Tag Archives: Alex Ramirez

NPB 2020 7-24 games and news

Lions goes small in walk-off win over Marines

The big-hitting Seibu Lions executed some down-and-dirty ninth-inning small ball to earn a 3-2 walk-off win over the Lotte Marines on Friday.

With the score tied 2-2 against Marines closer Naoya Masuda (0-2), Sosuke Genda popped his drag bunt over the mound and slid head-first into the bag for a leadoff single. Slugging catcher Tomoya Mori, the Pacific League’s 2019 MVP sacrificed for the second time in his career. After an intentional walk to two-time home run king Hotaka Yamakawa, Masuda missed up with a 1-0 fastball and Shuta Tonosaki looped it into left to bring home the winning run at MetLife Dome.

The Lions open the scoring in the first inning on a one-out Genda single and a two-out Yamakawa home run. Tonosaki followed with a double, but Ishikawa retired 12 of the next 13 batters, allowing the Marines to draw level and left the game after seven innings.

Leonys Martin doubled and scored on a long single by cleanup hitter Hisanori Yasuda, but the inning ended on a strike-out, caught-stealing double play. The Marines tied it on well-struck two-out singles by Tsuyoshi Sugano, Yoshida and Seiya Inoue.

Frank Herrman struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth for the Marines, while Lions relievers Kaima Taira, Reed Garrett and Tatsushi Masuda kept the Marines off the board through nine, when the hosts were able to pull ahead.

Hawks’ Higashihama outpitches Arihara

Nao Higashihama (2-0) allowed a run over seven innings while striking out eight, and Akira Nakamura’s two-run third-inning double snapped a 1-1 tie as the SoftBank Hawks pulled away to a 4-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

The visitors took the lead in the first when Higashihama was missing a lot on three well-hit no-out singles by Haruki Nishikawa, Taishi Ota and Kensuke Kondo, but Arihara blew that lead in the third.

The Hawks came back in the third inning, when Ukyo Shuto and Kenta Imamiya both squared up pitches in the zone like they knew what was coming from Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (1-4). Yuki Yanagita, who seems to square up everybody’s pitches, ironically drove in the tying run when he was fooled on a high changeup that fell for a flair single. A passed ball when Arihara and catcher Ryo Ishikawa got their signals crossed put the runners on second and third for Nakamura.

Livan Moinelo struck out three batters in the eighth, and Yuito Mori closed it out in the ninth to earn his seventh save.

Arihara hung in to the end in an eight-inning complete-game loss. He was charged with four runs, three earned, on eight hits, two walks and a hit batsman. The right-hander struck out four.

Ryoya Kurihara accounted for SoftBank’s final run when he opened the sixth with his fifth home run.

Unheralded Buffalo Sakakibara downs Eagles

Tsubasa Sakakibara (1-1), who turned pro on a non-roster developmental contract, outpitched Rakuten Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto (3-2) in a 6-2 Orix Buffaloes win at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Orix scored in the first on a Tatsuya Yamaashi single off Norimoto’s first pitch, a sacrifice and a Masataka Yoshida single. The Eagles ace suffered no further damage after Adam Jones hit a bullet to third for the second out and Aderlin Rodriguez struck out swinging at a slider.

After failing to sneak across a run in the fourth on a delayed double steal, the Eagles helped out with Orix’s second run in the fifth. Center fielder Ryosuke Tatsumi failed to catch Kenya Wakatsuki’s leadoff liner and played a single into a double. No. 9 hitter Hayato Nishiura followed another sacrifice with another run-scoring single. Norimoto missed over the plate with a low 0-2 slider, and Nishiura went down and hammered it up the middle.

Sakakibara scattered four hits and two walks over the first six innings, and Ryoichi Adachi singled home a run in the seventh to make it 3-0 Buffaloes before Stefen Romero put the hosts on the board with a leadoff homer in the home half.

The Buffaloes finally drove Norimoto from the game in the eighth on Aderlin Rodriguez’s two-run double.

