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:
Nobumasa Fukuda’s second homer of the season, a three-run, seventh-inning shot off Yomiuri Giants starter Seishu Hatake (0-1) lifted the Chunichi Dragons to a 3-1 win at Nagoya Dome on Saturday.
Hatake got out of a first-inning jam when he loaded the bases with two outs on two walks and a hit batsman. The right-hander made his escape on two pitches against Ariel Martinez, getting the Cuban catcher to chase an 0-1 curve away and hit an easy grounder to third.
The Dragons got a leadoff single in the third only for Hatake to retire the next 13 batters.
Dragons right-hander Akiyoshi Katsuno let the Giants score in the fourth on cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto’s 15th home run. Katsuno had allowed two runners through the first three innings, and caught a break to open the fourth, when Yoshihiro Maru hammered a low-inside fastball to first that Dayan Viciedo managed to catch.
After a fastball inside for a strike and two bounced sliders, Katsuno missed in the heart of the zone, and Okamoto put a good swing on it, launching it out to center. The pitcher left after six innings having allowed a run on three hits and two walks while striking out five.
Stocky lefty Hiroto Fuku, pitching for the first time in over a week, missed high with a fastball to Gerardo Parra, who hit it hard up the middle for a single. The lefty lucked out when Naoki Yoshikawa, who had been peppering the left field line with foul balls, hit a sharp grounder that third baseman Shuhei Takahashi dove for and got the force at second.
Fuku missed a 1-2 fastball up that light-hitting catcher Ginjiro Sumitani was able hammer through past first to put runners on the corners. Hatake struck out, and a first-pitch cutter on the hands of right-handed-hitting pinch-hitter Hiroyuki Nakajima got the Dragons out of the inning.
With one out in the seventh, Martinez grounded another low-away curve to third, but beat the throw for an infield single. Masataka Iryo put a good swing on the next pitch, a high changeup and drilled it past first to put runners on the corners for Fukuda, who walked up to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”
Hatake missed down the pipe with a slider that Fukuda let go. When Hatake missed with a fastball in the same spot, Fukuda blasted it.
“He’d been throwing really good pitches, but his fastball had been his best, so that’s what I was looking for, nothing else,” Fukuda said, echoing the analyst who said that was probably the case after watching him pass on the first pitch.
The Dragons bullpen recorded six-straight outs, three by setup man Daisuke Sobue and three by closer Raidel Martinez.
Sano sinks Swallows with homer in epic at-bat
DeNA BayStars captain Keita Sano’s two-run, fifth-inning homer broke up a tie game en route to a 5-4 win over the Yakult Swallows at Jingu Stadium.
Sano, who singled in the tying run in the third after Yakult took the lead on Munetaka Murakami’s two-run first-inning homer, fouled off six 3-2 pitches from Yakult right-hander Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa (4-2). Sano leaned into Ogawa’s 12th pitch, a slider away, and knocked it out to center for his seventh home run and a 4-2 BayStars lead.
Kazuki Kamizato, who singled three times and scored three, came home on a Toshiro Miyazaki single in the seventh to make it 5-2, but then helped give away two runs in the bottom of the eighth. With one out and a runner on first, the BayStars center fielder misplayed Alcides Escobar’s single, and it rolled to the wall. Escobar wound up at third and scored on a groundout.
After back-to-back two out walks put the go-ahead run on, Escobar’s cousin, Edwin, took the mound and ended the inning with a strikeout.
DeNA lefty Shota Imanaga (5-2) allowed two runs on four hits and a walk, while striking out six, and Kazuki Mishima earned his fifth save.
Carp ace Osera bounces back to outlast Tigers
Daichi Osera (4-1) returned from his 10-day stint on the inactive list by allowing a run over seven innings in the Hiroshima Carp’s 2-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
After an exchange of homers between Yusuke Ono of the Tigers and the Carp’s Hisayoshi Chono, the pitching duel between Osera and Nishi went on for six innings. The Tigers loaded the bases in the seventh with one out, but Osera got Kosuke Fukudome to hit into a double play and end it.
