutted it out for 6-2/3 innings to earn the victory in the Rakuten Eagles’ 3-1 win over the Lotte Marines.

The Marines tied it in the fourth on a passed ball, but home runs from Ryosuke Tatsumi and Hiroaki Shimauchi off Marines right-hander Ayumu Ishikawa (0-1) made the difference at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

With two outs and the tying runs on in the seventh JT Chargois retired Lotte leadoff man Takashi Ogino to preserve the lead, and Alan Busenitz struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth. Kohei Morihara worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save.

Lions salvage tie with Buffaloes

Takeya Nakamura homered and had a solid defensive game at third base as the Seibu Lions overcame a three-run, sixth-inning deficit at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo in their game against the Orix Buffaloes that was called a 4-4 tie after 10 innings.

Adam Jones tied the game 1-1 in the sixth with an RBI single and scored on Takahiro Okada’s monstrous home run off Lions starter Zach Neal. But Nakamura homered to open the sixth against former closer Hirotoshi Masui, and Sosuke Genda completed the comeback with a two-run single.

By taking Neal off the hook for the loss, the Lions preserved his chance to win 13 straight decisions.

Tyler Higgins and Brandon Dickson each worked scoreless innings in relief for the Buffaloes, with Dickson pitching out of a one-out bases-loaded jam by striking out Nakamura and getting Wu Nien-ting to fly to the warning track.

For the second-straight night new Lion Reed Garret pitched out of trouble after allowing two hits. He had some help from catcher Tomoya Mori, who cut down a would-be base stealer with a tremendous throw.

Dragons call up catcher Martinez

The Central League’s Chunichi Dragons activated Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez on Friday according to the Chunichi Sports. The team signed the 24-year-old on Wednesday after acquiring him in 2018 as a non-roster developmental player.

The move was made because 31-year-old left fielder Zolio Almonte was deactivated due to concerns about his fitness. In his two-plus seasons in Japan, Almonte has a .369 on-base percentage and a .484 slugging average despite playing at one of Japan’s toughest home run parks.

Martinez, who cracked his second Western League home run on Thursday, has four from 11 minor league and practice games this year. He becomes the first imported player registered as a catcher since Australian Dave Nillson, who caught in one game in 2000 for the Dragons.

In three WL games, Martinez is 5-for-9 with a double, two home runs and two walks. He has yet to strike out.

Martinez caught on June 24, when he accounted for the only run off Carter Stewart Jr, with a solo home run and again on Thursday, when he homered in an 8-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Nagoya Stadium.

Carp drop reliever Scott

The Hiroshima Carp deactivated right-handed first-year import Taylor Scott on Friday, the day after he surrendered four runs in a 9-5 walk-off loss to the Yakult Swallows.

Scott (0-2) has faced 22 hitters, while allowing 10 hits and three walks. He’s allowed one home run, Thursday’s game-winning grand slam off the bat of Munetaka Murakami.

NPB 2020 7-1 GAMES AND NEWS

Thursday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB

Suzuki has career night against Lions

For most of the first five years of his pro baseball career, Yu Suzuki has been a reliever. But going 6-3 as a starter in the Western League last season with a 2.81 ERA must have caught someone’s attention.

On Wednesday, the 23-year-old right-hander who was Orix’s ninth draft pick in 2014, was handed the ball for his first top-team start and threw five hitless innings, nearly doubling his career output with the Pacific League club. The result was his first career win as Orix snapped a seven-game losing streak in a 6-0 win over the Seibu Lions.

For five innings, he and Lions starter Tatsuya Imai (0-2) traded hitless innings, until in the sixth, the jig was up for the Seibu starter. After issuing a leadoff walk, Imai left a slider up a little too much to diminutive power hitter Masataka Yoshida, and the left-handed-hitter launched it over MetLife Dome’s right field fence.

An Adam Jones double and an Aderlin Rodriguez RBI single made it 3-0, when Seibu self-destructed. An error and three-straight bases-loaded walks completed the six-run sixth inning.

Four Orix relievers came in, and the Lions, who haven’t been no-hit in 20 years, didn’t get a hit until veteran slugger Takeya Nakamura’s hard grounder found a hole to lead off the eighth off new import Tyler Higgins.

Asamura punishes Marines some more

Hideto Asamura homered for the second-straight night in Sendai, while Hideaki Wakui (2-0) allowed two runs over five innings as the Rakuten Eagles beat the Lotte Marines 5-3 to pull into a tie for first place in the Pacific League.

Pitching against the club that sold him over the winter, Wakui sturck out seven, while allowing five hits and a walk.

Leonys Martin homered for the Marines, while JT Chargois and Alan Busenitz each worked an inning of relief for the Eagles. Busenitz allowed a run on three hits.

Ishikawa strikes out 10 in Sapporo

Shuta Ishikawa (1-0) of the SoftBank Hawks struck out 10, while walking one and allowing five hits in a 4-0 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.

Nick Martinez (0-2) started for the Fighters. He gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits and two walks while striking out five.

Austin, Patton turn on power against Giants

Tyler Austin’s three-run eighth-inning double off the wall at Tokyo Dome helped lift the DeNA BayStars to a 5-3 win over the Yomiuri Giants.

Reliever Spencer Patton (2-0), who entered in the seventh to face Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto and struck him out, got the win in relief. He provided an encore in the eighth by striking out the side, starting with cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto and finishing with Gerardo Parra.

