Tag Archives: Justin Bour

NPB 2020 7-28 GAMES AND NEWS

Bour, Sands slam Swallows in Tigers’ rout

Justin Bour and Jerry Sands each hit a grand slam for the Hanshin Tigers in a 20-5 blood-letting against the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

With the Swallows trailing 3-0 in the second, Gabriel Ynoa (0-2) fell behind Bour 3-0. The left-handed hitter socked Ynoa’s 3-1 pitch so hard Yakult left fielder Norichika Aoki was shown staring across the field at the foul pole, perhaps looking for signs of jet exhaust lingering in the rainy Tokyo evening.

With Yakult star Tetsuto Yamada sidelined, ostensibly due to upper body fitness issues, 25-year-old Takeshi Miyamoto did a good impression of his slugging teammate. Miyamoto filled in at second and cracked his first career home run, a three-run shot in the second.

Sands singled in a run in the Tigers’ two-run third, before cranking his sixth home run of the season to the opposite field in right. Bour got his fifth RBI in a sixth-inning single, and Tigers shortstop Seiya Kinami capped a six-run rally with a three-run home run.

Kinami, who went 4-for-4 with two walks, doubled to lead off the ninth, when he scored his third run.

Tigers right-hander Takumi Akiyama (3-1) earned the complete-game victory.

Sugano stops BayStars, earns 5th win

Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano (5-0) allowed two runs, one earned, over seven innings while striking out seven in a 4-2 win over the DeNA BayStars at Tokyo Dome.

The Giants defense helped Sugano give away a run in the first at Tokyo Dome. Takayuki Kajitani reached on an Infield single, went to third on a two-base throwing error on second baseman Naoki Yoshikawa and scored on Neftali Soto’s sacrifice fly.

Hayato Sakamoto tied it with solo home run in the home half, and the Giants took their first lead off right-hander Shoichi Ino (2-2) in the fourth, when with one out and none on, Kazuma Okamoto hit his 12th home run. Takumi Oshiro walked and scored after a Zelous Wheeler double and a groundout.

BayStars cleanup hitter Keita Sano, the club’s unheralded 25-year-old captain, homered to open the sixth. Jose Lopez followed with a hard-hit single, but Sugano worked around that and a two-out Tatsuhiro Shibata double to preserve the lead.

Giants lefty Kota Nakagawa entered with one out and a man on in the ninth, and worked around a Kajitani infield single to record his third save.

Viciedo to rescue as Dragons top Carp

Dayan Viciedo doubled in the tying run in the top of the eighth inning, and bailed the Chunichi Dragons out in the bottom of the inning with his glove as the Chunichi Dragons edged the Hiroshima Carp 3-2 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Moments after the Carp upended the Dragons 1-0 lead, Yohei Oshima singled with one out against lefty Atsuya Horie (1-1), who surrendered Viciedo’s game-tying two-out double. A walk and a wild pitch put runners on the corners. Right-hander Yasunori Kikuchi came on, and Ariel Martinez, the Dragons Cuban catching phenom, singled in the go-ahead run.

Carp starter Allen Kuri pitched his way out of trouble in the fourth and fifth innings, only for the game’s first run to come with no one on from Toshiki Abe’s second home run of the year.

The Dragons went with right-hander Koji Fukutani. After 218 games in relief, Chunichi’s top draft pick in 2012 was making his season debut and his second career start. The 29-year-old allowed four singles and no walks while striking out 10. Last year, he appeared in one game, also a start, and allowed one run over six innings.

Fukutani was pulled for a pinch-hitter with one out and two on in the seventh, and lead runner Yota Kyoda was tagged off third following a force at second to complete a double play.

The base-running goof proved costly in the bottom of the inning after the Carp tied it on a walk and two no-out singles against reliever Yu Sato. With that, Fukutani finished the day with a 0.75 ERA as a starter and no decisions.

Tsubasa Aizawa, who hit two late home runs in Sunday’s epic comeback win in Yokohama, singled in the go-ahead run. Lefty Toshiya Okada (1-2), who saved 13 games last season, however, put out the fire, and the Dragons regained the lead against in the eighth against Hiroshima’s patchwork quilt of a bullpen.

Trailing again, Hiroshima’s Seiya Suzuki singled and took second on a wild pitch that barely got away from Martinez. Viciedo then made a sliding catch on a ball down the line from pinch-hitter Shogo Sakakura and threw to first for the final out.

Dragons right-hander worked around a two-out double to record his fourth save.

Inoue, Nakamura decide see-saw game

Seiya Inoue belted three home runs, and Shogo Nakamura hit one and then was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the ninth as the Lotte Marines walked-off 13-12 winners over the Rakuten Eagles at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

The hosts built a 6-1 lead centered around Inoue’s two-run second-inning home run and his third-inning solo shot off Ryota Ishibashi. But the Eagles came back in the fourth.

With one out and the bases loaded against Lotte starter and former Eagle Manabu Mima, first-year skipper Hajime Miki pulled his catcher for a pinch-hitter, and Stefen Romero made it a one-run game with his eighth home run.

The Marines counterattacked in the home half, with Yasuda capping a three-run inning with a two-run homer.

Mima allowed six runs over 4-1/3 innings, but the Marines’ third pitcher, Tsuyoshi Ishizaki retired only one of the six batters he faced in Rakuten’s five-run sixth.

Trailing 12-9 in the eighth, Nakamura homered with one out, and Inoue’s two-run shot tied it. J.T. Chargois (0-2) retired the final Marines hitter in the eighth, but surrendered a leadoff single to Brandon Laird in the ninth.

After a hit batsman and a sacrifice, Miki ordered the bases loaded, and Chargoi hit Nakamura with his third pitch to end it.

Hawks’ Nakamura batters Lions

Akira Nakamura had four hits and five RBIs, allowing the SoftBank Hawks to crush the Seibu Lions 9-4 at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome despite Kodai Senga (3-1) surrendering four runs over six innings.

The Hawks’ ace established his fastball in classic fashion in the first, striking out the first two batters, the first on three fastballs, but surrendered the game’s first runs in the second inning.

Senga, whose ability to locate is typically his main concern, issued a leadoff walk to Shuta Tonosaki that sparked Seibu’s two-run second. A Takumi Kuriyama single and a rocket-powered Corey Spangenberg double brought in one run, and Kuriyama scored on a groundout.

The Hawks got a runin the second against Tatsuya Imai on a Nakamura leadoff single, a two-out walk and Nobuhiro Matsuda’s flare single.

A one-out Tomoya Mori walk and Hotaka Yamakawa’s 11th home run made it 4-1 Lions in the third, but the Hawks wasted no time keeping the scoreboard ticking over. Four-straight one-out singles by Kenta Imamiya, Yuki Yanagita, Nakamura and Ryoya Kurihara made it a one-run game. With the tying run on third, Imai struck out Wladimir Balentien on five pitches away to assist in his getaway.

The Hawks tied it in the fifth on a Yanagita double and a Nakamura single and beat up on Lions relief workhorse, right-hander Katsunori Hirai (3-2), to take the lead in the sixth. With two outs and the bases loaded, Nakamura cleared the bags with a double.

Balentien and Imamiya each hit a late solo homer to complete the rout for the Hawks.

Nakata blasts off as Uwasawa earns 1st win

Denied a three-run home run when a runner was picked off base ahead of his third-inning homer, Sho Nakata blasted a three-run shot in the seventh as the Nippon Ham Fighters left an 5-1 mark on the Orix Buffaloes at Sapporo Dome.

Buffaloes lefty Andrew Albers walked the first two batters he faced in the third. Albers picked off Kenshi Sugiya, but Sho Nakata’s 11th home run, and his second in three games, made it a 2-0 game.

The Buffaloes got a run back in the fourth on three no-out singles off Naoyuki Uwasawa (1-1) by Yuma Mune, Masataka Yoshida and Andrew Jones.

The visitors had a chance to tie it in the sixth, but Fighters right fielder Taishi Ota threw a strike to the plate to cut down Mune trying to score from second on a Takahiro Okada single. With two on and two outs in the top of the seventh, Ota made a good catch on Mune near the right field corner that could have spelled trouble.

Uwasawa’s win was his first since his left knee cap was broken in June 2019 by a drive off the bat of DeNA BayStars slugger Neftali Soto.

Albers left with two out and two on the seventh, and right-hander Ryo Yoshida served up Nakata’s second home run.

Takatsu explains Yamada deactivation

Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu filled in some background information on second baseman Tetsuto Yamada’s deactivation on Tuesday according to Sports Nippon Annex.

Takatsu said Yamada’s upper body was not sufficiently fit, and that Yamada himself was going to keep playing if left to his own devices.

“He said, ‘I can keep going as I am’, but I don’t want him playing if he’s not fit,” Takatsu said. “He’ll never say, ‘I’ll take a break for myself.’ But what I really want is to see Tetsuto Yamada really swinging. It was a difficult decision.”

Yamada apparently said he’d be back in 10 days–the minimum time needed for reactivation–but Takatsu said there was no need for him to rush.