In the bottom of the inning, rookie Minoru Omori drew a leadoff walk from Kyuji Fujikawa (1-3) went to second on a wild pickoff throw and scored on Shogo Sakakura’s pinch-hit single.
The best moment of the game came after the game, when Carp closer Geronimo Franzua, who struck out two in the ninth to record his fourth save, tossed the ball from the final out, the “winning ball” into the crowd. This forced Chono to lead a posse of Carp players to the edge of the stands to plead for its return so Osera could keep it as a souvenir.
Afterward the Daily Sports bemoaned the Tigers’ mistakes, the pickoff throw and Jerry Sands getting caught off base in the top of the seventh. With runners on the corners and no outs after singles by Sands and Justin Bour, Ryutaro Umeno grounded back to the pitcher, who threw Sands out, costing the Tigers not an out, but a base, which became moot when Osera walked the next hitter.
It didn’t cost the Tigers an out or a run, and was only significant for writers of articles cataloging teams’ mistakes.
Romero rocks Hawks as Shiomi rolls for Eagles
Stefen Romero hit his 14th home run and his third in two nights while Takahiro Shiomi threw 6-2/3 shutout innings for the Rakuten Eagles in their 4-2 win over the SoftBank Hawks at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Romero also doubled twice and was hit by a pitch in the win that pushed the Eagles out of a tie for first place in the Pacific League with the Hawks. Shiomi (3-2) struck out six while hitting a batter and allowing three singles.
The Hawks might have taken the lead in the first but for this catch by Eagles center fielder Kazuki Tanaka, whose RBI double in the second made it 2-0 Rakuten.
Hawks starter Akira Niho (3-3) allowed three runs over seven innings to take the loss.
Martin leads charging Marines past Buffaloes
Leonys Martin homered and doubled twice, scored three runs and drove in four for the Lotte Marines in a 9-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
The Marines torched Buffaloes starter Kohei “K” Suzuki (0-2) for seven runs in 3-1/3 innings, while the Marines’ Kota Futaki (1-1) gave up two over seven innings to earn the win.
Martin’s home run was his 10th of the year.
Fighters get past Lions guardian Garrett
Reed Garrett has been a pillar of the Seibu Lions’ bullpen but on Saturday, he got carried along by the tide as the third pitcher in a five-run seventh inning that lifted the Nippon Ham Fighters to a 7-6 come-from-behind win at Sapporo Dome.
Katsunori Hirai retired two of the first three batters he faced in the seventh but couldn’t get the fourth. Rookie Tetsu Miyagawa (0-1) allowed four-straight runners to reach before giving way to Garrett. With the Lions’ lead down to a run, and two on, Garrett allowed an infield single that loaded the bases and a two-run single to Ryo Watanabe.
Watanabe hit a two-run home in the second to briefly give the hosts the lead only for Hotaka Yamakawa to hit his 14th homer, a two-run shot in the Lions’ three-run third.
Marte reinjures left calf in rehab game
Hanshin Tigers infielder Jefry Marte, who has been sidelined since injuring his left calf on July 4, reinjured the leg on Saturday during a Western League game.
The 29-year-old, playing in his second season in Japan, was unable to get as far as first base in the Tigers’ minor league game at the Hiroshima Carp’s minor league park in Yuu, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Blash deactivated due to neck pain
The Rakuten Eagles dropped Jabari Blash from the active roster on Saturday for the first time since the outfielder joined the Pacific League club a year ago
Blash, who turned 31 in July, is suffering from neck pain and has exhibited mild whiplash symptoms according to Jiji.com.
Hideaki Wakui continued to look like the best pitcher in either league this year in an impressive one-hit eight-strikeout 6-0 win over the Rakuten Eagles over the SoftBank Hawks on Wednesday.
