Tag Archives: Joe Gunkel

NPB wrap 6-5-21

Interleague Day 12 — long and short

It was come-from-behind victory day for the PL with all five of the PL wins coming that way, with two contrasting knockout-blow four-run innings.

The Seibu Lions launched three home runs in the ninth inning to knock off the Yakult Swallows, while the Rakuten Eagles started big but ended small, a tie-breaking solo homer followed by two singles, and three-straight sacrifice bunts including a bases-loaded suicide squeeze and a safety squeeze, that with the help of a throwing error, produced three more runs.

The five PL wins left the CL leading the interleague standings 30-26-7 after 63 games, with the PL outscoring the CL 293-263. The interleague leader heading into the final week or so of games is the Chunichi Dragons, who have definitely come a long way in that respect since the club treated interleague so dismissively in 2005.

Fighters 6, Giants 4

At Tokyo Dome, Wang Po-Jung brought Nippon Ham from a run down with a two-run, seventh-inning home run, his fourth, and Yuto Takahama capped the rally with a grand slam off Giants starter Shosei Togo (5-3). Wang’s home run snapped a 29-inning scoreless skid for the Fighters.

It also gave him a chance to do the hero interview, in which he thanked Japan for donating 1.24 million doses of vaccines to his homeland, Taiwan.

Fighters starter Kazuaki Tateno, their second draft pick from 2019, allowed just a run over five innings in his first-team debut. Ryusei Kawano (1-1), their first-round singing in 2019, earned the win for the first of three scoreless innings of relief from the Fighters’ bullpen, before closer Toshihiro Sugiura made it uncomfortably close in the ninth, surrendering pinch-hit solo home runs to Yoshiyuki Kamei and Seiya Matsubara.

Kamei’s home run was the 100th of his career, and they didn’t all come as a pinch-hitter although it kind of feels that way.

Giants-Fighters highlights

Lions 6, Swallows 3

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Seibu treated Yakult to the kind of power display the Lions used to win back-to-back pennants in 2018 and 2019, Hotaka Yamakawa homered twice, his seventh cutting the Swallows’ lead to 3-2 in the seventh inning, and his eighth, a two-run shot that gave the Lions the lead against Scott McGough.

Takeya Nakamura opened the Lions’ ninth with his fifth, Takumi Kuiryama singled, and then Yamakawa and Wu Nien-ting, who hit his fifth, completed the four-run feast.

The Lions scored in the first off  Yasuhiro Ogawa (5-1, 3.52) on two singles and a Kuriyama sac fly, but Munetaka Murakami singled in two runs with no outs and the bases loaded off Tatsuya Imai, and tacked on a run by tying Leonys Martin for the Japan lead with his 17th home run to open the sixth.

BayStars 11, Marines 9

At Yokohama Stadium, Marines right-hander Manabu Mima (3-3) provided the candle power on a cloudy day when the DeNA BayStars lit him up for 11 runs over five innings.

Neftali Soto’s 10th homer gave the BayStars a 2-1 lead in the second. Katsuya Kakunaka tied it with an RBI single in the third off Haruhiro Hamaguchi (3-4), who allowed two over five innings.

The BayStars’ Masayuki Kuwahara, doubled and scored in the first, and doubled and scored the go-ahead run in the third. With the game in danger of getting away in the fourth, Lotte walked Kuwahara with two outs and first base open, which lit the fuse on a five-run bomb of an inning. Hikaru Ito doubled in two, Keita Sano, who doubled in a run in the first, singled in another. Tyler Austin then capped the rally with a two-run homer, his 10th of the season.

Dragons 6, Buffaloes 3

At Nagoya’ Vantelin Dome, Dayan Viciedo homered twice, capping a three-run first with his eighth home run, a two-run shot off Daiki Tajima (2-4), and driving in an insurance run in the eighth by leading off the eighth with his second. Shuhei Takahashi followed with his second homer as Chunichi went deep three times for the second game in the series. The Dragons used eight pitchers after Kodai Umetsu was pulled in the third. Things nearly went south in the top of the eighth, when the first two batters singled off lefty Hiroto Fuku and one scored to make it a 4-3 game.

Hawks 10, Tigers 2

At Koshien Stadium, SoftBank’s Nick Martinez (5-1) allowed two runs, on Jefry Marte’s 10th home run in the third as he scattered nine hits and a walk over six innings. The Hawks came from behind on three sixth-inning hits against Hanshin rookie Masashi Ito (3-3). Yuki Yanagita singled and scored on a Yusuke Masago double before Takuya Kai belted his sixth home run. Kai added a solo homer in the ninth.

Eagles 7, Carp 3

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, the Eagles broke the game open in a four-run eighth, starting with Hiroaki Shimauchi’s eighth home run, against lefty Atsuya Horie. After two singles, bunting madness took over. Rakuten loaded the bases on a sacrifice bunt and an error. Catcher Hikaru Ota’s suicide squeeze made it 5-3. Itsuki Murabayashi’s safety squeeze made it 6-3, with a second run scoring on a throwing error on the play.

Hiroshima’s Masato Morishita, the CL’s 2020 rookie of the year, battled to a six-inning stalemate with Rakuten’s Masahiro Tanaka, both pitchers allowing three runs. Morishita took a 3-1 lead into the seventh, when he issued back-to-back walks to runners who would eventually score.

Two of the runs scored off Tanaka came off high straight fastballs against Carp rookies 20-year-old Kota Hayashi and 24-year-old Koki Ugusa.

Starting pitchers

Sunday gives us a couple of fun matchups, Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano against impressive Fighters rookie southpaw Hiromi Ito. At Koshien Stadium, Joe Gunkel returns to the mound for the first time since he went three innings against DeNA on May 9. He’ll face southpaw Tsuyoshi Wada, who has been struggling.


Giants vs Fighters: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Tomoyuki Sugano (2-2, 1.93) vs Hiromi Ito (2-4, 3.33)

Swallows vs Lions: Jingu Stadium 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Hirotoshi Takanashi (2-1, 3.12) vs Towa Uema (1-1, 5.40)

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

Shota Imanaga (0-1, 6.10) vs Kazuya Ojima (2-2, 4.37)

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

Koji Fukutani (3-4, 3.66) vs Hirotoshi Masui (1-4, 4.75)

Tigers vs Hawks: Koshien Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Joe Gunkel (5-0, 2.35) vs Tsuyoshi Wada (3-3, 4.62)

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

Koya Takahashi (2-1, 2.01) vs Takahisa Hayakawa (6-2, 3.14)

Active roster moves 6/5/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 6/15

Central League


GiantsOF39Soichiro Tateoka
CarpP18Masato Morishita
CarpP43Sotaro Shimauchi


GiantsOF8Yoshihiro Maru
CarpP21Shota Nakazaki
CarpP67Yuta Nakamura

Pacific League


MarinesP41Kakeru Narita
FightersP33Kazuaki Tateno
BuffaloesC33Masato Matsui


MarinesP35Shota Suzuki
FightersC22Shinya Tsuruoka
BuffaloesC44Yuma Tongu

Monthly MVPs

Telling it like it is

As people say on Twitter, “I was today years old when I” learned that the player of the month awarded to Nippon Professional Baseball position players is not the “player of the month” but the “Player of the month Batter’s Award.”

For years, I suspected that along with things like walks, runs scored, fielding excellence was not one of the things evaluated for the award, and on the podcast always referred to it derisively as the “batter of the month award,” but never even noticed the heading on the NPB website until today. To be fair, since two years ago, when Nippon Seimei assigned the award’s sponsorship to its Taiju Life Insurance subsidiary, things like runs, and on base percentage have become part of the equation.

The irony is that this year’s first Central League “batter of the month” winner, Hiroshima Carp second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi, won the award despite his defense, and it so much as says that.

Here’s an English translation of the npb.jp.blurb:

Ryosuke Kikuchi of the Hiroshima Carp wins the batter’s award for the third time and for the first time since August 2016.

Kikuchi led the league with a .352 average, 45 hits and 21 runs scored. He maintained a high batting average and sparked the team from the leadoff spot. He began the season with a 16-game hitting streak, and on April 16 propelled the Carp by leading off the game against the Chunichi Dragons at Vantelin Dome with a home run, the 100th of his career.

He displays extraordinary batting sense, and even though he is excessively touted as a fielding master craftsman, his batting has been reverberating since the start of the season.

So in other words, don’t let the fact that Kikuchi fields his position well disqualify him from consideration for the award.

In my off-the-cuff opinion, Kikuchi was as valuable as Yakult slugger Munetaka Murakami because of his defense, but Delta Graphs rates Kikuchi as the NPB offensive WAR leader with 2.3, to 2.2 for Murakami and Yomiuri’s Hayato Sakamoto, so there.

The CL pitcher’s award went to Yomiuri Giants lefty Yuki Takahashi, who went 5-0 and tied for third with a 1.80 ERA. The league leader, teammate Nobutaka Imamura (1.62) went 2-0 in five starts while striking out 10 more batters and walking 10 fewer, and getting two fewer runs per game scored behind him. Takahashi’s blurb credited him with five quality starts; while Imamura had four.

Delta Graphs, through May 11, had Chunichi’s Yuya Yanagi leading CL pitchers in WAR with 2.0, followed by Joe Gunkel, Imamura, Allen Kuri, Koyo Aoyagi, Tomoyuki Sugano, Daichi Osera, Carp rookie closer Ryoji Kuribayashi, and Takahashi at No. 8.

In the PL

The PL’s batter of the month went to Lotte Marines right fielder Leonys Martin, whom Delta Graphs now has at 2.0 WAR behind Seibu shortstop Sosuke Genda at 2.1.

Martin’s credited with, according to NPB, leading the league with 10 home runs, a .576 slugging average, a .458 batting average with runners in scoring position, and playing in every game through April 30. Hey being fit enough to do well day in and day out is important, but about 20 players did that.

Masataka Yoshida would have been another good choice, but no complaints here for a change.

The PL’s pitcher award went to Hideaki Wakui of the Rakuten Eagles, who tied for the lead in wins with four, and was second in both ERA and innings pitched.

The pitcher who led the league in both categories, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, of the Orix Buffaloes went 3-2 scoring with 2.68 runs per nine innings in his games compared to 4.93 in Wakui’s.