Yuki Matsui and a quartet of relievers turned back the Lotte Marines in a 3-0 victory on Thursday to complete a three-game sweep of their closest Pacific League rivals.
The win lifted Rakuten to within 2-1/2 games of the second-place Marines, who trail the SoftBank Hawks by two games. The Marines remain nine games above .500 despite being outscored this season 344-360.
Matsui was yanked after needing his 114th pitch to notch his 12th strikeout and leave the bases loaded in the fifth inning at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Matsui, who saved 30-plus games in four of the last five seasons, improved to 3-3 as a starter. He gave up five hits and had trouble getting some close calls as he walked four.
Reserve catcher Takahiro Shimotsuma opened the scoring with his first career homer and Eigoro Mogi singled in runs in the third and fifth off Daiki Iwashita (5-6), who also went five for the Marines.
After four homers over the first two games in Sendai, Hideto Asamura failed to reach the seats but reached base three times to contribute to two of the Eagles runs.
Kanji Teraoka worked the sixth for the Eagles, D.J. “Bearded Thunder” Johnson the seventh, Tomohito Sakai the eighth, and Alan Busenitz the ninth, when he earned his 15th save.
It was a tough night for the Marines’ Leonys Martin, who after striking out for the fourth time, was hit by Busenitz in the ninth, raising his Japan-leading hit-by-pitch total to 14, leaving him in pole position to join a fairly large club of imported players who lead their league in being hit with baseballs.
No broom at the inn for Buffaloes
The Orix Buffaloes came within one pitch of sweeping the league-leading SoftBank Hawks on Thursday, only for Akira Nakamura to put a good swing on a hanging 2-1 curve for a game-tying two-run homer as the teams played to a 3-3, 10-inning tie at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Moments after the Buffaloes took a 3-1 lead against Yutaka Wada in the top of the fifth, Nakamura evened things up. Orix starter Chang Yi, whose cousin Yang Yao-hsun used to pitch for SoftBank, fell behind Nakamura with two outs and a man on in the fifth. The home run was Nakamura’s sixth of the season.
Yurisbel Gracial opened the scoring in the second with his eighth home run, only for Orix’s Aderlin Rodriguez to tie it in the sixth with his fourth homer.
Wada gave away the lead after a scratch single, a wild pitch, a walk. Kenya Wakatsuki doubled beyond the reach of Gracial to make it a 2-1 game. The drawn in infield failed to prevent the runner on third from scoring, but a diving stop by shortstop Taisei Makihara robbed Ryo Ota of a single and Wada was able to get out of the inning trailing by two.
The real highlight of the game was an electric inning by Hawks lefty Livan Moinelo in the eighth. He overpowered Rodriguez on four fastballs. Masataka Yoshida was able to foul off his hard stuff, but was looking fastball and watched helplessly as a 3-2 curve floated through the zone. Steven Moya grounded out on four pitches to end it.
Uehara shuts down Lions
Nippon Ham Fighters lefty Kenta Uehara (1-1) allowed two runs over seven innings while striking out nine in a 12-2 butt kicking of the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome.
Lions right-hander Sho Ito (0-2) allowed four runs over 3-1/3 innings, and reliever Ken Togame was shelled for six runs in 1-1/3 innings.
In a season that started behind closed doors on June 19, and welcomed in up to 5,000 per game starting from July 10, Saturday saw teams bring in somewhat larger crowds after a month and a half with no reported infections among spectators.
In the four day games played, only one was held out doors, where Yokohama Stadium welcomed 13,106 allowing fans to sit in the new left-field wing seats for the first time.
The other day games all saw smaller crowds: Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome had 11,937, Nagoya Dome 9,732 and Sapporo Dome 8,740.
“We were told it was only 13,000 people but it felt like 40,000 the way you guys cheered for the teams. Thank you so much,” BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said in his customary on-field interview after home games.
Hawks look to expand fans overseas
Starting Saturday, the SoftBank Hawks’ YouTube channel will be posting videos accessible in multiple languages in order to build their overseas fan base. Whether or not one is a fan of the Hawks, it’s kind of fun.
Lefty Haruhiro Hamaguchi (5-4) brought an unusually crisp fastball and abstained from his bread-and-butter changeup for much of the game as he allowed a run on two walks and two hits over 5-2/3 innings.
A run in the sixth snapped a 2x-inning scoreless streak for the Giants, who avoided a shutout but not a third straight loss.
