On Sunday, we had a player apologized for trying to negotiate a better deal, while another player said he took his team to task for the quality of nutritional support their players receive.
Shimauchi begs forgiveness
Two years ago, Hiroaki Shimauchi signed a four-year deal with the Rakuten Eagles that bumped his reported salary up 20 million yen to 120 million a year for 2021. That year he led the Pacific League in RBIs and received the same amount for 2022, when he led the PL in hits.
After this year’s mandatory negotiation, Shimauchi revealed to the media that he asked the team to reconsider his current contract.
For the second-straight week, journeyman right-hander Akira Niho got the job done, allowing a run in five-plus innings, while the SoftBank Hawks bullpen provided four-plus innings of solid relief in a 6-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters and their rookie lefty Ryusei Kawano.
Niho was not nearly as sharp as a week ago, but made enough good pitches to scatter six hits and three walks.
For the first time since his debut, Kawano (1-3) had a worse outing then the one before. His stuff has been fairly solid, but his first games looked like they were more about the confidence needed to go after good hitters in the strike zone.
Against the Hawks, it was more a case of lousy command, as he struggled to hit targets and ended up throwing a few poor pitches in the zone and then he had some poor luck in terms of poorly hit balls finding holes.
Kenta Imamiya, dropped into the leadoff spot, singled, doubled and walked against the rookie, scored three runs and drove in two. His two-run second-inning double off the first pitch from Kawano broke a 1-1 tie. Imamiya scored on a Yuki Yanagita sacrifice fly.
With two out and two on in the Fighters third, Niho got out of the inning by throwing an 0-2 ball in the zone that he might have wanted lower. Taishi Ota tagged it but it went for an out on the warning track.
Eagles salvage win against Buffaloes’ ace
The Rakuten Eagles salvaged a victory from their six-game home series against the Orix Buffaloes and their ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto in a 5-4 come-from-behind win at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Yamamoto had neither good command nor his best stuff, and the Rakuten Eagles scored four runs off him over six innings by taking their walks and by not trying to do too much when he came into the zone. All but two of the nine hits off him were to the pull field. Yamamoto gave up two walks, hit a batter and struck out six.
The Eagles lost their starter, Shoma Fujihira, when his seventh pitch hit Koji Oshiro in the head and he was automatically ejected. Both runners scored and Tomohiro Anraku allowed another in the first but kept the game from slipping away and left after three innings with the score 3-0. Sung Chia-hao allowed one run over two innings, during which time the Eagles tied it against Yamamoto.
Yamamoto loaded the bases in the sixth with two outs but did not allow a run. In the seventh, former closer Hirotoshi Masui walked the bases loaded in the sixth with one out, but Yudai Aranishi got out of it.
First-year import Tyler Higgins (1-1), who has been very effective this season, allowed the Eagles to grab their first lead on a leadoff walk to rookie Hiroto Kobukata, and a triple by veteran Eigoro Mogi.
The Buffaloes got the leadoff runner aboard in the ninth, when Alan Busenitz walked Ryoicihi Adachi. Manager Norifumi Nishimura who absolutely loves to sacrifice when he’s trailing on the road, did so. With two outs and first base open, tough left-handed-hitting slugger Masataka Yoshida was walked, and Busenitz got Adam Jones to groundout to short to earn his first save.
Lions pen proves too deadly for Marines
Takumi Kuriyama twice put the Seibu Lions in front with an RBI double, and four relievers each threw a perfect inning in a 4-2 come-from-behind win over the Lotte Marines at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.
The starters, a pair of journeymen lefties, Lotte’s Toshiya Nakamura and Seibu lefty Daiki Enokida pitched to a virtual stalemate over five innings.
Nakamura allowed only one run thanks to shortstop Kenta Chatani making a great play that prevented the fourth inning from getting out of hand.
Enokida allowed two runs before making his exit after a leadoff single in the sixth, but surrendered no more thanks to Katsunori Hirai (3-1) coming on and retiring all three batters he faced. He was followed by Kaima Taira, Reed Garrett and Tatsushi Masuda, who each worked 1-2-3 innings. Masuda recorded his ninth save.
Lotte’s 23-year-old right-hander Fumiya Ono (1-2) retired the first batter in the sixth, but a single and a Takeya Nakamura double tied it. Kuriyama, whose first double was the 350th of his career, followed with his second to make it 3-2.
Carp feast on BayStars relievers
Tsubasa Aizawa hit a pair of late home runs, including a ninth-inning tie-breaker off closer Yasuaki Yamasaki in the Hiroshima Carp’s 10-6 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.
It’s been a tough week for the BayStars, whose manager, Alex Ramirez, appeared to be the target of an organized media smear campaign. But since that nonsense started, the BayStars had lost one, tied one, and won two in convincing fashion. But on Sunday, Kentaro Taira worked seven scoreless innings and led 6-0 before things started to awry in the seventh.