The Buffaloes bullpen allowed an unearned run on two walks over three innings as Orix won its third-straight decision.

Giants comeback, tie Swallows

The Yomiuri Giants gave up five early runs in ugly fashion, but came back against the Yakult Swallows bullpen to salvage a 5-5, 10-inning tie at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Giants lefty Nobutaka Imamura walked three of the first six batters he faced before the game blew up on him in the second.

Daiki Yoshida, the Swallows’ starting pitcher and their second draft pick last autumn, singled home two runs after Alcides Escobar’s leadoff walk, Kotaro Yamasaki’s single and a sacrifice. Yoshida went to second when a grounder that struck Imamura’s foot. The Swallows pitcher scored from second on a Tetsuto Yamada single. Yamada scored on a Norichika Aoki fly to left center that fell untouched for a double due to a mixup between left fielder Zelous Wheeler and center fielder Yoshihiro Maru. Munetaka Murakami singled home Aoki to drive Imamura from the game.

The Giants began taking the measure of the Yoshida in the fourth. Takumi Oshiro followed a walk to cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto with his second homer in two games. Back-to-back hard-hit singles from Hiroyuki Nakajima and Wheeler followed. Yoshida, however, snuffed out the rally with a strikeout and a double play.

The Giants mounted another rally in the fifth, but Escobar made a good stop at short on a grounder up the middle and started a sweet double play. That was all for Yoshida, who walked three and gave up six hits while striking out four.

Scott McGough worked a 1-2-3 sixth, but the Giants took a stick to 21-year-old righty Yugo Umeno in the seventh.

Naoki Yoshikawa led off with a home run, and Shinnosuke Shigenobu doubled – his ball passed through a small hole in the fence over Jingu Stadium’s right field wall – and scored on a Hayato Sakamoto sac fly before Maru homered to tie it.

Sano slam lifts BayStars to walk-off win

Keita Sano continued his torrid streak since criticism of skipper Alex Ramirez emerged over the weekend, blasting a walk-off grand slam that boosted the DeNA BayStars to a 9-6 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Yokohama Stadium.

Ramirez, who was criticized for everything from not ordering a bunt to putting on his socks in the wrong order, was also widely slammed in the Japanese media this week for giving key offensive roles to Sano and veteran first baseman Jose Lopez.

Sano’s home run was his third in three games, while Lopez had two doubles and his second home run in three games.

The BayStars came from a run down in the first against Carp ace Daichi Osera on a Takayuki Kajitani leadoff single, back-to-back doubles from Tyler Austin and Lopez and a groundout.

DeNA starter Taiga Kamichatani, who allowed two hits in the first, gave up two more in the second and two more in the third, when he added a walk and allowed another run.

Osera was pulled after two innings of work. Right-hander Makoto Kemna seven of the first eight batters he faced before Kajitani walked with one out in the fifth and scored on Lopez’s second double.

The lead was short-lived, however. Kamichatani fell behind 3-1 to Seiya Suzuki who hit the ball so hard off the wall in left he was easily held to a single. With one out, Jose Pirela hammered a hanging 2-1 splitter into the seats in left for his second home run in two nights.

The Carp widened the lead with two more runs off Spencer Patton in the eighth, but Hiroshima’s bullpen couldn’t hold it. Lopez homered to make it a 6-4 game in the eighth and Kajitani singled in another run in the ninth before Sano underlined the victory.

Ono misses out again in loss to Tigers

A week after suffering a tough loss to the Hanshin Tigers, Yudai Ono allowed a run over five innings only for the Chunichi Dragons bullpen to blow up in a 5-2 loss at Nagoya Dome.

Ono, who is looking for his first win of the season, surrendered a solo home run to Yusuke Oyama in the fourth. The lefty allowed four hits and two walks while striking out nine.

Tigers starter Koyo Aoyagi (4-1) gave up two runs in the second and lasted six innings to earn the win after Hanshin scored four runs in the top of the seventh. Fumiya Hojo doubled in three and scored on a Jerry Sands single.