Takayuki Kajitani reached on a first-inning error and scored on a Keita Sano single and then drove in three runs with his 13th and 14th home run. Soto, who is trailing in the race to win a third-straight home run title, hit his 16th.
Giants starter Nobutaka Imamura (3-1) lost the southpaw struggle, allowing three runs, two earned, over five innings.
In the end decided on two pitches in the sixth and six in the seventh. With DeNA leading 3-1 in the sixth, Giants right-hander Yohei Kagiya loaded the bases with one out. Tatsuhiro fouled out on one pitch, and Yasutaka Tobashira popped up lefty Ryusei Oe’s first pitch.
In the top of the seventh, the Giants loaded the bases on one out against Yuki Kuniyoshi. Lefty Edwin Escobar entered to face Gerardo Parra, who rolled the sixth pitch back to the pitcher and a 1-2-3 double play.
Carp squeak past Swallows
Shota Dobayashi hit an eighth-inning game-tying home run and scored the go-ahead run in the 10th-inning when rookie Minoru Omori bounced a two-out two-strike pitch past the reach of second baseman Tetsuto Yamada that lifted the Hiroshima Carp to a 3-2 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
The game was a duel between rookies, Carp right-hander Masato Morishita, a highly-sought after amateur who has been extremely solid, and Yakult’s second-pick last autumn, right-hander Daiki Yoshida, whose stuff and command has been a little less dominant.
Tomotaka Sakaguchi brought the Yakult Swallows from a run down with a second-inning home run.
With one out and a runner on first, Sakaguchi went after a low first-pitch fastball like he knew it was coming and pulled it into the right-field stands for his ninth home run. Prior to this season, Sakaguchi’s high was five home runs, in 2009 and 2010 with the Orix Buffaloes.
He then did what low-power hitters are supposed to say after they hit a home run, that they were trying to play small ball and trying hard not to be Mr. Big Shot home run hitter by using the word “tsunagu” – つなぐ.
“My focus was on batting aggressively from the first pitch so I could set the table for the batters behind me,” said Sakaguchi, who was followed by the seventh, eighth and ninth spots in a lineup that is fifth in a six-team league in runs scored and 10th worst in Japan.
Abe homer beats Tigers
Toshiki Abe hit a three-run home run and Koji Fukutani (4-2) worked 6-2/3 scoreless innings in a 4-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Nagoya Dome.
Tigers right-hander Takumi Akiyama (5-2) allowed five hits and committed two errors that made all four Dragons runs unearned.
Fledgling Eagle holds off Hawks
Ryota Takinaka, the Rakuten Eagles’ sixth pick in last year’s draft, held the SoftBank Hawks to a run over 5-1/3 innings in his pro debut and Hideto Asamura singled in the tie-breaking run in the seventh in a 3-1 win over the three-time defending Japan Series champs at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Takinaka a 25-year-old right-hander, scattered five hits and one walk while striking out one.
Former Padre Kazuhisa Makita worked 1-1/3 scoreless innings to protect a one-run lead, and Alan Busenitz worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 12th save for the Eagles.
Buffaloes beat misbehaving Lions
Sachiya Yamasaki (3-4) allowed a run over seven innings and Aderlin Rodriguez doubled in two runs to break a 1-1 sixth-inning tie in the Orix Buffaloes’ 6-3 win over the Seibu Lions.
The Daily Sports blamed the Lions loss on their mistakes, and they certainly didn’t help, but five walks by lefty Sean Nolin (1-2) didn’t help either.
Nolin left in the sixth with one out and the bags juiced. Rookie Tetsu Miyagawa hung a 1-2 slider that Rodriguez lined into the left-field corner. A wild pitch made it 4-1.
The Lions had two on with no outs in the seventh but shat themselves. Rookie catcher Sena Tsuge pulled back a first-pitch bunt attempt and the lead runner failed to make it back for the first out. A sharp grounder to third, which was not a mistake — except in the sense that people who write those dumb articles have to include them — was turned for a double play.
Roller coaster Arihara spills Marines
The roller coaster season of Nippon Ham Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (5-7) continued with eight scoreless innings in a 3-1 win over the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.
Marines starter Tsuyoshi Ishizaki (0-1) allowed a run over three innings to take the loss without allowing a hit. He did, however, walk five and strike out five.
Arihara started the season 0-3, allowing 12 runs over 22 innings. He had another three-game stretch where he went 0-2 and allowed 16 runs 19-1/3 innings, and was coming off a start against the Rakuten Eagles on Sept. 13 when he gave up nine runs in 2-1/3. He improved to 3-0 against Lotte, however.
