Tag Archives: Jerry Sands

NPB wrap 4-10-21

Senga out 2-3 months

SoftBank Hawks ace Kodai Senga will likely be out two to three months with ligament damage in his left ankle, suffered when he caught a line drive back to the box in his April 6 season debut.

Kuri, Kikuchi, Carp stop Giants

Carp 4, Giants 2

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Ryosuke Kikuchi singled three times, stole a base and scored three times, and Allen Kuri (3-0) allowed two runs, one earned over seven innings to earn the win for Hiroshima. Yomiuri starter Shosei Togo (1-1) allowed four runs in 3-2/3 innings.

Kuri struck out five, walked two and allowed three hits, although he did participate in the “let’s throw the ball into the outfield game” the Carp infield participated in that cost them a first-inning run.

Haruki Omichi worked a 1-2-3 eighth against the heart of the Giants order, and fellow rookie Ryoji Kuribayashi worked around a one-out walk to record his fifth save.

With the scored tied 2-2 in the fourth, Carp rookie Ryutaro Hatsuki reached for the second time, on a wild pitch uncaught third strike, was sacrificed to second by Kuri and scored on Kikuchi’s single. Kikuchi stole second and scored an insurance run on a Tomohiro Abe single.

The Giants have scored three runs or fewer for 12 straight games, matching a franchise record set in 1993.

Tigers 4, BayStars 0

At Yokohama Stadium, side-armer Koyo Aoyagi (2-0) allowed three singles and two walks over seven innings, and Jerry Sands iced the game with his fifth home run, a two-run shot in the ninth. Central-League-leading Hanshin took the lead off Taiga Kamichatani (0-1) in the fourth on a Kentaro Itohara double and a one-out Yusuke Oyama single.

Jefry Marte went 0-for-3, but walked in the ninth to put a runner on ahead of Sands’ homer. Robert Suarez worked a 1-2-3 ninth for the Tigers.

Swallows 2, Dragons 2

At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, Chunichi Dragons starter Yuya Yanagi surrendered a one-out two-run fourth-inning homer to Munetaka Murakami but stranded two runners that ended the Yakult Swallows’ scoring chances. The hosts scored an unearned run in the first against Yasuhiro Ogawa but got even in the sixth when Nobumasa Fukuda led off with a double and scored on Toshiki Abe’s single.

Hawks 8, Eagles 8

At Sendai’s Rakuten Semei Park, the SoftBank Hawks came back to tie it in the seventh on an Akira Nakamura RBI single after the defending Pacific League champs blew a seven-run lead and had to settle with their second straight tie against the Rakuten Eagles, finishing 8-8 after they played to a 1-1 draw in Friday’s series opener.

The Eagles chased submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi after 4-1/3 innings. He’d allowed solo homers in the third and fourth to make it 7-2 before the hosts mashed out back-to-back three run innings.

Eagles closer Yuki Matsui stranded a pair in the top of the ninth to ensure Rakuten couldn’t lose –due to this year’s lack of extra innings. In the bottom of the ninth, Livan Moinelo showed that he might be slowing down.

After striking out three batters on 12 pitches in Wednesday’s season debut, the Cuban lefty only struck out two in a 12-pitch perfect inning on Thursday, and needed 18 pitches and only struck out one batter in his perfect inning against the Eagles. Man’s losing it.

Marines 6, Lions 2

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Leonys Martin hit a pair of solo homers and singled for the Lotte Marines. He now leads both leagues in home runs with seven. Martin opened the scoring in the first against Shota Hamaya (1-2) who left the bases loaded but surrendered a Martin’s leadoff homer in Lotte’s three-run third.

Manabu Mima (1-2) allowed two runs over seven innings to get the win.

The Lions’ Aito Takeda, a sixth-year pro who has had only glimpses of action on the first team, hit his third career homer one day after hitting his first two.

Fighters 5, Buffaloes 2

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, a day after winning their second game of the season, the Nippon Ham Fighters have their first win streak of the year after Yuki James Nomura’s ninth-inning RBI double broke a 2-2 tie.

Masataka Yoshida’s first-inning RBI double pushed across Yuma Mune for the first run. Mune doubled and scored the tying run in the sixth on a Yoshida single. Fighters starter Naoyuki Uwasawa and Buffaloes lefty Sachiya Yamasaki each worked six innings.

Orix’s Atsushi Nomi and Tyler Higgins kept the game tied for two innings before rookie Taisei Urushihara (0-1) let the game get away in the ninth. Fighters lefty Naoki Miyanishi (1-1) got the win, and Toshihiro Sugiura got his second save.

At 40 years, 10 months of age, Nomi became the oldest Orix pitcher to earn a hold. The former Tigers’ ace is also the oldest Hanshin pitcher to earn a hold.

