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NPB 2020 8-6 games and news

Tigers’ late-comer Takahashi hamstrings Giants

Hanshin Tigers lefty Haruto Takahashi overpowered the Yomiuri Giants hitters en route to an 11-0 demolition of the Central League leaders at Koshien Stadium.

Takahashi, who was unable to start the season with the team due to shoulder issues, made his debut on Thursday. Relying mostly on his four-seamer, a two-seamer and a cutter, the 24-year-old was able to pinpoint the bottom of the zone and jam batters inside.

He struck out 11 over seven innings, gave up three hits on ground balls, a walk. Hayato Sakamoto’s fifth-inning fly out was the only ball the Giants managed to hit into the air.

Leading 1-0 against Cristopher Mercedes (2-4) Ryutaro Umeno walked with one out and Seiya Kinami singled. The pair executed a double steal and reserve utility man Kai Ueda doubled them both in.

Joe Gunkel worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and the Tigers broke the bank with seven runs in the home half, started by a Jerry Sands leadoff single. Justin Bour doubled in one run and Masahiro Nakatani delivered a pinch-hit grand slam to complete the celebrations.

Born to run or pitch

It’s no secret that Giants manager Tatsunori Hara loves his pinch-runners probably as much as any manager in Japanese baseball history. One year when he managed the CL all-star team, Hara famously rewarded his all-time favorite pinch-runner, Takanori Suzuki, with an undeserved spot on the CL squad.

On Thursday, with one out in the bottom of the eighth and his team now losing by 11 runs, Hara probably figured there was nowhere to make use of his favorite toy except to put him on the mound.

Masuda retired two of the three batters he faced in the heart of the Tigers order with a fastball that maxed out at 85.7 mph.

Since Japanese teams rarely have more than one or two starting pitchers taking up space on their active rosters and since games–in non-pandemic seasons–are limited to 10 innings, and teams typically–although not next week–have Mondays off, this is pretty rare. The last position player to appear in a sanctioned NPB game was Akihito Igarashi on June 3, 2000 for the Orix BlueWave and their iconoclastic skipper Akira Ogi–the same guy who had Ichiro Suzuki pitch in an all-star game.

Onuki, BayStars add to Dragons’ misery

Shinichi Onuki (4-2) worked seven innings and two relievers completed the four-hitter as the DeNA BayStars downed the Chunichi Dragons 3-0 at Yokohama Stadium.

The shutout loss was the sixth of the season for the last-place Dragons, who fell to 0-6 against DeNA this season.

Dragons lefty Takahiro Matsuba (2-2), who has been enjoying a career renaissance this year following his trade from the Orix Buffaloes, allowed three runs over four-plus innings.

BayStars reserve infielder Daisuke Nakai marked a rare start by homering in his first at-bat to lead off the second. Kazuki Kamizato homered to open the third and singled home Takayuki Kajitani in the fifth to complete the scoring.

Kenta Ishida worked a 1-2-3 eighth and Kazuki Mishima did the same in the ninth to record his fourth save since he began filling in for closer Yasuaki Yamasaki on July 29.

One of the bright spots for the Dragons was their top draft pick from 2018, infielder Akira Neo. Although he went 0-for-2 and remains hitless for his career, Neo put the ball in play twice, made a good catch in left and threw a runner out at the plate.

Another tough outing for Carp lefty Johnson

Hiroshima lefty Kris Johnson allowed five runs over three innings in the Carp’s 9-5 loss to the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Johnson, coming off one of his two quality starts this year, gave up seven hits and walked two while striking out four. His teammates took him off the hook on three home runs by Ryuhei Matsuyama, Ryosuke Kikuchi and Hisayoshi Chono and tied it in the seventh on a Seiya Suzuki RBI single.

Swallows lefty Keiji Takahashi started and allowed four runs over five innings in his worst start of the season. Scott McGough (3-0) surrendered a run on two seventh-inning singles but earned the win after Yakult scored three times in the bottom of the inning.

Journeyman reserve catcher Suguru Ino tripled against Kazuki Yabuta (0-2) and scored on a sacrifice fly. Alcides Escobar singled and two more runs came in on back-to-back two-out doubles RBI by Tomotaka Sakaguchi and Yasutaka Shiomi.

Matsui goes 5 in loss to Hawks

One of the big moves this spring for the Rakuten Eagles was taking left-handed closer Yuki Matsui and putting him back in the starting rotation.

Making his first appearance in over a month after two poor outings, Matsui (0-1) allowed three runs on eight hits and a walk in a 3-1 loss to the SoftBank Hawks at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

The diminutive southpaw was victimized by some tough hops in the infield that contributed to two of the Hawks’ runs.

