Right-hander Shuta Ishikawa allowed two runs over 5-1/3 innings as the SoftBank Hawks’ wiped out the Yomiuri Giants13-2 in Sunday’s Game 2 of the Japan Series to take a 2-0 series lead.
The win at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome extended SoftBank’s record postseason winning streak to 14 games and extended their record for Japan Series wins to 10.
Yurisbel Gracial, the 2019 series MVP scored three runs and drove in two with his first home run of the series, while Cuban compatriot Alfredo Despaigne iced the game with a seventh-inning grand slam.
The Giants broke up the shutout in the bottom of the fifth, when Zelous Wheeler, who drove in Yomiuri’s run in Saturday’s 5-1 loss, hit a two-run home run.
Ishikawa allowed four hits, a walk and hit a batter while striking out seven, but left after allowing back-to-back one-out singles in the sixth with SoftBank leading 7-2. Lefty Shinya Kayama struck out Yoshihiro Maru and submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi loaded the bases with a walk before striking out Hiroyuki Nakajima to end the inning without a run scoring.
Yuki Yanagita, whose RBI double opened the scoring in SoftBank’s three-run first against lefty Nobutaka Imamura, singled and scored on Gracial’s two-run third-inning homer and walked ahead of Despaigne’s slam.
No team had scored 12 runs in a game since Game 2 of the 2010 series, when the trickery of Lotte Marines manager Norifumi Nishimura backfired in a one-sided loss.
Nishimura tried to fool the Chunichi Dragons into thinking Bill Murphy would not start by keeping him out in the outfield during pregame practice instead of having come in early. Murphy never got into a rhythm and allowed seven runs in 1-1/3 innings.
The last time a team scored 13 runs was the Daiei Hawks’ 13-0 win over the Hanshin Tigers in Game 2 of the 2003 series.
Ryoya Kurihara introduced himself in a big way to the Japan Series on Saturday with a homer, two doubles, and four RBIs in Game 1. And that was just his first three at-bats. Kurihara’s offensive explosion carried SoftBank Hawks ace Kodai Senga to a 5-1 win.
The 24-year-old SoftBank Hawks outfielder, who entered the season with 57 plate appearances, became a regular slammed a two-run homer off Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano in the second, doubled and was thrown out at the plate in the fourth, and belted a two-run double in the sixth.
Senga delivered a prototypical outing. His fastball hummed and often jumped, while his split and slider were unpredictable. The Giants hitters did a good job of fouling off the fastball and laying off his secondary pitches.
Hiroyuki Nakajima and Naoki Nishikawa both hammered splitters that failed to tumble and drove them to the wall in the fifth inning but both balls were caught.
Sugano was also pretty close to his season norms as he tried to stay just out of the strike zone and get people to chase, and did get some weak swings on the corners but also fell behind hitters, and gave up his share of hard-hit balls.
The Giants went to rookie Shosei Togo in the seventh, while Senga stayed in to work the home half as his pitch count crossed the 100-mark.
Hawks leadoff man Ukyo Shuto made it 5-0 in the eighth, by drawing a walk off lefty Yuki Takahashi, stealing second and scoring on an Akira Nakamura single.
The Hawks entered the series with the longest postseason winning streak in NPB history, 12 games dating back to Game 2 of the 2019 PL Climax Series first stage. They also set an NPB record by winning their ninth straight series game, dating back to Game 3 of the 2018 series.
The Giants entered having lost five straight series games, their last win coming against Masahiro Tanaka in Game 6 of the 2013 series, his final start in Japan, although he came in to save Game 7.
Livan Moinelo dazzled the Giants with his fastball and curve, striking out three in the eighth before closer Yuito Mori did his usual thing, loading the bases and allowing a run before closing it out.
The game’s attendance of 16,489 — restricted due to the novel coronavirus pandemic — was the series first under 20,000 since Game 8 of the 1986 affair, when 16,828 attended a Monday afternoon game when the teams finished the first seven games tied 3-3-1.