Active roster moves 7/28/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/7

Central League

Activated

BayStarsP15Shoichi Ino
DragonsP24Koji Fukutani
SwallowsP26Koshiro Sakamoto
SwallowsIF66Taisei Yoshida
SwallowsOF9Yasutaka Shiomi

Dectivated

DragonsP54Kento Fujishima

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP34Yasuo Sano
LionsC78Masato Saito
EaglesP12Hiroki Kondo
FightersP15Naoyuki Uwasawa
BuffaloesP26Daiki Tomei
BuffaloesIF67Keita Nakagawa

Dectivated

BuffaloesIF2Hiroyuki Shirasaki

NPB 2020 7-21 games and news

Sugano shuts out Dragons

Tomoyuki Sugano (4-0) struck out 11, while allowing three singles in a 4-0 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Nagoya Dome on Tuesday. The win was the Giants’ sixth straight.

Gerardo Parra opened the scoring in the third inning. He opened the inning with a single off of Dragons right-hander Takumi Yamamoto (1-3) and scored on Yoshiyuki Kamei’s two-out single.

Yamamoto left the bases loaded by getting cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto to ground out, but surrendered a leadoff home run to Takumi Oshiro in the fourth and a two-out, two-run shot to Okamoto in the fifth. It was Okamoto’s 10th of the season.

Sugano surrendered a leadoff single and a no-out walk in the first, but was virtually untouchable after that working batters over with his fastball, cutter and slider.

Yamamoto allowed four runs over 4-2/3 innings on eight hits and two walks. He struck out seven.

Swallows’ Hara beats BayStars in season debut

Yakult Swallows right-hander Juri Hara (1-0) overcame a rough first inning to earn his first win in a 6-4 victory over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.

After Norichika Aoki put the visitors up 2-0 with a home run off right-hander Michael Peoples (0-1), Takayuki Kajitani homered to open the bottom of the first.

Neftali Soto walked and Jose Lopez singled to put two on with no out, but Hara retired the next two batters before Tatsuhiro Shibata singled home two. With a 3-2 lead, Peoples fashioned three scoreless innings before the Swallows got to him in the fifth.

Back-to-back singles by Tomotaka Sakaguchi and Tetsuto Yamada were followed by doubles from Aoki and Munetaka Murakami. Edwin Escobar added a sac fly that made it 6-3.

Scott McGough allowed a run in the sixth, but 21-year-old Yugo Umeno and 23-year-old Noboru Shimizu added scoreless innings, as did journeyman closer Taishi Ishiyama, who recorded his fifth save.

Peoples was tagged for six runs on six hits and four walks.He struck out three. Edwin Escobar, who worked the eighth for the BayStars, surrendered a leadoff single before getting his cousin, Swallows shortstop Alcides Escobar, to ground into a double play.

Sands, Tigers batter Carp

Jerry Sands and three Hanshin Tigers teammates each drove in two runs in a 9-4 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Koshien Stadium outside Osaka.

Sands, who played in the majors for the Los Angeles Dodgers and led South Korea’s Korea Baseball Organization in RBIs last year, was in his second game in the No. 3 hole. His first-inning homer off right-hander Allen Kuri (1-2) tied it 1-1.

Kento Itohara hit a two-run homer for the Tigers in the third, and Sands singled in starting pitcher Takumi Akiyama, who had doubled to open the inning.

Akiyama allowed four runs on a walk and seven hits while striking out five.

Tigers first baseman Justin Bour remained out of the lineup for the second-straight game with strained right glutes.

Sugiura outpitches Senga in Fighters’ win

Right-hander Toshihiro Sugiura, who was principally employed as a short starter last season, allowed a run over six innings to earn the win as the Nippon Ham Fighters came from behind to beat Kodai Senga and the SoftBank Hawks 2-1 at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Sugiura (2-1) made 14 starts last season but only amassed 65 innings. On Tuesday, he walked two and allowed five hits, including a solo home run to Wladimir Balentien, while striking out four.

Trailing 1-0, Sugiura retired his final batter by striking out Balentien with two on in the sixth with a nasty splitter.

Senga (2-1) walked three, hit a batter and allowed six hits over 6-2/3 innings.

The Fighters tied it in the seventh on doubles by Toshitake Yokoo and Haruki Nishikawa. Senga left after allowing a single to right-handed-hitting Taishi Ota. Left-hander Shinya Kayama gave up the go-ahead run, when Kensuke Kondo singled on a 1-1 slider.

Katsuhiko Kumon allowed two runners in a scoreless seventh for the Fighters. Veteran lefty Naoki Miyanishi worked the eighth, starting with an impressive strikeout of slugger Yuki Yanagita.

With a 3-2 count, Yanagita appeared to be looking for one of Miyanishi’s bread-and-butter low-and-away sliders, but got fastballs instead. He managed to foul off two before swinging under a third.

Fighters closer Ryo Akiyoshi, who struggled in two of his last three games, worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his fifth save.

Buffaloes snap losing streak against Eagles

Orix catcher Kenya Wakatsuki hit a sixth-inning grand slam and the Buffaloes came from two runs down to beat the Rakuten Eagles 10-3 in a rain-shortened game at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi that was called in the top of the eighth.

Lefty Andrew Albers (2-2) allowed two runs on five hits while striking out one to earn the win for Orix. He gave up the game’s first run on a Jabari Blash solo homer in the second.

Adam Jones, dropped to the Buffaloes’ No. 6 slot, singled with one out in the sixth when his chopper to third evaded Daichi Suzuki’s stab. A single by rookie Ryo Ota and a walk by Ryoichi Adachi loaded them for Wakatsuki, who homered off a 1-2 changeup from Taiwan right-hander Sung Chia-hao (0-1).

Lions Marines

Corey Spangenberg had three hits and drove in three runs as the Seibu Lions came from behind to beat the Lotte Marines 8-3 at MetLife Dome in Saitama Prefecture.

Lions right-hander Tatsuya Imai (2-3) gave up three runs over five innings but was able to earn the win after Seibu took the lead in a three-run fifth against Manabu Mima (2-2).

Through four innings, the Lions could manage only one base runner against Mima, Takeya Nakamura’s fourth home run of the year in the second. But an infield single by Tomoya Mori, a single off the wall in center by Nakamura, and a walk to Takumi Kuriyama loaded the bases.

Spangenberg then smashed a first-pitch fastball from Mima past first base to tie it. A sacrifice bunt and a sac fly to deep right by Shohei Suzuki put the Lions ahead for good, and the Lions bullpen allowed just three runners to reach the rest of the way.

The Marines opened the scoring in the first when Leonys Martin’s fly fell for a double as Spangenberg in left and Suzuki couldn’t decide who would catch it. and scored on a single by rookie Hisanori Yasuda that nearly took off Imai’s head. Yudai Fujioka drove in single runs in the second with a booming double, and in the fourth with a broken-bat single to make it 3-1.

Active roster moves 7/21/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/31

Central League

Activated

BayStarsP45Michael Peoples
DragonsP14Keisuke Tanimoto
SwallowsP16Juri Hara

Dectivated

DragonsIF9Shun Ishikawa

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesOF46Ko Shimozuru
MarinesP28Takahiro Matsunaga
FightersP57Toshihiro Sugiura
BuffaloesOF25Ryo Nishimura

Dectivated

None

NPB 2020 7-16 games and news

Fukudome, Sands power Tigers’ comeback

Former major leaguers Jerry Sands and Kosuke Fukudome hit late home runs to lift the Hanshin Tigers to a 6-4 come-from-behind victory over the Yakult Swallows in the Central League on Thursday at Koshien Stadium.

After five scoreless innings from Swallows southpaw Keiji Takahashi, the Tigers broke through to tie it in the sixth. Yusuke Oyama “tripled” on a ball to the wall that center fielder Kotaro Yamasaki failed to gather in. Right fielder Yuhei Takai retrieved it but dropped it twice before getting it back to the infield.

Oyama scored on a groundout by Justin Bour. Takahashi walked Sands, and his replacement Kazuki Kondo walked Ryutaro Umeno to bring up Fukudome, who then doubled to the warning track in right.

Instead of regular setup man Scott McGough or closer Taishi Ishiyama, Swallows skipper Shingo Takatsu opted for 23-year-old rookie right-hander Noboru Shimizu, the Swallows’ top draft pick from 2018.

Shimizu, who had allowed seven hits and a walk over 12-1/3 innings of relief this season while striking out 11, retired Bour to open the eighth before Sands pulled him down the line for his second home run. Umeno singled, and the 43-year-old Fukudome reached the seats in right.

Robert Suarez issued a leadoff walk in the ninth but ended the game with a double play to earn his third save.

Munetaka Murakami had three hits for the Swallows, including a double and scored twice, but was pulled for a pinch runner in the fifth with stiffness in his right leg.

Giants take advantage of Carp bullpen

The Yomiuri Giants behind Cristopher Mercedes (1-2) beat the Hiroshima Carp on a bullpen day 9-4 at Mazda Stadium.