On a bullpen day, Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo shook up his lineup, batting a pair of struggling big hitters, Nobuhiro Matsuda and Wladimir Balentien one, two, respectively, in his order.

The only contribution either made at the plate was when Matsuda made poor contact for an infield single in the third, allowing Yuki Yanagita to drive in the tying run with a single.

Rookie Yugo Bando (1-1) the second of seven Hawks pitchers, worked three scoreless innings to earn his first career win.

Buffaloes’ Yamazaki halts Marines

Sachiya Yamasaki (2-1) worked six scoreless innings for the Orix Buffaloes in their 3-1 win over the Lotte Marines at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Yamasaki allowed three singles and a walk while striking out four. Marines starter Daiki Iwashita (3-3) walked five batters during his six innings on the mound and one of the three runs he allowed was unearned.

With a two-run lead in the eighth, Tyler Higgins worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and Brandon Dickson a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save.

Fighters rookie Kawano earns 2nd win

Lefty Ryusei Kawano got an early three-run lead and allowed two runs over five innings for the Nippon Ham Fighters in their 5-3 win over the Seibu Lions at Seibu Dome.

Kawano (2-3) walked three and allowed four hits, including a solo home run by Ernesto Mejia, his first of the season. The lefty struck out five.

Haruki Nishikawa singled to open the bottom of the first off rookie Lions submariner Kaito Yoza (2-3), who walked Kensuke Kondo with one out. Sho Nakata doubled off the wall in left. Taishi Ota, a huge thorn in the Lions’ paw this season, doubled Nakata home to make it 3-0.

Hawks resume farm team activities

The SoftBank Hawks said Thursday that with the exception of six individuals, baseball activities have resumed at their minor league facility in Chikugo, Fukuoka Prefecture.

Even so, the team’s Western League farm games at Tama Stadium Chikugo against the Chunichi Dragons on Aug. 7 and 8, have been postponed. Following the announcement of Hasegawa’s test result on Saturday, the Pacific League game set for the Seibu Lions and Hawks in Fukuoka was also postponed.

Four players who were determined by local health officials to have had close contact with either outfielder Yuya Hasegawa, whose positive test for coronavirus was revealed Saturday, and a rehab staff member, whose result was announced Wednesday, have been ex

The rehab group shares the organization’s minor league facility with the Western League farm team and the Hawks’ third team, and for that reason, minor league activities have been suspended.

Umetsu works out with rehab group

Chunichi Dragons right-hander Kodai Umetsu reported to the team’s rehab group at Nagoya Stadium on Wednesday apparently due to discomfort in his right elbow, the Chunichi Sports reported.

The 23-year-old threw a career-high 10 innings and 127 pitches in his shutout on Sunday at Nagoya Dome in a 0-0 tie with the Yakult Swallows. He has not thrown since.

Although his condition is said not to be serious, it comes at a time when the team is in last place, eight games below .500 and two games into a stretch of nine games in nine days.

Active roster moves 8/6/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/16

Central League

Activated

TigersP29Haruto Takahashi

Dectivated

DragonsP28Kodai Umetsu

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesP1Yuki Matsui
EaglesP72Shun Ikeda
FightersP28Ryusei Kawano
BuffaloesP39Keisuke Kobayashi
BuffaloesP49Keisuke Sawada

Dectivated

HawksP29Shuta Ishikawa
EaglesP12Hiroki Kondo
EaglesP58Wataru Karashima
FightersP59Yuki Yoshida
BuffaloesP60Yu Hidarisawa
BuffaloesP68Yu Suzuki
BuffaloesIF9Koji Oshiro

Starting pitchers for Friday, Aug. 7, 2020

Pacific League

Fighters vs Lions: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Toshihiro Sugiura (3-1, 2.28) vs Zach Neal (2-1, 4.46)

Eagles vs Hawks: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Takahiro Norimoto (3-3, 3.55) vs Nao Higashihama (2-0, 2.35)

Buffaloes vs Marines: Kyocera Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Tsubasa Sakakibara (1-1, 3.20) vs Ayumu Ishikawa (1-2, 4.23)

Central League

Swallows vs BayStars: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Daiki Yoshida (0-1, 6.57) vs Taiga Kamichatani (0-0, 5.25)

Dragons vs Giants: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yudai Ono (1-3, 3.83) vs Kazuto Taguchi (2-0, 2.25)

Carp vs Tigers: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Masato Morishita (2-2, 2.56) vs Koyo Aoyagi (4-1, 2.23)

NPB 2020 8-5 Games and news

Wakui dominates Hawks in 1-hitter

Hideaki Wakui continued to look like the best pitcher in either league this year in an impressive one-hit eight-strikeout 6-0 win over the Rakuten Eagles over the SoftBank Hawks on Wednesday.