The BayStars bullpen allowed two inherited runners to score in the eighth to make it a 6-3 game before coughing up another seven on their own.
Kenta Ishida gave up a sacrifice fly for the second out in the eighth, and Spencer Patton surrendered back-to-back home runs to Shota Dobayashi and Aizawa to make it a one-run game.
Yamasaki’s pitches didn’t look good. His sinking pitch he calls a two-seamer–that looks and acts like a splitter–was not dropping much, and his fastball looked straight.
A single and a walk was followed by a Seiya Suzuki putting a punishing swing on a center-cut fastball that probably damaged the padding in the center field wall and resulted in an RBI single. With one out and first base open, Dobayashi was intentionally walked and Aizawa smoked a “two-seamer” out to right.
“That’s part of the game. There’s nothing we can do about that,” Ramirez said afterward. “Taira did a tremendous job today. The relievers tried to do the best they could. The Hiroshima Carp hitters are very good.”
“They (Patton and Yamasaki) threw a lot of strikes. They’re good hitters. We lost the game with our best two guys on the mound. There’s nothing we can do about it.”
Yamasaki might be one of their best, but he has not been himself this year. He’s not getting guys to chase out of the zone, he’s not getting nearly as many swings and misses and is instead giving away much harder contact.
Quien es mas malo?
Anyone remember the Saturday Night Live game show parody in which Bill Murray hosted a latin-oriented program called “Quien es mas macho?” Well the bottom of the ninth made this game look like another version called “Quien es mas malo?” or “Who is the worst?” or rather whose bullpen is worst.
Ryuji Ichioka came in for the Carp and loaded the bases with one out, but a BayStars comeback was not to be.
Relief Dragons awaken sleeping Tigers
My podcast partner will no doubt be talking about this when we record our program for Monday, but since the first time Dragons lefty Hiroto Fuku gave up runs this season — on a second-straight day of work — John E. Gibson has been telling me that he hasn’t been good after pitching the day before.
Fuku, the loser on Sunday, when he blew a 3-2 lead by surrendering three runs, has allowed eight runs in his last two games when he pitched the day before. The previous four times he didn’t allow any runs.
Here are his results pitching after no game the previous day and on the second-straight day. On Saturday, the stocky lefty was lights out in a 1-0 Dragons win, but Sunday was a different story.
Fuku bukuro (grab bag)
Pitching after no game the day before
Pitching on the second-straight day
Tigers lefty Yuta Iwasada surrendered three runs, though only two were earned due to his throwing error, over four innings.
Dragons right-hander Kodai Umetsu had his second-best start of the season, giving up two runs, one earned, over six innings while striking out eight.
The Dragons broke through in the third after Umetsu singled to open the inning. A groundout and a throwing error put two on with one out. Toshiki Abe and Dayan Viciedo followed with back-to-back singles. Nobumasa Fukuda homered to make it 3-0 in the fourth.
The Tigers got on the board after rookie third baseman Takaya Ishikawa misjudged a hop for a two-out, two-base error. With two on, Koji Chickamoto singled in a run. Justin Bour’s sixth homer, a two-run shot off the left field fair pole made it a one-run game.
Fuku came on to face Chikamoto in the seventh with two outs and a runner on second. He surrendered a single up the middle. Tigers catcher Ryutaro Umeno, who singled to open the inning, has decent speed and runs the bases well, but was gunned down by a throw from center fielder Yohei Oshima on a good tag by catcher Ariel Martinez.
Unlike Mr. Gibson, I don’t see enough Dragons games to say what’s up with Fuku on second-straight games, but he was not locating today.
After getting a reprieve from the fielders, Fuku stayed in to pitch the eighth. Four of the five batters he faced reached, and even with a double play in the middle of that string, three of them scored in the five-run inning.
Chikamoto finished 4-for-5, while Umeno had three hits, and Yusuke Oyama blew out the candles on this one with a two-run, ninth-inning home run.
Giant Yoshikawa clubs Swallows
Naoki Yoshikawa capped a five-run first inning with his third home run in three games for the Yomiuri Giants in a 9-4 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Swallows starter Hirotoshi Takanashi (1-2) allowed six runs in 2-2/3 innings, while Giants starter Toshiki Sakurai (2-1) worked into the eighth inning to earn the win.
Four of the first seven Giants hitters reached base and the one who didn’t delivered a sacrifice fly.
Giants sign former Fighter Tanaka
The Yomiuri Giants on Sunday signed 26-year-old right-handed pitcher Toyoki Tanaka, who had been with the club on a non-roster developmental contract since the Giants saw him in a tryout last November.
The club was in need of pitchers after Saturday’s scheduled starter, Angel Sanchez, was scratched with discomfort in his right shoulder. Sanchez, and his replacement, former closer Hirokazu Sawamura, were both deactivated Sunday, while Tanaka was added to the active roster.
Tanaka was the fifth draft pick of the Fighters in 2015 and appeared in 31 first-team games for them from 2016 to 2018.