Right-hander Kazuki Yabuta opened for the Carp and did his best to aim for the edges of the zone and miss outside it. Yoshiyuki Kamei doubled on the first pitch. After a groundout on the second pitch, Yabuta stayed out of the zone and walked the next batter. He nearly got away with avoiding the zone when Kazuma Okamoto chased Ball 4 and nearly grounded into a double play.

Okamoto beat the throw to first, allowing Kamei to score and bringing Takumi Oshiro to the plate. The Giants catcher got ahead 2-1, and when Yabuta missed up high with a fastball, Oshiro drove it high up into the stands in right center.

Although Shota Dobayashi hit a two-run fourth-inning home run off Mercedes, the Giants never trailed. No. 8 hitter Naoki Yoshikawa homered in the sixth and Okamoto hit his eighth home run in the seventh.

Abe leads Dragons rout of BayStars

Another bullpen day, this time by the visiting DeNA BayStars at Nagoya Dome, started well but turned into a rout and an 8-0 loss at the hands of the Chunichi Dragons.

Toshiki Abe went back into the starting lineup for the first time in four days and responded with three hits and four RBIs, while starting pitcher Yuichiro Okano (2-1) worked five scoreless innings thanks to three double plays.

The game stayed close for six innings until Kazuki Mishima took the mound in the seventh and surrendered three runs to let the game get away. In the end, it didn’t matter that one of the runs who scored was walked intentionally.

That was the second of the game and the Japan-high 12th for BayStars skipper Alex Ramirez, who leads Japan in intentional walks issued every year.

Ariel Martinez came off the bench and delivered a two-run pinch-hit single in the Dragons’ three-run eighth.

Eagles scrape past Lions without starter

Rakuten scored two early runs off Seibu Lions starter Kona Takahashi (2-2) and the Eagles held on to win 7-4 at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi despite losing their starting pitcher to an injury in the fourth inning.

Big lefty Hayato Yuge had scraped through three scoreless innings until a batted ball struck him above the right ankle. He stayed in the game to surrender a run before being pulled.

The Eagles led 2-1 in the fifth before former Lion Hideto Asamura drove in his second run of the game with a single. Jabari Blash, who doubled and scored in the second, walked in the sixth and scored on Ryosuke Tatsumi’s home run off Takahashi.

Marines Fighters

Leonys Martin tied it with a two-run single and Tsuyoshi Sugano singled in the go-ahead run as the Lotte Marines came from two runs down to beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 4-3 at Sapporo Dome.

Christian Villanueva, who appears to be settling in with the Fighters in a way he was unable to do last year with the Yomiuri Giants, opened the scoring in the first with a two-run single.

Marines starter Daiki Iwashita (3-0) allowed just those two runs over five innings, leaving the game with a 3-2 lead after he struck out Villanueva swinging on a big breaking ball with the bases loaded.

As he did during last week’s series in Osaka, Villanueva also turned heads with his defense at third base until his throwing error in the sixth allowed 39-year-old pinch-runner Takashi Toritani to score from first.

Drew VerHagen (1-1) gave up four runs, three earned, over 5-1/3 innings. He led 2-0 with none on and two outs in the fifth after a double play but two singles and a walk loaded the bases for Martin and the Marines.

Naoya Masuda worked the ninth for Lotte to earn his seventh save.

Buffaloes come back to beat Hawks

The Orix Buffaloes came from a run down in the third on home runs by Ryo Ota and Adam Jones and Sachiya Yamasaki (1-0) allowed two runs over five innings to earn the win in a 4-3 victory over the SoftBank Hawks at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Ota, the Buffaloes’ top draft pick in 2018 out of high school, had much of his first year wiped out when he was hit by a pitch. He went 0-for-13 last year, but homered off Rick van den Hurk (1-2) who allowed four runs in 2-2/3 innings.

Two walks and a Masataka Yoshida RBI double set the stage for Jones’ fourth home run, which reached the third deck in left center.

Yamasaki, Orix’s first draft pick in 2014 shared the hero podium with Ota, whose father is a former pro ballplayer who currently works as a batting practice pitcher for the Buffaloes.

New import Tyler Higgins worked a scoreless eighth and Brandon Dickson allowed a run in the ninth as he secured his fourth save.

Carp deactivate Johnson

The Hiroshima Carp deactivated left-handed starting pitcher Kris Johnson on Thursday. The 35-year-old allowed five runs over five innings and walked four in Wednesday’s loss to the Yomiuri Giants. The winner of the Sawamura Award as Japan’s most impressive starting pitcher in 2016, Johnson is 0-3 this season with a 5.73 ERA.

The Rakuten Eagles have activated Shun Ikeda, the 27-year-old left-handed pitcher they acquired last month from the Yomiuri Giants in the Zelous Wheeler trade.

Active roster moves 7/16/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/26

Central League

Activated

BayStarsP93Ko Nakagawa
SwallowsC57Yudai Koga

Dectivated

BayStarsP13Hiromu Ise
CarpP42Kris Johnson
SwallowsC32Naoki Matsumoto

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesP72Shun Ikeda
BuffaloesP15Yudai Aranishi
BuffaloesIF31Ryo Ota
BuffaloesOF00Hayato Nishiura

Dectivated

EaglesP52Taisei Tsurusaki
BuffaloesP26Daiki Tomei
BuffaloesIF64Shinya Hirosawa
BuffaloesOF8Shunta Goto

NPB 2020 7-15 games and news

Buffaloes pen turns pitchers’ duel into rout

Tsuyoshi Wada picked up his second win after he and unheralded Orix Buffaloes right-hander Yu Suzuki duked it out for six innings in a 1-0 pitchers’ duel in what became a 7-0 win for the SoftBank Hawks at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Wada (2-0) allowed a single and three walks, while striking out three and never allowed a leadoff runner to reach.

The 23-year-old Suzuki (1-2), who earned the victory his first career start, against the Seibu Lions on July 1, tried to be too careful in his second start last week in his loss to the Nippon Ham Fighters. This time, however, he went back to challenging hitters and making them hit his pitches.

“Obviously, he took a lot away from his last game and built on those lessons,” Buffaloes manager Norifumi Nishimura said.

The Hawks broke the scoreless deadlock in the fourth, when Kenta Imamiya doubled and scored on a Yuki Yanagita single, but it stayed a one-run game through six.

Lefty Nobuyoshi Yamada took the mound in the seventh, worked carefully to Yanagita and walked him. Wladimir Balentien followed with a smash up the middle that had “big inning” written all over it.

But the Buffaloes brought their “A” fielding game on Wednesday after being badly outplayed on defense the night before. Second baseman Koji Oshiro, got to Balentien’s grounder and flipped to shortstop Ryoichi Adachi to start a double play. Adachi, who had let a pop fly fall behind him in center in a mix-up with center fielder Yuma Mune on Tuesday, was on EVERYTHING in shallow left and center.

But Yamada then surrendered another smash up the middle, but Oshiro, shading the Akira Nakamura toward right, was in position to snag that one. Seiji Uebayashi followed by blasting his second home run in two nights.

Wakui earns 4th win with gem against Lions

Hideaki Wakui showed why he still has some value on Wednesday as he located his pitches to dominate his former club in the Rakuten Eagle’s 11-0 win over the Seibu Lions at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Wakui (4-0) walked four, but executed with precision whenever he found himself in a jam. With one out and one on in the first Wakui froze Shuta Tonosaki with a perfectly located changeup. He got out of the jam by attacking Tomoya Mori inside and getting him to foul out – with some help from third baseman Daichi Suzuki making a good catch at the edge of the seats.

The top three in the Eagles order, rookie Hiroto Kobukata, Suzuki and shortstop Eigoro Mogi combined to score five runs and drive in 10.

Lions starter Tatsuya Imai (1-2) stranded five batters through the first three innings, surviving three two-out walks in the third before the roof collapsed in the fourth. For the fourth straight inning, the right-hander retired the first two batters before six straight reached in the five-run rally. Suzuki broke the ice with a bases-loaded single and Mogi followed with a three-run homer.

Nakata lifts Fighters past Marines

Cleanup hitter Sho Nakata drove in three runs and cracked a 4-4, eighth-inning tie with a sacrifice fly for the Nippon Ham Fighters in a 6-4 win over the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.

Nakata’s two-run RBI single opened the scoring after Haruki Nishikawa singled and Kensuke Kondo doubled with one out to set the table in the first against Marines starter Kazuya Ojima.

The Marines took the lead in the fifth when Leonys Martin homered for the second-straight game with perhaps the longest home run I’ve ever seen at this ballpark. His one-out three-run shot made it 4-2 Marines.

Former Padre Christian Villanueva led off the sixth with a home run and Nishikawa singled in the tying run after Takuya Nakashima singled and stole second.

Nakashima scored the go-ahead run in the eighth when Nakata flied to the wall in right. Nakashima reached to open the inning on a throwing error by third baseman Brandon Laird.

Fighters starter Nick Martinez allowed four runs on five hits and five walks over six innings.