Wakui (6-0) retired the Hawks in order in the first but labored through it. Although the visitors were unable to hit his rising fastball, Kenta Imamiya and Yuki Yanagita fouled off a total of 10 of them before they went down swinging at his slider. Although Wakui walked two batters and allowed a ninth-inning single, that first inning represented the Hawks’ best effort against him.

Tsuyoshi Wada (3-1) gave up a couple of quick no-out singles and caught a break when Hideto Asamura lined a pitch away off the end of the bat that was caught on a leap by first baseman Kenji Akashi for an out instead of going for a single.

Wakui tightened up his command from the second to keep his pitch count under control, while Wada issued leadoff walks in the third and fourth. The lefty, however, could not work around a one-out double in the fifth by Kazuki Tanaka.

Wada got ahead of Tanaka 0-2 but the PL’s 2018 rookie of the year pulled a straight fastball in the heart of the zone down the line in left. After a wild pitch put Tanaka on third, rookie Hiroto Kobukata put a good swing on a 3-1 slider that got too much of the plate and lined it into center for an RBI single.

Daichi Suzuki did a good job to get the bat head on a pitch low and away with Kobukata on the go and hit a little fly into left to put runners on the corners. Wada left a pitch up in the zone tailor-made for a sacrifice fly, and Jabari Blash did his duty with a fly to deep center. Back-to-back singles by Hideto Asamura and Hiroaki Shimauchi made it 3-0.

Wada allowed three runs on seven hits and three walks over five innings. He struck out one.

The Eagles added two more runs in the sixth off right-hander Arata Shiino and an unearned run in the eighth. Tanaka walked twice, doubled twice and scored three of the Eagles’ six runs.

Wakui did not allow a base runner until a one-out walk to catcher Hiroaki Takaya in the sixth. He retired the next seven hitters, but with two outs in the eighth, he seemed to lose his rhythm. Retiring Wladimir Balentien on one pitch when his check swing produced and easy grounder to first, seemed to surprise the right-hander. He walked the next batter before notching his first strikeout since the second.

Wakui, who appears to have practiced jokes for use in postgame hero interviews, said it wasn’t the pressure that threw him off but player coach Naoto Watanabe.

“Nobody would look me in the eye, so I guess they were all conscious of it (the no-hit bid), then after the seventh inning, I made contact with Naoto, and he started grinning at me. I started laughing and I think that threw off my concentration a bit,” Wakui said.

Whatever it was, Wakui showed no signs of it in the ninth. Athough a few of his fastballs lacked their earlier pop, the only hit the Hawks managed was Keizo Kawashima’s broken-bat one-out looper between second and short. After a meeting on the mound, Wakui struck out the last two batters, Imamiya and Yanagita to end it.

Spangenberg, Yamakawa power Lions

Cory Spangenberg and Hotaka Yamakawa each hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning as the Seibu Lions came from behind to beat Nick Martinez (1-4) on his 30th birthday and the Nippon Ham Fighters 7-2 at Sapporo Dome.

A day after he drove in six runs, Taishi Ota got the Fighters started in the second against 21-year-old Lions right-hander Sho Ito. Ota singled, took second on a wild pitch and scored on a Toshitake Yokoo single.

After managing just two hits against Martinez through five innings, the Lions took the lead with one down in the sixth. Sosuke Genda singled off a hanging knuckle curve, and Spangenberg punished a poor cutter that came in high and over the plate for his sixth homer of the season. Yamakawa followed a Tomoya Mori single with his 13th home run.

Shuta Tonosaki completed the scoring in the inning when he reached on an error, stole second and scored from third on a Fumikazu Kimura single.

Martinez allowed five runs, four earned, on six hits over 5-1/3 innings.

Ito allowed a run on one walk and five hits while striking out four.

Katsunori Hirai (4-2) earned the win in by striking out cleanup hitter Sho Nakata to end the Fighters fifth and strand two runners. Kaima Taira worked 1-2/3 innings but allowed an inherited runner to score although all five outs he recorded were on strikeouts. Reed Garrett and Tatsushi Masuda finished up with one scoreless frame each.

Marines take no prisoners in Osaka

A two-out Hisanori Yasuda double opened the scoring in the fourth and the Lotte Marines didn’t let up in a 12-1 butt-kicking of the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

The Marines opened the scoring when Shogo Nakamura singled, Leonys Martin walked and both came home on Yasuda’s no-out double to the gap in right. Although he’s not among the league leaders in hard-hit ball percentage on Delta Graphs, it seems like every ball he hits is HARD. With one out, Tsuyoshi Sugano took Yu Suzuki out for his second home run of the year and a 4-0 Lotte lead.