Yuki Nishi (7-3) threw his second-straight four-hit shutout as the Hanshin Tigers bedeviled Angel Sanchez (4-3) in an 11-0 Central League win at Tokyo Dome on Thursday.
Koji Chikamoto launched a high-straight fastball from Sanchez to open the game and the Tigers simply overran the Giants. Sanchez issued a two-out bases-loaded walk in the first and then caught a break with a doubtful interference call when second baseman Akihiro Wakabayashi cut in front of the runner from first to get a slow chopper and clipped him with his hand.
In a three-run second, Tigers captain Kento Itohara scored from first on a single to center, speeding home from third when center fielder Yoshihiro Maru made a lazy lob of his throw to the infield.
The Tigers win snapped an eight-game losing streak at Tokyo. Chikamoto homered again in the sixth for his second two-homer game of the series and Justin Bour homered in the seventh to make it 7-0.
“Yano wasn’t really at his best. He worked really carefully. When he doesn’t have a lot of room for error, that’s when you see his real skill,” said Tigers manager Akihiro Yano, who was also asked about Chikamoto’s success at Tokyo Dome.
“Does he do well in this park? Is that really a thing?”
Giants manager Tatsunori Hara, who stirred a national debate on Aug. 6 by using utility man Daiki Masuda as an emergency pitcher–something rarely seen in Japan–sent his top pinch-runner to the bullpen late in the game to warm him up but he didn’t take the mound.
Rookie Taiki Hamada homered in a three-run fifth inning to chase Michael Peoples (2-2) as a pair of 2018 Yakult draftees took center stage in a 9-0 win for the Swallows over the DeNA BayStars at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
The hosts got on the board in the second when 36-year-old Tomotaka Sakaguchi singled and scored on a throwing error when shortstop Tatsuhiro Shibata airmailed his short throw to second on a force play.
The 20-year-old Hamada, a fourth-round pick, homered to open the fifth. Alcides Escobar followed with his second double and scored on a double by his former Kansas City Royals teammate Norichika Aoki.
Sakaguchi plated Aoki with a sac fly to close the book on Peoples, and 23-year-old Shota Nakayama, the Swallows’ second pick in 2018, homered off nominal closer Yasuaki Yamasaki with one out in the sixth. Nakayama tied a 44-year-old team record of three pinch-hit home runs in a month set by Hall of Famer Katsuo Osugi.
Osugi is best known for a home run that ignited the most famous protest in Japan Series history.
The 1978 series MVP hit one down the line in the sixth inning that saw Hall of Fame manager Toshiharu Ueda pull his team off the field at Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium, delaying the game for 1 hour and 16 minutes. This led the Pacific League to punish teams pulling their players off the field with a forfeit–a rule that was not adopted in the Central League or in the Japan Series–where Chunichi Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai did it in Game 1 of the 2004 series.
Hawks get emotional
Akira Nakamura, who along with superstar Yuki Yanagita is now the second big wheel in the SoftBank Hawks’ offense, singled to help break up a scoreless tie in the ninth inning of a 2-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.
The Hawks are now mourning Wednesday’s death of longtime conditioning coach Takashi Kawamura at the age of 55. The 30-year-old Nakamura, who has spent much of the last two years with the team’s rehab group where he worked a lot with the trainer, was asked to take part in the postgame hero interview, where the interviewer did what “hero” interviewers tend to do when a team or a player is dealing with a death, ask the player over and over about the deceased.
Nakamura sounded both heartfelt and patient dealing with the incessant badgering.
“Kawamura-san helped me from the time I came out of high school. He invited me to train in the offseason with him and he taught me what it means to be a pro,” Nakamura said. “I owe him so much. Extending my career as long as I can take it will be my way of repaying my debt of gratitude.”
The game was tremendous pitchers’ duel between natives of Urama, Okinawa Prefecture (population 121,843), Nao Higashihama (4-1) the Hawks’ Opening Day starter, and Kenta Uehara (0-1) of the Fighters.
The Hawks defense turned the Fighters back in the third and the sixth. Higashihama made a great play on a safety squeeze in the third to cut down a runner at the plate. In the sixth, Christian Villanueva was out trying to advance from second on a foul fly by right fielder Ryota Nakamura.
Uehara threw 90 pitches through eight innings and came out in the ninth. He issued a leadoff walk, and Nakamura singled only after fouling off two attempts.
“I felt like I had to gain some redemption after being unable to get a bunt down,” Nakamura said of his 1,000th career hit on a ground smash fumbled at third.
