Tag Archives: Daichi Suzuki

NPB 2020 Sept. 17

Tigers crush Giants

Yuki Nishi (7-3) threw his second-straight four-hit shutout as the Hanshin Tigers bedeviled Angel Sanchez (4-3) in an 11-0 Central League win at Tokyo Dome on Thursday.

Koji Chikamoto launched a high-straight fastball from Sanchez to open the game and the Tigers simply overran the Giants. Sanchez issued a two-out bases-loaded walk in the first and then caught a break with a doubtful interference call when second baseman Akihiro Wakabayashi cut in front of the runner from first to get a slow chopper and clipped him with his hand.

In a three-run second, Tigers captain Kento Itohara scored from first on a single to center, speeding home from third when center fielder Yoshihiro Maru made a lazy lob of his throw to the infield.

The Tigers win snapped an eight-game losing streak at Tokyo. Chikamoto homered again in the sixth for his second two-homer game of the series and Justin Bour homered in the seventh to make it 7-0.

“Yano wasn’t really at his best. He worked really carefully. When he doesn’t have a lot of room for error, that’s when you see his real skill,” said Tigers manager Akihiro Yano, who was also asked about Chikamoto’s success at Tokyo Dome.

“Does he do well in this park? Is that really a thing?”

Giants manager Tatsunori Hara, who stirred a national debate on Aug. 6 by using utility man Daiki Masuda as an emergency pitcher–something rarely seen in Japan–sent his top pinch-runner to the bullpen late in the game to warm him up but he didn’t take the mound.

Giants-Tigers highlights.

Enemies of the Peoples: Baby Swallows a hit

Rookie Taiki Hamada homered in a three-run fifth inning to chase Michael Peoples (2-2) as a pair of 2018 Yakult draftees took center stage in a 9-0 win for the Swallows over the DeNA BayStars at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

The hosts got on the board in the second when 36-year-old Tomotaka Sakaguchi singled and scored on a throwing error when shortstop Tatsuhiro Shibata airmailed his short throw to second on a force play.

The 20-year-old Hamada, a fourth-round pick, homered to open the fifth. Alcides Escobar followed with his second double and scored on a double by his former Kansas City Royals teammate Norichika Aoki.

Sakaguchi plated Aoki with a sac fly to close the book on Peoples, and 23-year-old Shota Nakayama, the Swallows’ second pick in 2018, homered off nominal closer Yasuaki Yamasaki with one out in the sixth. Nakayama tied a 44-year-old team record of three pinch-hit home runs in a month set by Hall of Famer Katsuo Osugi.

Yakulty yak

Osugi is best known for a home run that ignited the most famous protest in Japan Series history.

The 1978 series MVP hit one down the line in the sixth inning that saw Hall of Fame manager Toshiharu Ueda pull his team off the field at Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium, delaying the game for 1 hour and 16 minutes. This led the Pacific League to punish teams pulling their players off the field with a forfeit–a rule that was not adopted in the Central League or in the  Japan Series–where Chunichi Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai did it in Game 1 of the 2004 series.

Hawks get emotional

Akira Nakamura, who along with superstar Yuki Yanagita is now the second big wheel in the SoftBank Hawks’ offense, singled to help break up a scoreless tie in the ninth inning of a 2-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.

The Hawks are now mourning Wednesday’s death of longtime conditioning coach Takashi Kawamura at the age of 55. The 30-year-old Nakamura, who has spent much of the last two years with the team’s rehab group where he worked a lot with the trainer, was asked to take part in the postgame hero interview, where the interviewer did what “hero” interviewers tend to do when a team or a player is dealing with a death, ask the player over and over about the deceased.

Nakamura sounded both heartfelt and patient dealing with the incessant badgering.

“Kawamura-san helped me from the time I came out of high school. He invited me to train in the offseason with him and he taught me what it means to be a pro,” Nakamura said. “I owe him so much. Extending my career as long as I can take it will be my way of repaying my debt of gratitude.”

The game was tremendous pitchers’ duel between natives of Urama, Okinawa Prefecture (population 121,843), Nao Higashihama (4-1) the Hawks’ Opening Day starter, and Kenta Uehara (0-1) of the Fighters.

The Hawks defense turned the Fighters back in the third and the sixth. Higashihama made a great play on a safety squeeze in the third to cut down a runner at the plate. In the sixth, Christian Villanueva was out trying to advance from second on a foul fly by right fielder Ryota Nakamura.

Uehara threw 90 pitches through eight innings and came out in the ninth. He issued a leadoff walk, and Nakamura singled only after fouling off two attempts.