Suzuki (1-3) allowed eight runs over 4-2/3 runs. Marines starter Kazuya Ojima (3-3) gave up a run over six innings.

Togo beats Fujinami, defenseless Tigers

Shosei Togo (4-2) struck out 10 as he allowed a run over seven-plus innings to earn the win as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Hanshin Tigers 4-1 at Koshien Stadium.

Tigers right-hander Shintaro Fujinami (0-3) was overpowering when he could put his fastball and cutter in the zone and get hitters to chase his splitter out of the zone, but he missed often enough to allow four runs, one earned, on four hits and a walk over eight innings

Akihiro Wakabayashi made a good catch in right to end the Tigers’ second, and then singled in the game’s first run in the third against Shintaro Fujinami. Naoki Yoshikawa drew a leadoff walk and went to second on pitcher Shosei Togo’s one-out sacrifice and scored easily on Wakabayashi’s single.

The Giants padded their lead in a three-run sixth when Togo reached because Fujinami misjudged his chopper in front of the mound for an error. With one out, he made a mistake to Hayato Sakamoto, who ripped it to right for a single. A miss-hit high fastball was good for the second out, but cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto did well to launch a fastball away to the right field corner for an RBI double that came close to being caught.

Left fielder Jerry Sands then misjudged a fly to shallow left from Takumi Oshiro that fell for an RBI single and a four-run lead.

The Tigers had a chance to come back in the eighth after back-to-back singles drove Togo from the game, but Yusuke Oyama missed a fat pitch with two outs and the bases loaded to end the inning.

Hamaguchi, Sano skewer Dragons

Haruhiro Hamaguchi allowed a run over five innings and Keita Sano drove in three runs in the DeNA BayStars’ 8-2 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Yokohama Stadium.

Hamaguchi got out of a bases-loaded pickle in a scoreless first inning with the first of his eight strikeouts as Yota Kyoda couldn’t hold up on a ball in the dirt. The BayStars then opened the scoring against Yuya Yanagi, pitching on the first team for the first time in a month after suffering an oblique muscle injury.

Jose Lopez singled off the wall in left with one out and the bases loaded to score Kazuki Kamizato and Neftali Soto, who had doubled on a ball that right fielder Masataka Iryo misjudged.

The visitors got on the board in the third through Iryo’s leadoff infield single and a Yohei Oshima double but the hosts were unstoppable.

Kyoda opened the door for the BayStars to score again in the bottom of the third, when he dropped a fly at shortstop to allow the leadoff man on. After a groundout, Kamizato scored from second on a Keita Sano single.

Nomura, Carp bullpen hold off Swallows

Yusuke Nomura (2-0) allowed a run over seven innings and Shota Dobayashi scored twice in the Hiroshima Carp’s 4-1 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Rookie right-hander Hiroki Onishi (0-1), Yakult’s fourth-round pick last autumn, gave up three first-inning singles, with Ryuhei Matsuyama bringing home Dobayashi to make it 1-0 Carp, who left the bases loaded.

Takeshi Miyamoto, a reserve infielder playing while superstar Tetsuto Yamada regains fitness, homered to tie it off Nomura in the second.

Onishi pitched out of a tough spot in the third and struck out the side in the fourth, but a hard-hit infield single and a Hisayoshi Chono double put the Carp in front in the fifth. The Carp added two runs off the bullpen from Dobayashi’s eighth home run and Tsubasa Aizawa’s third.

Yakult loaded the bases in the in the eighth, but lefty Atsuya Horie pitched left the bags juiced, and Geronimo Franzua notched his third save in the ninth.

Hawks rehab group staff member tests positive

The SoftBank Hawks reported Wednesday that one staff member with the organization’s rehab group in Chikugo, Fukuoka Prefecture, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The rehab group shares the organization’s minor league facility with the Western League farm team and the Hawks’ third team, and for that reason, minor league activities have been suspended.

The Hawks tested around 200 people on Sunday the day after veteran outfielder Yuya Hasegawa, who is currently with the minor league team, tested positive. One member of the first-team staff, who was asymptomatic, has also tested positive and those who were deemed to have been in close contact with him have been sent home.

BayStars’ Austin, Marines’ Laird dropped

DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said Wednesday the team will deactivate outfielder Tyler Austin following his crash against Koshien Stadium’s right field wall on July 31 according to the Daily Sports, while the Pacific League’s Lotte Marines have deactivated third baseman Brandon Laird.