Wakui (6-0) retired the Hawks in order in the first but labored through it. Although the visitors were unable to hit his rising fastball, Kenta Imamiya and Yuki Yanagita fouled off a total of 10 of them before they went down swinging at his slider. Although Wakui walked two batters and allowed a ninth-inning single, that first inning represented the Hawks’ best effort against him.
Tsuyoshi Wada (3-1) gave up a couple of quick no-out singles and caught a break when Hideto Asamura lined a pitch away off the end of the bat that was caught on a leap by first baseman Kenji Akashi for an out instead of going for a single.
Wakui tightened up his command from the second to keep his pitch count under control, while Wada issued leadoff walks in the third and fourth. The lefty, however, could not work around a one-out double in the fifth by Kazuki Tanaka.
Wada got ahead of Tanaka 0-2 but the PL’s 2018 rookie of the year pulled a straight fastball in the heart of the zone down the line in left. After a wild pitch put Tanaka on third, rookie Hiroto Kobukata put a good swing on a 3-1 slider that got too much of the plate and lined it into center for an RBI single.
Daichi Suzuki did a good job to get the bat head on a pitch low and away with Kobukata on the go and hit a little fly into left to put runners on the corners. Wada left a pitch up in the zone tailor-made for a sacrifice fly, and Jabari Blash did his duty with a fly to deep center. Back-to-back singles by Hideto Asamura and Hiroaki Shimauchi made it 3-0.
Wada allowed three runs on seven hits and three walks over five innings. He struck out one.
The Eagles added two more runs in the sixth off right-hander Arata Shiino and an unearned run in the eighth. Tanaka walked twice, doubled twice and scored three of the Eagles’ six runs.
Wakui did not allow a base runner until a one-out walk to catcher Hiroaki Takaya in the sixth. He retired the next seven hitters, but with two outs in the eighth, he seemed to lose his rhythm. Retiring Wladimir Balentien on one pitch when his check swing produced and easy grounder to first, seemed to surprise the right-hander. He walked the next batter before notching his first strikeout since the second.
Wakui, who appears to have practiced jokes for use in postgame hero interviews, said it wasn’t the pressure that threw him off but player coach Naoto Watanabe.
“Nobody would look me in the eye, so I guess they were all conscious of it (the no-hit bid), then after the seventh inning, I made contact with Naoto, and he started grinning at me. I started laughing and I think that threw off my concentration a bit,” Wakui said.
Whatever it was, Wakui showed no signs of it in the ninth. Athough a few of his fastballs lacked their earlier pop, the only hit the Hawks managed was Keizo Kawashima’s broken-bat one-out looper between second and short. After a meeting on the mound, Wakui struck out the last two batters, Imamiya and Yanagita to end it.
Spangenberg, Yamakawa power Lions
Cory Spangenberg and Hotaka Yamakawa each hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning as the Seibu Lions came from behind to beat Nick Martinez (1-4) on his 30th birthday and the Nippon Ham Fighters 7-2 at Sapporo Dome.
A day after he drove in six runs, Taishi Ota got the Fighters started in the second against 21-year-old Lions right-hander Sho Ito. Ota singled, took second on a wild pitch and scored on a Toshitake Yokoo single.
After managing just two hits against Martinez through five innings, the Lions took the lead with one down in the sixth. Sosuke Genda singled off a hanging knuckle curve, and Spangenberg punished a poor cutter that came in high and over the plate for his sixth homer of the season. Yamakawa followed a Tomoya Mori single with his 13th home run.
Shuta Tonosaki completed the scoring in the inning when he reached on an error, stole second and scored from third on a Fumikazu Kimura single.
Martinez allowed five runs, four earned, on six hits over 5-1/3 innings.
Ito allowed a run on one walk and five hits while striking out four.
Katsunori Hirai (4-2) earned the win in by striking out cleanup hitter Sho Nakata to end the Fighters fifth and strand two runners. Kaima Taira worked 1-2/3 innings but allowed an inherited runner to score although all five outs he recorded were on strikeouts. Reed Garrett and Tatsushi Masuda finished up with one scoreless frame each.