“I felt like I had to gain some redemption after being unable to get a bunt down,” Nakamura said of his 1,000th career hit on a ground smash fumbled at third.

Yurisbel Gracial singled in one run, and the second run–the one Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo had not been playing for–scored on an error. The two-run edge allowed closer Yuito Mori to overcame a tremendous opposite-field homer by Sho Nakata to record his 22nd save.

Graceless under pressure

The postgame interviews following a death can be awfully trying. Generally, the questioner isn’t satisfied until he gets some grand emotional response and hopefully tear. This happened famously when current Eagles pitcher Yuya Fukui was a rookie with the Hiroshima Carp and was asked to comment on the death of his brother.

These pitiless interviewers typically ask, “Don’t you think the deceased is looking down on you from heaven now and smiling?”

The nadir came after one player’s wife died after a long illness, that those around him said was exacerbated by his womanizing and shabby treatment of her. In his first hero interview that spring, he was asked the routine interview questions, the tears flowed, and the fans were pleased.

Marines maul Lions every which way

The Lotte Marines bunted the Seibu Lions senseless in a two-run second inning and Leonys Martin hit his 21st and 22nd home runs to back Daiki Iwashita (5-5) in an 8-1 win at MetLife Dome.

Ikuhiro Kiyota opened the second with a double off 38-year-old lefty Tetsuya Utsumi (1-2), who then nearly collided with catcher Tomoya Mori as they both chased a sacrifice bunt that Mori fumbled for an error.

Kiyota held at second on the play, and when the Marines tried again to bunt him over, Mori’s throw to third sailed and a run scored. The second run came home on a safety squeeze and the Marines never looked back.

Iwashita, who struck out Lions cleanup hitter Hotaka Yamakawa three times, allowed a run in the ninth, giving up four hits and a walk while striking out five over eight-plus innings.

Matsui wins duel of former closers

Rakuten Eagles lefty Yuki Matsui (2-3) allowed two runs over five innings to beat Hirotoshi Masui (0-2) in a battle of former closers in a 5-4 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Hotto Motto Field Kobe.

Eagles first baseman Daichi Suzuki made the play of the day diving to catch a foul pop and end the bottom of the first. He then singled with two outs in the third and scored on Kazuki Tanaka’s sixth home run.

Alan Busenitz allowed an unearned run in the ninth, and wrapped up his 11th save when Suzuki made a good play in foul territory to end it with two runners on.

Jones deactivated

Adam Jones was deactivated with a stiff lower back, and was replaced on the active roster by Aderlin Rodriguez, who singled in a run in the Buffaloes’ two-run fourth.

Carp ace Osera has surgery

Daichi Osera, the Opening Day starter for the Central League’s Hiroshima Carp the past two seasons, has undergone right shoulder surgery the team announced Wednesday.

No timeline was given for the 29-year-old right-hander’s return, but he will likely miss the rest of the season after having arthroscopic surgery to clean out the joint at a hospital in Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture.

Osera opened the season with back-to-back complete games for first-year manager and former Carp pitcher Shinji Sasaoka. He has twice been deactivated for “poor form.”

Marines’ Hermmann out of action

Lotte Marines reliever Frank Herrmann was deactivated Wednesday after he was diagnosed with tendon damage in his right index finger. He reportedly will refrain from throwing for two weeks.

Active roster moves 9/17/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/27

Central League

Activated

SwallowsP14Hirotoshi Takanashi
SwallowsOF65Shotaro Tashiro

Dectivated

DragonsP29Daisuke Yamai
SwallowsP64Ren Kazahari
SwallowsOF50Tsuyoshi Ueda

Pacific League

Activated

BuffaloesP17Hirotoshi Masui
BuffaloesIF42Aderlin Rodriguez
BuffaloesOF1Steven Moya

Dectivated

HawksP13Akira Niho
BuffaloesC62Katsuki Yamazaki
BuffaloesOF10Adam Jones

Starting pitchers for Sept. 18, 2020

Pacific League

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

Nick Martinez (1-4, 3.49) vs Toshiya Nakamura (2-2, 3.80)

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

Taisuke Yamaoka (0-3, 3.09) vs Zach Neal (3-5, 4.68)

Hawks vs Eagles: PayPay Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Matt Moore (2-1, 2.60) vs Ryota Ishibashi (1-3, 6.88)

Central League

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

Albert Suarez (2-0, 0.78) vs Hiroki Tokoda (1-5, 5.34)

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

Shoichi Ino (5-4, 3.23) vs Shosei Togo (7-3, 2.37)

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

Yuya Yanagi (3-4, 3.10) vs Onelki Garcia (2-5, 3.93)

NPB 2020 7-18 games and news

Lions hold off Eagles in home run derby

Sixth-inning home runs by Hotaka Yamakawa and Takeya Nakamura lifted the Seibu Lions to a 4-3 win over the Rakuten Eagles on Saturday afternoon.