Austin hurt his neck trying to catch a fly at the wall, and it has been stiff ever since.

Laird has been serving as the Marines’ DH recently with rookie cleanup hitter Hisanori Yasuda starting in his place at third base. On Tuesday, he was pinch-hit for in the sixth inning due to a stiff back.

Active roster moves 8/5/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/15

Central League

Activated

BayStarsOF37Taishi Kusumoto
DragonsP17Yuya Yanagi
SwallowsP44Hiroki Onishi

Dectivated

BayStarsIF23Tyler Austin

Pacific League

Activated

MarinesIF68Kenji Nishimaki
BuffaloesIF64Shinya Hirosawa

Dectivated

MarinesIF54Brandon Laird
BuffaloesP26Daiki Tomei

Starting pitchers for Aug. 6, 2020

Pacific League

Fighters vs Lions: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Ryusei Kawano (1-3, 4.13) vs Kaito Yoza (2-2, 4.18)

Eagles vs Hawks: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yuki Matsui (0-0, 5.19) vs Shunsuke Kasaya (1-2, 6.94)

Buffaloes vs Marines: Kyocera Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Sachiya Yamasaki (1-1, 5.47) vs Daiki Iwashita (3-2, 3.58)

Central League

Swallows vs Carp: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Keiji Takahashi (1-1, 2.28) vs Kris Johnson (0-3, 5.14)

BayStars vs Dragons: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shinichi Onuki (3-2, 2.42) vs Takahiro Matsuba (2-1, 1.47)

Tigers vs Giants: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Haruto Takahashi (-) vs Cristopher Mercedes (2-3, 3.09)

NPB 2020 8-3 GAMES AND NEWS

Hawks report infection on 1st team staff

The Pacific League’s SoftBank Hawks on Monday reported that a member of the first team staff has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The Hawks had 87 people tested Sunday following the news on Saturday that veteran outfielder Yuya Hasegawa, who is currently with the organization’s Western League farm team, had tested positive.

NPB coronavirus timeline

The Hawks postponed Sunday’s game against the Seibu Lions at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome because the Hawks said some first-team staff and players made use of the minor league facilities and they could not guarantee none had been exposed to the virus.

The infected staff member is currently asymptomatic, but two people with the first team who have been in close contact with the man in his 30s have been quarantined.

The team had said it would postpone its games against the Rakuten Eagles but traveled to Sendai on Monday and has indicated it will play unless advised not to.

The team said it would decide how to proceed upon consulting with the local health officials and the panel of specialists who have been advising Nippon Professional Baseball and pro soccer’s J-League in how to best operate during the pandemic.

Hasegawa was the sixth player to test positive, but the first since the season started on June 19. Two other infections were discovered in the PL’s Orix Buffaloes organization. The two men, one in his 20s and one in his 40s, had become ill and are now resting at their homes.

Tigers offered Fujinami to 6 PL teams: Report

Reports have been popping up all summer about the Central League’s Tigers talking with Pacific League teams about a trade involving their former marquee pitching prospect, Shintaro Fujinami. On Monday, a Bunshun Online story suggested that the big holdup on such a deal was fear on the part of the Tigers front office that Fujinami might recover his once impressive form with another team.

Fujinami was drafted out of high school the same year as Shohei Ohtani and was at the time they turned pro the far-more polished pitcher. Ohtani had long been diligent about his physical training and took advantage of what his first pro team could teach him in that area, Fujinami never took a step forward to add muscle to his slender frame.

After four years as a pro, Fujinami spent three weeks training with Yu Darvish at the end of 2016, and added about five kilograms of muscle. Afterward he said he had done weight training virtually every day since he started high school but had never learned about the need for rest days or the basics of nutrition.

Unlike the Nippon Ham Fighters, who handed Ohtani a new strength-training menu and instruction, the Tigers apparently are one of those old-school teams that don’t interfere with players’ individual strength training, since Fujinami was virtually as skinny after four seasons as he had been coming out of high school.

Fujinami’s career went in the toilet after three seasons in which he went 35-21 with a 2.86 ERA. Under manager Tomoaki Kanemoto from 2016-2018, he went 15-19 with a 3.91 ERA. The Bunshun online article blamed the Tigers, not for mismanaging his playing, but for failing to keep him in line off the field when he moved out of the team dormitories after the 2017 season.

On July 23, Fujinami looked solid in a start against the Hiroshima Carp, and manager Akihiro Yano, who had banished the right-hander to the farm team in March for being late to practice one time too many, said he wanted Fujinami to pitch again the following week, which has yet to happen. According to the Bunshun Online story, a team official said, “That’s not the manager’s decision to make.”