BayStars’ Soto, Austin to join workouts

Two-time Central League home run champ Neftali Soto and slugging second-year import Tyler Austin will work out with the DeNA BayStars’ first team on Sunday, manager Daisuke Miura said Saturday according to Sponichi Annex.

Miura, the report said, spoke with the two at the club’s minor league facility in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, and that they reported no issues and were keen to rejoin the club.

“We’ll see how they look,” Miura said. “They were practicing before they arrived in Japan, but haven’t played in games, so we’ll see what’s what.”

Miura said pitcher Michael Peoples would join the team after pitching some EL games for the farm team.

The BayStars were unable to get any of their returning players into Japan before the start of the season. Most new imported players, unless they arrived before a state of emergency was declared in January like Hiroshima’s Keven Cron, have only recently been able to enter Japan.

Starting pitchers

Pacific League

Eagles vs Hawks: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Takahisa Hayakawa (1-1, 3.00) vs Yuki Matsumoto (1-0, 0.00)

Marines vs Lions: Zozo Marine Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Shota Suzuki (0-0, 1.50) vs Katsunori Hirai (2-0, 1.54)

Buffaloes vs Fighters: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Hiroya Miyagi (2-0, 0.60) vs Takayuki Kato (1-0, 2.08)

Central League

BayStars vs Tigers: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Kosuke Sakaguchi (1-0, 0.00) vs Joe Gunkel (2-0, 0.73)

Dragons vs Swallows: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Shinnosuke Ogasawara (0-1, 1.54) vs Kazuto Taguchi (0-1, 4.82)

Carp vs Giants: Mazda Stadium 1:30 pm, 0:30 am EDT

Yusuke Nomura (0-1, 1.80) vs Nobutaka Imamura (1-0, 1.29)

Active roster moves 4/10/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/20

Central League


BayStarsP41Shuto Sakurai


BayStarsP59Kentaro Taira
BayStarsP92Yuki Kuniyoshi
CarpP43Sotaro Shimauchi

Pacific League


MarinesP20Taiki Tojo
EaglesOF27Takero Okajima
FightersC60Takuya Kori


MarinesP37Fumiya Ono
LionsIF4Kakeru Yamanobe
EaglesOF25Kazuki Tanaka
FightersC22Shinya Tsuruoka

NPB wrap 4-7-21

Breaking: Tanaka will pitch when he’s ready

Wednesday’s pregame news about Masahiro Tanaka was that he won’t be ready to pitch on Saturday, as Rakuten Eagles general manager suggested might be possible last week.

The rest of that story, other than the part that Tanaka might be ready in 10 days instead of 21 from his calf-muscle injury was, surprisingly enough, that the Eagles would bring him back when he was fit.

Today’s was more of the same.

“It might not be the 10th. It might be the 11th. It’s up to him. We’re not going to rush him in to get him one day earlier when our goal is to have him pitch 20-plus games without trouble,” Ishii said according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.

Tatsumi powers Eagles

Eagles 6, Lions 3

At MetLife Dome, Rakuten Eagles leadoff hitter Ryosuke Tatsumi walked, homered to the opposite field, tripled, scored twice and drove in three runs in a win over the Lions that pushed the Eagles past Seibu and into first place in the Pacific League.

Eagles starter Takahiro Norimoto (2-0)  allowed two runs over seven innings on seven hits but no walks while striking out four. He allowed the Lions to make it a 3-2 game in the fifth, but struck out 2019 MVP Tomoya Mori to end the inning with two runners on.

Rookie Gakuto Wakabayashi, the Lions’ fourth pick out of Komazawa University singled twice and hit his first pro homer.

Lions starter Tatsuya Imai (0-1) worked five innings. He allowed three runs on five walks, a hit batsman and five hits. With two on and two outs in the seventh, the Eagles scored twice off Reed Garrett when Tatsumi tripled over the drawn-in outfield. The Lions combined two walk seven, a significant improvement over their 13 on Tuesday.

Hawks 6, Fighters 2

At Sapporo Dome, there was good news and bad news for the Nippon Ham Fighters. Rookie Hiromi Ito (0-1) struck out 11 batters over seven innings and the team got its first home run of the year, then reality struck.

Yurisbel Gracial opened the scoring in the second with his first home run. The hosts took the lead in the fourth on Taishi Ota’s two-run homer off Shunsuke Kasaya, who walked six in his 4-1/3 innings.

A leadoff walk to Alfredo Despaigne and an error put Ito on the spot in the fifth but the rookie struck out the tail of the Hawks’ order only for his teammates to waste more walks in the home half.