Yurisbel Gracial singled in one run, and the second run–the one Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo had not been playing for–scored on an error. The two-run edge allowed closer Yuito Mori to overcame a tremendous opposite-field homer by Sho Nakata to record his 22nd save.
Graceless under pressure
The postgame interviews following a death can be awfully trying. Generally, the questioner isn’t satisfied until he gets some grand emotional response and hopefully tear. This happened famously when current Eagles pitcher Yuya Fukui was a rookie with the Hiroshima Carp and was asked to comment on the death of his brother.
These pitiless interviewers typically ask, “Don’t you think the deceased is looking down on you from heaven now and smiling?”
The nadir came after one player’s wife died after a long illness, that those around him said was exacerbated by his womanizing and shabby treatment of her. In his first hero interview that spring, he was asked the routine interview questions, the tears flowed, and the fans were pleased.
Marines maul Lions every which way
The Lotte Marines bunted the Seibu Lions senseless in a two-run second inning and Leonys Martin hit his 21st and 22nd home runs to back Daiki Iwashita (5-5) in an 8-1 win at MetLife Dome.
Ikuhiro Kiyota opened the second with a double off 38-year-old lefty Tetsuya Utsumi (1-2), who then nearly collided with catcher Tomoya Mori as they both chased a sacrifice bunt that Mori fumbled for an error.
Kiyota held at second on the play, and when the Marines tried again to bunt him over, Mori’s throw to third sailed and a run scored. The second run came home on a safety squeeze and the Marines never looked back.
Iwashita, who struck out Lions cleanup hitter Hotaka Yamakawa three times, allowed a run in the ninth, giving up four hits and a walk while striking out five over eight-plus innings.
Matsui wins duel of former closers
Rakuten Eagles lefty Yuki Matsui (2-3) allowed two runs over five innings to beat Hirotoshi Masui (0-2) in a battle of former closers in a 5-4 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Hotto Motto Field Kobe.
Eagles first baseman Daichi Suzuki made the play of the day diving to catch a foul pop and end the bottom of the first. He then singled with two outs in the third and scored on Kazuki Tanaka’s sixth home run.
Alan Busenitz allowed an unearned run in the ninth, and wrapped up his 11th save when Suzuki made a good play in foul territory to end it with two runners on.
Adam Jones was deactivated with a stiff lower back, and was replaced on the active roster by Aderlin Rodriguez, who singled in a run in the Buffaloes’ two-run fourth.
Carp ace Osera has surgery
Daichi Osera, the Opening Day starter for the Central League’s Hiroshima Carp the past two seasons, has undergone right shoulder surgery the team announced Wednesday.
No timeline was given for the 29-year-old right-hander’s return, but he will likely miss the rest of the season after having arthroscopic surgery to clean out the joint at a hospital in Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture.
Osera opened the season with back-to-back complete games for first-year manager and former Carp pitcher Shinji Sasaoka. He has twice been deactivated for “poor form.”
Marines’ Hermmann out of action
Lotte Marines reliever Frank Herrmann was deactivated Wednesday after he was diagnosed with tendon damage in his right index finger. He reportedly will refrain from throwing for two weeks.
Hideaki Wakui overcame a rough start to work seven innings, but Marines lefty Kazuya Ojima, 10 years his junior, struck out a career-high 11 to deny the 34-year-old his ninth win to open the season as the Lotte Marines beat the Rakuten Eagles and their former teammate 2-0 on Wednesday at Sendai’s Rakuten Semei Park Miyagi.
Wakui pitched out of a two-out bases-loaded jam in the first inning with a good inside fastball to Katsuya Kakunaka that the former PL batting champion popped up. After Ojima worked out of a first-inning pickle, Wakui fell behind light-hitting Yudai Fujioka to start the second. The right-hander threw the Marines shortstop a 3-1 fastball down the pipe that he skied to right only for it to reach the seats at the foul pole for his first home run of the season. With two outs, Wakui hung an 0-1 breaking ball and Shuhei Fukuda pulled it down the right-field line for his third home run.
Ojima worked around a defensive mixup in the second that helped Stefen Romero to a leadoff double, and that second zero proved to be the ballgame as he allowed only two more batters to reach through seven innings. Former Eagle Frank Herrmann worked the eighth, while Naoya Masuda notched his 17th save in the ninth.
Wakui also went seven, and though he battled his command more than he has for most of the season, he figured things out as the game went on. He finished with five walks, nine strikeouts and three walks.
