On Saturday, the SoftBank Hawks held their annual “reject Kodai Senga’s plead to be posted” contract negotiation. The 26-year-old is on track to be a domestic free agent a year from now and eligible to move overseas on his own power after the 2022 season. Since GM Sugihiko Mikasa indicated a multiyear deal was ready for Senga, it seems he turned that down with the hope the club might just change its mind a year from now and post him after four years of head-shaking.
The Hawks have, according to Call to the Pen, signed Cuban pitcher Andy Rodriguez. The Hawks non-tendered pitchers Rick van den Hurk and Matt Moore, but would love to have Moore back for a second season in Fukuoka.
Tigers bulk up
The Hanshin Tigers have reached deals to import two of KBO’s outstanding imports last season, Mel Rojas Jr, and pitcher Raul Alcantara, signed lefty Chen Wei-yin, who finished the 2020 season with the Lotte Marines, and re-signed closer Robert Suarez.
Alcantara won the 2020 Choi Dong Won Award as KBO’s outstanding pitcher, while Rojas is the second straight KBO RBI leader to join the Tigers following their 2019 acquisition of Jerry Sands. Rojas, the 2020 MVP also led the league in home runs and finished third in batting average.
The Marines have come to terms with infielder Adeiny Hechevarria, the Miami Marlins’ everyday shortstop from 2013 to 2016. Hechevarria has been a utility infielder since, although he did hit a career-high nine home runs last year.
Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi said he expects Hechevarria could hit 20 homers a season in Japan. I thought that was a bit of stretch but two of the 140 players who hit 20-plus HRs in their first NPB season came here without ever hitting more than nine in a year, so it’s not quite as silly as it sounds.
The Marines also brought back Frank Herrmann, whom they non-tendered, for a second season in Chiba, while the Lions have done the same with first-year reliever Reed Garrett. The Orix Buffaloes have also agreed to bring back closer Brandon Dickson for his ninth season.
When I saw Stefen Romero cut after an outstanding first season with the Rakuten Eagles, I wondered if an unusually large number of players were non-tendered this year, but that wasn’t appear the case. The 12 teams cut 132 players on Dec. 2, one shy of the 133 cut in 2016 and 2019.
From 2003 to 2010 the median was 94. Since 2011, the new median is 127.5, with the watershed year being 2011.
This should come as no surprise to anyone. That year, both leagues were thrown into chaos between the introduction of a deader uniform ball, the merging of umpires from both leagues for the first time, and low-lighting for several months in the wake of the nuclear disasters following the March 11 killer earthquake and tsunami. Offense plummeted, many players’ numbers dipped precipitously, and a lot of them got the chop.
Since then 120 to 130 has been the norm, and this year, which at first glance appeared to be a response to more available talent from the frozen free-agent market in the States, is not that unusual.
Free agent market
Speaking of free agents, one team’s international director said he did not feel more veteran major leaguers were looking to a Japan contract this year to escape the majors’ current buyers market.
In the domestic market, Yasuhiro Ogawa, the first pitcher in Japan to throw a no-hitter in the same game he first struck out 10 batters, tested the market as a free agent and decided to stay with the Yakult Swallows rather than join the Pacific League’s Nippon Ham Fighters.
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:
A rare home run from Yudai Fujioka broke a 2-2 tie, and Yuki Karakawa preserved the lead with a big sixth-inning strikeout as the Lotte Marines exploited some Seibul Lions defensive lapses in a n 8-2 win that sent them into the playoffs for the first time in four years.
The Marines surrendered the lead in the second inning, when Kazuya Ojima walked a batter and the Lions put good swings on three pitches in the heart of the zone to go up 2-0. Ojima was pulled after two frames, beginning an impressive daylong bullpen car rally for the Marines.
After a great start to the game in which his fastball was absolutely hopping, Wataru Matsumoto couldn’t get out of a jam with one out and runners on the corners. Cory Spangenberg, whose RBI single opened the scoring, lost a smash to third base, by dropping it between his feet and then fell victim to Lindsey Nelson’s Law — which dictates that a player typically looks the wrong way first whenever a ball is dropped.