Robert Suarez worked the ninth to earn his fifth save.

Tigers’ Gunkel rejoins top team

Right-hander Joe Gunkel worked out with the Hanshin Tigers’ first team on Friday according to Sponichi Annex and was activated. The 28-year-old first-year import pitched in a simulated game on Thursday and ostensibly showed no ill effects.

Gunkel was deactivated on July 14 due to lower back stiffness.

Meanwhile, the Yomiuri Giants have deactivated Brazilian pitcher Thyago Vieira while the Hiroshima Carp have dropped infielder Alejandro Mejia.

Active roster moves 7/24/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/3

Central League

Activated

GiantsP64Ryusei Ohe
GiantsP95Hayato Horioka
BayStarsP27Taiga Kamichatani
TigersP49Joe Gunkel
CarpOF59Minoru Omori
DragonsIF37Taiki Mitsumata

Dectivated

GiantsP47Takahiro Fujioka
GiantsP49Thyago Vieira
BayStarsOF37Taishi Kusumoto
TigersP36Masumi Hamachi
CarpIF96Alejandro Mejia
DragonsIF32Masami Ishigaki

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesC65Kengo Horiuchi

Dectivated

EaglesC29Ayatsugu Yamashita

Knives are out for Ramirez

None of Nippon Professional Baseball’s 12 managers draw more flak from the media than Alex Ramirez. Some of that criticism is just because he is different, but when stories begin to emerge blaming a skipper for a team’s losses and asserting he doesn’t know what he is doing, you can be damn sure there is a reason for it that has nothing to with the guy’s managing chops.

Last year, Ramirez was ripped for batting Yoshitomo Tsutsugo second, with some former players saying it was proof the Americanization of Japanese baseball had gone too far.

Prior to that, the skipper was attacked for batting his pitchers eighth, something I’ve pointed out makes tons of sense. While I’m not a fan of his love of the intentional walk, he’s the one in charge and it’s kind of a small thing.

Ramirez entered the season with 280 wins in four seasons, the third-highest win total in franchise history. He hasn’t yet won a pennant, but only two others have with this club and he is only the third to take the team to the Japan Series.

The attacks resumed Sunday when Ramirez admitted he wasn’t confident one of his pitchers would know the sign for the run-and-hit, so Ramirez let it go without calling for a sacrifice bunt. And as we know, managers are blamed for their teams not scoring when they fail to order a sacrifice since sacrifice bunts result in a 100 percent chance of scoring a run – just kidding.

“I had the fast Tomo Otosaka on first and (pitcher Kentaro) Taira hits right-handers well,” Ramirez said of the second-inning opportunity with one out and a runner on first and a 1-0 lead against the Yomiuri Giants on Sunday.

“I thought about giving the run and hit sign, but I wasn’t sure Taira knew it so I decided against it.”

The BayStars blew an early 1-0 run lead and a 3-2 lead in the ninth, when the Yomiuri Giants tied it against closer Yasuaki Yamasaki, who took the loss when his replacement surrendered a two-run home run.

Masamune Umemiya, writing for the Asahi Shimbun’s Aera.dot, ripped into Ramirez saying it “defies belief a professional would not know the signs.”

Umemiya attacked Ramirez for using an opener and pulling the starter on a bullpen day last (July 16 in Nagoya) after allowing a run in the first inning, and for pulling starting catcher Hikaru Ito after ace Shota Imanaga allowed three runs in the second inning. Ito was deactivated the following day. Other managers do this stuff all the time, but the number of times they are criticized in the media for it is about zero unless there is a larger agenda at work.

Managers wrestle with options whose real percentages are unknowable – except it seems to a few omniscient critics. Few managers have been worse at in-game tactics than Hall of Famer Tatsunori Hara during his first five or six years or his mentor Shigeo Nagashima.