Matsuda spearheads Hawks comeback
Nobuhiro Matsuda hit a game-tying seventh-inning home run and singled to give the Hawks a out, ninth-inning beachhead they exploited in their 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Orix Buffaloes at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Masataka Yoshida doubled off 39-year-old Hawks lefty Tsuyoshi Wada to drive in a first-inning run and broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth against Wada with his xth home run.
Buffaloes lefty Daiki Tajima loaded the bases in the first but allowed no runs, but allowed a single and a home run in the fourth, reserve catcher Hiroaki Takaya’s first of the season. Tyler Higgins kept the Hawks off the board in the bottom of the eighth with the help of backup catcher Torai Fushimi, who cut down lightning-fast pinch-runner Ukyo Shuto trying to steal second.
After a scoreless ninth by Hawks closer Yuito Mori (1-1), Matsuda singled off Buffaloes closer Brandon Dickson (0-3) and Nakamura tripled home pinch-runner Taisei Makihara to end it.
Villanueva lands 1st punch in slugfest
The Nippon Ham Fighters’ Christian Villanueva blasted a three-run, second-inning homer to open the scoring off lefty Daiki Enokida (0-1) who surrendered seven early runs in an 8-5 win over the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.
Fighters starter Toshihiro Sugiura allowed three runs over 5-1/3 innings. He didn’t allow a run until the sixth, when two walks and a single opened the floodgates to a five-run Lions innings, highlighted by a three-run Corey Spangenberg home run.
Wheeler boosts well-coached Giants
Zelous Wheeler hit a two-run first-inning home run and put his team in front with a sixth-inning RBI single for the Yomiuri Giants, who took advantage of an umpire’s inattention in a 12-5 see-saw win against the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
With the game tied 5-5 in the sixth, Wheeler put the Giants in front and cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto, hitless in his first three at-bats, singled in one more. A seven-hit five-run ninth turned the game into a rout.
The Swallows overturned their early deficit via a one-out Tetsuto Yamada home run, a Norichika Aoki walk and Munetaka Murakami’s 11th home run off Nattino Diplan. But the Giants retook the lead in the second with two runs against lefty Keiji Takahashi after a Hiroyuki Nakajima leadoff single and a double by rookie reserve catcher Yukinori Kishida.
The Swallows were denied an inning-ending double play because third base umpire Yoshiharu Yamaguchi wasn’t paying attention. Nakajima was caught between third and home on a grounder to third and beat a hasty retreat only to find Mota occupying the bag. Swallows catcher Yuhei Nakamura did the smart thing and tagged both men. Nakajima, mistakenly thinking he was out, walked off the bag until third base coach Koji Goto yanked him back.
Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu came out to argue but in the ump’s judgement, Goto preventing Nakajima from getting tagged out did not constitute help or he wasn’t looking. Either way, Hayato Sakamoto followed with a two-out two-run double.
Tomotaka Sakaguchi’s two-run homer in the fifth put Yakult back on top, only for Wheeler and the Giants to turn the game around once more.
Kishida walked to open the sixth, pinch-runner Daiki Masuda stole second and scored on Shinnosuke Shigenobu’s single. A walk put two on for Wheeler who singled between third and short.
Giants reliever Yuhei Takanashi (1-0) earned the win, extending his scoreless game streak to 15 with two scoreless innings.
Nomura pitches Carp past BayStars
Yusuke Nomura (3-1) allowed two runs over eight innings, while Shota Dobayashi and Seiya Suzuki each scored twice in the Hiroshima Carp’s 4-2 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohoma Stadium.
The Carp opened the scoring in the fourth on a one-out Dobayashi single, a Suzuki double and Ryuhei Matsuyama’s two-run single. In the home half, Carp center fielder Takayoshi Noma threw out Neftali Soto at the plate to end the inning. The BayStars tied it 2-2 in the fifth on Takayuki Kajitani’s 10th home run, but Dobayashi put the visitors ahead in the sixth. He walked, stole second and scored on Matsuyama’s second RBI single off Haruhiro Hamaguchi (3-3).
Suzuki’s 14th home run, off Spencer Patton in the ninth, completed the scoring, and Geronimo Franzua struck out the side in the bottom of the inning to record his seventh save.
Bour, Tigers maul Dragons
Justin Bour homered twice and drove in three runs, while Onelki Garcia (2-5) allowed two runs over six innings in the Hanshin Tigers’ 11-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Koshien Stadium.