Spangenberg looked everywhere but down, allowing the runner from third to score and leaving him with no play at first. Tsuyoshi Sugano tied it with a two-out RBI single.
Fujioka put the Marines in front in the fourth when Matsumoto (6-7) hung a fastball. The Marines shortstop stayed back on it and smacked it over the fence in right and into the Home Run Lagoon seats.
Daiki Iwashita (7-7) normally a starter, came on from the top of the fourth and left after walking two in the top of the sixth. With two outs and the bases packed, Yuki Karakawa entered to strike out No. 9 hitter Wu Nien-ting.
After a tenuous outing from Lions reliever Reed Garrett, a pair of misplays in the bottom of the inning helped score three runs. all charged to Katsunori Hirai. The Marines then committed their bullpen cavalry to chase the Lions out of pennant contention, as Frank Herrman, Hirokazu Sawamura and closer Naoya Masuda worked one scoreless inning apiece.
Sakamoto milestone highlights loss
Hayato Sakamoto only needed one at-bat against Albert Suarez to become the second-youngest player with 2,000 hits in Nippon Professional Baseball, but he tacked on a two-run home run, an infield single and a walk before the Yomiuri Giants were sunk 5-4 by the Yakult Swallows.
With teams permitted now to admit up to 80 percent of capacity, the Giants welcomed Japan’s biggest crowd of the season, 31,735, to Tokyo Dome, where Yakult’s Kotaro Yamasaki put only the slightest damper on the day with an eighth-inning grand slam.
Sakamoto is the 53rd player with 2,000 hits in Japan, a list that includes neither Ichiro Suzuki or Hideki Matsui, who moved to the majors before they could get that many hits in their homeland.
The Giants captain is the seventh player whose career has been spent primarily at shortstop to reach the milestone, since the position tends to be filled in Japan with light-hitting sacrifice bunters who rarely play regularly past the age of 30.
With numerous supporters urging Sakamoto to aim for 3,000, one could apply Bill James career assessment formula to get an idea of his chances. The formula gives him a 35 percent chance of reaching 3,000, and a 28 percent chance of surpassing Isao Harimoto’s NPB record of 3,085
Active roster moves 11/8/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/18
Lefty Shota Hamaya (1-0) allowed a run over six innings without issuing a walk in his first career start, while veteran Takumi Kuriyama had four hits and two RBIs in the Seibu Lions’ 3-1 win over the Lotte Marines at MetLife Dome.
“I really tried to make good first pitches,” said the 21-year-old Hamaya, the Lions’ second-round pick last autumn. “When I got behind in the count, I just made sure I had good arm action on my pitches, and if they hit them, they hit them.”
Hamaya allowed a run on four this and three strikeouts.
The 37-year-old Kuriyama, playing in his 19th pro season, homered in the first off lefty Kazuya Ojima (5-6) to open the scoring and singled in the second run in the Lions’ fifth to chase the Marines starter.
“I think there is an image that left handers can bust us inside,” Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi said. “We have some work to do on that.”
Ojima allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk over 4-2/3 innings.
“This game turned on my giving up three hits to the same hitter,” Ojima said. “Obviously I need to take a hard look at that so I can do better next time.”
Tajima outduels Wakui
Daiki Tajima (2-4) threw his first career shutout, a two-hitter, to outduel Hideaki Wakui (8-3) in the Orix Buffaloes’ 2-0 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Hotto Motto Field Kobe.
Wearing the uniform of their predecessors, the Orix BlueWave, and playing in their former home park in the hills above the port city of Kobe, Yutaro Sugimoto broke open a scoreless game with fifth-inning home run, and Torai Fushimi homered against the Eagles’ bullpen in the seventh.
“From the first inning, I pounded them with my fastball,” said Tajima, who walked one while striking out eight. “I was able to really pitch my kind of game.”