Marines take no prisoners in Osaka
A two-out Hisanori Yasuda double opened the scoring in the fourth and the Lotte Marines didn’t let up in a 12-1 butt-kicking of the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
The Marines opened the scoring when Shogo Nakamura singled, Leonys Martin walked and both came home on Yasuda’s no-out double to the gap in right. Although he’s not among the league leaders in hard-hit ball percentage on Delta Graphs, it seems like every ball he hits is HARD. With one out, Tsuyoshi Sugano took Yu Suzuki out for his second home run of the year and a 4-0 Lotte lead.
Suzuki (1-3) allowed eight runs over 4-2/3 runs. Marines starter Kazuya Ojima (3-3) gave up a run over six innings.
Togo beats Fujinami, defenseless Tigers
Shosei Togo (4-2) struck out 10 as he allowed a run over seven-plus innings to earn the win as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Hanshin Tigers 4-1 at Koshien Stadium.
Tigers right-hander Shintaro Fujinami (0-3) was overpowering when he could put his fastball and cutter in the zone and get hitters to chase his splitter out of the zone, but he missed often enough to allow four runs, one earned, on four hits and a walk over eight innings
Akihiro Wakabayashi made a good catch in right to end the Tigers’ second, and then singled in the game’s first run in the third against Shintaro Fujinami. Naoki Yoshikawa drew a leadoff walk and went to second on pitcher Shosei Togo’s one-out sacrifice and scored easily on Wakabayashi’s single.
The Giants padded their lead in a three-run sixth when Togo reached because Fujinami misjudged his chopper in front of the mound for an error. With one out, he made a mistake to Hayato Sakamoto, who ripped it to right for a single. A miss-hit high fastball was good for the second out, but cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto did well to launch a fastball away to the right field corner for an RBI double that came close to being caught.
Left fielder Jerry Sands then misjudged a fly to shallow left from Takumi Oshiro that fell for an RBI single and a four-run lead.
The Tigers had a chance to come back in the eighth after back-to-back singles drove Togo from the game, but Yusuke Oyama missed a fat pitch with two outs and the bases loaded to end the inning.
Hamaguchi, Sano skewer Dragons
Haruhiro Hamaguchi allowed a run over five innings and Keita Sano drove in three runs in the DeNA BayStars’ 8-2 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Yokohama Stadium.
Hamaguchi got out of a bases-loaded pickle in a scoreless first inning with the first of his eight strikeouts as Yota Kyoda couldn’t hold up on a ball in the dirt. The BayStars then opened the scoring against Yuya Yanagi, pitching on the first team for the first time in a month after suffering an oblique muscle injury.
Jose Lopez singled off the wall in left with one out and the bases loaded to score Kazuki Kamizato and Neftali Soto, who had doubled on a ball that right fielder Masataka Iryo misjudged.
The visitors got on the board in the third through Iryo’s leadoff infield single and a Yohei Oshima double but the hosts were unstoppable.
Kyoda opened the door for the BayStars to score again in the bottom of the third, when he dropped a fly at shortstop to allow the leadoff man on. After a groundout, Kamizato scored from second on a Keita Sano single.
Nomura, Carp bullpen hold off Swallows
Yusuke Nomura (2-0) allowed a run over seven innings and Shota Dobayashi scored twice in the Hiroshima Carp’s 4-1 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Rookie right-hander Hiroki Onishi (0-1), Yakult’s fourth-round pick last autumn, gave up three first-inning singles, with Ryuhei Matsuyama bringing home Dobayashi to make it 1-0 Carp, who left the bases loaded.
Takeshi Miyamoto, a reserve infielder playing while superstar Tetsuto Yamada regains fitness, homered to tie it off Nomura in the second.
Onishi pitched out of a tough spot in the third and struck out the side in the fourth, but a hard-hit infield single and a Hisayoshi Chono double put the Carp in front in the fifth. The Carp added two runs off the bullpen from Dobayashi’s eighth home run and Tsubasa Aizawa’s third.