Togo earns 3rd win as Giants pound Carp

 Twenty-year-old right-hander Shosei Togo (3-0) worked six scoreless innings and Zelous Wheeler hit his first home run for his new team as the Yomiuri Giants clobbered the Carp 12-1 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Togo allowed two hits and three walks while striking out four, while the Giants got to Carp lefty Kris Johnson (0-3) for five runs over five innings. Kazuma Okamoto broke the ice in the first by singling home rookie Takumi Kitamura, who opened the game with a single. Wheeler, who joined the Giants in a June trade from the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles, completed the damage against Johnson with a two-run homer in the fifth.

Wheeler singled in two more runs in the Giants’ five-run sixth, when Okamoto added a two-run shot.

Matsuba earns 1st win as Dragon

Takahiro Matsuba (1-0) allowed a run over 5-1/3 innings and Dayan Viciedo doubled in two to pace the Chunichi Dragons to a 2-1 win over the DeNA BayStars at Nagoya Dome.

The loss extends the BayStars’ record streak of winning and losing alternating games to 16 straight. The visitors’ only run came on Neftali Soto’s sixth home run of the year in the sixth.

Matsuba, who was making his season debut, earned his first win in a Chunichi uniform since being traded last summer from the Orix Buffaloes.

Haruhiro Hamaguchi (1-1) took the loss for the BayStars. He struck out nine but walked three and surrendered seven hits over 5-1/3 innings.

Swallows wear down Tigers

Alcides Escobar had four hits including a two-run home run as the Yakult Swallows beat the Hanshin Tigers 9-5 at Koshien Stadium.

Swallows starter Gabriel Ynoa allowed a run over five innings, but lefty 21-year-old Hiroki Hasegawa allowed all three runners he faced in the sixth to reach, and Scott McGough allowed the two runners he inherited to score.

Munetaka Murakami, who singled to open the scoring in the first off Onelki Garcia, broke a 4-4 tie in the seventh with another RBI single.

Garcia, who beat out a bunt single to open the Tigers’ fifth and appeared to cramp up in the process, returned in the sixth after a 30-minute rain delay, when he issued a two-out walk and surrendered Escobar’s home run. The lefty allowed four runs on two walks six hits over six innings.

Justin Bour went 3-for-5 with his fourth home run for the Tigers.

Mariners’ Hirano tests positive

Yoshihisa Hirano has tested positive for COVID-19, according to Kyodo News.

Seattle placed the right-hander on the injured list earlier in the day. Hirano signed a one-year deal with Seattle in January after going 9-8 with a 3.47 ERA over two seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Yoshihisa Hirano

The 36-year-old had been the Orix Buffaloes’ closer until he filed for free agency after the 2017 season and signed with the Diamondbacks, whose manager Torey Lovullo, played in Japan for the Yakult Swallows.

According to Kyodo, Hirano is the first Japanese major leaguer to test positive. In March three Hanshin Tigers players tested positive, while two Yomiuri Giants players tested positive in May.

Transactions

Rakuten Eagles traded LHP Yuhei Takanashi to Yomiuri Giants for RHP Hosei Takata*

NOTE: To facilitate management of 70-man rosters, until recently it was customary to assign a player acquired in a trade the same number as a player he was traded for. I don’t know when it last happened, but the Takanashi-Takata trade simplified that matter since both were No. 53 with their former clubs.

Active roster moves 7/15/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/25

Central League

Activated

CarpP30Ryuji Ichioka
CarpC40Yoshitaka Isomura
DragonsP38Takahiro Matsuba

Dectivated

CarpC31Yoshiyuki Ishihara
SwallowsP19Masanori Ishikawa

Pacific League

Activated

LionsIF52Haruka Yamada
HawksP21Tsuyoshi Wada
HawksIF00Hikaru Kawase
FightersP59Yuki Yoshida
FightersC22Shinya Tsuruoka
BuffaloesP66Ryo Yoshida

Dectivated

HawksP40Kazuki Sugiyama
HawksIF36Taisei Makihara
FightersP15Naoyuki Uwasawa
FightersC10Yushi Shimizu
BuffaloesP49Keisuke Sawada

NPB 2020 7-11 games and news

Buffaloes exploit reliever’s mistakes

The Orix Buffaloes won for the fifth time in seven games with a 5-3 win on Saturday over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome on Saturday.

With both teams giving away opportunities and then throwing away their chances, the Buffaloes finally broke up the 1-1 tie that had existed since the first inning.

Southpaw Katsuhiko Kumon (0-1), the sixth pitcher on a bullpen day for Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama, made two momentary lapses in the field and that was enough to turn the game Orix’s way. The lefty came in throwing strikes and executing his pitches for the most part.

With a runner on second after a leadoff single and a sacrifice, Yuma Mune hit a grounder to first. Kumon went to cover first, and though he’d been able to locate his pitches, he was unable to locate the bag. Only after taking the throw from first baseman Sho Nakata did he realize that he had stopped more than a stride from the bag as Mune sped past and reached safely with an “infield single.”

Mune stole second on the first pitch to left-handed slugger Masataka Yoshida, who after a steady diet of pitches targeting the low-away corner of the zone, chopped one back to Kumon. The southpaw hesitated for a split second to see the runner coming home, but then couldn’t find the ball in his glove. His delayed throw home gave his catcher no chance for a play as the Buffaloes took their first lead.

With lefty Takahiro Okada on deck, Kumon worked extra carefully to Adam Jones and walked him. It was at that point that the game got out of control. Kumon missed with a 1-0 slider in the heart of the zone to Okada. Although he’s having a tremendous start to the season, the Buffaloes slugger missed and popped it up.

But Kumon’s early ability to execute was now gone. He tried to go inside with a first-pitch fastball to Aderlin Rodriguez but missed high and over the plate. Rodriguez, who had demolished the Fighters the day before, put a beautiful swing on it and lined it over second for a two-run single.

The game marked an end to Kumon’s record-setting streak of 182 career games without a loss, and rather than sympathy, one suspects he is going to receive a heaping helping of pitchers fielding practice.

Kumon’s replacement walked the next to batters to make it 5-1, and Buffaloes right-hander Keisuke Sawada coughed up two runs in the ninth on Kotaro Kiyomiya’s second home run of the season before Brandon Dickson came in to face one batter, tough left-handed leadoff man Haruki Nishikawa. Dickson retired him on three pitches to earn his third save.

Buffaloes lefty Daiki Tajima allowed a run over five innings on three hits and three walks. Nakata singled home Nishikawa, after Tajima walked the first two batters he faced in the first.

Chihiro Kaneko, who won a Sawamura Award as Japan’s most impressive starting pitcher during his days as Buffaloes ace, led off the Fighters’ bullpen relay. He surrendered a leadoff single to Koji Oshiro, who scored from third on a wild pitch.

After Tajima left the game, Hirotoshi Masui and Nobuyoshi Yamada each worked a scoreless inning, as did new import Tyler Higgins (1-0) who earned the win in relief. Higgins located a good fastball with an effective change to more or less dictate things from the mound.

Marines power past Lions

The Lotte Marines took a bat to Seibu Lions starter Wataru Matsumoto (0-2) in a 6-4 victory at Chiba’s breezy Zozo Marine Stadium.

After an error put the leadoff man on, Marines No. 3 hitter Tsuyoshi Sugano fouled off three two-strike pitches before finding a straight fastball in the heart of the zone to his liking and pulling it well back into the right field stands.

Brandon Laird drew an eight-pitch walk after he popped up the seventh near first base. There, the wind prevented a catch in foul territory. Seiya Inoue followed homering for the second-straight game to make it 4-0 Lotte, hitting the first strike he saw, a low 2-0 fastball and powering it into the left field seats.

Marines starter Atsuki Taneichi (1-1) brought a lively fastball and was able to survive a third-inning scrape with just two runs scored off him. Over six innings, he gave up three runs on seven hits, two walks and two hit batsmen while striking out 10.

Frank Herrmann, Tsuyoshi Ishizaki and Naoya Masuda finished up for Lotte, with Masuda earning his fifth save.

Niho outlasts Kishi as Hawks slam Eagles

Journeyman right-hander, who somehow got a spot in the SoftBank Hawks starting rotation, showed why he deserved that chance as he outpitched veteran Takayuki Kishi in an 8-4 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Niho (1-2) entered the game with eight career wins. He allowed four runs on four hits, a walk and a hit batsman over seven innings while striking out three. In a game that seemed like a hopeless mismatch, Niho executed his pitches, while the Hawks ran the bases better and fielded better than the Hawks.

Yasuhito Uchida blasted a three-run second-inning homer in an inning led off by good at-bats from Hiroaki Shimauchi, who walked, and Stefen Romero, who singled.

The Hawks scored twice in the second thanks to some opportunistic base running that the Eagles failed to counter. With two outs and a man on in the third, Nobuhiro Matsuda tied it when he appeared to be looking for a first-pitch changeup from Kishi and drilled it for his second home run of the season and second in two games.

Yuki Yanagita, who doubled in the first and walked three times, walked to open the seventh and broke the 4-4 tie on a double by Kenji Akashi, who had scored in both the second and third innings.