Bour dropped his bombs against Dragons right-hander Koji Fukutani (2-2), who hit his first bump in the road in his transition to starting pitcher, allowing six runs in six innings to take the loss after four decent outings. The Tigers took the lead in the second when Bour hit his 11th of the season with two outs and none on. His two-run home run capped Hanshin’s five-run sixth
Hawks drop Despaigne, Higashihama
The SoftBank Hawks deactivated two-time Best Nine Award-winning designated hitter Alfredo Despaigne and Opening Day starter Nao Higashima on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old Despaigne has been suffering from pain in his left knee. The right-handed-hitting slugger returned to Japan in July with Cuban teammate Yurisbel Gracial and rejoined the first team on Friday and has appeared in three games.
Higashihama, named to start on Opening Day for the first time in June, was sent down due to a stiff neck. He threw 132 pitches in a five-inning start on Friday against the Lotte Marines in which he allowed three runs. The right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA. He was replaced on the active roster by Wednesday’s starting pitcher, 39-year-old lefty Tsuyoshi Wada.
Moore back with 1st team
First-year import Matt Moore rejoined the Hawks first team on Wednesday for practice prior their game against Orix in Fukuoka. The 31-year-old lefty suffered a left calf injury on July 7.
“His leg is no issue,” manager Kimiyasu Kudo said. “Once he’s in games, we’ll control his pitch counts to some extent. I’ve watched video. The only thing that concerns me is the number of pitches.”
Elsewhere, the Orix Buffaloes deactivated first-baseman Aderlin Rodriguez, while the Central League’s DeNA BayStars dropped first baseman Jose Lopez.
Yuki Yanagita has scary power. When he connects, the ball can go a long way to any field. This wasn’t one of those, but rather what happens sometimes when he is fooled. In the spring he hit an opposite field home run when he was fooled by a breaking pitch off balance and with his top hand off the bat.
On Tuesday, he did it again with a three-run shot that powered the SoftBank Hawks to an 8-7 win over the Orix Buffaloes. Here’s the home run. Anyone see a guy fooled on a swing so much that his helmet came off? Anyone ever seen such a swing produce a home run? You have now.
Yanagita hit two home runs and was seen in the dugout cheering up second baseman 22-year-old infielder Hikaru Kawase, whose two sixth-inning errors opened the door for six unearned Orix runs off ace Kodai Senga (4-1).
Asked what he told the youngster in the hero interview, Yanagita said, “I told him, it’s not your fault. It was Senga’s. Just come out tomorrow play baseball like you know you can.”
Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto allowed five runs in five innings, while Akira Nakamura homered for the Hawks, and Takahiro Okada hit a grand slam for the Buffaloes.
Marines Mima, Martin destroy Fighters
Free agent acquisition Manabu Mima (3-2) allowed a run in five innings, and Leonys Martin hit a three-run home run, his fifth homer in four games to lift the Lotte Marines to a 3-1 victory over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Naoyuki Uwasawa (2-2) allowed three runs on four walks and three hits over six innings.
Kobukata saves the day for Eagles
Rakuten rookie Hiroto Kobukata brought the Rakuten Eagles from behind with a two-run seventh-inning double and doubled in another run in the ninth in their 7-5 win over the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.
Ernesto Mejia, a one-time home run champ relegated to reserve status since the ascendance of first baseman Hotaka Yamakawa, started in place of Yamakawa on Tuesday and turned back the clock.
The 34-year-old Mejia hit two home runs, doubled, drove in three runs and made a couple of terrific plays at first. His first homer gave the Lions a 4-3lead in the fifth, but Kobukata doubled in two with two outs in the seventh to put Rakuten ahead for good.
Note: The original story had the Lions winning 7-5.
Tigers’ Garcia, Sands eclipse BayStars
Lefty Onelki Garcia (1-4) allowed a run over seven innings, and Jerry Sands drove in a pair of big runs for the Hanshin Tigers in their 9-2 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.
Garcia allowed four hits and walked four while striking out seven. With the game tied 1-1 in the sixth, Sands delivered an RBI double to break the tie and scored on Ryutaro Umeno’s double.
Leadoff man Koji Chikamoto opened the game with a double and scored the first of his three runs on a sacrifice fly by Sands.
Fukutani, Takahashi lift Dragons over Carp
Right-hander Koji Fukutani (1-1) allowed a run over 5-2/3 innings, and captain Shuhei Takahashi opened the scoring with his second home run of the season, a two-run fourth-inning blast off Yusuke Nomura (2-1) in the Chunichi Dragons’ 8-1 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Although the game was already a rout by the ninth inning, the Dragons had more than just two runs to celebrate in the final frame when Akira Neo, the Dragons’ top draft pick in 2018, had his first hit in the top flight after starting his career 0-for-17 with nine strikeouts.