In the kind of snit Yomiuri is famous for, its TV network cut away the game’s only live broadcast for commercials instead of airing Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo’s postgame interview. This is reminiscent of the Yomiuri Shimbun’s coverage of Game 6 of the 1996 series.
That year, every newspaper in Japan had a front page photo of Ichiro Suzuki and the Orix BlueWave celebrating their Japan Series championship, except Japan’s top financial paper, the Nikkei Shimbun and the Yomiuri, whose team lost.
For the second straight day, the Lotte Marines took the lead at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome and couldn’t hold it as Akira Nakamura homered twice in a 6-4 win to clinch the Pacific League forplay series in two games.
It was a little out of character for the Hawks’ veteran, who never chases and instead waits for fat pitches in the zone to drive for base hits. He appeared to be waiting for something low from Chen in both the second and fourth innings after Alfredo Despaigne singled.
Nakamura’s second homer made it 4-3 but Chen then threw a high straight fastball to Nobuhiro Matsuda who put on his Cookie Monster costume and ate all of it.
Marines rookie Hisanori Yasuda had another super day. After homering in Game 1, he put a beautiful swing on a good pitch in the first inning to double in two runs. He also made a couple of solid plays at third, and doubled and scored in the seventh.
Livan Moinelo pitched the Hawks out of trouble in the seventh and retired the Marines in the eighth and was awarded with the win, while Yuito Mori loaded the bases in the ninth before nailing down his second save.
The Hawks extended their record postseason win streak to 12 games, starting after they lost Game 1 of the 2019 Climax Series first stage.
Time for a rematch
The Japan Series, starting on Saturday at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome will be the 13th between the Hawks and Giants, the most between any two teams, and their second in two seasons.
The Giants have currently tied the franchise’s worst streak of not winning a Japan Series for seven consecutive seasons, set between 1974 and 1980.
With one big exception, another unbelievably home run from the amazing Yuki Yanagita, the Lotte Marines swung the bat better in their 3-3 loss in Saturday’s first game of the Pacific League Climax Series to the SoftBank Hawks.
Hawks ace Kodai Senga gave up three runs, the first two on decent second-inning pitches that resulted in a single and a Hisanori Yasuda home run. He gave up another in the third when he paid for mistakes to Tatsuhiro Tamura and Takashi Ogino. The Marines have done well all year to adjust to the Hawks and prepare for them, and this one looked it was going to be another one of those days.
Mima, too, made mistakes, probably more than Senga, but got away with them in the first inning, but not in the sixth, when the Hawks tied it on an error.
The Hawks should have scored a run in the first, but Ogino robbed them of a leadoff single before they loaded the bases with one out and ended it on a double play. Yanagita cut the lead in the fourth to 2-1 with a home run over the wall in center off an improbably low pitch.
Mima then got out of a jam in the fifth. Shortstop Yudai Fujioka tried to barehand a chopper and whiffed. The ball rolled toward left, and Taisei Makihara reached on a leadoff infield double. A walk on a dubious 3-2 pitch put two on, but Takuya Kai struck out foul bunting pitches out of the zone. With two out and two in scoring position, Akira Nakamura appeared to be the victim of makeup calls from the ump. He took a dubious 3-1 strike and another on 3-2 to end it.
The end for Mima came in the sixth. Yanagita and Yurisbel Gracial singled off mistakes and a sacrifice put the tying run in scoring position. Alfredo Despaigne singled off Taiki Tojo, and Makihara chopped one to second with Gracial at third. Second baseman Shogo Nakamura looked the lead runner back, tagged Despaigne for the second out, and threw to first, where Seiya Inoue dropped the ball.
Gracial, broke for home as Nakamura threw, and Inoue’s drop allowed him to score the tying run as he slid in head-first.
Livan Moinelo worked a 1-2-3 eighth and got the win in relief after Hirokazu Sawamura surrendered the lead in the home half on two walks and two infield singles. Takuya Kai hit another chopper to Fujikoka, who fielded it but couldn’t nail the runner at first.