Yakult loaded the bases in the in the eighth, but lefty Atsuya Horie pitched left the bags juiced, and Geronimo Franzua notched his third save in the ninth.
Hawks rehab group staff member tests positive
The SoftBank Hawks reported Wednesday that one staff member with the organization’s rehab group in Chikugo, Fukuoka Prefecture, has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The rehab group shares the organization’s minor league facility with the Western League farm team and the Hawks’ third team, and for that reason, minor league activities have been suspended.
The Hawks tested around 200 people on Sunday the day after veteran outfielder Yuya Hasegawa, who is currently with the minor league team, tested positive. One member of the first-team staff, who was asymptomatic, has also tested positive and those who were deemed to have been in close contact with him have been sent home.
BayStars’ Austin, Marines’ Laird dropped
DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said Wednesday the team will deactivate outfielder Tyler Austin following his crash against Koshien Stadium’s right field wall on July 31 according to the Daily Sports, while the Pacific League’s Lotte Marines have deactivated third baseman Brandon Laird.
Austin hurt his neck trying to catch a fly at the wall, and it has been stiff ever since.
Laird has been serving as the Marines’ DH recently with rookie cleanup hitter Hisanori Yasuda starting in his place at third base. On Tuesday, he was pinch-hit for in the sixth inning due to a stiff back.
The Chunichi Dragons beat the Hanshin Tigers in a 1-0 pitchers’ duel on Saturday afternoon at Nagoya Dome, but the real story was not the tight pitching but the seventh-inning high school-style offense that produced the winning run.
Masataka Iryo, 30-year-old reserve outfielder, drove in the run off Yuki Nishi (2-2) who took the loss for his strong seven-inning effort.
Dragons right-hander Akiyoshi Katsuno allowed four hits, two by Jerry Sands, and two walks. After he was gone, lefty Hiroto Fuku, and right-handers Daisuke Sobue and Raidel Martinez were all lights out. But the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was that seventh inning.
Nobumasa Fukuda did the hard work with a leadoff single and was replaced by a pinch-hitter. That’s when the story really really began. Takaya Ishikawa, the Dragons’ 19-year-old slugging rookie infielder sacrificed.
“There it is, his first career sacrifice bunt,” the TV announcer crowed. Ishikawa hasn’t homered yet, and as excited as he was, it seemed like a sacrifice was the next best thing. Ishikawa admitted that he hadn’t bunted in a game since elementary school although he does practice bunting.
Dragons captain Shuhei Takahashi, who rejoined the team earlier than expected after suffering a hamstring strain two weeks earlier, hit behind the runner to advance him to third.
Iryo’s sharp grounder into the hole was grabbed by shortstop Seiya Kinami, who had no play at first, but Iryo did what Japanese players with a surplus of fighting spirit are expected to do: he went into the bag head first in a “spirited slide.”
New import Joe Gunkel, who entered the season in the Tigers starting rotation, returned to the team after suffering back stiffness and pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.
The ultimate sacrifice
Thirty years or so back, no Japanese baseball broadcast was complete without a bizarre liturgy regarding the sacrifice bunt. Whenever a bunting situation came up, the analyst and announcer would talk about how extremely difficult it is to get a bunt down, about the skill required and the challenges one needs to overcome.
This was a setup, of course, and similar to the kind of things former first baseman say whenever someone refers to their old position as less challenging.
The purpose is to heap praise on bunters. The irony is that whenever a player failed to execute a routine bunt–which seconds before had been treated as baseball’s ultimate challenge–the former player serving as an analyst would attack the hitter for his inability to execute the simplest of tasks.
It was a wonderful time to be a fan of Japanese baseball.
BayStars continue to rock
The DeNA BayStars continued to play like they are on a mission on Saturday in a 6-2 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Yokohama Stadium.
Following widespread criticism of manager Alex Ramirez for his willingness to keep Jose Lopez in the lineup and Keita Sano in the cleanup spot, the BayStars’s offense has been dynamite, scoring 21 runs over the last three games with Lopez and Sano doing much of the heavy lifting.