Akashi’s first run was simple theft. After he singled and went to second when Matsuda walked, Takuya Kai singled to center. The Eagles appeared to have Matsuda hung up between second and third, but while they focused on him Akashi sprinted home. The throw went home late and both runners advanced. Matsuda then scored on a squibber down the line. Catcher Hikaru Ota went to field it but could not tag Matsuda as he ran past to score.

Big fish inning defeats Dragons

Shogo Itakura, a 22-year-old catching prospect had a pair of RBI singles in the third inning and went 4-for-5 with a walk and a double in the Hiroshima Carp’s 19-4 demolition of the Chunichi Dragons at Nagoya Dome.

The Carp broke a 1-1 tie with nine runs in the third, five off right-handed starter Akiyoshi Katsuno (0-1), while Hiroshima lefty Hiroki Tokoda (1-1) allowed three runs over six innings to earn the win.

Hiroshima’s Jose Pirela went 2-for-5 with a walk and a home run on the game’s first pitch, while the new Dragons new, 24-year-old Cuban Ariel Martinez batted third and went 2-for-4 with an RBI double and two strikeouts to keep his average at .500.

New Carp import D. J. Johnson made his debut and allowed one run in the ninth.

Takahashi out again, rookie Ishikawa to get call

Dragons captain Shuhei Takahashi injured his left hamstring as he was striding to first base in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game and is expected to be out between three weeks and a month according to a report in the Nikkan Sports.

Takahashi posted a career-high .345 on-base percentage last season when he missed 26 games, largely due to a leg injury. He will be deactivated on Sunday

According to the report, Takahashi will be replaced on the roster by slugging rookie Takaya Ishikawa, whom Chunichi won the rights to in a draft-day lottery after he was picked first by three clubs.

The 19-year-old who starred for Japan’s U-18 team last summer, suffered from inflammation in his right shoulder during camp. He has played in all nine of the Dragons’ farm club’s Western League games, batting fourth and playing third.

Ogawa pitches Swallows past Giants

Right-hander Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa” (3-0) allowed two runs over six innings while striking out six to earn the win as the Yakult Swallows beat their Tokyo rivals, the Yomiuri Giants, 9-2 at Hotto Motto Field Kobe.

Swallows shortstop Alcides Escobar had his 1.85-meter frame to thank for being able to reach up and snag a flyball in a run-saving first-inning catch. Munetaka Murakami doubled off Angel Sanchez (2-2) to open the Swallows fourth and scored the tie-breaking run on a Yuhei Takai sac fly.

Norichika Aoki homered, doubled, scored twice and drove in three for the Swallows.

Sanchez allowed four runs, three earned, on four hits and two walks in 5-1/3 innings. He struck out eight.

Soto finishes dramatic DeNA comeback

Neftali Soto capped a three-run ninth-inning rally with a two-run homer off Kyuji Fujikawa (0-2) in the DeNA BayStars’ 4-2 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium.

Soto walked and scored in the eighth to make it a 2-1 game. With one out in the ninth, Takayuki Kajitani walked. Substitute outfielder Kai Ueda, who had entered in the bottom of the eighth as a pinch runner, let Masayuki Kuwahara’s single get past him, allowing Kajitani to score from first. Soto then blasted a 2-1 fastball for his fifth home run.

The Tigers had led since the second inning, when Justin Bour hit his fourth home run of the season, off BayStars southpaw Shota Imanaga, who left after six innings.

Four relievers finished up for the BayStars, with lefty Kenta Ishida (1-0) working the eighth to earn the win, and Yasuaki Yamasaki stranding two in the ninth to earn his fifth save.

The ninth-inning comeback spoiled a solid start by Hanshin right-hander Yuki Nishi, who struck tout seven over 6-1/3 scoreless innnings.

NPB 2020 7-10 games and news

Hail, hail the gang’s all here

For the first time since Feb. 24, fans in Japan were able to see games between teams from Nippon Professional Baseball’s two top leagues as clubs from the Central and Pacific leagues were allowed to admit u to 5,000 fans to their games starting Friday.

One of the games, between the CL’s Yomiuri Giants and Yakult Swallows at Hotto Motto Field Kobe, was rained out, and the game at nearby Koshien Stadium was called after five innings.

The opening takes place as COVID-19 cases surge around Japan and in particularly in Tokyo. Tokyo set a record for new infections on Friday.

Japanese ball to an American-style beat

To prevent the spread of the virus, fans have been asked not to participate in organized cheering, chanting and singing, while musical instruments have been banned. But when you take the organized cheering away from Asian baseball you get a much more subdued atmosphere.

Instead of every at-bat being accompanied by its background music and rhythm section, the reduced crowds created a buzz that ebbed and flowed more in tune with action on the field.

Kuriyama brings Lions back

Veteran left-handed hitter Takumi Kuriyama belted a two-run, game-tying home run in the eighth and drew a bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning that pushed the Seibu Lions to 7-6 win over the Lotte Marines at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

Kuriyama’s second home run of the season, off reliever Taiki Tojo, took Lions starter Zach Neal off the hook for the loss and preserving his streak of 12-straight winning decisions.

“One can’t be happier than this,” said the 36-year-old Kuriyama. “How the fans see us, their critical eye as well as their sympathy and understanding is essential.”

“I felt like all eyes were on me, and I felt the tension conveyed by everyone in the stands, it helped me buckle down.”

Tojo tried to go away with a first-pitch slider, but it drifted over the inner half of the plate and Kuriyama golfed it into the right field stands.

“I went up focused on hitting my pitch and not wasting the at-bat,” Kuriyama said.

Marines starter Ayumu Ishikawa seemed to struggle in the whipping wind in the first. A leadoff single by rookie Shohei Suzuki and a one-out walk set the table for Hotaka Yamakawa, who hammered a high fastball away and just got it over the fence in right for a three-run home run.

Neal got five groundballs in Lotte’s two-run first. The first two found holes, while the third resulted in a run scoring on a botched rundown. Brandon Laird became the first Marine to elevate the ball, with a sacrifice fly to the wall in left. Two more grounders ended the inning.

The Marines took the lead in the third when Martin walked and Laird reached on yet another groundball single. With one out, Neal tried to go inside to Seiya Inoue with a two-seam fastball but it hung up over the outside half of the plate and he reached the seats.

Yamakawa drew a leadoff walk in the fourth, and a nice stop by shortstop Yudai Fujioka allowed the Marines to get a force on Mori, who then stole second with one out. Kuriyama walked and a hit batsman loaded the bases. Rookie Seiji Kawagoe struck out on a borderline 3-2 pitch, but rookie Kakeru Kawanobe made amends for a bad throw that allowed the Marines’ first run to score by rifling a single to right.

With their lead cut to a run, Tatsuhiro Tamura opened the Marines fourth by working an eight-pitch walk. The Marines catcher advanced on a groundout and beat a good relay on Ogino’s single to left to make it a 6-4 game.

Right-hander Tetsu Miyagawa, Seibu’s top draft pick last autumn, worked around two walks in a scoreless seventh. New import Reed Garrett (2-0) struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth to earn the win, and Tatsushi Masuda worked a perfect ninth to collect his sixth save.

Ishikawa allowed four runs on three hits, three walks and two hit batsmen, while Neal surrendered six runs on four walks and six hits over six innings. Marines closer Naoya Masuda (0-1) walked two, hit a batter and gave up a single in the ninth and was tagged with the loss.

Rodriguez’s farewell bomb KO’s Fighters

Aderlin Rodriguez capped a two-out, ninth-inning rally with his fourth home run, a three-run shot that lifted the Orix Buffaloes to a 4-3 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

The walk-off “sayonara” home run was one of three on Friday. Fighters closer Ryo Akiyoshi retired the first two batters in the ninth before walking Adam Jones on seven pitches and rejuvenated left-handed slugger Takahiro Okada on eight.

After taking a slider for Ball 1, Rodriguez fouled off two low changeups from the side-armer but drilled the third on a line over the left field wall.

Christian Villanueva’s first home run as a Fighter, a two-run shot off right-hander Tsubasa Sakakibara, made it a 3-0 in the sixth.

Rodriguez, who saved a first-inning running with a leaping catch at first base, singled and scored in the eighth on a smash Villanueva was unable to handle at third. Lefty Naoki Miyanishi might have given the game away then, but for a diving catch in left by Kensuke Kondo, who started an inning-ending double play.

The bullpen wasted the best start of the season from Fighters ace Kohei Arihara, who surrendered two singles while striking out seven and walking one over seven scoreless innings.

‘Gita blast lifts Hawks past Eagles

Yuki Yanagita’s fourth home run in four games settled a tight pitchers’ duel when he led off the 10th inning by homering off new import J. T. Chargois (0-1) in the SoftBank Hawks’ 2-1 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Eagles starter Takahiro Norimoto had his splitter working to perfection and struck out nine. He and Hawks starter Nao Higashihama, who was able to pin-point his fastball, each allowed a run over seven innings. Other than an eighth-inning scrape that Rakuten’s Alan Busenitz barely escaped, neither bullpen looked in danger of giving up a run. That was until Yanagita crushed Chargois’ fourth pitch for his seventh home run of the season.

Submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi (2-0), who has started the season out of the bullpen after winning 12 games in the rotation as the 2019 PL rookie of the year, earned the win in relief.

Viciedo sayonara blast sinks Carp

Dayan Viciedo won it in the 10th inning with a walk-off home run to lift the Chunichi Dragons to a 3-2 home victory at Nagoya Dome over the Hiroshima Carp.

The two team’s Opening Day starters, Daichi Osera for the Carp and Yudai Ono for the Dragons, kept this game close through seven. The Carp opened the scoring on third-inning singles by Alejandro Mejia and Jose Pirela.

Journeyman Dragons outfielder Masataka Iryo drew a leadoff walk and scored the tying run in the fifth only for Carp infielder Ryosuke Kikuchi to take Ono deep in the sixth. Iryo, however, singled to open the eighth off journeyman reliever Yasunori Kikuchi and scored an unearned run to tie it on a Yohei Oshima sac fly.

The Dragons bullpen produced three-straight 1-2-3 innings, with Raidel Martinez working the 10th and earning the win when Viciedo homered off Geronimo Franzua to end it.

Tigers outlast BayStars in rain

Koji Chikamoto homered to open the Hanshin Tigers’ first and tie the game 1-1 and start a three-run inning in a 3-2 win over the DeNA BayStars in a game that was called after the top of the fourth due to rain.

Takayuki Kajitani homered to open the game, had three of DeNA’s four hits and scored both runs, but the Tigers offense in the first was enough to decide it at Koshien Stadium.

Kento Itohara followed with a triple and scored on a groundout before cleanup hitter Yusuke Oyama homered. Justin Bour walked and Jerry Sands singled off DeNA starter Shinichi Onuki (1-0). Onuki got out of the inning after one of manager Alex Ramirez’s beloved intentional walks brought Koyo Aoyagi (2-1) up to bat and the Tigers pitcher struck out.

As usual, the cast on Pro Yakyu News found fault with Ramirez’s managing because of his employing a shift against Bour, who singled through the open left side of the infield to lead off the third.

NPB 2020 7-9 games and News

Bour opens Koshien account with home run

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.

Martinez unstoppable

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.

NPB 2020 7-4 GAMES AND NEWS

Sunday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB.

Wada gets assist from Fighters in 1st win

Former Cub Tsuyoshi Wada took a no-hitter into the seventh and ended up with his first win of the season as the SoftBank Hawks beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 8-3 at Sapporo Dome.

The 39-year-old lefty frequently missed in the zone, but the Fighters only hit two balls hard off him through six, both drives straight to Hawks outfielders. Instead of playing “see the ball, hit the ball” against a pitcher whose fastball sat at 85 miles per hour, they guessed and watched and looked and waited.

Wada’s changeup was first rate, and it was if the Fighters were waiting for him to throw it up in the zone, something he refused to do. Instead, whenever they got a fastball up they either watched it, missed it or miss-hit it. He surrendered his first hit to Kensuke Kondo to open the seventh.

The Fighters’ most patient hitter had taken strike after strike in the zone in his first two at-bats, and should have been rung up on a low 0-2 changeup. But umpires are umpires the world over, Kondo got a second life and pulled an inside 1-2 fastball between first and second for a single.

In the seventh, the Fighters changed tactics and began taking easy swings at mistakes in the zone. They loaded the bases with three no-out singles and Wada was gone.

“They are professional hitters. It wasn’t a matter of if they would get a hit, but when,” Wada said.

The Hawks opened the scoring in the first, when Kenta Imamiya homered with one out and none on against Takayuki Kato (0-1). Imamiya, on Friday moved into a tie for seventh all-time in career sacrifice hits with 300. Three straight hits, including a Wladimir Balentien double gave the Hawks the lead for good.

Here are the game highlights:

Kishi wins season debut

The Rakuten Eagles won a seven-inning rain-shortened 3-1 game over the Lotte Marines at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi. Takayuki Kishi (1-0) allowed a first-inning run over five innings in his season debut by pitching out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fourth.

Former Padre Kazuhisa Makita worked a scoreless sixth, and former Dodger JT Chargois pitched the seventh to earn his first save in Japan.

Here are the game highlights:

Yoshida homer lifts Buffaloes over Lions

Masataka Yoshida’s third home run of the season, a two-run shot in the eighth inning, brought the Orix Buffaloes from a run down and lifted them to a 4-3 win over the defending Pacific League champion Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.

Buffaloes starter Daiki Tajima (1-0) had one brush with trouble and it cost him in a three-run fourth, capped by Takeya Nakamura’s two-run double. Aderlin Rodriguez’s fifth-inning solo homer made it a 3-1 game in the fifth and Tajima left after seven.

A one-out walk, a wild pickoff throw and an RBI single by Koji Oshiro made it a 3-2 game before Yoshida homered with two outs.

Tyler Higgins worked the eighth for Orix and Brandon Dickson closed in the ninth to record his first save of the season.

Maru drives in 6 as Giants whip Dragons

Yoshihiro Maru homered twice and added an RBI double as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Chunichi Dragons 7-3 at Tokyo Dome.

Hayato Sakamoto walked twice, homered, singled and scored three runs, while Gerardo Parra doubled twice and singled.

Marte, Bour rip as Tigers gut Carp

Jefry Marte hit a two-run first-inning home run off Carp ace Daichi Osera (2-1) in a 9-3 Hanshin Tigers win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Justin Bour had three hits for the Tigers and a sacrifice fly, while starting pitcher Yuta Iwasada (1-1) allowed three runs over six innings to earn the win.

Osera, who entered the game having opened the season with back-to-back complete-game victories, allowed five runs on eight hits over four innings. Osera failed to score or drive in a run on Saturday, but did single in his only at-bat, raising his average to .625.

Marte did not return to third base in the bottom of the third inning after complaining of tightness in his left calf.

Martinez 1st import to catch in 20 years

A day after being called up, 24-year-old Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez saw his first duty behind the plate on Saturday. Coming on as a sixth-inning pinch-hitter, Martinez walked, scored and stayed in to catch.

In so doing, he became the first imported player to catch in an NPB game since former Australian big leaguer Dave “Dingo” Nillson caught in one game for the Dragons in 2020. Prior to that, Mike Diaz caught 21 games for the Lotte Orions from 1990 to 1991.

Martinez, who joined Chunichi as a non-roster developmental signing in 2018, was signed to a standard contract this past week and added to the Dragons’ 70-man roster. He looked good behind the plate and threw out the first runner who tried to steal against him.

Swallows walk the walk

The Yakult Swallows overcame home runs by Neftali Soto and Jose Lopez by drawing seven walks in a 10-8 win over the DeNA BayStars, who outhit the Swallows 15-6.

Soto had four hits, including two homers, but Naomichi Nishiura and Norichika Aoki each hit two-run shots for the Swallows. Nishimura, who had lost his shortstop job to Alcides Escobar, has grabbed it back by hitting four homers in four games.

Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama entered the ninth with a four-run lead but allowed two runs on Soto’s third home run of the year.

NPB 2020 7-1 GAMES AND NEWS

Thursday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB

Suzuki has career night against Lions

For most of the first five years of his pro baseball career, Yu Suzuki has been a reliever. But going 6-3 as a starter in the Western League last season with a 2.81 ERA must have caught someone’s attention.

On Wednesday, the 23-year-old right-hander who was Orix’s ninth draft pick in 2014, was handed the ball for his first top-team start and threw five hitless innings, nearly doubling his career output with the Pacific League club. The result was his first career win as Orix snapped a seven-game losing streak in a 6-0 win over the Seibu Lions.

For five innings, he and Lions starter Tatsuya Imai (0-2) traded hitless innings, until in the sixth, the jig was up for the Seibu starter. After issuing a leadoff walk, Imai left a slider up a little too much to diminutive power hitter Masataka Yoshida, and the left-handed-hitter launched it over MetLife Dome’s right field fence.

An Adam Jones double and an Aderlin Rodriguez RBI single made it 3-0, when Seibu self-destructed. An error and three-straight bases-loaded walks completed the six-run sixth inning.

Four Orix relievers came in, and the Lions, who haven’t been no-hit in 20 years, didn’t get a hit until veteran slugger Takeya Nakamura’s hard grounder found a hole to lead off the eighth off new import Tyler Higgins.

Asamura punishes Marines some more

Hideto Asamura homered for the second-straight night in Sendai, while Hideaki Wakui (2-0) allowed two runs over five innings as the Rakuten Eagles beat the Lotte Marines 5-3 to pull into a tie for first place in the Pacific League.

Pitching against the club that sold him over the winter, Wakui sturck out seven, while allowing five hits and a walk.

Leonys Martin homered for the Marines, while JT Chargois and Alan Busenitz each worked an inning of relief for the Eagles. Busenitz allowed a run on three hits.

Ishikawa strikes out 10 in Sapporo

Shuta Ishikawa (1-0) of the SoftBank Hawks struck out 10, while walking one and allowing five hits in a 4-0 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.