“Hey. A hit is a hit,” Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said.
Yuito Mori then did the honors in the ninth with another 1-2-3 inning.
The Climax Series gives the league champs a one-win advantage in the final stage, while the home team wins all tie (games are tied after 12 innings), and all games are played at the higher-seeded team’s park. This year’s PL series was cut from two stages to one, with the final stage reduced from six games to four. The Hawks’ one-win advantage means they have a 2-0 lead and should the game be tied after the top of the 12th inning on Sunday, the series will be over.
There’s a lot to be said for foreplay
The series, as I’ve written before is closer to foreplay than climax, since it follows the pennant race, and only serves to pick a league’s team to the the Japan Series, where Nippon Professional Baseball’s championship is decided.
The Central League which looks on fun and a good time as some kind of threat to the purity of the game, used the pandemic as an excuse to get rid of its foreplay series, I mean CS, in a kind of return to the 2004-2006 seasons when the PL teams were playing meaningful postseason games and the CL champs were playing with themselves in intrasquad games.
Ramirez goes out with win against Giants
Alex Ramirez, who won both of his CL MVP awards with the Yomiuri Giants, finished his managing term with the DeNA BayStars with a 5-4 come-from-behind win at Yokohama Stadium against his former team.
Ramirez received flowers and hugs from his former Giants skipper, Tatsunori Hara, who urged him to make a comeback, “I told him to get back in the game.”
Active roster moves 11/14/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/24
Kodai Senga (11-6) got a late start to the season but qualified for the Pacific League’s ERA title with eight innings in the SoftBank Hawks’ 2-0 win on Wednesday at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, over the Lotte Marines, who fell into third place, a game behind the Seibu Lions for the final playoff spot.
The Hawks’ win left them tied in their season series against Lotte after the three-time defending Japan Series champs starting the season 4-11-1 against the Marines.
With nine strikeouts over eight innings, Senga now leads the league with a 2.16 ERA and is tied with Orix’s Yoshinobu Yamamoto for the strikeout lead with 149 and tied with Hideaki Wakui for the lead in wins.
The Hawks scored on solo homers by Alfredo Despaigne, his sixth, and Ryoya Kurihara, his 17th, off former major leaguer Chen Wei-yin (0-3), and have now beaten the Marines in seven straight games. Yuito Mori notched his 32nd save.
Spangenberg, Lions feast on rookie Yoshida
Corey Spangenberg homered for the second straight night and drove in four runs as the Seibu Lions tattooed rookie Kosei Yoshida (0-2) for eight runs over two innings in a 10-3 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at MetLife Dome.
Zach Neal (6-8) allowed three runs over five innings to pick up the win. Shuta Tonosaki homered, drove in two runs and scored three, and Reed Garrett worked a scorless inning of relief for the Lions.
Buffaloes bounce Eagles
The Orix Buffaloes broke an eighth-inning tie with two runs off Alan Busenitz (1-4) in an 8-7 win at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome over the Rakuten Eagles, who fell 3-1/2 games out of the final playoff spot with four games left to play.
Orix lit up Hideaki Wakui for six runs over five innings before the visitors came back to tie it.
Endo goes distance for Carp
Atsushi Endo (5-6) threw a four-hitter for the Hiroshima Carp in a 5-1 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Hisayoshi Chono went 2-for-3 with two walks a homer three RBIs and his first stolen base since he was with the Giants two years ago, while Jose Pirela had three hits for the Carp.
Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto went 0-for-4 to remain three hits shy of 2,000 in his career.
Fujinami goes 6 scoreless innings in Tigers’ win
Shintaro Fujinami overcame three two-out walks to go six scoreless innings in the Hanshin Tigers’ 3-2 walkoff win over the Yakult Swallows at Koshien Stadium.
Yusuke Oyama homered in the ninth off Yugo Umeno (4-2) to end it and make a winner out of closer Robert Suarez (3-1) after the Swallows tied it with single runs in the seventh, off Suguru Iwazaki, and in the eighth, off Jon Edwards.
