Hawks release, Moore, van den Hurk, Uchikawa, Colas on cut day
The Pacific League’s SoftBank Hawks parted company, at least technically with pitchers Matt Moore and Rick van den Hurk, while making longtime captain Seiichi Uchikawa free to complete a deal with the Central League’s Yakult Swallows on Wednesday.
Nippon Professsional Baseball’s teams are required to submit their reserve lists for the 2021 season on Dec. 2, the big day for releases across Japan. The moves don’t necessarily mean that neither Moore nor van den Hurk will be back with the four-time defending Japan Series champions, but it does mean they were unable to or unwilling to exercise an option to keep them.
Cuban two-way player Oscar Colas, who has been on the restricted list since Feb. 19, was released by not being placed on the Hawks’ 2021 reserve list, meaning he will be free to sign with an MLB club as an international amateur when the next international signing period opens in June.
Cuts throw import market wide open
The winter NPB market for import players heated up considerably with Tuesday’s cuts when a number of experienced players with established value were left off their clubs’ reserves list. Here’s a brief rundown:
Nippon Ham Fighters
Nakamura ambushes Marines
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.