What really matters is that the players respect the manager’s decisions and believe he gives them a reasonable chance to win, and that the manager organizes the team in a way that facilitates growth and success–the real building blocks of championships.

The final component of these attacks in Japan is the “This team is too good to lose” argument.

This was famously made by Tatsuro Hirooka and his surrogates in 1995 to argue that Bobby Valentine had cost the Lotte Marines a pennant that any average manager would have won. I don’t remember the exact number, it might have been 20 games Valentine was supposed to have been worse than average by Hirooka’s calculation. It might have been 10. But even 10 is an unimaginably large number.

In Valentine’s first season, the Marines had their best finish in 10 years and their best winning percentage in 11. But Hirooka, who hired him, didn’t like his style and attacked him at every turn. The Marines finished 12 games back of Ichiro Suzuki and the Orix BlueWave, but as far as Hirooka was concerned, Valentine had ruined a championship-caliber team that no one knew existed until they hired him.

Umemiya wheeled out this argument against Ramirez, by quoting a baseball writer who said many former players considered the BayStars to have the most balanced team in the Central League and the best starting pitching. Therefore, this argument goes, any fault must be the manager’s.

It’s fair to discuss Ramirez’s choices, and to his credit, he doesn’t dodge questions. But when Tsuyoshi Yoda ran out of position players and had to use a relief pitcher to pinch-hit with two outs in the 10th, the bases loaded and his team trailing by a run recently, there weren’t any stories about how he was ruining the Chunichi Dragons.

But since Sunday, there have been a half-dozen stories by reporters questioning Ramirez’s fitness that were supported by the expert opinions of former players.

When one sees that one begins to ask, “Why now?”

In 2011, when batting conditions wrecked offensive numbers all over Japan and the Hanshin Tigers played poorly, a reporter friend said that Hanshin’t press corps was keen to attack the team’s older Japanese veterans for their failure to hit for average, but coaches directed the writers’ wrath to the failures of the imported players, Craig Brazell and Matt Murton. That guidance by the Tigers coaching staff led to some really weird stuff.

Japanese baseball is weird some times. The DeNA franchise fired its most successful manager ever, Hiroshi Gondo, because his outspoken criticisms of traditional pro baseball customs irritated the older former players in the media who couldn’t forgive his insolence and attacked him the way Ramirez is now being attacked. Like Ramirez, Gondo was no fan of the mindless, automatic sacrifice bunts Japan championed. Despite his success with a team that had been a traditional doormat, nothing Gondo did was good enough.

In his first season, Ramirez became the first BayStars manger to finish third in 10 years. When he finished third the next year, there were calls that his contract should not be extended. One suspects that the reason for those stories and these new ones is that the old guys whose opinions fill the airwaves and the sports papers have a specific candidate they would like to have instead of Ramirez.

That became crystal clear on Tuesday when a story was published about a minor league game in which DeNA’s farm team had executed four sacrifices in a 6-4 Western League win over the Yomiuri Giants

As soon as stories like that appear, about how a popular former player is succeeding Japanese-style in THE MINORS, at a time when the first-team manager is under fire for not bunting in the second inning, then you know there is an agenda propelling those stories.

NPB 2020 7-10 games and news

Hail, hail the gang’s all here

For the first time since Feb. 24, fans in Japan were able to see games between teams from Nippon Professional Baseball’s two top leagues as clubs from the Central and Pacific leagues were allowed to admit u to 5,000 fans to their games starting Friday.

One of the games, between the CL’s Yomiuri Giants and Yakult Swallows at Hotto Motto Field Kobe, was rained out, and the game at nearby Koshien Stadium was called after five innings.

The opening takes place as COVID-19 cases surge around Japan and in particularly in Tokyo. Tokyo set a record for new infections on Friday.

Japanese ball to an American-style beat

To prevent the spread of the virus, fans have been asked not to participate in organized cheering, chanting and singing, while musical instruments have been banned. But when you take the organized cheering away from Asian baseball you get a much more subdued atmosphere.