In a matchup between two pitchers who depend on mixing their pitches and changing speeds, Eagles lefty Takahiro Shiomi (1-3) got away with his early location issues in a 1-2-3 first inning, but Lions starter Wataru Matsumoto (1-2) didn’t.

The Lions’ right-hander surrendered two first-inning home runs, and the Lions trailing 3-0 for the first five innings didn’t catch up until too many pitches in the middle of the strike zone caught up with Shiomi.

Eigoro Mogi got the Pacific League leaders off to a solid start at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

The leadoff man reached the seats on a 2-0 fastball in the heart of the zone. With one out, Jabari Blash singled off a 3-2 cutter that missed up. Matsumoto popped up the toughest hitter in the Eagles lineup, Hideto Asamura, but Hiroaki Shimauchi got a mistake and didn’t miss.

Matsumoto’s first-pitch, an 87 mph fastball in the heart of the zone, was running away from Shimauchi, but the left-handed hitter got all of it and drove it into the right field stands for a 3-0 lead.

Matsumoto got away with another bad miss in the middle of the zone to Stefen Romero, who grounded out to end the inning.

Shiomi who looked to have conquered his poor location at the end of the first, went back to making dangerous mistakes in the second but again got away with murder. With one out and Tomoya Mori on second from a double. The lefty hung a 2-0 curve in the heart of the zone that Takumi Kuriyama watched for a strike before having a word with himself for the missed opportunity. Kuriyama walked but Shiomi threw three good pitches to Cory Spangenberg to keep the Lions off the board.

The Eagles got a beachhead on the bases in the third with a gritty leadoff walk from Daichi Suzuki, but Matsumoto got out of the inning when Hideto Asamura grounded a tough pitch up the middle to second baseman Shuta Tonosaki, who started a nifty double play with a flip to shortstop Sosuke Genda.

The double play combo set the table for the Lions in the sixth with back-to-back groundball singles.

Genda opened by smacking a high first-pitch splitter between first and second for a single. Tonosaki, who’d made two outs seeing nothing but the lefty’s splitters, fouled off two good ones and took one in the dirt to run the count 2-2. Shiomi switched to inside fastballs and eventually throw one down the middle. Tonosaki didn’t put a good swing on it but a good bounce got it through the infield.

With no outs and runners on the corners, Yamakawa got all of a first-pitch fastball and just missed hitting the park’s left field merry-go-round on a hop with his eighth home run.

Nakamura, who missed a high splitter en route to a 3-2 count, didn’t miss the second one he saw up in the zone. A six-time PL home run champ, Nakamura broke the 3-3 tie with his third home run of the season.

With the lead in hand, Katsunori Hirai came out of the bullpen in the bottom of the sixth and worked around a two-out single. Rookie Tetsu Miyagawa surrendered a one-out double to Mogi, but retired the persistent Suzuki for the second out.

With Blash and Asamura waiting in the wings, Lions skipper Hatsuhiko Tsuji turned the ball over to new import Reed Garrett, who has been rock solid in late relief.

Garrett retired Blash to strand Mogi. His 1-2-3 eighth, and that of closer Tatsushi Masuda closed it out, with Masuda earning his seventh save.

Matsumoto, who ended the Eagles fifth with Suzuki on base by retiring Asamura for the third time, allowed three runs on two walks and six hits.

Shiomi left after 5-2/3 having allowed four runs on nine hits and a walk. He struck out two. J. T. Chargois stranded a runner in the sixth and worked around two seventh-inning walks.

Right-hander Tohomhito Sakai worked the eighth for the Eagles, while former Lion and San Diego Padre submariner Kazuhisa Makita worked a scoreless ninth.

Lions accuse Eagles fans of cheating

Seibu Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji on Saturday discovered another problem related to the coronavirus, an opportunity for fans to give the home team an unfair advantage.

Tsuji told umpires during the Lions’ game in Sendai that someone in the stands was giving away where Lions catcher Tomoya Mori was setting up before pitches during the at-bats of the hometown Rakuten Eagles, the Nikkan Sports reported.