Gracial singled off the wall in right to lead off SoftBank’s “lucky seven” seventh inning. With runners on the corners, Ito fielded a comebacker and threw to second to start a double play, but the ball was dropped, everyone was safe. Gracial scored and Ito threw a high 0-1 fastball to Nobuhiro Masuda, who put a good swing on it and broke the 2-2 tie with a double off the wall.

Ryoya Kurihara’s two-run eighth-inning double put the game away for SoftBank, who saw Livan Moinelo make his season debut. The lefty faced three batters, threw 12 pitches and struck them all out. That’s an entrance.

Marines 9, Buffaloes 2

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, the Orix Buffaloes wasted a useful start from Hirotoshi Masui (1-1). The former closer left a 2-1 game against the Lotte Marines after throwing 96 pitches, and allowing two runs over five innings.

Lotte starter Daiki Iwashita (1-1) allowed two runs on two walks and two hits while striking out seven through 6-1/3 innings. Yuki Karakawa inherited Iwashita’s one-out bases-loaded jam in the seventh and let in just one of those runners in before the Marines played home run derby against right-hander Yu Suzuki in the home half.

Hisanori Yasuda, Leonys Martin and Yudai Fujioka each went deep in the five-run inning to turn the game into a rout.

Marines leadoff hitter Takashi Ogino doubled in each of his first two at-bats and scored both times. Takashi Toritani “doubled” on a ball that Takahiro Okada stumbled on but couldn’t stop and scored Lotte’s third run. Frank Herrmann followed Karakawa and retired all three batters he faced in the eighth.

Tigers 7, Giants 1

At Koshien Stadium, rookie left-hander Masashi Ito (1-0) earned his first pro win as the Hanshin Tigers bruised the defending Central League champion Yomiuri Giants. Giants starter Seishu Hatake (0-1) gave up a lot of sharp ground balls that just missed gloves and was stuck for four runs, three earned, over 3-2/3 innings.

While the Giants had trouble with their catching and throwing, the Tigers were alert on the bases and at the plate, when Yomiuri’s third pitcher, Toshiki Sakurai couldn’t stop himself from throwing straight fastballs.

There were so many bullets hit off him that one expected Giants infielders to ask for hazardous-duty pay, or for the umpires to eject the right-hander for throwing “kikenkyu“–literally “dangerous balls” and the expression used with the automatic ejection that comes when a batter is struck in the head with a pitch.

Jerry Sands hit his fourth homer of the season, a two-run blast off Sakurai in the fourth inning.

With the game still scoreless in the bottom of the first, Tigers shortstop Seiya Kinami, whose 15 errors in 2019 were the most in either league since 2017, missed a routine play, causing former Tigers manager Akinobu Mayumi, the TV broadcast analyst to say, “Oh man, that was your homework assignment.”

Dragons 3, BayStars 1

At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, DeNA BayStars rookie Taisei Irie (0-2) allowed a double, two singles and a walk, but surrendered three runs, one earned, over five innings as his teammates spent a lot of time cooling their heels on the bases but not scoring against Akiyoshi Katsuno (1-0), who gave up six hits and walked four over five innings. The hosts scored in the second on a Dayan Viciedo walk, a single by catcher Takuya Kinoshita and a two-out error.

Akira Neo, whose batted ball resulted in a two-run throwing error, singled home a run in the fifth after Kinoshita opened with a double. The Dragons, who are without Cuban closer Raidel Martinez, were saved by set-up man Daisuke Sobue, who recorded his third save.

Swallows 3, Carp 2

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Yakult’s defense made the difference in a game where both starting pitchers, Yakult’s Hirotoshi Takanashi and Hiroshima lefty Hiroki Tokoda, allowed two runs over 5-2/3 innings.

Yakult catcher Yuhei Nakamura, the Swallows’ emergency atypical No. 2 hitter, doubled twice, singled and scored twice. Munetaka Murakami doubled him home in the fourth, and the Carp took the lead on homers by catcher Tsubasa Aizawa and Ryosuke Kikuchi.

With two outs and two on in the sixth, Seiya Suzuki stole third against new pitcher Hiroki Kondo and tried to score when Nakamura’s throw sailed off the tip of Murakami’s glove at third. The ball went straight to shortstop Naomichi Nishiura whose strike to home barely beat Suzuki for the third out. The Swallows tied it in the bottom of the inning on singles by Nakamura and Murakami, and a safety squeeze.

Scott McGough (1-0) pitched a 1-2-3 seventh for the Swallows and got the win after Kotaro “Norichika Aoki light” Yamasaki singled in the tie-breaking run in the home half. Noboru Shimizu gave the Swallows another 1-2-3 inning before closer Taichi “Mr. Adventure” Ishiyama put the tying and go-ahead runs on in the ninth before recording his third save.

Starting pitchers

Pacific League

Fighters vs Hawks: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Ryusei Kawano (0-1, 12.00) vs Shota Takeda (0-1, 1.42)

Lions vs Eagles: MetLife Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Towa Uema (-) vs Ryota Takinaka (0-1, 54.00)

Marines vs Buffaloes: Zozo Marine Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Fumiya Motomae (1-0, 7.20) vs Yoshinobu Yamamoto (1-1, 0.56)

Central League

Swallows vs Carp: Jingu Stadium 5:30 pm, 4:30 am EDT

Yasunobu Okugawa (0-1, 5.40) vs Yuta Nakamura (0-1, 7.50)

Dragons vs BayStars: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Takahiro Matsuba (0-1, 3.60) vs Kentaro Taira (0-0, 0.00)

Tigers vs Giants: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Takumi Akiyama (1-0, 2.57) vs Yuki Takahashi (1-0, 0.00)

Active roster moves 4/7/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/17

Central League


GiantsP45Seishu Hatake
GiantsC38Yukinori Kishida


GiantsC22Seiji Kobayashi

Pacific League




HawksP41Kodai Senga
LionsP41Hiroki Inoue
FightersP63Ryuji Kitaura

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NPB Wrap 4-4-21

Miyagi wins rookie showdown

At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, 19-year-old Hiroya Miyagi (2-0) won a rookie southpaw showdown with Takahisa Hayakawa (1-1) Sunday in the Orix Buffaloes’ 4-0 Pacific League win over the Rakuten Eagles.

Miyagi struck out five over eight innings. He pinpointed his pitches when he needed to as in his masterful three-pitch strikeout of right-handed slugger Hideto Asamura in the fourth with a runner on.

Leadoff man Ryo Ota, Masataka Yoshida and Steven Moya each had three hits for the Buffaloes. Yoshida’s second homer, with Ota aboard, opened the scoring in the third.

Yoshida set the table with one of two singles in the sixth before Moya singled both home.

Unlike Hayakawa, whom four teams named as their first choice in last year’s draft, Miyagi was the Buffaloes’ second alternate pick after they lost a lottery pick for slugging infielder Shoya Ishikawa (Chunichi) and left-handed pitcher (Ryusei Kawano) Nippon Ham.

Miyagi struck out 16 batters in 16 innings last season, as he retained his rookie status for 2021.

At Sapporo Dome, lefty Takayuki Kato allowed a run on one hit and two walks over eight innings, and Toshihiro Sugiura completed the one-hitter for the Nippon Ham Fighters, who came from behind to tie the Lotte Marines 1-1 on Haruki Nishikawa’s eighth-inning RBI single.

Marines starter, rookie lefty Shota Suzuki allowed two hits and two walks and struck out 11 over seven scoreless innings.

At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Wu Nien-ting and top draft pick Kento Watanabe each homered for the Seibu Lions in their 4-2 win over the SoftBank Hawks, who lost their fifth straight.

Katsunori Hirai (2-0) allowed two runs over 5-2/3 innings in which he struck out eight, while the bullpen allowed three runners the rest of the way. Reed Garrett retired the heart of the Hawks’ order 1-2-3 in the ninth for his first save. Tsuyoshi Wada (0-1) gave up four runs on four walks and six hits over six innings.

BayStars win a game

At Yokohama Stadium, Kazuki Kamizato and Toshiro Miyazaki homered in support of rookie Kosuke Sakaguchi (1-0) who won his season debut and the DeNA BayStars’ first victory under new manager Daisuke Miura, 3-1 over the Hiroshima Carp.

The right-hander scattered three walks and three hits over five scoreless innings, and the BayStars’ pen held on for four innings, despite some danger from both former closer Yasuaki Yamasaki and his current closer Kazuki Mishima.

Gunkel wins 2nd for Tigers

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Joe Gunkel (2-0) allowed a run in 6-1/3 innings as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Chunichi Dragons 3-1 with Robert Suarez getting his second save.

Jerry Sands had two hits and a walk for the Tigers, who opened the scoring on Koji Chikamoto’s leadoff homer in the first, and broke a 1-1 sixth-inning tie on a walk and singles from Sands and Yosuke Yokawa.

Giants win virus bowl

At Tokyo Dome, the Yomiuri Giants responded to a string of coronavirus infections with a come-from-behind 2-1 Central League win against the Yakult Swallows, who are also without infected players.

Swallows rookie Yuto Kanekubo worked five scoreless innings, but the game unraveled in the eighth, when the tying run scored on a passed ball, and the go-ahead run came in on a routine two-out fly at the wall that was not caught after left fielder Kotaro Yamasaki and center fielder Yasutaka Shiomi nearly collided.