Takahashi lifts Dragons over ‘Stars
Dragons captain Shuhei Takahashi scored twice and hit a tie-breaking eighth-inning home run in a 5-4 win at Nagoya Dome after the DeNA BayStars tied it on home runs by Neftali Soto and Jose Lopez.
Soto’s 25th made it a 4-1 game in the fifth and Lopez’s 12th, with two on, tied it in the sixth.
Kodai Senga fastest NPB starter to 1,000 Ks
SoftBank Hawks right-hander Kodai Senga, whose family name literally means “1,000 celebrations,” notched his 1,000th strikeout in his 855-1/3 inning on Wednesday night at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Only Kyuji Fujikawa, the longtime former closer of the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers, who will retire this year, reached 1,000 in fewer innings. Fujikawa notched 92 of his strikeouts in 102 career innings as a starter, but he was primarily used as a reliever whose 243 saves are fourth-most in NPB history.
Senga, however, took over the Pacific League record from Hall of Famer Hideo Nomo. Senga started his career as a reliever and has pitched 82 career innings out of the bullpen. Signed after being taken in the developmental draft, Senga notched his first strikeout on April 30, 2012, fanning Lotte catcher Tomoya Satozaki, who was working the game as an analyst on TV Tokyo.
Active roster moves 11/4/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/14
Three-run homers by Shuhei Fukuda and Hisanori Yasuda lifted the Lotte Marines to a 6-3 win over the Seibu Lions on Saturday at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Fukuda’s homer canceled out two by the Lions, a Takumi Kuriyama solo shot and two-run homer by Fumikazu Kimura. After Friday’s game was decided 1-0 by Ernesto Mejia’s solo homer, all10 runs scored in two game have crossed the plate on home runs.
Reed Garrett made his first start for the Lions after beginning the season with some success as their setup man. The right-hander was pulled after issuing his first walk, leaving two on with two outs in the third inning. The next pitcher issued a walk to load the bases, but retired Yasuda to end the inning.
Marines closer Naoya Masuda allowed the tying run to come to the plate in the ninth but held on to record his Japan-best 27th save.
Snappy answers to stupid questions
The loss meant the Lions, the two-time defending Pacific League champions, can no longer win the league under their own power. Asked the obligatory questions about the significance of this event that nobody seems to care about except Japanese sports editors, Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji said, “We don’t care about things like that.”
Yanagita homers in Hawks’ cleanup battle
A day after the SoftBank Hawks employed light-hitting utility infielder Keizo Kawashima in the No. 4 spot, Yuki Yanagita, the Pacific League’s premier hitter, took over the cleanup duties and homered in a 2-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Instead of Kawashima, with a career .254/.335/.363 slash line, Yanagita took over. Easily Japanese ball’s most productive hitter over the last seven seasons, opened the scoring in the second with his 25th home run, this one to the opposite field off Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (5-8) who took the complete-game loss.
Yanagita is one of only two players in Japanese pro baseball history to lead his league in on-base percentage and slugging average in four straight years (2015-2018).
This led to another memorable Hawks hero interview as Yanagita deadpanned about his competition with Kawashima for the No. 4 spot, although it probably doesn’t match the time Seiichi Uchikawa and Tsuyoshi Wada suggested a powerful God lived in the restroom behind the Hawks’ bench.
Q: How did you feel going up to bat in the second inning?
Yanagita: “Keizo batted fourth yesterday, and even though he got results, I usurped his spot. Because of that, I felt I had to do more to make up for his production we lost.”
Q: Kawashima was the hero yesterday, and now you’re the cleanup hitter and your a hero, too. Is there something special about being the Hawks’ cleanup hitter?
Yanagita: “To be honest, my only feeling was one of anxiety about whether I could compare favorably with Keizo.”