Instead of every at-bat being accompanied by its background music and rhythm section, the reduced crowds created a buzz that ebbed and flowed more in tune with action on the field.

Kuriyama brings Lions back

Veteran left-handed hitter Takumi Kuriyama belted a two-run, game-tying home run in the eighth and drew a bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning that pushed the Seibu Lions to 7-6 win over the Lotte Marines at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

Kuriyama’s second home run of the season, off reliever Taiki Tojo, took Lions starter Zach Neal off the hook for the loss and preserving his streak of 12-straight winning decisions.

“One can’t be happier than this,” said the 36-year-old Kuriyama. “How the fans see us, their critical eye as well as their sympathy and understanding is essential.”

“I felt like all eyes were on me, and I felt the tension conveyed by everyone in the stands, it helped me buckle down.”

Tojo tried to go away with a first-pitch slider, but it drifted over the inner half of the plate and Kuriyama golfed it into the right field stands.

“I went up focused on hitting my pitch and not wasting the at-bat,” Kuriyama said.

Marines starter Ayumu Ishikawa seemed to struggle in the whipping wind in the first. A leadoff single by rookie Shohei Suzuki and a one-out walk set the table for Hotaka Yamakawa, who hammered a high fastball away and just got it over the fence in right for a three-run home run.

Neal got five groundballs in Lotte’s two-run first. The first two found holes, while the third resulted in a run scoring on a botched rundown. Brandon Laird became the first Marine to elevate the ball, with a sacrifice fly to the wall in left. Two more grounders ended the inning.

The Marines took the lead in the third when Martin walked and Laird reached on yet another groundball single. With one out, Neal tried to go inside to Seiya Inoue with a two-seam fastball but it hung up over the outside half of the plate and he reached the seats.

Yamakawa drew a leadoff walk in the fourth, and a nice stop by shortstop Yudai Fujioka allowed the Marines to get a force on Mori, who then stole second with one out. Kuriyama walked and a hit batsman loaded the bases. Rookie Seiji Kawagoe struck out on a borderline 3-2 pitch, but rookie Kakeru Kawanobe made amends for a bad throw that allowed the Marines’ first run to score by rifling a single to right.

With their lead cut to a run, Tatsuhiro Tamura opened the Marines fourth by working an eight-pitch walk. The Marines catcher advanced on a groundout and beat a good relay on Ogino’s single to left to make it a 6-4 game.

Right-hander Tetsu Miyagawa, Seibu’s top draft pick last autumn, worked around two walks in a scoreless seventh. New import Reed Garrett (2-0) struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth to earn the win, and Tatsushi Masuda worked a perfect ninth to collect his sixth save.

Ishikawa allowed four runs on three hits, three walks and two hit batsmen, while Neal surrendered six runs on four walks and six hits over six innings. Marines closer Naoya Masuda (0-1) walked two, hit a batter and gave up a single in the ninth and was tagged with the loss.

Rodriguez’s farewell bomb KO’s Fighters

Aderlin Rodriguez capped a two-out, ninth-inning rally with his fourth home run, a three-run shot that lifted the Orix Buffaloes to a 4-3 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

The walk-off “sayonara” home run was one of three on Friday. Fighters closer Ryo Akiyoshi retired the first two batters in the ninth before walking Adam Jones on seven pitches and rejuvenated left-handed slugger Takahiro Okada on eight.

After taking a slider for Ball 1, Rodriguez fouled off two low changeups from the side-armer but drilled the third on a line over the left field wall.

Christian Villanueva’s first home run as a Fighter, a two-run shot off right-hander Tsubasa Sakakibara, made it a 3-0 in the sixth.

Rodriguez, who saved a first-inning running with a leaping catch at first base, singled and scored in the eighth on a smash Villanueva was unable to handle at third. Lefty Naoki Miyanishi might have given the game away then, but for a diving catch in left by Kensuke Kondo, who started an inning-ending double play.

The bullpen wasted the best start of the season from Fighters ace Kohei Arihara, who surrendered two singles while striking out seven and walking one over seven scoreless innings.

