Kishi throws season’s 1st shutout
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Takayuki Kishi scattered eight singles while striking out seven and walking none for the Rakuten Eagles, who spoiled the Lotte Marines’ home opener, 5-0 in the Pacific League on Tuesday.
Kishi, who went 7-0 last year despite walking 20 batters over 67-1/3 innings, a fairly high rate for him, got back into his more normal groove. The 36-year-old elder statesman of the Eagles’ staff poured a little cold water on tradition in the postgame hero interview.
“I wasn’t thinking I was going to go all the way and finish the game. I wasn’t going to do anything counterproductive. I just focused on pitching as well as I could to get guys out,” he said.
Southpaw Kazuya Ojima (0-1) took on the mostly left-handed-hitting Eagles and took his lumps from their big right-handed bat, Hideto Asamura, who homered, and singled in a run. Eigoro Mogi followed Asamura’s sixth-inning single with a three-run homer.
The Marines activated slugging infielder Brandon Laird for the game. The 33-year-old managed just 39 games last season before injuries intervened. The one-time Mexico international went 1-for-3 against Kishi.
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, the SoftBank Hawks improved to 4-0 on the season with a 3-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes. Hawks lefty Shunsuke Kasaya (1-0) allowed a run over six innings on Adam Jones’ leadoff shot in the second. Kasaya struck out seven and walked two.
The Buffaloes got solid work from lefty Daiki Tajima, who gave up two runs over six innings. Hawks catcher Takuya Kai cannoned a pitch from Tyler Higgins over the wall in left to complete the scoring in the seventh, while Steven Moya went 1-for-3 for the Buffaloes.
At Sapporo Dome, rookie Brandon Taiga Tysinger, an Okinawa native who went to university in Hokkaido, returned there with a two-run homer, an RBI single and a sac fly as the Seibu Lions handed the Nippon Ham Fighters an 11-4, 3-1/2-hour beating in their home opener.
Hotaka Yamakawa, the PL’s 2018 MVP and another Okinawa native, homered in the first to open the scoring off lefty side-armer Ryo Kawano (0-1) but hurt himself stepping awkwardly on the first-base bag and came out of the game.
Yamasaki returns in bullpen blowup
At Yokohama Stadium, Yasutaka Shiomi doubled, homered and drove in three runs as the Yakult Swallows won for the first time this season in the Central League, coming from three runs down to beat the DeNA BayStars 5-4.
Lefty Kenta Ishida and former closer Yasuaki Yamasaki combined to allow four eighth-inning runs with Shingo Kawabata teeing off on a high first-pitch fastball from the former Japan closer Yamasaki to put the visitors in front.
Trailing 4-1 in the eighth, Norichika Aoki’s clone, Kotaro Yamasaki, worked a leadoff walk against the normally reliable Ishida. With two outs, Ishida appeared to lose the plot after left-handed-hitting slugger Munetaka Murakami checked his swing on a pair of two-strike high fastballs to draw a walk.
Seiichi Uchikawa, who began his career as a big-hitting second baseman for the BayStars 20 years earlier and is back in the CL for the first time in 11 years, ripped a fat 1-0 slider up the middle for an RBI single to score Yamasaki.
Having allowed a run in each of his relief appearances over the weekend against the Giants, Ishida was yanked in favor of Yasuaki Yamasaki. Shiomi hit a 1-1 splitter to the wall in left that Taiki Sekine failed to time properly, allowing it to go for a two-run double, and Kawabata drilled a first-pitch fastball to the gap in right for a Swallows lead.
Albert Suarez started for the Swallows and allowed three runs over four innings, while the BayStars wasted seven solid innings from Shinichi Onuki.
The BayStars remain winless after two wins and a tie over the weekend.
At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, 2020 Sawamura Award winner Yudai Ono lacked the sharp command that was his trademark from the middle of last season, but gutted out seven innings while allowing two runs in the Chunichi Dragons’ 3-3 nine-inning tie against the Yomiuri Giants.
Angel Sanchez allowed two unearned runs over seven innings for the Giants, while Zelous Wheeler, hitting in the two hole for Yomiuri, went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Dragons cleanup hitter Dayan Viciedo put the hosts ahead in the second with a two-run single after a mental mistake by Giants third baseman Kazuma Okamoto prolonged the inning.
Defending No. 2
The pro yakyu news cast spent five minutes discussing the merits of Wheeler in the No. 2 hole, which is no surprise, since Japanese dogma since about 1980 demands that spot be taken by a guy who sacrifices and hits behind the runner and is typically a small, fast glove man.
“I used Wheeler when I was manager of the Eagles. He’s smart, always thinking of the base running situation as a hitter,” Hiromoto “Dave” Okubo said.
This is just another example of the language we get to justify the use of guys in the No. 2 spot whose only offensive skills are bunting and grounding out behind the runner. Because Wheeler isn’t one of those guys, a lot of the old boys need an excuse to justify his batting there.
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, 2020 rookie of the year Masato Morishita (1-0) struck out seven over six innings in the Hiroshima Carp’s 1-0 win over the Hanshin Tigers, who suffered their first loss.
Once Morishita left the game, the Tigers managed three hits off the Hiroshima bullpen, but two of those batters, Jerry Sands and rookie Teruaki Sato, were erased trying to leg out doubles against right fielder Teruaki Sato. Sato ended the game striking out against rookie Carp closer Ryoji Kuribayashi, who recorded his second save.
Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano was deactivated on Tuesday after feeling discomfort and slight pain in his leg Kyodo News (Japanese) reported.
The report said he is only expected to miss one start.
Last season’s Central League MVP, Sugano turned down offers from MLB clubs after the Giants posted him and signed a one-year deal to remain in Japan for the 2021 season. He made his seventh career Opening Day start on Friday, allowing three runs on eight hits and three walks over six innings.
Two SoftBank Hawks’ players, outfielder Wladimir Balentien and pitcher Nick Martinez, both entered Japan on Tuesday, Nishinihon Sports reported.
Balentien may count as a domestically-registered player but unfortunately, that doesn’t cut any weight with the immigration office that had been keeping non-residents from entering Japan, until pro baseball and soccer players were added to an entry waiver used for emergency workers, because, well, baseball and soccer are urgent.
No word on Senga after farm outing
SoftBank Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo said he hadn’t made a decision on whether to activate ace Kodai Senga after the right-hander allowed three runs on nine hits over seven innings in the minors on Tuesday, Nishinihon sports reported.
“I’ve been informed of how he did, but I haven’t seen the video yet, so I can’t say what’s next for him,” Kudo said.
Fighters’ top pick to start Wednesday
Right-hander Hiromi Ito, a Hokkaido native and the Nippon Ham Fighters’ first pick in last autumn’s draft, will make his pro debut on Wednesday against the Seibu Lions at Sapporo Dome.
Fighters vs Lions: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Marines vs Eagles: Zozo Marine Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Buffaloes vs Hawks: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 6 pm, 5 am EDT
BayStars vs Swallows: Yokohama Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Dragons vs Giants: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Carp vs Tigers: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 3/30/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/9