Taishi Hirooka, traded to the Giants in March for southpaw Kazuto Taguchi, was credited with an RBI triple on the play.

“He’s a player with many unseen talents,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said when asked about Hirooka without elaborating that one of those talents might be luck.

In-form Zelous Wheeler was scratched from his start in left field immediately before the start of the game and replaced by base-running adventurer Soichiro Tateoka.

Tateoka saved the game with a two-out bases-loaded catch in the second that held Yakult to a run. Hara declined to say anything about Wheeler’s situation, saying, “I’ll let the team announce that.” It was no surprise when the club then said Wheeler had tested positive, too.

Giants-Swallows highlights

Giants suffer NPB’s 2nd outbreak

Less than 10 days into the 2021 season, and Japan has already had two outbreaks among it’s top 12 teams, following positive tests by Yomiuri Giants players, Hochi Shimbun reported Sunday.

Positive tests were revealed Sunday for center fielder and two-time Central League MVP Yoshihiro Maru, and infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima. Both started Saturday’s game against the Yakult Swallows, who announced the league’s first outbreak, on Wednesday.

In addition to Swallows catcher Akihisa Nishida, who tested positive, the team sent five other players home out of concern for their contact with infected players and staff.

The Giants have also re-tested infielder Akihiro Wakabayashi, whose ninth-inning pinch-hit RBI double secured the hosts a tie against Yakult at Tokyo Dome.

Last season, when Nippon Professional Baseball played a 120-game regular season, one game was postponed out of concern for the virus, while two outbreaks were reported.

The Hanshin Tigers’ president resigned over his team’s infections, while Lotte Marines outfielder Ikuhiro Kiyota has been indefinitely suspended for breaking protocols on the road and becoming infected during an outbreak that caused the team to deactivate a third of its roster.

Players sidelined specifically for concern due to coronavirus infections can be re-activated in less than the usual 10 days when they are declared virus-free.

Active roster moves 4/4/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/14, unless marked with an asterisk. Those players are being deactivated under coronavirus protocol rules and may be reactivated when declared safe.

Central League


GiantsIF66Kazuya Katsuki
GiantsIF68Yuto Akihiro
GiantsOF39Soichiro Tateoka
BayStarsP12Kousuke Sakaguchi
SwallowsP38Yugo Umeno
SwallowsP48Yuto Kanakubo


GiantsIF0Daiki Masuda *
GiantsIF5Hiroyuki Nakajima *
GiantsIF37Akihiro Wakabayashi *
GiantsIF52Takumi Kitamura *
GiantsOF8Yoshihiro Maru *
GiantsOF9Yoshiyuki Kamei *
BayStarsP48Masaya Kyoyama
SwallowsP62Hiroaki Saiuchi

Pacific League


LionsIF8Kento Watanabe
LionsIF63Ryusei Tsunashima


LionsIF5Shuta Tonosaki

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NPB wrap 3-30-21

Kishi throws season’s 1st shutout

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Takayuki Kishi scattered eight singles while striking out seven and walking none for the Rakuten Eagles, who spoiled the Lotte Marines’ home opener, 5-0 in the Pacific League on Tuesday.

Kishi, who went 7-0 last year despite walking 20 batters over 67-1/3 innings, a fairly high rate for him, got back into his more normal groove. The 36-year-old elder statesman of the Eagles’ staff poured a little cold water on tradition in the postgame hero interview.

“I wasn’t thinking I was going to go all the way and finish the game. I wasn’t going to do anything counterproductive. I just focused on pitching as well as I could to get guys out,” he said.

Southpaw Kazuya Ojima (0-1) took on the mostly left-handed-hitting Eagles and took his lumps from their big right-handed bat, Hideto Asamura, who homered, and singled in a run. Eigoro Mogi followed Asamura’s sixth-inning single with a three-run homer.

The Marines activated slugging infielder Brandon Laird for the game. The 33-year-old managed just 39 games last season before injuries intervened. The one-time Mexico international went 1-for-3 against Kishi.

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, the SoftBank Hawks improved to 4-0 on the season with a 3-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes. Hawks lefty Shunsuke Kasaya (1-0) allowed a run over six innings on Adam Jones’ leadoff shot in the second. Kasaya struck out seven and walked two.

The Buffaloes got solid work from lefty Daiki Tajima, who gave up two runs over six innings. Hawks catcher Takuya Kai cannoned a pitch from Tyler Higgins over the wall in left to complete the scoring in the seventh, while Steven Moya went 1-for-3 for the Buffaloes.