Giants starter Cristopher Mercedes allowed a run over 5-2/3 innings but it could have been worse without a good catch from newly acquired utility man Zelous Wheeler, who denied the BayStars a leadoff single in the sixth with a sliding catch in left.

Escobar treats Swallows to ice cream cone

Naomichi Nishiura hit his second game-changing home run of the week with a fourth-inning two-run shot that put the Yakult Swallows in front in a 4-3 win over the Hiroshima Carp at at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

On Thursday, Nishiura hit a pinch-hit, three-run sayonara shot off Tigers closer Kyuji Fujikawa. On Wednesday, he went deep off Sawamura Award-winning lefty Kris Johnson (0-2).

Right-hander Albert Suarez (2-0) started for Yakult and allowed three runs, one earned, over five innings, while Scott McGough worked a scoreless eighth. The Carp mounted a rally against closer Taishi Ikeyama, and the lead looked blown on a two-out liner, only for new Swallow Alcides Escobar to save the game.

Yamamoto stops Tigers

Twenty-year-old Takumi Yamamoto (1-1) allowed two runs over five innings, while Zoilo Almonte doubled, walked and scored twice, and Dayan Viciedo singled in a couple of runs as the Chunichi Dragons beat the Hanshin Tigers 6-3.

Jerry Sands singled in a run for the Tigers, while Justin Bour hit his first home run in Japan, a ninth-inning consolation shot.

Dragons add catcher Martinez to roster

The Chunichi Dragons inked 24-year-old Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez to a standard contract on Wednesday. Martinez, signed to a non-roster developmental contract in 2018, hurt his right knee playing in Cuba’s Series Nacional prior to camp the Chunichi Sports reported.

He rejoined the Dragons for practice games from June 2 after completing his rehab.

Marines’ Futaki, Buffaloes’ Nakagawa dropped

Because Japanese baseball has no options and players can be activated or dropped from the active roster an unlimited number of times. So it’s common for a player, ostensibly on the active roster because the manager believes in him, to get sent down for a couple of bad plays.

Two heads rolled on Wednesday after poor performances the night before. The Lotte Marines deactivated right-handed starting pitcher Kota Futaki after the Rakuten Eagles teed off on too many first-pitches in Lotte’s 15-4 loss. The defeat snapped the Marines’ eight-game winning streak.

The Orix Buffaloes pulled the plug on 24-year-old utility infielder Keita Nakagawa, who finished fourth in the rookie of the year voting last year, for not hitting and for making a throwing error that led to the Seibu Lions’ third run in a 3-2 loss. The Buffaloes have lost seven straight.

NPB 2020 6-28 GAMES AND NEWS

Mima outpitches Yamamoto, Marines sweep

Manabu Mima got burned early and then was as careful as careful can be, allowing three runs over seven innings against Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who struggled to adjust to a lack of command and coughed up five runs in 5-2/3 innings in a 6-5 win for the Lotte Marines over Orix.

Brandon Laird homered to break a 5-5 tie in the eighth, and Jay Jackson finished it off with his first save in Japan in two years as the Marines managed their eighth-straight win and a six-game sweep of the Orix Buffaloes. See the live blog below for more in depth coverage.

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Mori lifts Lions over Hawks

Seibu submariner Kaito Yoza did not allow a hit after the second inning, three relievers worked 1-2-3 innings, and 23-year-old SoftBank rookie Keisuke Izumi (0-1) was thrown into the Lions’ den in the ninth inning of a tie game. He loaded the bases with no outs for Tomoya Mori who singled in the winning run at MetLife Dome in a 4-3 victory.

Yuki Yanagita of the Hawks opened the scoring in the first with his third home run, and Hotaka Yamakawa tied it in the sixth with his fifth home run.

New Lions reliever Reed Garrett struck out the side in the eighth. He has retired all nine batters he’s faced since Friday, striking out six of them.

Sugiura outpitches Ishibashi in Fighters’ win

Nippon Ham Fighters starter Toshihiro Sugiura (1-0) struck out seven, while scattering five singles and a walk over six innings to allow two runs and earn the win in a 6-4 victory over the Rakuten Eagles.

Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi (0-2) allowed five runs over four innings. Jabari Blash hit a two-run, eighth-inning home run for the Eagles.

Sanchez wins 2nd for Giants

Angel Sanchez (2-0) walked four, but pitched out of trouble three times to work six innings and earn the win as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Yakult Swallows 12-0. Kazuma Okamoto went 3-for-4 with a home run, an RBI single and a walk.

Morishita gives up 1st runs, earns 1st win

Elite Hiroshima Carp prospect Masato Morishita opened his pro career with 15 scoreless innings before the Chunichi Dragons scored three off him in the bottom of the ninth at Nagoya Dome. But after no decision in his debut, the rookie earned the win as Hiroshima came out on top 10-3.

Heading into the ninth, Morishita had a 10-run lead, having struck out seven, while allowing three hits, a walk and a hit batsman on 110 pitches. The rookie left after 136 pitches, the second time a Carp starter reached 130 over the weekend following ace Daichi Osera’s 132 on Friday.

The Carp already have two complete games this season, and first-year manager Shinji Sasaoka, who threw 66 in his career, seems to hold those in a higher regard than may be healthy for his pitching staff.

BayStars Tigers

Kentaro Taira, whom the DeNA BayStars acquired after the 2016 season as free agent compensation for the Yomiuri Giants’ signing of Shun Yamaguchi, delivered his second-straight quality start, allowing one run over six innings to earn the win in a 9-1 victory over the Hanshin Tigers.