Kudo: “Cut that shit out”
Veteran Hawks outfielder Akira Nakamura was hurt sliding head-first into second legging out a double and was taken out of the game. He’s one of the hardest players in Japan to get a swinging strike against, and skipper Kimiyasu Kudo spoke about the incident afterward.
“He wanted the extra-base and thought he could get it, but from my point of view, I want him to be more careful, so I told him to forget about doing that stuff,” Kudo said.
Asamura hits 29th HR in Eagles’ win
The Rakuten Eagles shook off the loss of slugger Stefen Romero in the first inning as Hideto Asamura hit his Japan-best 29th home run to tie it en route to a 5-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Romero was hit in the head by a pitch in the first inning to load the bases with two outs, but reliever Koki Saito (1-1) retired veteran Ginji Akaminai to end the inning.
Steven Moya hit a two-run homer for the Buffaloes in the bottom of the first, but Asamura tied it in the third, when Akaminai singled in the go-ahead run.
Alan Busenitz allowed a run in the ninth but held on to earn his 16th save for the third-place Eagles.
Hatake, Oshiro lead Giants pastTigers
Seishu Hatake (2-3) worked 5-1/3 scoreless innings in the Yomiuri Giants’ 7-4 win over the Hanshin Tigers, who were held scoreless for eight innings at Koshien Stadium.
Takumi Oshiro’s three-run sixth-inning homer was the big hit for the Giants, who needed three pitchers to close ut the bottom of the ninth.
First-year Tigers right-hander Joe Gunkel (1-3) made his second start in Japan and trailed 2-0 through five innings. The Giants denied a Tigers run in the bottom of the fifth when Koji Chikamoto tried to score from first on a double to the gap. The relay from center fielder Yoshihiro Maru to shortstop Hayato Sakamoto got the ball to Oshiro, who applied a good tag.
Chikamoto capped the Tigers’ ninth with a three-run homer before Rubby De La Rosa came on to get the final out.
Dragons hold off feisty BayStars
The Chunichi Dragons came close to blowing an eight-run lead but held on for a 9-7 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.
Closer Raidel Martinez allowed a run in the ninth but stranded the potential tying run to earn his 16th save, lifting Chunichi into third place ahead of the BayStars.
Dragons catcher Takumi Kinoshita drove in five runs with a homer and a two-run first-inning single, but the BayStars scored six runs over the final four innings to make a game out of it.
DeNA starter Haruhiro Hamaguchi (6-5) allowed eight runs over 1-1/3 innings.
Carp slaughter Swallows
Rookie Masato Morishita (7-3) allowed six hits and a walk while striking out five in the Hiroshima Carp’s 13-2 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
With the Carp leading 13-0 in the bottom of the eighth, reliever Yasunori Kikuchi lost control of a ball that went behind Norichika Aoki, knocking him to the ground and out of the game.
As Tetsuto Yamada took his spot in the batter’s box, first base coach Ryosuke Morioka approached home plate, benches emptied and pushing and shoving ensued. Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu then informed the umpires he was playing the game under protest. It was NPB’s first protest of the season.
Swallows starter Albert Suarez (4-1) allowed four runs on 10 hits and a walk over 6-1/3 innings to take the loss.
Romero stretchered off field
Rakuten Eagles outfielder Stefen Romero was carried off the field in the top of the first inning on Saturday at Kyocera Dome after being struck on the helmet by a 145-kph pitch from Taiwan right-hander Chang Yi, who earned the automatic ejection for a “dangerous pitch.”
Chang, known here by the Japanese reading of his name’s Chinese characters, “Cho Yaku,” was the fifth pitcher ejected this season for hitting a batter in the head and the third in the Pacific League.
Despaigne to miss 2-3 weeks
The SoftBank Hawks announced Saturday that Best Nine-winning designated hitter Alfredo Despaigne will miss two to three weeks due to a bone bruise on his right tibia.
The 34-year-old Cuban complained of pain in his right knee on Thursday.
“Once the inflammation goes down, he should quickly be able to move again,” Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said.
Active roster moves 10/3/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/13