The lefty, the top draft pick of the Buffaloes in 2017, didn’t allow a base runner after surrendering a one-out infield single in the fifth.
“I didn’t think about what was coming. I just took each batter head on,” Tajima said.
The complete-game shutout was Orix’s first of the season and came in its 76th game.
Despaigne lifts Hawks past Fighters
Alfredo Despaigne broke up a tie game with a two-run seventh-inning single after Fighters reliever Katsuhiko Kumon (0-2) loaded the bases with one out in the SoftBank Hawks’ 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.
Kumon left after getting only one out, on a sacrifice as the Hawks played to tie while a run down in the seventh. But they got much more as a single and a walk loaded the bases and slugger Yuki Yanagita forced in a run by walking against new pitcher Taisho Tamai, who then surrendered Despaigne’s single.
The blowup wasted a solid start from Toshihiro Nakamura, who allowed two runs on three hits and three walks while striking out six. Hawks starter Akira Niho gave up three runs, one earned, over 4-1/3 innings, but five relievers held the Fighters to a run on two walks and one hit over 4-2/3 innings. Closer Yuito Mori allowed a run after a leadoff infield single but recorded his 21st save.
Saiuchi returns from wilderness in win
Hiroaki Saiuchi, signed nine days earlier from the independent Kagawa Olive Guyners — I’m not making this up — made his first NPB start in six years, and allowed two runs over five innings for the Yakult Swallows in a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the DeNA BayStars at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Saiuchi, a 27-year-old who was the second draft pick of the Hanshin Tigers in 2011, is still 0-2 in his career as a starter, although he allowed one run over five innings in his pro starting debut on Sept. 2, 2012. He was released for the second time by the Tigers last winter, and signed this season with Kagawa.
In nine games in the Shikoku Island League-plus, Saiuchi was 5-0 with three shutouts a 0.42 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 64 innings.
BayStars starting pitcher Taiga Kamichatani allowed one run over six innings when Munetaka Murakami victimized him by hitting a good slider at the bottom of the zone and driving it deep into the stands for an opposite-field homer in the fourth.
Kamichatani, however, singled with one out to start a two-run fifth-inning rally for a one-run lead that was overtaken by the Swallows bench on back-to-back RBI singles in the seventh.
Giants reserves beat Tigers
A day after lighting up their magic number the Yomiuri Giants rested a couple of stars, shortstop Hayato Sakamoto and cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto as a pair of reserves delivered the firepower in a 7-6 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo Dome.
Shunta Tanaka and Soichiro Tateoka each homered and the pair combined to score four runs and drive in six, giving the Giants enough leeway to overcome a late Tigers fightback.
Jose Pirela opened the scoring with a first-inning RBI single and added a late home run, his ninth, for the Hiroshima Carp in a 9-2 skewering of the Chunichi Dragons at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Ryuhei Matsuyama also homered and drove in two for the hosts, while Carp right-hander Yusuke Nomura (5-1) allowed two runs over 5-1/3 innings to earn the win.
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.
Zach Neal (3-4) got the help he needed to secure his first win since July 17 as he allowed 10 base runners but just two runs over 5-1/3 innings in the Seibu Lions’ 6-2 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters.
The Lions were handed the early lead when Corey Spangenberg’s two-out bases-loaded grounder was misplayed. First baseman Kotaro Kiyomiya retreated to first instead of grabbing it and flipping to his pitcher. Instead of making the third out, Spangenberg was credited with an RBI infield single.
Tomoya Mori made it 3-0 in the second, hitting his sixth homer with Sosuke Genda on base. Sho Nakata hit his Japan-best 23rd homer in the fourth and Ryo Watanabe tripled and scored on a Christian Villanueva infield single in the sixth to make it a one-run game. With one on and one out, rookie Tetsu Miyagawa preserved the lead. Kaima Taira, Reed Garrett and Tatsushi Masuda finished up for Seibu.
Fighters starter Toshihiro Sugiura retired 12 straight after Mori’s home run, and stranded two runners in the sixth before making his exit.