The BayStars welcomed Tigers starter Kenichi Nakata (0-1) back to the Central League with a leadoff double from Takayuki Kajitani and two-out doubles by captain Keita Sano and Toshiro Miyazaki. On a day when manager Alex Ramirez rested several regulars, catcher Yasutaka Tobashira started and singled in the BayStars’ third run of the inning.

BayStars drop Peoples, activate Escobar

The Central League’s DeNA BayStars swapped out starting pitcher Micheal Peoples for hard-throwing left-handed reliever Edwin Escobar on Sunday.

On Saturday, the right-handed Peoples allowed five runs over five innings in an 8-6 loss to the Hanshin Tigers after closer Yasuaki Yamasaki’s struggles continued by allowing three runs in the ninth inning.

In Peoples’ first start, he allowed a run over six innings with seven strikeouts against the Hiroshima Carp on June 20.

The 28-year-old Escobar is entering his fourth season in NPB. He pitched in 74 games last year with 88 strikeouts in 75-1/3 innings. He was 5-4 with 33 holds, the third highest figure in the CL behind Joely Rodriguez of the Dragons and Pierce Johnson of the Tigers, both of whom left Japan this year for jobs in the majors.

Go to NEWEST.

For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Live blog: Marines vs Buffaloes

Manabu Mima vs Yoshinobu Yamamoto at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium east of Tokyo. The Marines have won seven straight, while the Buffaloes haven’t won since Yamamoto beat the Eagles the previous Sunday in Osaka.

Top 1st

Keita Nakagawa barrels up a running fastball up in the zone and pulls it down the left field line for a leadoff double. Ryoichi Adachi, a prototypical Japanese No. 2 hitter, a fast, light-hitting middle infielder, is up their sacrificing until the second strike.

Announcer “He wants to move that runner up of course, because you want the early lead and Yamamoto is on the mound.”

Adachi chops it behind the runner to first, bringing up tough lefty Masataka Yoshida, who looks at a backdoor slider for Strike 1 before getting jammed inside by a running fastball inside that he grounds to first as Adachi scores. Buffaloes 1, Marines 0.

Adam Jones lines a hanging first-pitch slider off the top of the wall in left but with the outfield playing him deep, he can only get a single. Takahiro Okada lines a 1-2 fastball down the pipe over the fence in right for a two-run shot and his second homer of the season. Buffaloes 3, Marines 0.

Mima gets out of the inning when Aderlin Rodriguez miss-hits a hanging slider and flies out to second.

Bottom 1st

After a week of hype about his stuff especially his curve, Yamamoto treats the Marines to first-inning heat. He falls behind with two high fastballs before getting leadoff man Takashi Ogino to pop up to second on a cutter up and in. Koki Fukuda takes a high curve for Ball 1 before missing three high fastballs. Ikuhiro Kiyota goes down chasing a 1-2 cutter on the outside edge.

Top 2nd

Mima opens with some good pitches and gets an easy fly and a grounder to third. Shunta Goto keeps the inning alive by knocking a fat 1-0 running fastball between first and second. Goto steals second, but Nakagawa strikes out.

Bottom 2nd

after a pair of hard cutters away, Yamamoto hangs a curve to Brandon Laird and he knocks it between third and short for a leadoff single. Leonys Martinez hits a skipping stone down the first base line and Okada is unable to handle it. He’s given an error and the Marines have runners on second and third.

Shogo Nakamura pops up an 0-1 splitter Yamamoto left up in the zone, and here comes Seiya “Asia” Inoue. The 114-kilogram right-handed hitter falls behind 0-2 but Yamamoto can’t find the outside corner and Inoue won’t chase and ends up walking him to load the bases.

Lotte catcher Tatsuhiro Tamura looks at beautiful cutter low and away and waves at fastball down the middle. Yamamoto’s splitter isn’t working and he bounces it for Ball 1. Another fastball in the heart of the zone and Tamura hits it off the end of the bat to center for a two-run single. Buffaloes 3, Marines 2.

Yamamoto getso out of trouble when Yudai Fujioka chops a high pitch to the mound and the pitcher starts a double play.

Top 3rd

Mima leaves a fat 1-1 pitch up and Adachi slams it on the ground into left for a leadoff single. But Adachi 30-for-37 as a base stealer the past two years is cut down on a perfect throw by Tamura. Yoshida singles on a hanging forkball and along comes Jones.

Jones lines one off the end of the bat to second. Mima is staying away from the strike zone as much as he can, although he did sneak a curve down the middle past Okada, who walks. But Rodriguez pops up a low fastball for the third out.

Bottom 3rd

Takashi Ogino leads off with a double past Nakagawa at third and Fukuda advances him to third by hitting behind the runner. With the infield in, Kiyota hits a bullet to short but Ogino, running on contact, easily scores the tying run. Laird grounds out on the next pitch and we’re tied. Marines 3, Buffaloes 3.

Top 4th

Mima is working ever so carefully now, showing his hard stuff and executing offspeed stuff in the zone, resulting in three miss-hit easy grounders and a 1-2-3 inning against the Buffaloes tail.

Bottom 4th

It’s back to the no-nonsense hard stuff for Yamamoto and two easy outs as Martin swings at a 1-2 fastball away and Nakamura grounds out.

But Yamamoto’s location is not great and every instance of attempted cuteness is costing him. He tries to get Inoue to chase and misses, and it’s another walk. Tamura is up there battling, intentionally fouling off the hard stuff and he walks on the 10th pitch.