‘Gita blast lifts Hawks past Eagles

Yuki Yanagita’s fourth home run in four games settled a tight pitchers’ duel when he led off the 10th inning by homering off new import J. T. Chargois (0-1) in the SoftBank Hawks’ 2-1 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Eagles starter Takahiro Norimoto had his splitter working to perfection and struck out nine. He and Hawks starter Nao Higashihama, who was able to pin-point his fastball, each allowed a run over seven innings. Other than an eighth-inning scrape that Rakuten’s Alan Busenitz barely escaped, neither bullpen looked in danger of giving up a run. That was until Yanagita crushed Chargois’ fourth pitch for his seventh home run of the season.

Submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi (2-0), who has started the season out of the bullpen after winning 12 games in the rotation as the 2019 PL rookie of the year, earned the win in relief.

Viciedo sayonara blast sinks Carp

Dayan Viciedo won it in the 10th inning with a walk-off home run to lift the Chunichi Dragons to a 3-2 home victory at Nagoya Dome over the Hiroshima Carp.

The two team’s Opening Day starters, Daichi Osera for the Carp and Yudai Ono for the Dragons, kept this game close through seven. The Carp opened the scoring on third-inning singles by Alejandro Mejia and Jose Pirela.

Journeyman Dragons outfielder Masataka Iryo drew a leadoff walk and scored the tying run in the fifth only for Carp infielder Ryosuke Kikuchi to take Ono deep in the sixth. Iryo, however, singled to open the eighth off journeyman reliever Yasunori Kikuchi and scored an unearned run to tie it on a Yohei Oshima sac fly.

The Dragons bullpen produced three-straight 1-2-3 innings, with Raidel Martinez working the 10th and earning the win when Viciedo homered off Geronimo Franzua to end it.

Tigers outlast BayStars in rain

Koji Chikamoto homered to open the Hanshin Tigers’ first and tie the game 1-1 and start a three-run inning in a 3-2 win over the DeNA BayStars in a game that was called after the top of the fourth due to rain.

Takayuki Kajitani homered to open the game, had three of DeNA’s four hits and scored both runs, but the Tigers offense in the first was enough to decide it at Koshien Stadium.

Kento Itohara followed with a triple and scored on a groundout before cleanup hitter Yusuke Oyama homered. Justin Bour walked and Jerry Sands singled off DeNA starter Shinichi Onuki (1-0). Onuki got out of the inning after one of manager Alex Ramirez’s beloved intentional walks brought Koyo Aoyagi (2-1) up to bat and the Tigers pitcher struck out.

As usual, the cast on Pro Yakyu News found fault with Ramirez’s managing because of his employing a shift against Bour, who singled through the open left side of the infield to lead off the third.

NPB 2020 7-2 GAMES AND NEWS

Friday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB.

Fighters overcome Balentien bombs

Rick van den Hurk started for SoftBank and for the second-straight time his former Dutch interational teammate Wladimir Balentien homered twice behind him. Balentien drove in five runs but van den Hurk gave them back in a 9-8 walk-off loss to the Nippon Ham Fighters on Wednesday.

With two outs and two on in the ninth, Yuki James Nomura drove one off the wall to end it. The 20-year-old rookie also made up for a second-inning error with a second-inning home run.

A week after everything worked for him, a lot of van den Hurk’s pitches lacked their usual life as he surrendered five runs on seven hits and two walks over five innings.

That was enough to keep the Hawks in the game, however, as Fighters starter Drew VerHagen allowed six runs, four earned, over 4-1/3 innings. The combination of too many missed locations and too many good swings proved tough to overcome.

A hanging 2-2 changeup to Yuki Yanagita put an extra runner on for Balentien in the first, and with the Netherlands international looking for a second fastball outside, that’s where VerHagen missed, and gave Balentien a little more to celebrate on his 36th birthday as he drove it over the distant center field wall at Sapporo Dome for a three-run shot.