Even so, his second start against the Yakult Swallows, a week later, did go ahead and was even better.

Dragons sign pitcher Rodriguez from D roster

The Central League’s Chunichi Dragons on Sunday signed 23-year-0ol Cuban right-hander Yariel Rodriguez from their developmental roster, handing a standard contract. Rodriguez has pitched in five Western League games and is 2-0 with a 0.51 ERA over 17-2/3 innings with 16 strikeouts, five hits, no home runs and six walks.

Active roster moves 8/3/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/13

Central League

Activated

None

Dectivated

GiantsP35Toshiki Sakurai
GiantsP57Kyosuke Takagi
DragonsP13Yuki Hashimoto
DragonsOF60Yuki Okabayashi

Pacific League

Activated

None

Dectivated

EaglesIF34Tsuyoshi Yamasaki

Starting pitchers for Aug. 4, 2020

Pacific League

Fighters vs Lions: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Naoyuki Uwasawa (1-1, 2.65) vs Kona Takahashi (2-3, 5.34)

Eagles vs Hawks: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hayato Yuge (2-1, 2.94) vs Kodai Senga (3-1, 4.18)

Buffaloes vs Marines: Kyocera Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yoshinobu Yamamoto (3-1, 2.74) vs Manabu Mima (2-2, 5.71)

Central League

Swallows vs Carp: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hirotoshi Takanashi (1-2, 5.26) vs Allen Kuri (1-2, 4.66)

BayStars vs Dragons: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shoichi Ino (2-2, 3.27) vs Koji Fukutani (0-0, 0.00)

Tigers vs Giants: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Onelki Garcia (0-3, 4.01) vs Tomoyuki Sugano (5-0, 1.69)

NPB has 1st viral postponement

The Pacific League’s SoftBank Hawks have postponed their Aug. 2 game with the Seibu Lions after veteran outfielder Yuya Hasegawa tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the team announced Saturday.

Although Hasegawa has not been on the active roster since he was sent down on July 7, and has not had any direct contact with players or staff from the first team, the club said that a number of people with the first team make use of the farm facilities in Chikugo, Fukuoka Prefecture, and cannot rule out the possibility of transmission.

NPB coronavirus timeline

The news comes one day after the Hawks reported that a part-timer working at their home park, Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, had tested positive.

Meanwhile, the Orix Buffaloes have reported that a second team official who is not in direct contact with the first team players or staff, has tested positive. The man in his 20s underwent testing

NPB 2020 7-23 games and news

Giants ride Mercedes in win over Dragons

Cristopher Mercedes (2-2) allowed a run over seven innings and Kazuma Okamoto’s two-run eighth-inning double broke up a tie game in for the Yomiuri Giants’ 6-1 win over the Chunichi Dragons on Thursday at Nagoya Dome.

Lefty Hiroto Fuku (1-1), who has been solid for the Dragons all season, surrendered a leadoff single thanks to some good hitting by Yoshiyuki Kamei.

Although home plate ump Fumihiro Yoshimoto had been giving away wide outside strikes like Halloween candy all game, Fuku couldn’t buy one against Hayato Sakamoto, who smacked a 3-2 cutter in the heart of the zone for a double. Yoshihiro Maru walked to load the bases for Okamoto.

The Giants cleanup hitter pulled an inside pitch past the third-base bag for a two-run double. Maru scored on a groundout before Zelous Wheeler crushed a fat first-pitch fastball for his second home run.

Mercedes struck out eight while allowing six hits, a walk and a hit batsman. He got a 1-0 lead in the fourth on catcher Takumi Oshiro’s fourth home run only for the Dragons to tie it in the sixth.

Dragonst starter Yuichiro Okano allowed a run over five innings on three hits and a walk. The right-hander struck out seven.

Dayan Viciedo, who missed Wednesday’s game after being hit by a pitch on Tuesday, had the third of three-straight singles to bring in Yohei Oshima. The right-handed hitter adjusted to Yoshimoto calling strikes well off the outside corner by diving into those and collecting two hits.

Onuki pitches BayStars past Swallows

Shinichi Onuki (2-2) allowed a hit and two walks over seven innings, and the DeNA BayStars hammered lefty Keiji Takahashi (0-1) for three runs in the first inning in a 6-0 win over the Yakult Swallows at Yokohama Stadium.

Keita Sano, a 25-year-old with fewer than 400 career plate appearances was promoted to team captain and dropped into the cleanup spot following the departure of Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. Manager Alex Ramirez has come under fire for batting him fourth. The youngster has been raking, except with runners in scoring position and had no home runs through July 21.