Nick Martinez (0-2) started for the Fighters. He gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits and two walks while striking out five.

Austin, Patton turn on power against Giants

Tyler Austin’s three-run eighth-inning double off the wall at Tokyo Dome helped lift the DeNA BayStars to a 5-3 win over the Yomiuri Giants.

Reliever Spencer Patton (2-0), who entered in the seventh to face Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto and struck him out, got the win in relief. He provided an encore in the eighth by striking out the side, starting with cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto and finishing with Gerardo Parra.

Giants starter Cristopher Mercedes allowed a run over 5-2/3 innings but it could have been worse without a good catch from newly acquired utility man Zelous Wheeler, who denied the BayStars a leadoff single in the sixth with a sliding catch in left.

Escobar treats Swallows to ice cream cone

Naomichi Nishiura hit his second game-changing home run of the week with a fourth-inning two-run shot that put the Yakult Swallows in front in a 4-3 win over the Hiroshima Carp at at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

On Thursday, Nishiura hit a pinch-hit, three-run sayonara shot off Tigers closer Kyuji Fujikawa. On Wednesday, he went deep off Sawamura Award-winning lefty Kris Johnson (0-2).

Right-hander Albert Suarez (2-0) started for Yakult and allowed three runs, one earned, over five innings, while Scott McGough worked a scoreless eighth. The Carp mounted a rally against closer Taishi Ikeyama, and the lead looked blown on a two-out liner, only for new Swallow Alcides Escobar to save the game.

Yamamoto stops Tigers

Twenty-year-old Takumi Yamamoto (1-1) allowed two runs over five innings, while Zoilo Almonte doubled, walked and scored twice, and Dayan Viciedo singled in a couple of runs as the Chunichi Dragons beat the Hanshin Tigers 6-3.

Jerry Sands singled in a run for the Tigers, while Justin Bour hit his first home run in Japan, a ninth-inning consolation shot.

Dragons add catcher Martinez to roster

The Chunichi Dragons inked 24-year-old Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez to a standard contract on Wednesday. Martinez, signed to a non-roster developmental contract in 2018, hurt his right knee playing in Cuba’s Series Nacional prior to camp the Chunichi Sports reported.

He rejoined the Dragons for practice games from June 2 after completing his rehab.

Marines’ Futaki, Buffaloes’ Nakagawa dropped

Because Japanese baseball has no options and players can be activated or dropped from the active roster an unlimited number of times. So it’s common for a player, ostensibly on the active roster because the manager believes in him, to get sent down for a couple of bad plays.

Two heads rolled on Wednesday after poor performances the night before. The Lotte Marines deactivated right-handed starting pitcher Kota Futaki after the Rakuten Eagles teed off on too many first-pitches in Lotte’s 15-4 loss. The defeat snapped the Marines’ eight-game winning streak.

The Orix Buffaloes pulled the plug on 24-year-old utility infielder Keita Nakagawa, who finished fourth in the rookie of the year voting last year, for not hitting and for making a throwing error that led to the Seibu Lions’ third run in a 3-2 loss. The Buffaloes have lost seven straight.

NPB 2020 6-24 live

The Giants suffered their first loss of the year, in June no less, while Justin Bour gets his first hit after starting his season 0-for-16, while the most highly touted rookie of the season runs into a buzz saw called Hideto Asamura. All that and more from Japan on Wednesday night.

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Thursday’s starters are HERE.

Kuri hands Giants 1st loss

Allen Kuri allowed an unearned run over seven innings, and the Hiroshima Carp beat the Yomiuri Giants 5-1 at Tokyo Dome.

Seiya Suzuki and Kosuke Tanaka each homered off Cristopher Mercedes, who lasted just three innings. Ryosuke Kikuchi, who gave up on finding at major league job before camp started and returned to the Carp, had three hits, including a home run.

BayStars’ bullpen holds on

Takayuki Kajitani, a player whose once electric future has been hampered by frequent injuries, homered to break a 2-2, fifth-inning tie at Yokohama Stadium, and a quartet of DeNA BayStars relievers held the Chunichi Dragons scoreless over the final four innings.

Spencer Patton, coming off a nightmare of a 2019 season, struck out two of the four batters he faced to set up for closer Yasuaki Yamasaki, who recorded his second save in precarious fashion.

After Yohei Oshima’s two-out single, Issei Endo missed the left field fair pole by a foot or two before drawing a walk. Another walk loaded the bases before Dayan Viciedo grounded out to end the game.

Former Giant Suarez stops Tigers

Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Albert Suarez (1-0) allowed an unearned run over six innings at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium to pitch the Yakult Swallows to a 6-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers. Suarez struck out four while allowing two singles. He walked a batter and hit a batter.

No one likes to lose, but there was no mistaking the relief on Justin Bour’s face when he singled in the seventh inning for his first hit since the season started on Friday.

Gunkel gets his feet wet

Tigers right-hander Joe Gunkel (0-1) allowed three runs in four innings on seven hits and two walks. His pitches sank a lot but the Swallows hitters made enough contact on them and it seemed like almost everything they put their bats to found a hole. While some of that was probably just bad luck, it appears Gunkel will need to make some adjustments. It’s a pretty common thing for new pitchers in Japan.

Wakui, Asamura spoil Kawano’s debut

Three days after his 34th birthday, Hideaki Wakui won his first game as a Rakuten Eagle, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out five over seven innings in a 5-2 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters.

The Eagles trailed rookie Ryusei Kawano 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth, when the Fighters walked Jabari Blash with two outs and a man on only for the inning to go south in a hurry.

With one run in and two on, Asamura launched an opposite-field homer off the end of his bat. He only had two hits but the two outs he made were pretty impressive in their own right.

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Laird makes Buffalo sushi

Former New York Yankee Brandon Laird hit a three-run, first-inning home run, walked, singled and scored twice to help the Lotte Marines to a 6-4 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

Leonys Martin also singled, walked and scored a run for the Marines, who improved to 4-1, while former Cleveland Indians right-hander Frank Herrmann earned his third hold in the four games. The former Eagle is 1-0 in four scoreless outings so far in Chiba.

Here’s Laird’s hero interview

Hawks beat Lions at their own game

The Seibu Lions are kind of like Japan’s answer to pro wrestling. You can expect a lot of weird things, a lot of blows, a lot of falls. The combination of a historically good offensive and an unhealthy amount of mediocre pitching means no game is ever safe until the ref gives the final count.

The two-time-defending Pacific League champs got a dose of their own medicine on Wednesday in a 9-6 loss to the SoftBank Hawks. Kenta Imamiya tipped the scales with a three-run, sixth-inning homer off a high hanging curve from Tatsuya Imai (0-1) while Seiji Uebayashi went deep with a three-run bomb in the first.

The Lions got four RBIs from two-time home run king Hotaka Yamakawa at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo, and a 2-for-5 night from new leadoff man Corey Spangenberg, but starter Tatsuya Imai surrendered seven runs and that was that.

Live blog: Eagles vs Fighters

Go to NEWEST.

For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Hideaki Wakui retired the Eagles in order in the first, finishing the inning by fanning Kensuke Kondo on three pitches, so that’s an impressive start for the veteran at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park.

Bottom 1st

It’s the pro debut of Ryusei Kawano*, the Fighters’ top draft pick in 2019 out of the corporate leagues.

The lefty popped up leadoff man Eigoro Mogi on a first-pitch fastball, but Jabari Blash fouled off a 2-2- pitch before walking on seven pitches. He does that a lot. New Eagle Daichi Suzuki flied out to deep right to bring up Hideto Asamura.

Kawano starts him off with a breaking ball in the dirt, and misses with a fastball and then another curve. Asamura takes a fastball right down the pipe for Strike 1, but puts a good swing on a curve from the lefty and pulls it past utility man Toshitake Yokoo at third.

With runners on the corners, and two outs, Kawano gets the tough Hiroaki Shimauchi to ground a high first-pitch fasrball to second for an easy force.

Top 2nd

Sho Nakata opens the inning and the scoring by barreling up a decent high fastball from Wakui and driving it well over the fence in left center. Wakui went up high with a fastball on 0-2, and then brought it down a bit where Nakata could get it.

Ryo Watanabe grounded out before Wakui dodged a bullet. The right-hander got a tough call on a 2-2 changeup away to Kotaro Kiyomiya, and then hung a slider down the middle that the 21-year-old hammered to deep right, where Stefen Romero made the catch. Wakui then got Yokoo to wave at a 1-2 fastball away, and we go to the bottom of the second.

Bottom of 2nd

Kawano walks Romero to open the second. If he can stay healthy, this guy is going to be a tremendous acquisition. He gave Orix his best, but just suffered from one injury after another.

But Yasuhito Uchida grounds a first-pitch fastball to short, where Kazunari Ishii starts an easy double play. Kawano gets ahead of catcher Hikaru Ota 0-2 but loses him by missing low out of the zone. The rookie ends the inning when Ryosuke Tatsumi hammers a 3-2 slider, but Kiyomiya makes a nice grab behind the first base bag.