In response, home plate umpire Tetsuo Yamaji issued a warning to fans and the Eagles posted extra security behind home plate. With fans forbidden to shout or cheer and only 5,000 fans allowed into games this month on account of the novel coronavirus pandemic, voices can easily be heard in what otherwise would be a constant wall of sound as each team’s cheering sections blast out chants accompanied by horns and drums.

“The batter can hear that, really,” Tsuji said after the game. “This is no different than sign stealing. I think this is going to be a problem no matter what ballpark you’re at.”

Yanagita’s monster blast boosts Hawks

The SoftBank Hawks earned a tight 2-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes on Saturday after Yuki Yanagita opened the scoring with the most impressive home run of Japan’s young season.

With Hawks right-handerShuta Ishikawa (3-0) and Buffaloes lefty Daiki Tajima locked up in a scoreless pitchers’ duel through five innings, Yanagita broke the tie with two outs in the sixth.

The lefty served up an 86 mph center-cut running fastball that the left-handed hitter leaned into and got all of. The blast hit the light ring where the stadium ceiling meets the roof over the upper deck in right field and dropped to the field.

The Hawks scored an insurance run against Tajima in the seventh before Buffaloes catcher Kenya Wakatsuki homered off submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi in the bottom of the inning.

Orix’s Tyler Higgins worked a scoreless ninth, but Hawks closer Yuito Mori retired the heart of the Buffaloes order 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning to record his fourth save.

Marines overcome lapses to crush Fighters

Right-hander Atsuki Taneichi surrendered two solo home runs, but those proved to be the only two points of light in an otherwise dark day for the Nippon Ham Fighters in a 5-2 loss to the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.

The visitors took a one-run lead in the first. Takashi Ogino reached on a leadoff infield single, went to third on an errant pickoff throw from Fighters lefty Takayuki Kato and scored on a Ikuhiro Kiyota double.

Toshitake Yoko and Ryo Watanabe hit second-inning home runs for the Fighters, and Kato pitched out of a one-out jam in the third, but that proved to be the end of the Nippon Ham highlight reel.

A leadoff single in the third gave the Fighters an opportunity to pad their lead against Taneichi. Instead, their final hit of the game set up the first of three double plays they would ground into.

Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama went to his second pitcher, former Cleveland Indians farm hand Toru Murata (0-1), but the right-hander was ineffective.

A hit batsman, a Shogo Nakamura double and a sac fly from Hisanori Yasuda tied it. After a one-out walk, reserve catcher Tomoya Kakinuma doubled in two runs. Yasuda added a seventh-inning homer to complete the scoring.

Taneichi (2-1) allowed three hits and two walks while striking out three over seven innings. Frank Herrmann worked the eighth for the Marines, while Naoya Masuda earned his eighth save.

Giants’ Sanchez stops BayStars

Angel Sanchez (3-2) spun eight easy scoreless innings before allowing two runs in the ninth in the Yomiuri Giants’ 4-2 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.

No-out singles in the second by a rejuvenated Hiroyuki Nakajima and Zelous Wheeler set the table for a three-run inning against BayStars lefty Shota Imanaga (2-2) .

Lefty Kota Nakagawa, who saved 16 games last season as the Giants’ closer before the acquisition of Rubby De La Rosa, worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth to record his first save.

Nishi goes distance to slay Dragons

Yuki Nishi (2-1), who since 2017 has had the worst average run support among any Japanese starting pitcher, threw five scoreless innings before suddenly presented with an eight-run lead, promptly allowed three.

The right-hander struck out seven over the distance and drove in a run with a squeeze in the Tigers’ 8-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Koshien Stadium.

Nishi: ‘A player’s got to play’

Pitcher Yuki Nishi was as they say, “as motivated as ever” on Saturday, three days after one of Japan’s scandal-filled weekly magazines published an account of his extramarital indulgences with a Tigers fan in Mie Prefecture while Japan was in a state of emergency, Kyodo News reported in Japanese.

“At this critical time, I became a nuisance,” he said in his postgame hero interview at Koshien Stadium. “I think I need to make it up through my play.”

The Tigers have one of the largest followings in Japanese baseball.

What dreams are made of

One year, former captain Takashi Toritani was punished for inviting a female fan to his room during spring training. The team criticized him for not upholding his responsibility “to give hopes and dreams to the fans.”

Former Tigers coach Tom O’Malley said of the incident, “I was in the next room. He sounded like he was busy giving at least one fan a whole night’s worth of hopes and dreams.”

Ogawa improves to 4-0 with win over Carp

Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa allowed two runs over six innings to earn his Central League-best fourth win as the Yakult Swallows beat the Hiroshima Carp 9-4 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Ogawa (4-0) scattered seven hits, two walks and a hit batsman while striking out four and singled in a run that briefly gave the Swallows a 2-1 lead in the second.