VerHagen appears to have good stuff. His fastball was crisp, and his slider sharp, so it’s probably more of getting a sense of what he needs to do against certain hitters.

Sho nakata homered in the first for the Fighters on a straight 2-2 fastball in the zone. Hawks leadoff hitter Ryuya Kurihara hit a two-run shot in the second for the Hawks after a two-out smash came off the heel of Nomura’s glove at third.

Nomura, who was born in the States, homered in the bottom of the second, and Kensuke Kondo, who walked and scored in the first, delivered a sac fly in the third to make it a 5-4 game. With SoftBank leading 6-5 in the seventh, Balentien homered again, but Fighters prospect Kotaro Kiyomiya matched him with a two-run shot.

Hawks closer Yuito Mori came on in the ninth. Kensuke Kondo, who entered the game tied for the league lead with 10 walks, drew his third of the game, on eight pitches, to open the inning. Tanaka singled.

With two outs and both runners in scoring position, Nomura drove a cutter in the heart of the zone to the wall to end it.

Spangenberg, Mori blast Buffaloes

New Lions leadoff man Corey Spangenberg, homered, tripled, singled, walked and scored three runs, while Tomoya Mori homered and drove in four runs as Seibu overcame an early two-run deficit to beat the Orix Buffaloes 9-5.

Lions reliever Reed Garrett entered in the eighth, having retired the last 13 batters he’d faced, but surrendered back-to-back hits. The right-hander then returned to form by retiring three straight and working his fifth-straight scoreless inning.

Spangenberg may have had a big night at the plate, but his first inning in the field was an adventure. He misplayed the hop on a ball hit in front of him in left. The ball got over his head for a double and then he kicked it to put leadoff runner Yuma Mune on third.

Martin, Inoue pace Marines

The Lotte Marines moved back into first place in the Pacific League with an 8-5 win over the Rakuten Eagles, at Sendai’s Rakuten Semei Park Miyagi. Leonys Martin and Seiya Inoue each homered and drove in three runs for the Marines.

Stefen Romero, who joined the Eagles over the winter, homered to tie it 2-2 in the bottom of the second but starting pitcher Takahiro Shiomi (0-2) surrendered six runs over 4-2/3 innings.

Marines starter Daiki Iwashita (2-0) allowed three runs, two earned, over five innings, while Frank Herrmann and Jay Jackson each worked a scoreless inning out of the Lotte bullpen.

Viciedo, Dragons rock former teammate

Dayan Viciedo belted a three-run homer off former teammate Onelki Garcia (0-2) and Raidel Martinez closed it out as the Chunichi Dragons beat the Hanshin Tigers 4-2 at Nagoya Dome.

“They’re in a bind. They want to get up there and advance runners with sacrifice bunts, but they just don’t have runners.”

–analyst Yutaka Takagi on the Hanshin Tigers’ offensive woes.

Swallows blast Carp

The Yakult Swallows overcame a four-run deficit on the strength of four homers in a 9-5 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Jingu Stadium, with 2019 CL rookie of the year Munetaka Murakami driving in five runs, four on a walk-off grand slam.

Naomichi Nishiura, who had homered to drive in the winning run twice this week, twice tied the game with home runs.

Ramirez’s best intentions prove costly

DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez’s fondness for the intentional walk cost him in a 5-3 loss to the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome. Japan’s annual leader in giving away first base put two on intentionally and both scored.

Giants right-hander Toshiki Sakurai (1-0) was punished for a couple of his mistakes, but he was able to mix, locate and execute some nasty curves and splitters, and the BayStars only managed one run off him in eight innings while striking out nine.

Tyler Austin walked, doubled and scored for the BayStars, while lefty Edwin Escobar worked a solid inning of relief for DeNA. Right-hander Spencer Patton, who had been lights out so far this season, got rocked for three runs in the eighth with the help of an intentional walk.