Sano and Lopez each had two hits and an RBI, while Tyler Austin doubled twice, walked and scored two runs for the BayStars.
Lefty Shota Imanaga (3-2) allowed two runs, one earned over six innings. Lefty Edwin Escobar struck out four over two scoreless innings and struggling closer Yasuaki Yamasaki worked a 1-2-3 ninth after not pitching the last two days.
Tomo Otosaka, batting for Imanaga in the sixth, hit a three-run pinch-hit home run.
Kawabata saves Swallows’ blushes
Shingo Kawabata, the injury-prone veteran infielder who won the Central League’s batting title in 2015, came off the bench in the ninth inning to stroke a sayonara single, lifting the Yakult Swallows to a 6-5 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Swallows right-hander Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa allowed three runs over seven innings, but rookie setup man Noboru Shimizu surrendered a run in the eighth, and closer Taishi Ishiyama blew the one-run save before stranding three Giants base runners.
Norichika Aoki hit a two-run homer in the first off former Giants closer Hirokazu Sawamura, drew three walks and doubled to open the ninth, when he was pulled for a pinch-runner.
Sawamura was an emergency starter in place of Angel Sanchez, who complained of discomfort in his right shoulder prior to the game.
Had the game ended 5-5, it would have been the Swallows third 5-5 tie in four games.
Yoshihiro Maru homered twice for the Giants
Nakata blast completes Fighters comeback
Sho Nakata’s three-run home run broke a 6-6 seventh-inning tie as the Nippon Ham Fighters came back from an early 6-0 deficit to beat the SoftBank Hawks at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Ryoya Kurihara belted a first-inning grand slam off former Cleveland Indians farmhand Toru Murata, and Hawks starter Shuta Ishikawa allowed three runs over six innings, but the Hawks bullpen proved uncharacteristically vulnerable.
Taneichi blanks Lions for 1st career shutout
Lotte Marines right-hander Atsuki Taneichi (3-1) struck out 10, while walking four in a four-hit shutout in a 5-0 win over the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome that was a scoreless game through six innings.
Lions starter Keisuke Honda (0-2) allowed a run in six-plus innings to take the loss. A walk and a stolen base by pinch-runner Hiromi Oka set up Lotte’s Hisanori Yasuda to drive in the opening run.
Yasuda, a 21-year-old left-handed-hitting corner infielder, was the Marines’ top draft pick in 2018. The rookie seems to hit one or two rockets every game. The Marines broke the game open in a four-run eighth off right-hander Tetsu Miyagawa, the Lions’ top draft pick last autumn.
Mune’s inside the parker sparks Buffs in 9th
Yuma Mune’s ninth-inning drive to the fence in right went for an inside-the-park home run, snapping a 3-3 tie for the Orix Buffaloes, who finished the night with a 6-3 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Eagles right fielder Jabari Blash leaped to try and catch Mune’s drive off Eagles closer Kohei Morihara, but hit the wall awkwardly and was unable to give chase immediately while the speedy Buffalo circled the bases.
Buffaloes lefty Daiki Tajima allowed three runs over seven innings, while Eagles southpaw Takahiro Shiomi held the Buffaloes to a run over six innings.
The visitors took a 3-2 lead in the seventh against former Lion and Padre submariner Kazuhisa Makita. Aderlin Rodriguez opened with a home run to tie it.
With two outs and runners on the corners, the Buffaloes finally executed a play that has backfired on them twice over the past few games, the delayed double steal, with Mune scoring the go-ahead run on what might have been the biggest home plate collision in Japanese baseball since they were outlawed in 2016.
Catcher Yuichi Adachi crossed into Mune’s path to catch the ball, which struck the runner. Mune was ruled safe, and would have been ruled safe even if a tag had been made since NPB prohibits players from obstructing the baseline even with the ball in hand.
