Yomiuri Giants first baseman Justin Smoak became the latest player to forfeit a job in Japan because his family has been unable to join him. The Central League club announced Thursday that he is returning to the States 34 games into his two-year contract.
Orix Buffaloes pitcher Brandon Dickson declined to come to Japan for his ninth season when he learned his family could not join him, while Rakuten Eagles pitcher Adam Conley declined to come at all.
Getting players into Japan has been marred by the lack of a consistent policy throughout NPB which has mirrored Japan’s haphazard response to the pandemic. NPB and pro soccer’s J-League petitioned the government to let players and coaches into the country.
And the government gave them an entry exemption for non-resident emergency workers based on the excuse that athletes and coaches were essential to make Japan’s Olympic baseball and soccer teams stronger. This is close to nonsensical, but it reflects the fact that waving the magic Olympic wand can move mountains.
Eagles vs Buffaloes: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT
The CL and PL split their games for the second straight day. The Yakult Swallows’ beatdown of the Seibu Lions behind 41-year-old Masanori Ishikawa allowed the CL to nearly pull even in runs scored with the PL, opening the possibility that the CL might lead in runs scored for the first time since interleague arrived in 2005. The CL now leads this year’s series 27-23-7.
Marines lose pitcher Ishikawa for season
Lotte Marines right-hander Ayumu Ishikawa, who ended last season looking at a move to the major leagues through the posting system, had season-ending elbow-cleaning surgery on June 3.
Buffaloes 2, Dragons 1
At Nagoya‘sVantelin Dome, Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto (5-5) was only a little better than Sawamura Award winner Yudai Ono (2-4), thanks to some solid work from his infielders, but he was much more efficient, allowing one run over seven innings.
The Buffaloes made Ono throw 35 pitches to get out of the first inning and another 24 in the second before he found his rhythm. The first five Orix hitters reached, but only two scored, on a Yutaro Sugimoto single.
Tyler Higgins worked a scoreless eighth and former Diamondback reliever Yoshihisa Hirano pitched the ninth for his third save.
Giants 6, Fighters 0
At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri’s C.C. Mercedes (1-0) allowed two hits and no walks over 5-2/3 innings in his season debut, while striking out five.
Zelous Wheeler sparked a two-run first inning with a one-out double off former Rakuten teammate Takahide Ikeda (2-5, 2.85). He scored on a Naoki Yoshikawa single and Justin Smoak capped the rally with a double.
Shinnosuke Shigenobu capped a three-run Giants seventh with a two-run home run and Smoak added an insurance run in the eighth with his seventh.
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Yakult battered Seibu’s best pitcher, Kona Takahashi (5-1) for 10 runs, nine earned on four walks and 11 hits, including home runs by Tetsuto Yamada, his 12th, Norichika Aoki, his second, and Munetaka Murakami, his 16th. Cory Spangenberg got the Lions on the board against Masanori Ishikawa (1-1) in the third with his third home run. Ishikawa sacrificed in each of his first three trips to the plate, something that doesn’t happen a lot.
Ishikawa’s set a franchise record by posting at least one win in 20 consecutive seasons, and for being the team’s oldest winning pitcher at 41 years, 4 months.
Marines 11, BayStars 7
At Yokohama Stadium, Leonys Martin hit his Japan-leading 17th home run, and Brandon Laird his 13th in a three-run third inning. Martin, doubled in the first and then singled in with a man on in the Marines’ two-run fifth, when Laird doubled in Lotte’s go-ahead run.
Toshiya Sato doubled and homered twice for Lotte, scoring three runs and driving in three.
Tigers 6, Hawks 1
At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin side-armer Koyo Aoyagi (4-2) man-handled the SoftBank Hawks, allowing one run over eight innings, while Koji Chikamoto and Yusuke Oyama each drove in two runs. The Hawks loaded the bases in the second while trailing 2-0, but Hanshin got out of the inning against SoftBank starter Shuta Ishikawa (3-4), who surrendered five runs over six innings.
Eagles 12, Carp 5
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Rakuten’s Hideaki Wakui (6-3) had another tough slog of it, allowing five runs over six innings, but had seven runs to work with. Fumiya Kurokawa capped a four-run first off Yuta Nakamura (0-3), whose ERA rose to 11.08 over three games after allowing five runs in four innings.
Kevin Cron went 2-for-4 for Hiroshima with his fifth home run.
Giants vs Fighters: Tokyo Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT