Sapporo Dome hosted a long-awaited party like few its seen before as right-hander Kosei Yoshida not only made his first-team debut but pitched well over five innings to earn the win.
Yoshida, an iconic name after pitching his unheralded Kanaashi Kogyo High School to the national summer finals last year, relied heavily on a 145-kilometer- (90 mile-) per-hour fastball that ran and rose and was hard to hit. Most remarkable was his willingness to challenge hitters in the zone.
Fighters 2, Carp 1
At Sapporo Dome, Yoshida (1-0) loaded the bases with one out in the first but pitched himself out of trouble. He gave up a run on four hits and two walks while striking out four.
“We decided to challenge batters with the fastball, and if they hit it, well tough,” Yoshida said. “We thought that since they’d never seen me before, the fastball would be effective. It was as good as ever. I was able to stay loose and not overthrow it.”
Taishi Ota homered in the bottom of the first off Daichi Osera (6-3), and after Hisayoshi Chono’s RBI double in the top of the second, four Fighters singled in the bottom of the inning to break the tie.
Yoshida, who threw 881 pitches at last summer’s national finals, threw 31 pitches in the first inning but should have had it much easier. After Chono’s leadoff single went under his second baseman’s glove, the ump denied Yoshida a called third strike on an 0-2 pitch to Ryosuke Kikuchi, who walked on 10 pitches after right fielder Ota hesitated and failed to catch a foul fly.
With one out, he worked carefully to cleanup hitter Seiya Suzuki and walked him, but struck out Ryoma Nishikawa, holder of this season’s longest hitting streak (27 games) on three pitches. The 18-year-old attacked reserve catcher Yoshitaka Isomura and got an easy groundout.
After Chono’s RBI double, Yoshida retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced, wrapping up his debut after 84 pitches. Three relievers, the last former Padres farmhand Bryan Rodriguez, each pitched an easy scoreless inning. Naoya Ishikawa, in his second game as the closer understudy, used his splitter to good effect to pitch out of a two-out, two-on jam and earn his second save.
Eagles 7, Swallows 4
At Rakuten Seimei Park, injury-plagued side-armer Shohei Tateyama (0-1) allowed three runs, two earned, in three innings in his first game of the season, and Yakult never caught up against Rakuten.
The Eagles used seven pitchers, the last, closer Yuki Matsui, who saved his 21st game. Kento Kumabara, DeNA’s second draft pick in 2015, pitching for the first time since 2017, started and allowed two runs in 3-1/3 innings.
Noboru Shimizu, the Swallows’ top draft pick last autumn, allowed three runs, one earned, in 2-1/3 innings, all three runs, three hits, and two walks came in the sixth inning when the game got away from the CL club.
Swallows rookie Munetaka Murakami became the fourth player to hit 17-plus home runs before his age-20 season, and the first who didn’t play for the Lions. The others are Hall of Famer Yasumitsu Toyoda (Nishitetsu), Kazuhiro Kiyohara (Seibu) and currentl Lions catcher Tomoya Mori.
Giants 9, Lions 4
At MetLife Dome, Ginjiro Sumitani singled home two runs to pull his new team, Yomiuri, from a run down against Seibu, the club he left over the winter as a free agent. The Giants bullpen worked 5-1/3 scoreless innings — three perfect frames from lefty Kyosuke Takagi — to seal the win.
Hotaka Yamakawa doubled in three runs in the third to put Seibu up 3-2, but Giants veteran Yoshiyuki Kamei, who opened the game with a home run off Ken Togame (3-2), doubled in three runs in the Giants’ four-run eighth.
Dragons 6, Buffaloes 2
At Kyocera Dome, Yota Kyoda snapped a 2-2, eighth-inning tie with an RBI single and Masataka Iryo, who went 4-for-5 with two doubles, cleared the bases with a three-run triple as Chunichi beat Orix for the second-straight night.
Yudai Ono (4-4) struck out five and gave up two runs over seven innings to get the win.
Tigers 8, Hawks 2
At Yafuoku Dome, Hanshin catcher Ryutaro Umeno homered and singled and drove in four runs, while side-armer Koyo Aoyagi (5-4) allowed two runs, one earned, over seven innings, while striking out five to beat SoftBank.
Tsuyoshi Wada (0-1), making his second start for the Hawks since his coming back from shoulder trouble that has sidelined him since 2017, allowed four runs in 5-2/3 innings to take the loss.
BayStars 6, Marines 5
At Zozo Marine Stadium, Yamato Maeda broke an eighth-inning tie with a two-run single through the legs of second baseman Shogo Nakamura, and DeNA survived a mini-meltdown from closer Yasuaki Yamasaki. The right-hander gave up a walk and three hits in the ninth, but allowed just two runs to record his 12th save.
Brandon Laird homered for the Marines, while last year’s CL home run champ, Neftali Soto, went deep for DeNA.
Lefty Brandon Mann, pitching against the team that cut him loose seven years ago, Mann worked a scoreless seventh for Lotte. He’s struck out 12 over 8-2/3 innings of relief since returning to the team following his disastrous start on April 3.