At Sapporo Dome, rookie Brandon Taiga Tysinger, an Okinawa native who went to university in Hokkaido, returned there with a two-run homer, an RBI single and a sac fly as the Seibu Lions handed the Nippon Ham Fighters an 11-4, 3-1/2-hour beating in their home opener.

Hotaka Yamakawa, the PL’s 2018 MVP and another Okinawa native, homered in the first to open the scoring off lefty side-armer Ryo Kawano (0-1) but hurt himself stepping awkwardly on the first-base bag and came out of the game.

Yamasaki returns in bullpen blowup

At Yokohama Stadium, Yasutaka Shiomi doubled, homered and drove in three runs as the Yakult Swallows won for the first time this season in the Central League, coming from three runs down to beat the DeNA BayStars 5-4.

Lefty Kenta Ishida and former closer Yasuaki Yamasaki combined to allow four eighth-inning runs with Shingo Kawabata teeing off on a high first-pitch fastball from the former Japan closer Yamasaki to put the visitors in front.

Trailing 4-1 in the eighth, Norichika Aoki’s clone, Kotaro Yamasaki, worked a leadoff walk against the normally reliable Ishida. With two outs, Ishida appeared to lose the plot after left-handed-hitting slugger Munetaka Murakami checked his swing on a pair of two-strike high fastballs to draw a walk.

Seiichi Uchikawa, who began his career as a big-hitting second baseman for the BayStars 20 years earlier and is back in the CL for the first time in 11 years, ripped a fat 1-0 slider up the middle for an RBI single to score Yamasaki.

Having allowed a run in each of his relief appearances over the weekend against the Giants, Ishida was yanked in favor of Yasuaki Yamasaki. Shiomi hit a 1-1 splitter to the wall in left that Taiki Sekine failed to time properly, allowing it to go for a two-run double, and Kawabata drilled a first-pitch fastball to the gap in right for a Swallows lead.

Albert Suarez started for the Swallows and allowed three runs over four innings, while the BayStars wasted seven solid innings from Shinichi Onuki.

The BayStars remain winless after two wins and a tie over the weekend.

At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, 2020 Sawamura Award winner Yudai Ono lacked the sharp command that was his trademark from the middle of last season, but gutted out seven innings while allowing two runs in the Chunichi Dragons’ 3-3 nine-inning tie against the Yomiuri Giants.

Angel Sanchez allowed two unearned runs over seven innings for the Giants, while Zelous Wheeler, hitting in the two hole for Yomiuri, went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Dragons cleanup hitter Dayan Viciedo put the hosts ahead in the second with a two-run single after a mental mistake by Giants third baseman Kazuma Okamoto prolonged the inning.

Defending No. 2

The pro yakyu news cast spent five minutes discussing the merits of Wheeler in the No. 2 hole, which is no surprise, since Japanese dogma since about 1980 demands that spot be taken by a guy who sacrifices and hits behind the runner and is typically a small, fast glove man.

“I used Wheeler when I was manager of the Eagles. He’s smart, always thinking of the base running situation as a hitter,” Hiromoto “Dave” Okubo said.

This is just another example of the language we get to justify the use of guys in the No. 2 spot whose only offensive skills are bunting and grounding out behind the runner. Because Wheeler isn’t one of those guys, a lot of the old boys need an excuse to justify his batting there.

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, 2020 rookie of the year Masato Morishita (1-0) struck out seven over six innings in the Hiroshima Carp’s 1-0 win over the Hanshin Tigers, who suffered their first loss.

Once Morishita left the game, the Tigers managed three hits off the Hiroshima bullpen, but two of those batters, Jerry Sands and rookie Teruaki Sato, were erased trying to leg out doubles against right fielder Teruaki Sato. Sato ended the game striking out against rookie Carp closer Ryoji Kuribayashi, who recorded his second save.

Sugano deactivated

Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano was deactivated on Tuesday after feeling discomfort and slight pain in his leg Kyodo News (Japanese) reported.

The report said he is only expected to miss one start.

Last season’s Central League MVP, Sugano turned down offers from MLB clubs after the Giants posted him and signed a one-year deal to remain in Japan for the 2021 season. He made his seventh career Opening Day start on Friday, allowing three runs on eight hits and three walks over six innings.

Welcome back

Two SoftBank Hawks’ players, outfielder Wladimir Balentien and pitcher Nick Martinez, both entered Japan on Tuesday, Nishinihon Sports reported.

Balentien may count as a domestically-registered player but unfortunately, that doesn’t cut any weight with the immigration office that had been keeping non-residents from entering Japan, until pro baseball and soccer players were added to an entry waiver used for emergency workers, because, well, baseball and soccer are urgent.