Yudai Fujioka is not trying to walk. He’s taking some real swings. when Yamamoto misses with a straight high 1-2 fastball, he lines it to the gap in right for a single. Marines 4, Buffaloes 3.

The inning ends when Tamura is caught in a rundown between third and home. And if you’ve ever seen a more poorly executed rundown, I’d like to see it. Fujioka follows and they get two runners trapped at third and it still takes extra throws to get the out.

Don’t try this at home, children.

Top 5th

Nakagawa grounds out to second on two pitches. With two outs, Yoshida forces Mima over the plate and singles to center off the end of the bat. Tying run on first with Jones up.

First-pitch splitter, the best one Mima’s thrown so far, for a swinging strike out of the zone. Jones went after two pitches out of the zone last time, and Mima goes outside for 1-1. The splitter stays up, and Jones is on it, but smacks it straight to third for an easy out.

Bottom 5th

Ono up to lead off the fifth. Two hard strikes inside but nothing to change speeds with in the zone, and Ogino gets a good swing on a low fastball and finds a hole through the infield for a single. Fukuda launches a straight fastball on a line to the warning track in center but Goto overtakes it and makes a terrific catch.

Yamamoto is missing all over the place but catches one of his few breaks today. With Ogino running on a 2-2 pitch, Yamamoto hangs another curve and Kiyota doesn’t hit it well. Nakagawa gloves the soft liner at third and throws to first for an easy double play.

Top 6th

Okada falls behind 0-2 looking at a get-me-over slider, missing a running fastball away and grounding a slider to second. Rodriguez offers at two sliders outside, misses one and flies out easily on the second. The Buffaloes are really guessing badly. Wakatsuki is jammed by a fastball in the heart of the zone and grounds out to short.

Bottom 6th

Yamamoto gets Laird out easily but loses Martin with his fourth walk of the afternoon. Nakamura flies out on a beautiful cutter away after fouling off a slider for Strike 2. I may be wrong, but that could be the first strike Yamamoto has gotten from his slider all day.

After falling behind 2-0 to Inoue, Okada comes over to talk to Yamamoto, and it appears he is just killing time so someone can get warm in the bullpen. When Inoue lines the next pitch to right, Yamamoto’s looking around to see if he’s coming out of the game and he is.

26-year-old right-hander Keisuke Sawada on to try and get an out before Lotte gets another run. But Goto can’t catch a sinking liner to center. Marines 5, Buffaloes 3.

Top 7th

Three up, three down for Mima in the seventh. He’s retired seven straight and 13 of the last 14 and is at 96 pitches. It looks like he’s headed for the clubhouse in good shape for his second win.

Bottom 7th

Lefty Tomoyuki Kaida on in the seventh. After struggling with his command against Ogino, who flies out, Kaida needs just four pitches to retire Fukuda and Kiyota. It’s a nice bounce back for Kaida after he faced seven batters in his previous outing on Friday and allowed four runs.

Top 8th

Right-hander Fumiya Ono on in the eighth to preserve the two-run lead. Mima allowed three runs, all in the first inning, on seven hits. He walked one and struck out two over seven innings.

Adachi opens the inning by stinging a straight1-0 fastball for a single. Yoshida walks on four pitches. Jones hits a slider off the label, lining it straight to left for the first out.

Okada flairs a high 2-0 slider to center. Adachi scores, and Tamura fumbles the throw home, allowing Yoshida to reach third.

Ono is gone in favor of right-hander Taiki Tojo. Both Masuda and Okada are out for pinch runners. Yuya Oda is at third running for Yoshida. Kodai Sano, running at first, steals second.

Rodriguez singles in the tying run, but Sano is caught in a rundown for the second out with Rodriguez taking third during the confusion. Marines 5, Buffaloes 5.

Tojo strikes out Wakatsuki and the Marines avoid falling a run down.

Bottom 8th

Former closer Hirotoshi Masui on for Orix in the eighth to face former Nippon Ham Fighters teammate Brandon Laird.

Laird flies to center and the ball just gets over the glove of Goto, who leaps at the wall. Laird’s fifth home run makes it Marines 6, Buffaloes 5.

Martin strikes out swinging at a 1-2 splitter out of the zone, but Shogo Nakamura singles and Orix manager Norifumi Nishimura goes to the pen for another righty, Tomoki Higa to face Inoue.

Inoue flies out to bring up the Marines’ biggest troublemaker of the day, Tamura. He’s driven in three runs and his walk helped set up the go-ahead run in the fourth. The Marines catcher draws his second walk, causing Nishimura to come out of the dugout again.

The Buffaloes’ third pitcher of the inning is lefty Nobuyoshi Yamada, who strikes out Fujioka for the final out.

Top 9th

The reason we didn’t see Jay Jackson in the eighth is because manager Tadahito Iguchi was saving him for the ninth. He’s on now with a chance for his first save in Japan since 2018, his last season with the Hiroshima Carp.

Pinch-hitter Torai Fushimi waves at a slider and goes down swinging. The left-handed-hitting Goto is up and gets ahead 2-0 before taking a fastball for a strike. It’s 2-2 and Goto is up there spoiling now. Jackson misses with a slider and its 3-2, but got him to miss another at the bottom of the strike zone.

Nakagawa looks as Jackson misses with two sliders low and away, but watches a third down the pipe. A fastball away finds the zone and it’s 2-2.
Another slider low out of the zone, Nakagawa offers, misses, and it’s all over as Jackson strikes out the side to end it.

Final score: Marines 6, Buffaloes 5

NPB 2020 6-23 LiVE

Tuesday marked the start of the first full week of pro baseball in Japan, when the Pacific League enters into its pandemic travel protocols, limiting cross-country travel by playing six-game series.