Hotaka Yamakawa, trailing Nakata in the race for his third-straight PL home run crown, made it 6-2 in the seventh with his 20th, a three-run shot off right-hander Kazutomo Iguchi.
Asamura carries Eagles over Buffaloes
Hideto Asamura homered twice and the player the Rakuten Eagles see as his future heir at second base, Fumiya Kurokawa, drove in a game-tying run in his first career plate appearance in a 4-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes.
Taisuke Yamaoka (0-2), Orix’s Opening Day starter, allowed four runs over seven innings. The right-hander surrendered three solo home runs, but allowed just a run in the second, when loaded the bases with no outs. His inning was put in jeopardy when right fielder Yuya Oda misplayed a ball that put two men in scoring position. But after a walk, Yamaoka regrouped and allowed only a sacrifice fly on a good swing from Kurokawa, the Eagles’ second draft pick last year.
The Buffaloes broke the ice when Masataka Yoshida extended his hitting streak to 22 games with a two-out RBI single off Takahiro Norimoto.
Norimoto loaded the bases in the top of the third, allowing the go-ahead run on a one-out bases-loaded sacrifice fly. The Eagles ace was pulled after the third having thrown 48 pitches due, according to Pro Yakyu News analyst Hiroki Nomura, to “a cut on his pitching hand.”
Asamura tied it in the third with his 19th homer, and catcher Yuichi Adachi put the hosts up with a homer in the fifth. After the Buffs tied it in the top of the sixth, Asamura went deep again in the home half to make it 4-3.
Six Rakuten relievers finished up. Alan Busenitz pitched out of a two-out, two-on jam to earn his ninth save.
Ishikawa pitches Marines past Hawks
Ayumu Ishikawa (6-2) allowed two runs over seven innings and the Lotte Marines got to the SoftBank Hawks bullpen as they overcame two Yurisbel Gracial home runs in a 4-3 win at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Ishikawa allowed three hits and a walk while striking out four, and was on the losing end against Hawks southpaw Matt Moore, who battled his command for 5-2/3 innings. The first-year-import scattered five hits and three walks, and got a big play to end the Marines’ fifth from first baseman Akira Nakamura and preserve a 2-0 lead.
Yugo Bando (2-2) got the Hawks out of the sixth with a 2-1 lead but surrendered three runs in the seventh to take the loss. He was followed to the mound by Yuta Watanabe, who made his first team debut two weeks shy of his 29th birthday and worked a 1-2-3 eighth.
Frank Herrmann worked a scoreless eighth with a gift double play when the Hawks bunted into a twin killing with a runner on second. Closer Naoya Masuda surrendered Gracial’s second homer in the ninth en route to his 15th save.
Takahashi homer breaks tie in Dragons’ win
Shuhei Takahashi’s fourth homer proved to be the decisive blow, breaking a 2-2 tie in the Chunichi Dragons’ 4-2 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Zoilo Almonte tied it 2-2 with his third hit of the game, a two-out two-run fifth-inning double. Dayan Viciedo singled to open the Dragons’ sixth and scored on Takahashi’s fourth homer, off Hirotoshi Takanashi (2-4).
Katsuki Matayoshi (1-0) earned the win for two scoreless innings of relief, and three scoreless innings from Daisuke Sobue, Hiroto Fuku and Raidel Martinez, who earned his 10th save, wrapped it up.
The Swallows got on the board on Norichika Aoki’s 12th home run off starter Yuya Yanagi and made it 2-0 in the fourth when Yasutaka Shiomi doubled with two outs and scored on an Alcides Escobar single.
Tigers’ Nishi, Suarez hold off Giants
Starter Yuki Nishi (5-3) and closer Robert Suarez held off the Yomiuri Giants in a 5-4 win at Koshien Stadium after Jerry Sands homered for the third time in four games.
Yusuke Oyama homered and Justin Bour doubled and scored on a safety squeeze by pitcher Yuki Nishi in the second off rookie Shosei Togo (7-3). Jerry Sands hit his 15th home run, driving in two in Hanshin’s three-run sixth.