Yakult took the lead for good in the fifth. Tetsuto Yamada, back in the lineup for the first time in four days, doubled with one out in the fifth. Walks by Norichika Aoki and Munetaka Murakami, who scored twice and drove in three, loaded the bases.

Naoki Nishiura and Alcides Escobar followed with back-to-back RBI singles that put Yakult up 5-2.

Active roster moves 7/18/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/28

Central League

Activated

GiantsP53Yuhei Takanashi
BayStarsOF37Taishi Kusumoto

Dectivated

GiantsIF37Akihiro Wakabayashi
BayStarsP15Shoichi Ino

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesP21Yoshinao Kamata
BuffaloesP39Keisuke Kobayashi

Dectivated

EaglesP72Shun Ikeda
BuffaloesP30Kohei “K” Suzuki

The kotatsu league: Rakuten snaps up former Buffalo Romero

The Rakuten Eagles on Monday announced they have reached an agreement on a 2020 contract with 31-year-old outfielder Stefen Romero, who spent the past three seasons with the Pacific League rival Orix Buffaloes.

The signing gives Rakuten a third hard-hitting imported position player to go with third baseman Zelous Wheeler and right fielder Jabari Blash.

Romero, who played in only 81 games in 2019, dealt all season with a neck issue that he said would require a month of rest. On April 19, he suffered a right oblique tendon injury in Sendai that kept him out for nearly a month. He was again deactivated for a month from June 23 due to inflammation in a right oblique tendon. On Sept. 3, he hurt his right knee running the bases, but returned 10 days later.

Despite all those troubles, he posted a .305 batting average leading to a .363 OBP. Those numbers were likely skewed by good luck. After a .282 average when not homering or striking out from 2017-2018, Romero’s figure in 2019 was .385 in 295 at-bats last season.

Romero, who said he now makes use of a Rapsodo device in his offseason workouts, has become an extreme flyball hitter compared to how he was when he arrived with Orix in 2017 according to Delta Graphs.

His English language NPB page is HERE.

Romero is the sixth veteran the Eagles have acquired this winter, having brought in a trio of Lotte Marines (infielder Daichi Suzuki and right-handers Hideaki Wakui and Tomohito Sakai, former San Diego Padre and Seibu Lions submariner Kazuhisa Makita, and former Los Angeles Dodgers reliever J. T. Chargois.

The Sendai-based Eagles finished third in the Pacific League last season behind the two-time defending PL champion Seibu Lions and the three-time defending Japan Series champion SoftBank Hawks. They ranked seventh among NPB’s 12 teams in both pitching and fielding according to Bill James‘ Win Shares, but dead last in offense.

The Eagles have never reached the postseason in an even-numbered year, finishing sixth, fifth, sixth, fourth, sixth, fifth and sixth.

The kotatsu league: Wakui to join former Lions teammates in Sendai

The Rakuten Eagles’ cadre of former Seibu Lions players was increased by one on Thursday when former Lions ace Hideaki Wakui moved to Sendai in a cash transaction from the Lotte Marines.

The Eagles, who finished third in the Pacific League this season, signed 2018 PL RBI champ Hideto Asamura away from the Lions last winter, when he joined Wakui’s successor as Lions ace, Takayuki Kishi. Eagles general manager Kazuhisa Ishii, a former teammate of Wakui’s has also brought in former Lions and San Diego Padres submarine righty Kazuhisa Makita this winter.

Wakui’s English NPB page is HERE.

While the Eagles have lost inning-eating starting pitcher Manabu Mima to the Marines as a free agent, they have signed former free-agent infielder Daichi Suzuki from Lotte.

The 33-year-old Wakui left Seibu as a free agent after the 2014 season to play for former Lions skipper Tsutomu Ito at Lotte, and one can be forgiven for thinking these Seibu connections are kind of like an extended hillbilly family.

Former Eagles Herrmann, Ono enlist with Marines

In addition to allowing Wakui to join his former teammates in Sendai, the Marines also announced Thursday the signing of former Eagles right-handers 35-year-old Frank Herrmann and 23-year-old Fumiya Ono, Rakuten’s second draft pick in 2014.

Herrmann’s English NPB page is HERE. Ono’s English NPB page is HERE.

Herrman’s numbers last year from his reliever’s small sample size were a mixed bag according to Delta Graphs. He wasn’t getting batters to chase as much, but got better results with his fastball than in his previous two seasons, got weaker contact and had worse luck with balls in play.