Rookie Togo pitches Giants to 4th straight win

Twenty-year-old right-hander Shosei Togo, the Giants’ sixth pick in the 2018 draft allowed two runs over 6-2/3 innings while striking out seven to outduel Hiroshima’s Kris Johnson, who walked three and allowed three runs over five innings. It was Johnson’s first loss at Tokyo Dome in over three years.

Defending Central League champion Yomiuri won 3-2 to improve to 4-0 on the season. Kazuma Okamoto had two hits, singled in one run and forced in another with a walk.

Gerardo Parra, who homered twice in the opening series against Hanshin, went 2-for-3 with a line out, while Rubby De La Rosa earned his second save.

Marte, Tigers spoil Ynoa’s debut

Jefry Marte capped a three-run first inning at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium with a two-run home run off former Orioles right-hander Gabriel Ynoa, as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Swallows 5-1 for their first win of the season. Marte went 3-for-4.

Austin guns down 2, drives in 1 in BayStars win

DeNA BayStars right fielder Tyler Austin threw out a base runner to end a fourth-inning Chunichi Dragons rally and had four hits, including an RBI single that broke up a scoreless game in the fifth in a 3-0 win at Yokohama Stadium

The BayStars’ rally was keyed by a leadoff double by shortstop Yamato Maeda, leading off from the ninth spot after starting pitcher Haruhito Hamaguchi, batting eighth, ended the previous inning. Jose Lopez singled in the inning’s other run.

Austin, who threw out Toshiki Abe at the plate, was also cut down twice on the bases, but evened the score in the ninth, when he threw out Abe at home for the second time in the game.

Spangenberg breaks out

Corey Spangenberg put good swings on straight pitches in the zone for his first big game in Japan, going 4-for-5 with a grand slam and a strikeout in the Seibu Lions’ 11-3 win over the SoftBank Hawks at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.

It was a welcome sight for Lions fans after the left-handed hitter flailed at low and away breaking balls over the weekend with eight strikeouts over the first three games.

Matt Moore, making his first start in over a year, missed some locations, and made a costly fielding error on a potential double play comebacker and allowed six runs, four earned over 5-1/3 innings.

Here are the game highlights.

Here is Spangenberg’s hero interview.

Marines come back against closer Dickson

Lotte’s Seiya Inoue singled in the tying run in the ninth inning at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, and the Lotte Marines walked off 6-5 winners when Orix Buffaloes closer Brandon Dickson hit Takashi Ogino after an intentional walk loaded the bases to set up a force at the plate.

Trailing 3-0 after four thanks to first-inning homers from Ikuhiro Kiyota and Brandon Laird off Buffaloes starter Andrew Albers, Adam Jones hit his first home run in Japan and drew a walk in Orix’s three-run sixth.

Here are the game highlights.

Yuge shuts down Fighters in Martinez’ return

Hayato Yuge, a 1.93-meter lefty, struck out six and walked one over 6-1/3 innings, while Hideto Asamura and new Eagle Stefen Romero both hit long home runs in a 4-0 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Fighters’ starter Nick Martinez, making his first start since 2018 after his 2019 season was derailed by injury, struck out seven but allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks over five innings.

Here are the game highlights.

Live viewing

I didn’t really have a good idea how our live viewing event would turn out. The purpose was to make NPB games more accessible to readers, but with most of the participants already well-versed in the game here, it was a fun, free-wheeling discussion as the Lions-Hawks game went on in the background.

I hope to do about three a month, because I can only do them on my days off, and I can’t blog or do anything else while we’re doing it. More than half the participants were joining from the U.S. or Canada so it was hard with a 5 am EDT start time. I am in awe of these people.

Tuesday’s starting pitchers notes

Here were the starting pitchers. All three of the PL visiting starters are imports (Nick Martinez, Matt Moore, Andrew Albers), while two of the three CL starters (Kris Johnson and Gabriel Ynoa) are. Moore and Ynoa will be making their Japan debuts.

Pacific League

Eagles vs Fighters: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi

Hayato Yuge vs NICK MARTINEZ

Martinez went 10-11 in 2018 while eating up over 160 innings in his Japan debut after moving from the Texas Rangers. He missed all of 2019 with an injury to his right forearm.

Lions vs Hawks: MetLife Dome

Kona Takahashi vs MATT MOORE

Lions pitchers led Japan with a record 93 hit batsmen. The Lions had set the previous record of 84 in 2018. Only one other team, the 2004 Orix BlueWave, has hit more than 80. I mention this because Takahashi led all pitchers in Japan with 14, which doesn’t crack the top 20 all-time. I guess they just don’t make ’em like they used to. The record is 22, by Toshiaki Moriyasu of the 1969 Toei Flyers, but it took him 341-2/3 innings to get there.

Moore was one of three players taken in the eighth round of the 2007 MLB draft to reach the majors and turned 31 on Thursday, probably the first time in his career his birthday came before Opening Day. On April 6, 2019, his season ended when he damaged the meniscus in his right knee when fielding a bunt. This will be his first regular-season start since then.

I haven’t talked to the Hawks’ scouts but one would think that since virtually every Hawks pitcher throws a knuckle curve or a spike curve, Moore will fit right in.

Marines vs Buffaloes: Zozo Marine Stadium

Kota Futaki vs ANDREW ALBERS

Albers is coming off a tough 2019 season, when more or less everything went south for him. He gave up more had contact, gave up home runs twice as often as he had in 2018 when he went 9-2 with a 3.02 ERA, and his fielders caught few of the balls opponents did put in play.