Nishi allowed four runs, three earned, over 7-2/3 innings. With two on and two out, closer Robert Suarez was brought on to face Yoshihiro Maru, who doubled in the Giants first run of the game in the seventh. Suarez struck him out swinging at a 159 kph (98.8 mph) fastball on his seventh pitch. He then worked a 1-2-3 ninth, wrapping up his 13th save when pinch-hitter Zelous Wheeler flied out to the warning track.
Nishi struck out nine and walked one while allowing seven hits in his 123-pitch outing. Togo allowed five runs in 5-2/3 innings.
Kikuchi powers Carp comeback
Ryosuke Kikuchi went 5-for-6 with two doubles, two runs and three RBIs to help power the Hiroshima Carp, who overcame two large deficits to salvage a 12-12 10-inning tie with the DeNA BayStars at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Kikuchi singled in two runs with two outs in the ninth as Kazuki Mishima blew a two-run save for the visitors, who led 5-0 after three 9-5 after the top of the sixth.
A battle between in-form right-handers Shoichi Ino and Carp rookie Masato Morishita devolved into a slug fest as each pitcher allowed five runs while neither made it through four innings.
Neftali Soto doubled and homered and drove in four runs for the BayStars, while Carp closer Geronimo Franzua and BayStars reliever Edwin Escobar each put up a zero in the 10th to ensure a tie.
The Rakuten Eagles’ Hidaki Wakui’s stuff was more inconsistent than it’s been in recent weeks, but he summoned his best stuff when he needed it as the Rakuten Eagles’ right-hander improved to 8-0 thanks to a 12-2 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters on Wednesday at Sapporo Dome.
Wakui may have had more trouble generating misses with his fastball than he has in his last two starts, but he was good enough to allow a run on four hits and a walk over eight innings. The 34-year-old right-hander last won this many games in 2016, when he went 10-7 for the Lotte Marines, who sold him to the Eagles over the winter.
If Wakui was less sharp, Fighters right-hander Toshihiro Sugiura’s game was a disaster. The 28-year-old was coming off three solid starts but just couldn’t execute his pitches as he has so far this year. Fastball after fastball came in high and straight, resulting in extra batting practice for the Eagles hitters, who took a 6-0 lead after the top of the third inning.
Sugiura (4-2) surrendered six runs, four earned, on four hits, two walks and a hit batsman over three innings.
The Fighters’ only run off Wakui came on a lazy slider that Haruki Nishikawa hit into the stands in the bottom of the third for his second homer of the season.
Self-inflicted wounds seal Buffaloes fate in 9th
The Orix Buffaloes allowed the Seibu Lions to steal a 4-3 win in the ninth inning on a series of defensive lapses at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
With the score tied 2-2 after Orix’s Tyler Higgins pitched out of a two-out, bases-loaded pickle in the eighth, closer Brandon Dickson took over for the Buffaloes in the ninth.
Third baseman Yuma Mune failed to make a good play on a chopper to third, dropping the ball on what would have been a tough out at first for an error that put Yuji Kaneko on with no outs. A sacrifice and a groundout put Kaneko on third with two outs.
Shuta Tonosaki, who had singled and doubled earlier in the game, put a good swing on a low curve ball and lined it to center. Center fielder Kodai Sano failed to make a shoe-string grab and the ball rolled to the wall. Right fielder Hayato Nishiura retrieved it as Tonosaki approached third and hit the cutoff man. The relay throw arrived in plenty of time but was offline and not caught.
In kind of a throwback to the days in NPB when groundballs that went through outfielders’ legs were ruled triples, Tonosaki was credited with an inside-the-park home run.
The Buffaloes got three hits and a run against Lions closer Tatsushi Masuda, but it was not enough to keep him from recording his 11th save. Dickson (0-2) was charged with two unearned runs and took the loss.
Lions’ eighth-inning bulldog Reed Garrett (3-0) got the win.