Austin to 1B as Ramirez sidelines Lopez

Tyler Austin, who has been in right-field this season for the Yokohama-based DeNA BayStars, will be at first base on Thursday night for the team’s Central League series finale against the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome, manager Alex Ramirez said before the game according to the Daily Sports.

The story reported Ramirez as saying that Lopez was hitless against Giants starter Toshiki Sakurai in eight at-bats, while outfielder Tomo Otosaka had a good track record at Tokyo Dome.

Austin has gotten his Japan career off to a good start, 13 hits in his first 34 at-bats for DeNA.

With Lopez inactive for the game, the BayStars will have Austin, two-time defending CL home run champ Neftali Soto and relievers Spencer Patton and Edwin Escobar available.

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.

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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.

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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

Camping World: Feb. 16, 2020 – Tyler Austin 2 to the 2nd power

DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez loves to be unconventional, and he also knows enough that the way to be unconventional in Japan is to make up conventional bullshit explanations reporters can then regurgitate as suitable explanations for unorthodox behavior.

On Sunday, new BayStars import Tyler Austin batted second in the team’s preseason opener against the Yomiuri Giants in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture. On Saturday, Ramirez explained he liked to have good hitters bat second, not because they were good hitters and putting lame guys who can bunt second is dumb, but rather because a power hitter there will see more fastballs after the leadoff man reaches base.

Tyler Austin’s 1st swing

Of course, when your leadoff hitter is Kazuki Kamizato, career OBP .319, that’s kind of weak, but you get the point. In Japan, unorthodox behavior is only acceptable if it is wrapped in some kind of bullshit cover-your-ass excuse that won’t suggest that the orthodox ways are dumb.

Ramirez catches flak for batting his pitchers eighth, which makes perfect sense, and last year was roasted for batting new Tampa Bay Ray Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, the national team cleanup hitter, second. It was, one talking head on Fuji TV’s Pro Yakyu News said, “An insult to Japanese baseball,” and that one could do it in a DH league, “as the Angels do with Mike Trout, but not in the Central League,” because well, you can’t.

Tyler Austin off to an auspicious start in NPB’s preseason

Austin homered in each of his first two spring at-bats, both with no one on base and then singled in his third, again after Kamizato failed to reach.

Batting 2nd: Lip Service

My favorite story about paying lip service to Japan’s cultural craving for punchless No.2 hitting defensive specialists was that of Hall of Famer Rikuo Nemoto, as manager of the Daiei Hawks in 1994, batted slugging outfielder Kazunori Yamamoto second. Yamamoto bunted once in 509 plate appearances.

Nemoto, who is in the Hall of Fame for his role as the architect of three dynasties — often through somewhat shady dealings to secure amateur talent, forestalled criticism by saying he had no punchless glove guys to bat second, so he just had to bite his lip and make do.

What happened was the perennial doormats’ best season in 18 years. The Hawks were fourth, with a .5348 winning percentage behind the Orix Blue Wave (Ichiro Suzuki‘s breakout season) and Kintetsu Buffaloes (Hideo Nomo) who tied for second at .5354

Of course, everyone knew Nemoto was full of shit, but it’s OK to be full of shit as long as you don’t imply that others who do dumb shit because dogma demands it are morons. OK, the late great Katsuya Nomura did that frequently when it suited his purposes, but for most mere mortals, like former BayStars manager Hiroshi Gondo, calling orthodoxy into question will get you fired.

Baby shark school

One of the other non-game highlights was Gerardo Parra instructing veteran Yomiuri Giants outfielder Yoshiyuki Kamei on the proper hand technique for “Baby Shark.”

Moore throws 1st pen for Hawks

New SoftBank Hawks import Matt Moore threw a 53-pitch bullpen on Sunday, his first since the start of spring training on Feb. 1, and left manager Kimiyasu Kudo suitably impressed, according to Fullcount.

The Hawks may be without 2019 rookie of the year, Rei Takahashi, at the start of the season due to a left-hamstring issue, and so could be in need of another starter to take his place.