On Wednesday, Sano homered in the first inning to open the scoring, and on Thursday, he singled in the game’s first run and added a late two-run homer.

Takahashi (0-1) lacked some of the explosive movement he’s had on his pitches in his good outings and was missing the strike zone more than he missed bats.

Morishita wins Fujinami comeback game

Masato Morishita, the Hiroshima Carp’s first draft pick last autumn, allowed two runs on a first-inning homer but struck out 10 over six innings and earned his first win in a 4-2 victory over the Hanshin Tigers.

The rookie right-hander matched up at historic Koshien Stadium with Shintaro Fujinami, the Tigers’ top pick in the 2012 draft, whose career has been on a steady downward slide for four years. This spring, he contracted COVID-19 and was also banished to the farm team for coming late to one practice too many.

With hopes always high in Tigers land that at any moment he might regain the quality of his first few seasons and become a plus in the rotation, his return to Koshien turned Thursday’s game into a highly anticipated matchup.

Fujinami pitched out of a first-inning jam before Yusuke Oyama’s two-run homer in the first gave him the lead. The game remained 2-0 until a single and a pair of one-out walks in the sixth, which Jose Pirela converted with a two-out grand slam. The opposite-field fly just landed fair inside the right field foul pole. It was the Venezuelan’s fourth home run of the year.

“I don’t know if it was going to be a home run, but I hit it hard. At least if it fell it was going to be a double. I was always looking for fastballs. He threw me a lot of fastballs and that’s what I hit for the homer,” Pirela said.

Yoza earns 1st win as Lions clip Marines

The Seibu Lions hitters made the most of their limited opportunities and the fielders preserved a slim lead in a 3-2 win over the Lotte Marines at MetLife Dome.

Rookie submariner Kaito Yoza (1-2) allowed two runs on six hits, two walks and a hit batsman over five innings, and clutch pitching and defense kept the Marines from catching up.

Yoza surrendered a booming two-out RBI double in the first to rookie Hisanori Yasuda, who scored on a Shogo Nakamura single. Although the Marines had numerous chances, they would be unable to add on.

Rookie Shohei Suzuki led off the first with a hustling double off Daiki Iwashita (3-1) and scored when Sosuke Genda stroked a fat first-pitch fastball up the middle.

The Lions were unable to bring Genda home from second, but a Corey Spangenberg triple and a long home run, the first of rookie Seiji Kawagoe’s career, made it 3-2.

The Marines should have tied it or taken the lead in the fourth. WIth two outs and runners on second and third, Yoza somehow snared Shuhei Fukuda’s line drive for the third out. Perfect innings from Katsunori Hirai and Kaima Taira got the game to the eighth, where Reed Garrett took over for the Lions.

With two outs and pinch-runner Hiromi Oka on first, Seiay Inoue launched a drive that Suzuki tracked down and caught with a leaping grab before it struck the fence in dead center. Tatsushi Masuda then worked a scoreless ninth for his eighth save.

Fighters’ VerHagen stops Hawks

Drew VerHagen (2-1) allowed two runs over six innings, and catcher Shingo Usami belted a three-run second-inning homer in the Nippon Ham Fighters’ 3-2 win over the SoftBank Hawks at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

VerHagen surrendered a run in the bottom of the first on a leadoff walk and a Yuki Yanagita triple. But after a walk, VerHagen recorded two of his eight strikeouts to hold the Hawks to a run.

Hawks lefty Shunsuke Kasaya (0-1) retired the first five batters he faced before a walk and a Christian Villanueva single brought the light-hitting Fighters catcher to the plate. Kasaya missed with a 1-1 slider and Usami drilled it well back in the seats for his first home run since he hit for for the Yomiuri Giants in 2017.

VerHagen didn’t need much help from his defense but he did get a gem from second baseman Kenshi Sugiya to catch a flare for the third out of the third inning and rob Yanagita of a single.

The Hawks narrowed the gap in the fifth on a walk, a double and a Ryoya Kurihara sac fly, but neither team would record a hit after that as three Fighters relievers closed it out and Ryo Akiyoshi earned his sixth save.

Kasaya was pulled after three innings, but the Hawks got four stellar innings of long relief from Yugo Bando, who struck out five while allowing a walk and a single.

Mission accomplished as Buffs play for tie

For the second straight night, Orix Buffaloes skipper Norifumi turned to the sacrifice bunt when trailing in the late innings on the road. Although the Buffaloes scored six runs in the ninth on Wednesday and did better than tie, Nishimura got what he paid for this time.