He’s 4-0 in eight career games against the Marines with a 2.66 ERA, but that’s 1-0, 4.03 in Chiba, and 3-0, 1.44 elsewhere.

Central League

Giants vs Carp: Tokyo Dome

KRIS JOHNSON vs Shosei Togo*

Johnson is the veteran among Tuesday’s import starters, having won the prestigious Sawamura Award as Japan’s top starting pitcher in 2016–when his numbers were virtually identical to his 2015 figures.

He’s 57-30 in his Japan career, but 9-3 against the Giants, who though they won the league last year, were fairly mediocre from 2016 to 2018. Johnson is 5-1 at Tokyo Dome in his career. His only loss there an 8-inning complete-game defeat in May 2016.

BayStars vs Dragons: Yokohama Stadium

Haruhiro Hamaguchi vs Yuya Yanagi

Swallows vs Tigers: Jingu Stadium

GABRIEL YNOA vs Koyo Aoyagi

NPB 2020 6-21 live

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Giants sweep Tigers

Angel Sanchez, who went 17-5 last year in KBO for the SK Wyverns, had a rocky start in his NPB debut Sunday, but earned the win as Kazuma Okamoto and Gerardo Parra homered to lift the Yomiuri Giants to a 7-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers and a three-game series sweep at Tokyo Dome for the defending CL champs.

Sanchez allowed one run, on a leadoff homer to Koji Chikamoto, allowed four walks and four hits, but lasted 5-2/3 innings.

Morishita shines in pro debut for Carp

Masato Morishita, Hiroshima’s top draft pick out of Meiji University, struck out eight in his pro debut against the DeNA BayStars. The righty, who I had a look at in the spring, walked two and gave up four hits in a 104-pitch, seven-inning outing at Yokohama Stadium.

Unfortunately, there was no fairy tale finish in Morishita’s debut as four-straight BayStars batters hit line drives off Tyler Scott in the ninth. Toshiro Miyazaki finishes it off by finding the gap against the drawn-in outfield and two runs scored to end it.

“I believe that our strategy was good but that guy was real good. He has the potential to be an ace pitcher. I was glad they took him out of the game,” DeNA skipper Alex Ramirez said.

BayStars right-hander Kentaro Taira allowed a run over six innings on a walk and five hits, while striking out two.

“It was a great game all the way from the beginning. Taira did a great job from the beginning and the relievers did a great job.”

Yuki Kuniyoshi worked two scoreless innings of relief, and Spencer Patton, who worked the eighth, got the win.

Lions rookie Yoza solid in losing debut

Kaito Yoza allowed three runs over six innings in his first-team for the Seibu Lions, but the bullpen blew up over the final three innings in a 12-2 loss to the Nippon Ham Fighters. Solo homers from Sho Nakata and Taishi Ota gave the visitors an early lead they would never give up.

Mima wins Marines debut

Manabu Mima, who joined Lotte over the winter as a free agent from the Rakuten Eagles, allowed a run while striking out nine in just five innings in the Marines’ 5-1 victory over the SoftBank Hawks.

Seiya Inoue homered in the second off reliever Yuki Tsumori after the Hawks starter, journeyman Akira Niho loaded the bases by hitting Shogo Nakamura in the head. Pitches that strike a batter in or around the head are referred to as “kikenkyu” (dangerous pitches) and call for an automatic ejection for the pitcher.

Former major leaguers Brandon Laird and Leonys Martin reached base before Nakamura was hit and scored as Inoue put the game out of reach early.

June 21 Live blog: Buffaloes vs Eagles

Off to a bit of a slow start on Sunday, folks. Having a look at Orix and Rakuten today, because my favorite Japanese pitcher, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is on the mound for the Buffaloes.

Go to NEWEST.

For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Top 2nd

Yamamoto has consistently the best stuff in Japan, and it looks like he’s put some muscle on his once spindly frame. He struck out the side in order in the first and got a one-run lead in the home half, but two ground balls in the second produced the Eagles’ first hit.

  1. Dangerous Hideto Asamura grounds out softly to 2nd.
  2. Hiroaki Shimauchi gets a grounder through between 1st and 2nd
  3. Former Buffaloe Stefen Romero grounds to short and the enigmatic Ryoichi Adachi starts the inning-ending double play.

Bottom 2nd

Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi went 8-7 as a rookie last year and was second on the team in innings pitched with 127-1/3 because the club’s two best starters, Takayuki Kishi and Takahiro Norimoto missed time with injuries

Ishibashi’s average fastball velocity last year was 145.2 kph, and he’s a four-seam, cutter, splitter, and two-seam guy, although be aware the two-seam description generally encompasses two distinctly different pitches, a hard running fastball and a two-seam sinking fastball–which is the rarer of the two in Japan.

  1. Kenya Wakatsuki grounds out.
  2. Ryoichi Adachi singles to center.
  3. Shunta Goto singles to right to put runners on the corners for Takahiro Okada.
  4. Okada, who slid home headfirst to score on Keita Nakagawa’s sac fly in the first, singles in the Buffaloes’ second run.
  5. Aderlin Rodriguez looks like a player built for Japan, a smooth compact swing, who makes excellent contact. Ishibashi hangs a forkball and Rodriguez hits it high up the wall in left for an RBI double, Buffaloes 3, Eagles 0.
  6. Rodriguez, however, contributes an out on the bases, thanks to some slick defense by Eagles first baseman Ginji Akaminai. Ginji goes to a knee to stab a ball off the bat of Masataka Yoshida, makes the play at first and then throws behind Rodriguez who is trapped between second and third.