Buffs leading off with Tatsuya Yamaashi, whose liner to right holds up long enough to be caught. Shuhei Fukuda the shorter strikes out looking at a pitch away. Masataka Yoshida takes a pitch low for Ball 4, bringing up Adam Jones, who sat out his first game of the year on Sunday.
Jones goes down swinging at a splitter. A pitch that is usually a nightmare for hitters has been mediocre this season for Senga. But that 0-2 pitch was a beauty.
Two good fastballs followed by a good curve and Ukyo Shuto is Yamamoto’s first strikeout victim of the evening.
Yuki Yanagita is batting second. He’s jammed but loops it into shallow right for a single. We were talking on the Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast about manager Kudo’s lineup selection.
Akira Nakamura, batting third, hits one high and far down the line for a two-run home run. We’re going to get a video review of the ball. It was hit high over the foul pole, so I don’t know how they were going to dispute it.
Nakamura, of course, famously hit a home run on a foul ball against the Buffaloes thanks to a video review that overturned the correct call. Hawks 2 Buffaloes 0
The curse of the live blog continues as Ryoya Kurihara walks and Kenji Akashi doubles him home from first. Hawks 3 Buffaloes 0 Yamamoto settles down and gets a pair of groundouts to leave Kurihara at second.
The broadcasters are saying that the difference between good Senga and bad Senga is that when he’s having trouble, he’ll give up runs right after his team scored. I don’t think it’s that simple. He’s missing bats with his fastball and splitter. I think that’s probably a better indicator.
Takahiro Okada and Aderlin Rodriguez back after missing 10 days with a contusion on his arm where he was hit by a pitch make easy outs. Senga issues his second two-out walk of the game.
Senga caught a huge break when he missed with a splitter up in the zone with too much spin and Ryoichi Adachi takes it for Strike 3, and he’ s out of the inning. Hawks 3, Buffaloes 0
Two easy outs for Yamamoto in the second. Then a straight fastball that misses up in the zone and Shuto singles. Yanagita hits another straight fastball and drives it into the home run terrace in right center. Hawks 5, Buffaloes 0
The Buffaloes go down in order in the third.
A one-out single by Kenji Akashi puts a man on, but Aderlin Rodriguez catches a low liner at first and gets an easy double play.
Masataka Yoshida singles to center for Orix’s first hit. Jones chases a cutter away and misses for Senga’s sixth strikeout. Takahiro Okada tees off on a high fastball and doubles to the gap in right to put runners on second and third for Rodriguez.
Good split for the second strike and Rodriguez swings under a good fastball. That’s seven K’s for Senga. Ryo Nishimura can’t hold up on a 2-2 pitch Senga buries on outside and that promise of an inning is gone.
Takuya Kai miss-hits a cutter and grounds into an easy out. Nice cutter, fastball combination gets the No. 8 hitter Hikaru Kawase going down swinging. Matsuda swings under a high fastball and fouls out. Triumph of a sort for Yamamoto in his first 1-2-3 inning.
Tough spot for Senga after his second baseman Kawase fumbles a grounder, and Kenya Wakatsuki gets enough of an 0-2 fastball up and in to get it through the infield for a single. Kawase drops the throw from short on a double play ball for his second error of the inning and the bags are juiced.
A groundout brings in one run, and Yoshida puts an easy swing on a cutter at the letters and hits it into left for an RBI single. Hawks 5, Buffaloes 2
A good at-bat by Jones taking two borderline low pitches, and a badly missed 3-2 fastball results in a walk and the bases loaded with one out.
Senga misses another fastball up in the zone and straight to Okada who lines it into the home run terrace for his sixth homer of the season. Buffaloes 6, Hawks 5
A good at-bat by Ukyo Shuto gives the Hawks a leadoff walk. Yamamoto gets ahead of Yanagita and goes inside with a fastball. Shuto takes off on the 2-2 pitch and steals second as Yanagita chases a splitter for Strike 3.
I am mystified why catcher Wakatsuki and Yamamoto think a disciplined hitter like Nakamura is going to become a hacker after all these years and chase pitches when he’s ahead in the count. Now they HAVE to work the edge and hope for a strike and walk him. Two on and one out and their feet are in the fire.