No word on Senga after farm outing

SoftBank Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo said he hadn’t made a decision on whether to activate ace Kodai Senga after the right-hander allowed three runs on nine hits over seven innings in the minors on Tuesday, Nishinihon sports reported.

“I’ve been informed of how he did, but I haven’t seen the video yet, so I can’t say what’s next for him,” Kudo said.

Fighters’ top pick to start Wednesday

Right-hander Hiromi Ito, a Hokkaido native and the Nippon Ham Fighters’ first pick in last autumn’s draft, will make his pro debut on Wednesday against the Seibu Lions at Sapporo Dome.

Starting pitchers

Pacific League

Fighters vs Lions: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hiromi Ito (-) vs Tatsuya Imai (3-4, 6.13)

Marines vs Eagles: Zozo Marine Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Daiki Iwashita (7-7, 4.20) vs Takahiro Norimoto (5-7, 3.96)

Buffaloes vs Hawks: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hirotoshi Masui (2-2, 3.03) vs Kotaro Otake (2-0, 2.30)

Central League

BayStars vs Swallows: Yokohama Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Taisei Irie (-) vs Hirotoshi Takanashi (3-6, 4.12)

Dragons vs Giants: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Akiyoshi Katsuno (4-5, 3.88) vs Shoichi Ino (6-7, 3.94)

Carp vs Tigers: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hiroki Tokoda (5-8, 4.93) vs Masashi Ito (-)

Roster moves

Active roster moves 3/30/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/9

Central League


GiantsP15Angel Sanchez
TigersP16Yuki Nishi
DragonsP22Yudai Ono
BayStarsP16Shinichi Onuki
CarpP18Masato Morishita
SwallowsP43Albert Suarez
SwallowsOF8Shota Nakayama


GiantsP18Tomoyuki Sugano

Pacific League


HawksP67Shunsuke Kasaya
MarinesP43Kazuya Ojima
MarinesIF54Brandon Laird
LionsP17Wataru Matsumoto
EaglesP11Takayuki Kishi
FightersP28Ryusei Kawano
FightersOF4Yuya Taniguchi
BuffaloesP29Daiki Tajima
BuffaloesP52Tyler Higgins
BuffaloesIF3Ryoichi Adachi


BuffaloesP37Hayate Nakagawa
BuffaloesIF4Shuhei Fukuda

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Spring wrap 3-17-21

Sato goes high and deep

At MetLife Dome, Hanshin Tigers’ rookie Teruaki Sato hit his sixth home run of the spring on Wednesday in a 5-3 preseason win over the Seibu Lions. The homer brushed the netting suspended from the roof.

Jerry Sands hit his third home run for the Tigers, while Hanshin starter Takumi Akiyama pitched out of a couple of jams to go five scoreless innings. Rookie Junya Nishi, Hanshin’s first-round signing from the 2019 draft, surrendered three runs over four runs, including one on a home run by Brandon Taiga Tysinger. The Lions’ sixth pick last autumn, hit his second homer of the spring.

Any port in a storm

At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, DeNA BayStars manager Daisuke Miura, whose imported players have yet to arrive in Japan, has had to struggle for positives this spring, but counted top draft pick Taisei Irie’s start in a 2-1 loss to the SoftBank Hawks as a silver lining.

Irie struck out four, walked three, and allowed a run on two hits. After he retiring the first six hitters, Hawks captain Nobuhiro Matsuda took the right-hander deep for his first homer of the spring. Two of the BayStars’ key relievers, lefty Kenta Ishida and right-hander Kazuki Mishima, who took over as the closer last year, worked 1-2-3 innings.

“He has a lot of potential,” Miura said of the youngster according to Nikkan Sports. “

“I’ll make my decision about the (starting rotation makeup) based on the big picture, and also how the schedule looks. He has a chance. He was able to get ahead in counts with his two-seamer and slider.”

Hawks starter Shota Takeda, who is seeking a full-time return to the starting rotation for the first time since 2017, had a similar kind of game, allowing a run over six innings in which he walked five.

In Shizuoka, key Rakuten Eagles starter Takahiro Norimoto struck out seven over seven scoreless innings in a 13-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes. At Jingu Stadium, Alejandro Mejia, who suffered from the coronavirus, had an RBI single and an RBI double as the Hiroshima Carp took batting practice against veteran lefty Masanori Ishikawa in an 11-0 win over the Yakult Swallows. Working his third game, Ishikawa raised his preseason ERA to 30.86.

At Vantelin (Nagoya) Dome, Ryuta Heinai, the Yomiuri Giants’ first-round signing, allowed two runs over four innings while striking out four in a 9-4 win over the Chunichi Dragons. Kazuma Okamoto hit his second homer of the spring for the Giants. At Sapporo Dome, the Lotte Marines beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 4-3.