That’s 39 pitches for the rookie. Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama is perhaps the most iconoclastic in Japan at running his starting rotation, so there’s no telling how long he’ll stick with the kid.

Top of 3rd

Ishii grounds to second to open the Fighters third, as Wakui starts it against the last two hitters in the Nippon Ham order. A nice pick at third by Daichi Suzuki on a ball hit by catcher Yushi Shimizu and there’s two down.

Major league aspirant Haruki Nishikawa, who fouled out to open the game, does better this time, smacking a high 1-0 fastball to the gap for a double. Wakui then misses badly with a changeup inside to the right-handed-hitting Taishi Ota, and he muscles it over third for an RBI single. Fighters lead 2-0. Kondo goes down swinging for the second time to end the inning.

Bottom 3rd

Kawano strikes out Mogi swinging with a high fastball, the rookie’s first career K. Blash grounds out and Suzuki hits a can of corn to right for Kawano’s easiest inning yet.

Top 4th

Nakata goes down swinging on a 3-2 curve, Watanabe hits an easy fly to right and Kiyomiya holds up on a fat-looking 3-2 fastball up and takes first on a walk. Yokoo shows some good discipline, but he can’t do anything with the pitches Wakui puts in the zone, and flies out to second.

Bottom 4th

Can Asamura hit or can he hit. Nice first-pitch slider at the bottom of the zone, but he was on it only for his liner to get within range of Nishikawa in left, who slides to make the grab. Shimauchi grounds a fastball to short this time for the second out, before Romero accidentaly beats the Fighters shift with a single up the middle.

The Fighters, who began aggressively shifting last year, had Watanabe pulled right behind the bag against the right-handed-hitting Romero who got jammed on an inside fastball with the ball rolling to the right field side of the second base bag. Kawano then jammed Uchida with another fastball inside and the inning’s over with a dinky liner to Kiyomiya at first.

Top 5th

Wakui is by no means overpowering, but his fastball has a little zip on it, and he’s mixing his pitches, keeping guys off barrels, and more importantly going after guys. Tatsumi in center has to make a long run for the second out, but it’s an easy 1-2-3 inning for the veteran.

Bottom 5th

Kawano will go at least five unless he runs into serious trouble here. He dispatches Ota with a fastball flied out to center, but walks the No. 9 hitter Tatsumi and danger lurks. Mogi fouls out well down the left field line, but Tatsumi tags up and takes second.

Kawano’s been starting most guys off with a slider for a while, but misses with a first-pitch fastball away to Blash. The rookie is definitely trying to keep his misses down, as he misses low. The Fighters decide to put Blash on, and after a chat with pitching coach Masao Kida, Kawano faces the lefty Suzuki.

Tatsumi steals third on the first pitch without a throw. Kawano hangs a 1-1 slider, and Suzuki slams it up the middle. Fighters 2, Eagles 1, with Blash cruising into third and Asamura in the driver’s seat.

Asamura miss-hits a 1-2 fastball away off the end of the bat and that puppy carries over the fence for a two-run homer. Eagles 4, Fighters 2.

Shimauchi flies out to end the inning, but damn Asamura is a hitter.

Top 6th

Wakui might not have much tonight, but he’s more or less locating his fastball, and he’s dictating the pace. He starts the sixth with easy outs against a couple of tough hitters, Ota and Kondo, who grounds out after two-straight punch-outs. Nakata, who missed a curve the last time up for Strike 3, looks at a fastball and down he goes.

Bottom 6th

Kazutomo Iguchi on the mound for the Fighters to face Romero. Kawano’s line: 4 runs over 5 innings on 5 walks (1 intentional), 4 hits and 1strikeout.

Romero is retired on a sharp play be Yokoo at third. But Uchida launches a liner to left, and Kondo cuts it off to hold him to a single. The Eagles’ top draft pick, Hiroto Kobukata is on to pinch run, and Ota bunts him to second.

Tatsumi reaches on an infield single. Runners on the corners with two outs for Mogi, who battles but grounds out.

Top 7th

–Defensive change: Kobukata, who ran for the first baseman Uchida, stays in to play short. Mogi moves to third, Suzuki goes across to first.

Kobukata wastes no time in showing off his glove. Diving to his left to snag a one-hop smash and throw out Watanabe to open the inning. Kyomiya flies out to Mogi at third, and if Yokoo hits it to Suzuki at first, the Eagles will have a defensive substitution trifecta.

But Yokoo finally puts a good swing on a changeup in the zone and lines it to center for a single. Yuya Taniguguchi bats for the Ishii and fouls out to third.

Bottom 7th

Iguchi still in for the Fighters, and a 3-2 slider to Blash is hit off the end of the bat for a deep fly to left. Suzuki gets jammed and lines out, while Iguchi shatters Asamura’s bat he still drives it to deep center.

Top 8th

Right-hander ALAN BUSENITZ in for Wakui. The 34-year-old leaves after an impressive night. His line: 2 runs over 7 innings, on 1 walk, four hits and five strikeouts.

Busenitz needs just nine pitches to take the Fighters out of the eighth inning and everything is going right for the Eagles.

Bottom 8th

Rookie Kenya Suzuki* — of the funky delivery — surrenders a hustling one-out double to Romero, who leaves for a pinch runner. Yokoo can’t make a circus catch on a smash by Ota down the third base line and he doubles in Kobukata. Eagles 5, Fighters 2.

Kenya Suzuki

Top 9th

Kohei Morihara in for the three-run save here in the ninth. He’s got Kondo, Nakata and Watanabe due up.

Kondo lines an 0-2 pitch to left for the first out. A fly out to left center, and Kobukata fields a one-hopper at short and makes the throw to first to end it as the Eagles improve to 4-1.

Final score: Eagles 5, Fighters 2

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Here are the announced starting pitchers in Nippon Professional Baseball for June 24.

Pacific League

Eagles vs Fighters: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hideaki Wakui vs Ryusei Kawano*

This is a battle of the ages as 34-year-old Hideaki Wakui takes the mound for the first time with his new team, the Eagles, against perhaps the top pitching prospect of last autumn’s NPB draft, 22-year-old lefty Ryusei Kawano.

Lions vs Hawks: MetLife Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Tatsuya Imai vs Shuta Ishikawa

Tatsuya Imai

Imai, the Lions’ first pick in the 2016 draft, turned pro out of high school. He threw 135-1/3 innings last season, when he walked 72 batters, the second-highest total in Japan, topped only by Kodai Senga’s 75 — although the Hawks’ ace led both leagues with 180-1/3 innings pitched.

Among pitchers with 90-plus innings, he was fourth in his percentage of pitches outside the zone, and couldn’t get batters to chase and gave up more than his share of hard contact. About half of his pitches so far have been four-seam fastball (146 kph avg velocity), with sliders next and curves and changeups rounding out his mix through 2019. He’s had his best results with the slider and change. Like most pitchers the question will be whether he can locate his fastball often enough.

Shuta Ishikawa

Ishikawa appeared in two regular season games after coming back from a right hamstring injury in the spring that was followed by a right-knee injury. He’s a fastball, curve, slider guy, with a couple of different curves, and an occasional splitter.

A 28-year-old, Ishikawa worked his way up from a non-roster developmental contract like ace Kodai Senga and starting catcher Takuya Kai. In 2018, when he threw 127-1/3 innings, the right-hander’s hard-contact percentage was sixth-lowest in Japan among pitchers with 90-plus innings. Even without a single dominant pitch, Ishikawa attacks the zone but misses barrels.

Marines vs Buffaloes: Zozo Marine Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kazuya Ojima vs Kohei “K” Suzuki

Kazuya Ojima

Ojima was Lotte’s third pick in the 2018 draft out of Waseda University. As a rookie in 2019, his mix was a 139 kph fastball with a cutter and splitter. He didn’t work in the zone and walked a lot of batters, but was around the NPB average in strikeout percentage despite missing fewer bats than almost anyone in NPB.

Kohei “K” Suzuki

Known in Japanese as “K-Suzuki” a play on teammate Takahiro Okada’s registered name “T-Okada.” The right-hander was Orix’s secon pick in the 2017 draft, and needed something to distinguish him from minor league infielder Kohei Suzuki, thus the “K”.

Despite the moniker, Suzuki was below the team average in strikeouts and above average in walks. He’s a fastball (145.1 kph in 2019), slider guy with an occasional curve and split. The split and the fastball had the best results in 2019. In 102-2/3 innings in 2019, he was in the zone more than the league average, and was had the second lowest ground/fly ratio in Japan among pitchers with 90-plus innings, although his home run rate on fly balls was just ordinary.

Central League

Giants vs Carp: Tokyo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

CRISTOPHER MERCEDES vs Allen Kuri

BayStars vs Dragons: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shoichi Ino vs Takumi Yamamoto

Swallows vs Tigers: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

ALBERT SUAREZ vs JOE GUNKEL

Albert Suarez, the 30-year-old brother of Hanshin’s Robert Suarez, appeared in just four games last season for Yakult. He’ll face Joe Gunkel, who will be making his Japan debut.