Adam Jones singled in two runs as Orix came from behind to finish in a 2-2 tie with the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Lefties Hayato Yuge of the Eagles and Sachiya Yamasaki of the Buffaloes each threw five scoreless innings. Yuge worked around a leadoff single in the sixth before the Eagles scored in the home half.

Hiroto Kobukata, Rakuten’s top draft pick last autumn, and Eigoro Mogi singled to open the inning. After a Daichi Suzuki sacrifice, Kobukata did well to score around the tag at the plate after Stefen Romero’s fly to medium deep right field.

Hideto Asamura singled in a second run, but the Buffaloes got to Yuge in the eighth.

After a walk and a hit batsman, No. 2 hitter Koji Oshiro sacrificed and slugger Masataka Yoshida walked. Jones then ripped a game-tying single off Alan Busenitz and was replaced by a pinch-runner. Both teams wasted scoring opportunities before the game was called at the conclusion of the 10th inning.

NPB finally backs down on bigger crowds

Nearly a week after Japan’s government asked event promotors not to expand the sizes of their audiences from Aug. 1, Nippon Professional Baseball on Thursday said it would follow suit.

Prior to Thursday’s announcement, only two teams had said they would back from their plans to admit crowds up to half of their venues’ capacity. Since July 10, NPB and pro soccer’s J-League have limited their audiences to a maximum of 5,000 fans.

See the Kyodo News story here.

jballallen.com’s NPB coronavirus timeline.

Tigers lose Itohara with broken hand

Kento Itohara, the Hanshin Tigers’ 27-year-old second baseman broke the hamate bone in his right hand during Wednesday’s game against the Hiroshima Carp. He was deactivated on Thursday, snapping his string of playing in 312 consecutive games since Opening Day 2018.

Active roster moves 7/23/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/2

Central League

Activated

BayStarsIF23Tyler Austin
TigersP19Shintaro Fujinami
TigersP22Kyuji Fujikawa
CarpP18Masato Morishita
CarpIF4Tetsuya Kokubo

Dectivated

TigersIF33Kento Itohara
CarpP46Mikiya Takahashi
CarpOF50Hiroki Takahashi

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP44Kaito Yoza
MarinesOF7Shuhei Fukuda

Dectivated

LionsP13Kona Takahashi
MarinesOF0Takashi Ogino

We don’t matter, players do

On Monday, the Pacific League’s SoftBank Hawks announced that its two big Cuban outfielders, Alfredo Despaigne and Yurisbel Gracial, had arrived in Fukuoka and had tested negative for the coronavirus.

This is good news for the Hawks and their fans and for the two individuals, who will be happy to get back to normal. But for other residents of Japan, it is one more discouraging sign that our lives mean less than ballplayers employed by powerful corporations.

Testing our patience

Until recently, Japan put numerous hurdles in the path of citizens and residents whose doctors wanted them tested for the coronavirus. Individuals had to have a few prescribed symptoms for up to four days and then get permission from a physician in order for someone working at a call center to decide whether the case merited being added to the list of those awaiting testing.

NPB coronavirus timeline

But ballplayers and professional athletes have been different. If, like Hanshin Tigers pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, they reported losing their sense of smell or taste, they would go to the front of the testing line and have a result within 48 hours.

So far five ballplayers have tested positive for COVID-19, while everyone connected closely to pro soccer and baseball can be tested regularly in order for NPB and the J-League to resume operations.

Sports are essential

Soon after a state of emergency was ordered in April, some lawmakers suggested Tokyo’s National Training Center, where Olympic athletes train, should be reopened when private businesses were being asked to close their doors. The logic? It was essential for Japan to achieve its gold medal targets for the Olympics that the government now hopes to hold next July.

“Winning Olympic gold medals is essential,” we were told.

Of course they are essential, that’s why millions of dollars were paid in dubious fashion to help secure the event for Tokyo so that billions of dollars could be siphoned from the national treasury for a huge number of projects involved in the games.

Ballplayers are more important than us

In March, Despaigne and Gracial left Japan to receive treatment for minor injuries and train with Cuba’s national team ahead of qualifying for the 2021 World Baseball Classic.

The two remained in Cuba after qualifying was canceled and the start of Japan’s season was postponed. When Nippon Professional Baseball announced in May that its season would start on June 19, the pair were in Cuba, where international travel had been suspended.

Some fans expressed concern that even if travel was made possible between Cuba and Japan, the two would not be allowed into Japan since they are not Japanese citizens.

Currently, only Japanese citizens are allowed to enter the country. Residents of Japan, including permanent residents – many of whom are foreign nationals who have only ever lived in Japan – are barred from entry.

But if you can play baseball, いらっしゃい。(Welcome)