Tajima, however, surrendered the tying run in the bottom of the inning, setting up the thrilling finish. Brandon Dickson worked the ninth for Orix, earning his fifth save.
Dragons recall Takahashi, Carp drop Osera
The Chunichi Dragons activated their captain, Shuhei Takahashi on Saturday, while the Hiroshima Carp have deactivated ace right-hander Daichi Osera.
Takahashi suffered a mild left hamstring strain on July 11.
The 29-year-old was pulled after two innings from the Carp’s game on Friday in Yokohama due to an “accident” a catch-all phrase that could include any kind of incident or injury.
The Carp said later only that his “condition was not good.”
Osera threw a 116-pitch complete game on Opening Day and a 132-pitch complete game seven days later in a lop-sided win. Since then, he has surrendered 10 runs on 24 hits and six walks over 19 innings.
Meanwhile, the Seibu Lions have activated Venezuelan slugger Ernesto Mejia for the first time this season.
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.
Justin Bour may have been typecast as the second coming of Randy Bass because of his left-handed power to left and center, but on Thursday, he looked the part in his first regular-season game at Koshien Stadium.
Bour ruined what had been a terrific start by Yomiuri Giants lefty Cristopher Mercedes (0-2) by blasting a high 1-0 slider well past the center field fence with a man on. Bour’s third home run made it 2-0, and the Hanshin Tigers went on to win their home opener 2-1.
Tigers starter Onelki Garcia dodged his share of bullets after walking six over six scoreless innings, but it was Mercedes, who struck out eight while allowing five hits and a walk over 6-2/3 innings who was left holding the bag.
Suguru Iwazaki (1-0) earned the win with a scoreless inning of relief, a feat duplicated by Robert Suarez in the eighth. Kyuji Fujikawa, who has been shaky this season after a remarkable 2019 campaign, allowed a run on a walk and two, two-out singles to cut it close before securing his second save.
Here’s Bour’s hero interview:
Intentional walk costs Dragons again
For the second time in three games, a late-inning intentional walk came back to bite Chunichi Dragons manager Tsuyoshi Yoda in the butt in an 8-6 loss to the Yakult Swallows at Nagoya Dome.
Leading 5-4 after the Dragons scored twice against right-hander Scott McGough in the eighth, Dragons lefty Toshiya Okada surrendered a one-out double to Norichika Aoki and issued a walk to Swallows’ on-base machine Tomotaka Sakaguchi. A 1-2 wild pitch to superstar Tetsuto Yamada opened first base, and Yoda ordered the free pass.
Okada, who walked in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning of Tuesday’s 2-1 loss after an intentional walk had loaded the bases, fell behind 2-0 to Kotaro Yamasaki, who has led a charmed existence this season, where seemingly every ball coming off his bat finds a hole.
He put a good swing on a high pitch for a two-run single, and slugger Munetaka Murakami piled on with a two-run double through the drawn-in outfield.
Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama surrendered a run in the ninth but earned his third save.
Swallows lefty Keishi Takahashi allowed two runs through five innings, and was barely recognizable, without his transformer-like leg-kick, arm-raise, leg-lower, leg-raise delivery. He looked like an ordinary lefty with a longer-than-usual leg lift. Takahashi located a fastball that had a lot of spin on it and combined that with a slider he kept at the bottom of the zone.
Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez came off the bench as a pinch-hitter and tied the game with an RBI single. He lined out to second to end the game, keeping his average at .500.
BayStars’ Austin, Ino fillet Carp
Tyler Austin singled to with one out to help set the table in a two-run first inning, doubled and homered in the eighth to put the game out of reach in the DeNA BayStars’ 5-1 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Shoichi Ino (2-0) allowed a run in six innings as he scattered four hits and two walks while striking out four. The BayStars bullpen was solid, allowing four hits over the final three innings.
Rookie Carp right-hander Masato Morishita struggled with hanging breaking balls and straight fastballs in the heart of the zone, but never lost his composure in driving rain and allowed just two runs on four walks and eight hits over five innings.
