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.