Hawks, Marines scrape out tie
The Lotte Marines’ Ikuhiro Kiyota struck out looking at a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded in the ninth inning to end the game against the SoftBank Hawks in a 10-inning, 2-2 tie at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Marines lefty Kazuya Ojima allowed two runs over 5-2/3 innings, while Hawks lefty Kotaro Otake also allowed two runs over five to set up what was to be an entertaining defensive struggle.
A pair of no-out walks from Rei Takahashi and a sacrifice gave the Marines a scoring opportunity in the sixth, but first baseman Keizo Kawashima threw a runner out at the plate and the submarine right-hander got out of the inning on a comebacker.
Marines rookie Koshiro Wada, who made his first start on Sunday after being used as a pinch-runner, reached base three times and stole two bases, raising his league-leading total to 14. In the top of the eighth, he robbed Kenta Imamiya of a leadoff single, allowing Frank Herrmann to work around a two-out single and preserve the tie.
Hawks closer Yuito Mori walked the leadoff man in the ninth but escaped trouble thanks to a great catch in foul territory by catcher Takuya Kai and a sparkling double play from shortstop Hikaru Kawase and second baseman Ukyo Shuto, part of the Hawks’ seemingly endless supply of reserve middle infielders.
SoftBank first baseman Kenji Akashi saved the game with a diving catch of a liner for the second out with two men on. A walk loaded the bases for Kiyota, who fouled off Yugo Bando’s sixth pitch before looking at the seventh.
Giants’ lose Mercedes shut out Tigers
The Yomiuri Giants lost southpaw starter Cristopher Mercedes after the top of the first inning to what looks like an elbow injury, but their six relievers completed a four-hit shutout in an 8-0 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo Dome.
Kazuma Okamoto drove in two runs with a single and his Central League-best 18th home run, while Yoshihiro Maru, who had a sac fly off Tigers starter Onelki Garcia (1-5) in the first, delivered the kill shot with a seventh-inning grand slam.
The Tigers have now been held scoreless for 27 consecutive innings following their 1-0 loss to Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano on Tuesday.
Dragon Viciedo roasts Swallows
Dayan Viciedo homered twice and had an RBI double, while right-hander Koji Fukutani (2-1) allowed two runs over six innings for the Chunichi Dragons in their 12-2 plucking of the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Viciedo now has 12 home runs for the season, while Zoilo Almonte hit his third and Toshiki Abe hit his seventh for the Dragons. Fukutani struck out six without issuing a walk.
Pitching switch fails to do trick for ‘Stars
DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez pulled his starting pitcher after he allowed a sixth-inning homer, only for his new pitcher to surrender another that tied it in their 2-2, 10-inning tie with the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
In what promises to usher in a new wave of complaints about Japan’s only foreign-born manager, Ramirez yanked lefty Haruhiro Hamaguchi after he gave up a one-out solo homer to Shota Dobayashi that cut the BayStars’ lead to a run.
Big right-hander Yuki Kuniyoshi got one out before surrendering Carp shortstop Kosuke Tanaka’s fourth home run of the year.
Thursday brings some interesting matchups in Japan. In Sapporo, Nick Martinez, who has pitched well despite his 1-4 record will take on Yuki Matsui, who has not pitched well but who is 0-1 in four starts.
On Tuesday, the Orix Buffaloes-Seibu Lions was decided by late relievers, but on Thursday, the bullpen door will open early as Buffaloes go with Kazumasa Yoshida against Seibu’s middle-relief warhorse, Katsunori HIrai.
At Tokyo Dome it will be a battle between two pitchers with 5-2 records, 20-yar-old Giants rookie Shosei Togo and 26-year-old Tigers side-armer Koyo Aoyagi.
In Hiroshima, Kris Johnson is still looking for his first win in his eighth start of the season. He has two quality starts under his belt, which is one more than first-year import Michael Peoples, allowed a run over six innings in his Japan debut on June 20, but has pitched just twice since then. After two respectable Eastern League outings in July, Peoples gave up four runs over five innings in EL loss to the Lotte Marines.