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Spring wrap 3-10-21

On Wednesday, the Seibu Lions took a hammer to Koji Fukutani, who has been announced as the Chunichi Dragons’ Opening Day Starter. The 30-year-old right-hander allowed 10 runs on 12 hits over three innings in the exhibition at Vantelin Nagoya Dome in a 14-2 loss.

Center fielder Gakuto Wakabayashi, the Lions’ fourth pick out of Komazawa University, drew a first-inning walk from Fukutani and hit a three-run homer in the third. Third baseman Brandon Taiga Tysinger, the Lions sixth pick out of the Tokyo University of Agriculture, Okhotsk, singled twice was hit by a pitch and belted a three-run home run off lefty Hiroto Fuku, one of the Dragons’ key bullpen guys.

Lions starter Tatsuya Imai, who walked more batters last season (52) than he struck out (44) in 61-2/3 innings last season, allowed an unearned run over five innings.

At Koshien Stadium, Hiroshima Carp newcomer Kevin Cron struck out in both of his at-bats after homering in each of his last two games, but the big news will be new Tiger youngster Teruaki Sato, who put a sweet swing on a straight fastball down the pipe from Tayler Scott and knocked it 10 rows back in left center, a huge poke.      

Sato, the Tigers’ first pick out of Kinki University, has been the talk of the spring. He started at third and had an infield single and a double in three at-bats. Jerry Sands, who homered in his first two preseason at-bats last weekend, went 1-for-3 with a double.

In Shizuoka, because no visiting team wants to play outdoor games in chilly Sendai in the spring until they have to when the regular season starts, the Rakuten Eagles hosted the Lotte Marines away from home. Lotte scored eight runs off three of the Eagles’ key pitchers, tagging starter Takahiro Norimoto for three runs on four hits but no walks over 4-1/3 innings.

Alan Busenitz, who saved 18 games in a 2020 season split between setting up and closing, gave up two runs on four hits in the seventh, and Yuki Matsui, the team’s closer for four of the last six seasons, for three runs on four hits and a walk in the eighth.

Daiki Iwashita started for the Marines and worked four scoreless innings, while Frank Herrmann allowed an infield hit, his first of the spring in a scoreless seventh.

In Yokohama, 20-year-old third baseman Yuki James Nomura, the Nippon Ham Fighters’ second pick in 2018, singled twice and hit his third homer of the spring in an 8-3 win over the DeNA BayStars. Naoyuki Uwasawa, the Fighters’ Opening Day starter, scattered a double, five singles and two walks, while striking out five over six scoreless innings.

Right-hander Taisei Irie, the BayStars’ first-round signing out of last year’s draft, allowed three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out three over four innings. He twice pitched out of jams against Fighters cleanup hitter Sho Nakata.

DeNA’s second pick last autumn, Shugo Maki, started at first and went 2-for-5, for his second straight multi-hit game.

Taiki Sekine, a 25-year-old outfielder with a superb track record in the minors, continues to flay the ball in the spring, although the organization seems convinced his future is as a reserve outfielder. Sekine’s career is now on course to be one of those guys like Takeshi Yamasaki or Shigenobu Shima, who in his age 27 season hits absolutely everything in the spring, forcing the team to give him a starting job and then becoming the story of the season.

But you know how those stories go, right? Instead of asking what the heck the team had been doing with this guy for the last five years, every story will be how he “suddenly became good.”

I rank Sekine among the five best hitting prospects in Japan’s minor leagues.

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Adam Jones drove in a run each with a single and a double off veteran Swallows southpaw Masanori Ishikawa. Prior to the game, he tweeted that he was about to something he had never done on a ball field. 0stensibly what he had never done was play first base, where he started for the Buffaloes in their 7-6 win over Yakult.

And since @SimplyAJ10 asked for it… his first-ever putout at first base as he completes a double play to retire Norichika Aoki on March 10, 2021.

The Buffaloes tagged Ishikawa for seven runs on nine hits in 1-2/3 innings. Steven Moya, who singled off the lefty in the first, sent him packing in the second with his first home run of the spring.

Swallows slugger Munetaka Murakami hit his first exhibition season homer, a two-run shot off second-year right-hander Tyler Higgins, who allowed a hit, a walk and an unearned run in the sixth.

At Fukuoka Dome, back-to-back ninth-inning doubles by Hayato Sakamoto and slugger Kazuma Okamoto tied the game 1-1 allowing the Yomiuri Giants to avoid losing 13 straight games to the SoftBank Hawks.

Shota Takeda, who is trying to reestablish himself as one of the Hawks’ front-line pitchers, allowed two hits and two walks while striking out five in five scoreless innings.

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