Manager Kimiyasu Kudo and his four-time defending champion SoftBank Hawks appear to be going in a death spiral. The Hawks entered Saturday’s game with the first-place Orix Buffaloes having lost seven straight for the first time in nine years. The Hawks went up against Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who tied a franchise record.Continue reading NPB wrap 10-9-21
Fighters 4, Eagles 1
At Tokyo Dome, returning Rakuten star Masahiro Tanaka (0-1) started with seven good pitches before he began missing with his fastball, and that cost him the game, snapping his record streak of consecutive winning decisions in Japan at 28. He allowed three runs on four hits and a walk while striking out five over five innings.
Naoyuki Uwasawa (1-2), the Fighters Opening Day starter was razor sharp at the start and could easily have gone seven scoreless innings. He allowed a run on three hits and two walks while striking out seven.
Tanaka ran into trouble in the first with four high fastballs to Kensuke Kondo, Sho Nakata got a second chance when his pop fly was lost in the glare of Tokyo Dome’s translucent roof and Tanka missed with a fastball over the plate. It was Nakata’s first homer of the season.
“I think the spirt you guys invested in me all this time despite my being such a useless No. 4 hitter this year helped propel that ball out,” Nakata said of his first homer.
Nippon Ham’s Opening Day starter Naoyuki Uwasawa came out on fire, knocking down the three left-handed-hitting Eagles in the first by mixing perfectly located back-door sliders with fastballs on the outside corner. Hideto Asamura doubled to open the Eagles’ second and did well to beat the tag at home when rookie Fumiya Kurokawa celebrated his 20th birthday by singling in a grinding 10-pitch at-bat.
Tanaka, however, gave that run back with a misplaced a 1-0 fastball that Kazunari Ishii found and put in the seats for a leadoff homer in the bottom of the second. Tanaka, who is coming back from a calf-muscle injury suffered just before Opening Day, left after throwing 75 pitches in five innings.
With his slider working well and the cutter doing its job, Tanaka’s game began mimicking his MLB career as the four-seamer more or less disappeared. He went back to it now and then and threw some good ones, but it’s certain he’ll be doing his homework between now and next Saturday, when he’s slated to pitch against the Lions.
Nakata, who said his first homer against Tanaka allowed him to consider the game a reset for his season, joked about an incident a week earlier. He homered again in the sixth against former Padre Kazuhisa Makita. Nakata’s frustration had boiled over in an incident that involved him throwing his bat in the dugout and resulted in his having a swollen right eye that sidelined him for a game. “A lot of different things have happened. I had a swollen eye. And when the swelling went down, I took that as a sign that I would be destined to do the postgame hero interview,” Nakata told the fans after the game.
Hawks 7, Lions 1
At MetLife Dome, Rei Takahashi (1-1), the PL’s 2019 rookie of the year, allowed an unearned run over six inning in a comfortable start, while Nobuhiro Matsuda drove in three runs with a second-inning RBI single and a two-run fourth-inning homer off Lions lefty Shota Hamaya (1-3).
Yurisbel Gracial’s second home run in two nights made it 3-0 in the third as the Hawks piled on, allowing them to bring in Carter Stewart Jr. in the ninth for his top-flight debut.
The eighth overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft, Stewart signed a six-year deal with the Hawks in 2019. He missed with four fastballs to the first hitter, struck out the second on four pitches, jammed the third on his ninth fastball. He needed 10 pitches, one a really wild pitch, against the fourth batter he faced to end the game with a called third strike on a changeup.
Stewart’s debut sent a buzz through the crowd, but the analysts and announcers couldn’t get over his wearing No. 2 in a country where no pitchers get single digits. It just doesn’t happen, and it seemed about as intriguing to a lot of people as the zip on his fastball and the idea that a 21-year-old American could throw a good curveball.
“You usually don’t see foreign pitchers throw good curveballs,” Dave Okubo said, spoiling a night of clarity and insight on Pro Yakyu News, with an instant of mindless babble.
Marines 7, Buffaloes 2
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Orix’s defense again looked not fatal but less than confidence-inspiring behind Sachiya Yamasaki (0-2), who allowed four runs, three earned, over 6-1/3 innings. Manabu Mima held Orix to two runs over 6-2/3 innings.
Shogo Nakamura reached base four times and scored three of Lotte’s runs. Leonys Martin doubled in a run in the seventh and scored on a single and a Nakamura single that big right fielder Yutaro Sugimoto couldn’t corral in right.
Sugimoto homered for the second straight game in the bottom of the sixth to make it a 4-2 game. Adam Jones drew a pinch-hit walk to put the tying runs on for the Buffaloes with two outs, but Frank Herrmann came in to put out the fire.
Yuki Karakawa, the next man in the Marines relief corps, worked a scoreless eighth before the Marines piled on two runs in the ninth to ice it.
Giants 7, BayStars 2
At Yokohama Stadium, the Yomiuri Giants broke a 1-1 tie in a six-run sixth inning against Taiga Kamichatani (0-2) that was jump-started by a two-out intentional walk and a two-run wild pitch and powered by a three-run home run from Katsuki Kazuki, the throw-away player the Giants scooped up in last year’s salary-dump trade of current Red Sox reliever Hirokazu Sawamura.
Shosei Togo (2-1) allowed a run on four walks and three hits over six innings. The 21-year-old right-hander struck out eight.
Kamichatani was charged with all seven runs on seven hits and three walks. He struck out seven.
Dragons 5, Carp 0
At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, Chunichi’s Yuya Yanagi (1-1) did a good right-handed impression of teammate Yudai Ono, striking out a career-high 14 batters over eight innings with a lot of beautifully executed pitches. His teammates, meanwhile, eventually got good swings on a lot of pitches from Allen Kuri (3-1), who was pulled after allowing three runs through seven innings.
Yanagi pitched out of a first-inning jam by striking out Seiya Suzuki before splintering Shogo Sakakura’s bat, and escaped a bases-loaded pickle in the third by getting the Carp catcher on a comebacker.
Kuri cruised through three innings but was stung for a run in the fourth on a Yohei Oshima single, a sacrifice and hanging breaking ball that Kosuke Fukudome pulled into the right-field corner for a 1-0 Dragons lead. With Yanagi carving up the Carp, the Dragons took over. Fukudome came within a hair of a second RBI double. He turned on a low inside fastball with two outs and a runner on, but first baseman Alejandro Mejia robbed him with a diving catch.
Ariel Martinez undressed third baseman Masaya Yano with a line drive for an infield single to trigger a two-run seventh, with Akira Neo putting a good swing on a low pitch to drive in two. Fukudome contributed two a two-run eighth with a one-out single.
Lions unveil Matt Dermody
Fighters vs Eagles: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Lions vs Hawks: MetLife Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT
Buffaloes vs Marines: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT
BayStars vs Giants: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Dragons vs Carp: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Tigers vs Swallows: Koshien Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Active roster moves 4/17/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/27