Another disciplined hitter in Ryoya Kurihara, and they start him off with a splitter out of the zone. Madness. Surprised him with a curveball away that hung up a bit and Kurihara flies out.
Visit from the pitching coach as Yamamoto misses badly with a couple of pitches and the bases are loaded with two outs. Seiji Uebayashi puts a good swing on an inside pitch but hits a soft liner to second, and Yamamoto escapes.
Senga is missing still but gets three easy outs. Yamamoto is done after 106 pitches.
Rookie right-hander Ryo Yoshida on the mound for the Buffaloes. The announcer said “He did well on the farm but didn’t get results on the first team.” That’s true, but I’d wager it’s hard to get any kind of good results in just 4-1/3 innings. Yoshida strikes out Kai on three pitches, but walks the next batter, Kawase, so if anything, he’s being efficient.
The Buffaloes’ center fielder, Nishimura, is pulled well over toward right center against Nobuhiro Matsuda, as if to rub it in that he’s batting ninth.
Matsuda walks and Senga really wants to pitch the seventh, since out in front of the dugout warming up with one out.
Pitching change: Ryo Yoshida leaves for lefty Koki Saito to face Yanagita.
The Hawks star nearly comes out of his shoes trying to hold up on a slider but gets the bat on it and hits a one-handed home run as his helmet flies off. That’s home run No. 14 for him and it’s Hawks 8, Buffaloes 6.
With a two-run lead, Senga is done after six innings and 114 pitches.
Rei Takahashi on for the Hawks. Masataka Yoshida doubles with one out for his third hit. He also walked. Adam Jones singles Yoshida home. Hawks 8, Buffaloes 7.
Hawks skipper Kudo pulls the plug on his submarine righty with Okada coming up from the left side.
Pitching change: LHP Shinya Kayama on for Rei Takahashi with one out and one on.
Given manager Nishimura’s propensity to play for one run when behind and sort of wish for the best, I’m surprised he’s not gone to a pinch-runner for Jones on first.
Pitching change: LHP Shinya Kayama on for Rei Takahashi with one out and one on. Okada pops up for the second out, and with Aderlin Rodriguez up, the Hawks go with a right-hander, so lovers of the one-point relievers nonsense that passes for strategy can be happy.
Pitching change: Rookie RHP Keisuke Izumi on for LHP Shinya Kayama and gets Rodriguez to ground out.
It’s the Hawks’ “Lucky Seventh,” and lefty Nobuyoshi Yamada is on for Orix to face Ryoya Kurihara. Yamada misses the target slightly on a 3-2 pitch. A leadoff walk and a sacrifice and the insurance run is at second. I’m sure there’ s reason for asking your pitcher to locate perfectly against a leadoff hitter instead of focusing on throwing a 3-2 strike, but I don’t see it.
Another walk and my favorite right-handed-hitting grinder is up. Keizo Kawashima pinch-hits and smokes the first pitch to center but lines out. Yamada unpickles himself by getting pinch-hitter Kenta Imamiya to ground out to third.
Changes: LHP Livan Moinelo on the mound, while Hiroaki Takaya is catching and Shuto moves over from short to second and Tetsuro Nishida comes off the bench to play short.
Moinelo strikes out Nishimura. Five outs to go.
A walk on another pitch at the knees that ump Yuta Suyama is not buying. Moinelo, like Senga and Yamamoto before him, mouths his displeasure in Japanese, causing the announcers to comment on his language skills.
A double-play ball to first, but the Hawks infield are not on the same page and only get one out. Nishida tags the runner thinking first baseman Kenji Akashi stepped on the bag when he didn’t. There’s a little meeting to figure out what went wrong. But all’s well that ends well for the Hawks as pinch-runner Yuya Oda is thrown out stealing.
Buffaloes right-hander Tyler Higgins on and strikes out Matsuda on a called third strike away. It looks like one of those egregious outside strikes that have been very common this year. Higgins has been very tough this year, his first in Japan. He records three easy outs, so it’s going to come down to whether Orix can score off closer Yuito Mori in the ninth.
Here’s Mori and he misses the first two pitches to pinch-hitter Torai Fushimi, who miss-hits a ball to second for the first out. The right-hander missing the target with about half his pitches but is executing with two strikes.
Masataka Yoshida has yet to make an out tonight. Mori can’t hit the low target but gets the diminutive slugger out on high fastballs. It’s Mori’s 11th save.
Final score: Hawks 8, Buffaloes 7
Wasn’t the pitchers’ duel we were hoping for, but it was fun.