Top 3rd

  1. Akaminai, who wears “Ginji” on his uniform as his registered name, grounds out to second, topping 1-2 splitter.
  2. Catcher Hikaru hits a little comebacker to Yamamoto for the second out.
  3. Ryosuke Tatsumi, the PL’s 2018 rookie of the year swings and misses at a low fastball for another 1-2-3 inning. The thing about Yamamoto is that he has so many quality pitches, that it’s very common to see everyone guessing wrong and getting terrible swings even at mistakes in the zone.

Bottom 3rd

  1. Adam Jones had two hits on Saturday, and put a sweet swing on a straight fastball in the first for a single that contributed to Orix’s first run. Ishibashi gets a generous call on a low pitch from home plate ump Masanobu Suginaga, and Jones goes down looking.
  2. Keita Nakagawa, who had a strong rookie season playing all over the musical chairs game the Buffaloes’ infield resembled last year, flies out to left.
  3. Koji Oshiro, another of those versatile infielders from 2019, grounds out to short.

Top 4th

  1. Eigoro Mogi gets under a high 151-kph fastball and flies out to left.
  2. Daichi Suzuki, the former Marines captain who moved to Sendai as a free agent over the winter, swings under a high 1-2 running fastball to go down swinging.
  3. Jabari Blash, who struck out looking in the first, flails at a beauty of an 0-2 curve.

Bottom 4th

  1. Buffaloes catcher Kenya Wakatsuki launches a hanging first-pitch slider away to the warning track for an opposite-field leadoff double.
  2. Adachi tops an attempted sacrifice bunt in front of the plate, and Ota throws out his opposite number at third.
  3. Akaminai, playing in tight at first base, makes a good play on a little chopper by Goto.
  4. Okada, who raked in the spring and in practice games, pulled a high hanging forkball over Akaminai and down the right-field line for his second double of the game and a 4-0 Buffaloes lead. This is quite a turnaround for Okada, whose career has been in decline for nearly a decade, and who spent most of the 2019 season on the farm after a handful of sloppy at-bats and fielding misplays at first base.
  5. Ishibashi snaps off a nasty curve to send Rodriguez down swinging.

Top 5th

  1. Not a great fastball, but Asamura doesn’t get a great swing on it and pops up down the left field line.
  2. An easy fly to lefty by Shimauchi and Yamamoto appears to be operating on cruise control.
  3. He works carefully to Romero, who ends a good 6-pitch at-bat by fouling out.

Bottom 5th

Rookie right-hander Taisei Tsurusaki on the mound for the Eagles after Ishibashi gives up four runs in four innings. Tsurusaki is making his debut against the middle of the Buffaloes lineup. He looks to have a repeatable delivery, comes over the top and keeps his hand on top of the ball.

  1. Yoshida, one of the best hitters in the PL, swings at a huge 12-6 curve before taking a cutter on the outside corner for Strike 3.
  2. Jones provides less of a challenge, grounding a first-pitch fastball away to second.
  3. Nakagawa walks on seven pitches and steals second easily.
  4. Oshiro walks on 6 pitches.
  5. Wakatsuki flies out off the handle, and the rookie survives without any damage done.

Top 6th

  1. Nice at-bat by Ginji, but he tips a 2-2 shoot into Wakatsuki’s glove for Strike 3.
  2. Backup catcher Ayatsugu Yamashita batting for his catching partner Ota and grounds out easily to first.
  3. Yamamoto is toying with Tatsumi, going after the corners with his hard stuff while getting three strikes with his curve. Tatsumi goes down swinging at one low out of the zone.
Thanks for that Jason. A Yamamoto curve is not fair to pinch-hitters.

Bottom 6th

Veteran lefty Wataru Karashima on the mound for the Eagles. He had a serviceable year in the rotation last season, going 9-6 in 117-1/3 innings. He is in middle relief this year with closer Yuki Matsui moving back into the rotation. He’s basically a fastball, slider, curve change guy.

  1. I love watching Ginji Akaminai play first base. He is everywhere on everything, and knows where to look and when to throw. Another good play opens the first as he throws out Adachi to open the seventh.
  2. Goto flies out to left.
  3. Okada’s confidence is dialed up to “11” now after floundering for several seasons. He is balanced at the plate and ready to attack EVERYTHING. He walks to bring up Rodriguez.
  4. And Rodriguez, short to the ball on an inside pitch and pulls it down the line in left for a double. Okada to third.
  5. Okada, a small guy with a quiet stance in the left-handed batters box, doesn’t look like he should be dangerous, but he has serious power and plate discipline. Not this time though, as Karashima gets him to ground to short.

Top 7th

Don’t remember when the PL started the innovation of playing the visiting team’s Lucky Seventh song on the stadium speakers, but it is a nice touch, since no matter what park you’re at in the top flight there will be at least five or six hundred fans on the visitor’s side of the outfield waving their flags and cheering on their guys.

With no fans in the stands, the Kyocera Dome scoreboard was showing Eagles fans cheering from home on streaming video while, the Eagles song, what Casey McGehee called the “Igloo song,” plays.

  1. Mogi grounds out to open the visitors’ seventh.
  2. Suzuki misses a 3-2 inside fastball for Yamamoto’s 10th strikeout.
  3. Blash grounds one up the middle for an infield single.
  4. Asamura miss-hits a cutter to short for an easy out.