Sharp Shiomi slices up Hawks
Right-hander Takahiro Shiomi (1-2) survived a first-inning scrape with just a run scored and cruised through the next six innings for the Rakuten Eagles in a 9-1 hammering of the SoftBank Hawks at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Shiomi was able to command his slider and splitter and locate his fastball as he struck out seven, walked one while allowing four hits.
Hawks starter Rick van den Hurk (1-1) allowed a run through four innings but his stuff deserted him in the fifth. Straight fastballs, floating changeups and hanging sliders set the visitors up for a four-run inning. The Eagles scored four more in the sixth after Yuya Ogo reached on a two-out bunt single.
Jabari Blash delivered a first-inning sacrifice fly and had a two-run fifth-inning single and drew a bases-loaded walk in the sixth.
Fighters blow late lead in tie with Buffaloes
Nippon Ham Fighters cleanup hitter Sho Nakata did his utmost to give his team the lead, but the bullpen and defense gave it away under pressure from pinch-runner Kodai Sano in a 4-4, 10-inning tie with the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Takahiro Okada, who has been hitting the ball hard a lot this year, homered with Masataka Yoshida on in the fourth off Fighters’ starter Drew VerHagen to put Orix in front in the fourth inning.
Buffaloes lefty Sachiya Yamasaki was on thin ice through five innings with five walks but no runs allowed. He was yanked after a leadoff walk and two singles in the sixth and right-handed slugger Sho Nakata coming up.
Nakata was rewarded for a great at-bat against righty Keisuke Sawada with a three-run homer. After missing high with a 1-2 splitter on his seventh pitch, Sawada tried again with another splitter but left it in the zone. Nakata saw it coming and launched it well back into the second deck at Kyocera Dome.
Hijinks ensued in the eighth when veteran Fighters lefty Naoki “I got an MVP vote in 2016” Miyanishi issued two two-out walks. Sano, running for Okada, stole second and then third. Aderlin Rodriguez walked, and tried to draw a throw on a delayed steal. Fighters catcher Yushi Shimizu wasn’t fooled and tried to throw behind Sano at third. His throw, however, sailed into left field, and the game was tied.
Two scoreless innings from Hirotoshi Masui and one each from Brandon Dickson and Tyler Higgins kept the Fighters quiet and paved the way for the Buffaloes comeback.
Jackson leaves Lotte
Right-handed reliever Jay Jackson will be released by the Lotte Marines, with the team saying Thursday it received a request from the pitcher to be let out of his contract the day before.
The team has declined to explain the situation at the current time. The 32-year-old pitched with the Hiroshima Carp from 2016 to 2018. When he was not offered an extension for 2019, Jackson wound up with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019.
“We can’t elaborate at this time,” the Marines’ director of baseball operations Naoki Matsumoto said according to the Daily Sports.
This season, Jackson has allowed three runs over seven innings. He has struck out 12 of the 29 batters he’s faced.
Swallows’ Suarez, Dragons’ Yanagi dropped
The Yakult Swallows deactivated right-handed starting pitcher Albert Suarez on Thursday, with the team saying he needed to makes adjustments.
The 30-year-old Suarez is 2-0 with a 0.53 ERA in three starts, although he walked seven batters in Tuesday’s game against the Chunichi Dragons. The Swallows won the game 2-1 in 10 innings.
The Swallows replaced Suarez on the active roster with Keiji Suzuki, who may have Japan’s funkiest left-handed delivery.
The Dragons starter on Tuesday, Yuya Yanagi, was also deactivated. Yanagi, who struck out 10 but allowed a run in six innings, complained of stiffness in his right obliques during practice on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old right-hander led the Dragons in wins last year, when he posted an 11-7 mark with a 3.53 ERA. This season, he’s allowed four runs in 20 innings, while striking out 25.
As expected, the Yomiuri Giants activated flame-throwing Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira to take the roster spot opened when closer Rubby De La Rosa, who suffered a left oblique strain on Sunday.