If I could have put a bet down on Sunday’s game between the SoftBank Hawks and Yomiuri Giants, I would happily have plunked down 1,000 yen to have Tomoyuki Sugano the winner of the last two Sawamura Awards, beat 38-year-old Tsuyoshi Wada.
But baseball is unpredictable. Wada, who’s had fitness issues the past year and a half, and who hasn’t had any velocity to speak of since he started his big league career in 2012 with Tommy John surgery, got a big early lead and cruised.
Hawks 5, Giants 1
At Tokyo Dome, Tsuyoshi Wada (2-1) showed batters his slider, missed bats with a nasty changeup that caused hitters to miss-hit his fastball over five artful innings.
The lefty allowed a run on three hits and two walks, while striking out six in an 81-pitch effort, and Shuhei Fukuda hit two more Giant-killing jacks to lift the Hawks to their eighth interleague championship.
Fukuda hit his second tie-breaking homer of the series, leading off the first by drilling a center cut fastball out to right center. Giants starter Tomoyuki Sugano was yanked after allowing four runs in the first and walking Wada to lead off the second. It was the shortest outing of the 29-year-old’s career.
After two walks, a pair of choppers deep in the hole to short were scored infield singles. Shortstop Hayato Sakamoto’s errant flip to third on the second one plated an extra run making it 3-0. Hawks catcher Takuya Kai, whose bases-loaded, two-out bunt single on Friday turned the table for the Hawks ahead of Fukuda’s grand slam, took the Giants by surprise yet again with another safety squeeze to make it 4-0.
Wada did a number on Sakamoto, the Giants’ most productive hitter this season, striking him out on a combination of low fastballs and changeups, but he also got away with high straight fastballs that were miss-hit. Wada started Giants cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto off with a mistake in the fourth and the youngster hit it off the hitter’s background in center.
Wada now 1 shy of interleague win record
Wada’s first win since September 2017 was his 25th regular season win against CL teams, one shy of the interleague record held by his former Hawks teammate Toshiya Sugiuchi.
Wada entered the day tied for second with Masanori Ishikawa of the Swallows and Hideaki Wakui of the Marines with 24.
“(Next season) there will be a chance for Nos. 26 and 27,” Wada said. “I’m an athlete so I aspire to go higher.”
Wada said that more than being overjoyed with securing the Hawks’ interleague title, he felt remorse for having been on the sidelines for so long.
“My strongest emotion runs toward feeling apologetic for having taken this long to get back,” he said. “I’m really just happy the team could win.”
BayStars 3, Eagles 0
At Yokohama Stadium, Taiga Kamichatani (4-3) did it all against Rakuten. The DeNA rookie threw six scoreless innings, and drove in two runs off tough right-hander Takayuki Kishi (2-2).
Swallows 6, Marines 2
At Jingu Stadium, Lotte’s pitchers issued 11 walks, the most in Japan this season and the most by the Marines since 2013, while Yakult rookie Keiji Takahashi (1-3) allowed two runs over six innings to earn the win.
Mike Bolsinger got no decision for the Marines after allowing two runs over five innings, one run coming on Wladimir Balentien’s 15th home run, a first-inning solo shot.
Dragons 8, Fighters 4
At Nagoya Dome, after relying heavily on his fastball in his pro debut, Nippon Ham rookie Kosei Yoshida was ambushed by Chunichi hitters sitting fastball in a three-run first inning as his record fell to 1-1.
The 18-year-old, who threw 881 pitches over the course of last year’s national summer high school finals, allowed five runs over three innings.
“That really is an excellent fastball. We were lucky to score three runs off him in the first inning,” Dragons skipper Tsuyoshi Yoda said of an inning in which his guys were “lucky” to really drive the ball as well as they did.
Even the Dragons’ outs were loud as their third run scored on a sacrifice fly that required an excellent catch on a drive to the warning track.
Dragons lefty Enny Romero (5-5) gave up three runs over six innings, while striking out seven.
Buffaloes 9, Carp 1, 10 innings
At Mazda Stadium, Orix broke up a scoreless game in a nine-run 10th inning that saw five triples, two doubles and three walks to complete a three-game sweep of three-time defending Central League champion Hiroshima.
Brandon Dickson (1-0), currently serving as Orix’s closer while Hirotoshi Masui discovers his form on the farm team, pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the win.
The Buffaloes’ four triples in an inning tied their franchise and NPB record set by the Hankyu Braves in their Aug. 16, 1947, game against the Yomiuri Giants.
Lions 7, Tigers 3
At Koshien Stadium, Wataru Matsumoto (3-1), Seibu’s top draft pick last autumn, allowed a run over five innings, while his teammates roughed up lefty Onelki Garcia (2-3) for seven runs over 5-1/3 innings.