Bottom 7th

Tomohiro Anraku, who made a name for himself in high school with his brutal pitch counts, comes in to pitch the seventh for the Eagles.

  1. Jones looks at two fastballs low and away before grounding out to second.
  2. Nakagawa lined a pitch to short right center, and nearly got caught out thinking it would get through when Tatsumi cut it off in center.
  3. Pinch runner for Nakagawa at first, and Yuya Oda swipes second. Oshiro flies out to center but not deep enough to send Oda to third.
  4. Wakatsuki grounds out and we’re going to the 8th with the Eagles trailing 4-0.

Top 8th

  1. Shimauchi flies out to first on the second pitch.
  2. Romero flies out to second on the second pitch.
  3. Yasuhito Uchida, batting for Ginji, who may have twisted something when he miss-stepped making that play to open the seventh, rips a single to right.
  4. Yamashita his what they call a “bonda” in Japanese, an easy out, on a grounder to second.

That’s 94 pitches for Yamamoto and with a four-run lead, he won’t be back. Thirty years ago, I guarantee, he’d be getting ready for the ninth. Back then, there was no good excuse for lifting a starter who was leading. “How can you take him out? It’s a close game” or “How can you take him out with that big lead.” You name it, there was an excuse for it.

Bottom 8th

Anraku, the Eagles’ top draft pick in 2014, is back for the ninth.

  1. Adachi lines out.
  2. Goto fouls off two, two-strike pitches before striking out swinging in an eight-pitch at-bat.
  3. Anraku finally makes Okada look like the guy who could possibly be lost at the plate as he hesitates on a 1-2 fastball on the inside corner for Strike 3.

Return to TOP

Top 9th

United States international closer Brandon Dickson on in the ninth. He was a productive starter for the Buffaloes for six seasons, but last year, with no one else to turn to, he was thrust into the closer’s role, where he’s been dynamite. He finished 2019 as the closer for Team USA in the Premier 12.

  1. Pinch-hitter Kazuya Fujita flies out to left.
  2. Mogi grounds out to second.
  3. Suzuki fouls off a tough two-strike fastball on the outside corner. Takes a ball low for 2-2, and puts a good swing on a fastball but lines it straight to Goto in center for the Buffs’ first win of the season.

Final score: Buffaloes 4, Eagles 0

Open and shut: March 6, 2020 – Edwards’ home debut in Japan

Right-hander Jon Edwards made his debut at Japan’s baseball mecca, Koshien Stadium outside Osaka on Friday. The normally loud park was subdued by the fact that Nippon Professional Baseball’s spring exhibition season is being held behind closed doors to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Pandora’s balks

Edwards issued a walk and followed with a balk, for failing to observe Japan’s dictum that pitchers pause for at least three seconds before delivering to the plate. Edwards halted for about 1.5 and nodded in agreement, so it seemed clear he’d been warned about that one.

It’s not just foreign pitchers who run afoul of the rule either. Former New York Mets pitcher Masato Yoshii said checked his delivery with the umps when he returned to play in NPB. But despite getting assurances in camp during interasquad games, he was flagged for a balk in his preseason debut.

Edwards’ game was otherwise uneventful. He located his fastball fairly well, his slider and curve not so well. After the game ended, however, he returned to the mound — almost as if he was going to take part in a post game hero interview, of which there aren’t because there are no fans.

Instead, he went out to talk to the grounds crew. At first I thought he had an issue with the mound, but it appeared he lost something on the mound and wanted help finding it.

Hit it hard and make it fly

There were no fans for the afternoon game between the hometown Tigers and Nippon Ham Fighters, but for some reason, the scoreboard operator displayed the lyrics to Jerry Sands‘ cheer song.

“Hit it hard, make it fly Jerry. Strike a powerful blow. Out to left, out to right, home run Jerry. Jerry Sands let’s go. Jerry Sands let’s go.”

Just thought you’d want to know that.

Sands popped up to second and struck out looking twice. Fellow newcomer Justin Bour walked in three plate appearances.

Nearby in Osaka

The Orix Buffaloes and Yomiuri Giants sent their Opening Day starters to the mound at Kyocera Dome in Osaka. Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano and his elaborate new take-back surrendered a solo homer to Orix’s fifth draft pick from last autumn, 22-year-old infielder Shoki Katsumata that accounted for all the scoring.

Orix starter Taisuke Yamaoka‘s pitches looked very crisp as he struck out eight over seven innings.

Adam Jones hit the ball hard a couple of times, once for a high fly to the warning track the other a single, while big swinging Giants outfielder Israel Mota struck out twice as the ump gave Sugano some good calls on the outside edge. Mota has chased a lot but at least he was trying to stay in the zone.

Hard-throwing former Mariners and White Sox reliever Thyago Vieiera threw some very straight fastballs and a slider that didn’t move a lot.


Elsewhere in games without fans

Because Rakuten plays outdoors in the northeast, the Eagles have a hard time getting clubs to play preseason games in their cold hometown, so they have to make do.

Hosting the Chunichi Dragons in Shizuoka, Takahiro Norimoto struck out four over five innings, while new Eagle Stefen Romero singled and doubled. Dayan Viciedo singled and doubled for the Dragons.

In Hiroshima, Seibu Lions Opening Day starter Zach Neal said he was trying out a few things and was satisfied after allowing two runs over 4-1/3 innings against the Carp.

New Lions import Reed Garrett faced the last five hitters in Hiroshima’s order and struck out three of them in a perfect outing.