The coronavirus is marching through the NPB schedule like William Tecumseh Sherman’s road trip through Georgia. Although no additional games were canceled Wednesday, the Hanshin Tigers lost their scheduled starting pitchers for Thursday, Masashi Ito, and Friday, Shintaro Fujinami.
Meanwhile, Tsuyoshi Shinjo and the Nippon Ham Fighters put their only winning streak on the line at Seibu Dome, where they come face to face with “the whip.”
A total of 756 players cast ballots for who THEY think should be in the All-Star games, and while no one was close to a unanimous selection, the player most players believe should be there turned out to be Yuki Yanagita, who was named as on 573 ballots.
Individual players who were not voted in by fans, are added to their leagues’ teams if they lead the player voting. Yanagita was already in, so this was just the cherry on top of the sundae for him.
I have no idea why the players and fans disagreed so much in the CL and so little in the PL, although the PL’s DH vote was WEIRD. First of all, the winner, Lotte’s Leonys Martin, won an outfield spot on both ballots and won the DH with just 85 votes. His teammate, Brandon Laird, won the fan ballot for DH but didn’t crack the top three in the players’ ballot, as reported by NPB.
Fighters 2, Eagles 1
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park,Nippon Ham rookie Hiromi Ito (6-4) won a duel with Rakuten veteran Takayuki Kishi (3-6). Both pitched seven innings, both allowed one earned run.
The rain-buffeted game was decided by the right fielders. Rakuten’s Rusney Castillo failed to catch a ball that led to an unearned first-inning run, driven in by Fighters right fielder Kensuke Kondo.
The Eagles had a chance to tie it with two outs, but somehow Kondo, a former catcher, managed to throw out Hiroto Kobukata trying to score on a single from second. The throw was strong enough but offline, forcing Fighters catcher Ryo Ishikawa to make an acrobatic tag.
Lions 1, Hawks 0
At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Seibu’s Cory Spangenberg blasted his fifth home run in the seventh inning off Shota Takeda (4-4), who went seven innings. Lions starter Kona Takahashi (7-3) went eight and Kaima Taira set a record by not being charged with a run over 39 consecutive pitching appearances despite allowing a single and a double. He was helped out of the jam when Hawks pinch-runner Naoki Sato barely over-slid the bag at third, where Spangenberg tagged him out.
After the game, asked about what got him through his jam, Taira said, “I was lucky.”
Giants 10, Carp 4
At Tokyo Dome, Hiroshima chased Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano in the third inning before Yomiuri roared back to turn this one into a laugher, with Seiya Matsubara reaching base four times, scoring twice and driving in four runs.
Matsubara and Zelous Wheeler each hit their eighth home run, while Hayato Sakamoto hit his 10th for the Giants. The Carp went deep twice, Ryoma Nishikawa hitting his seventh and Seiya Suzuki his 11th.
As for Sugano, Pro Yakyu News analyst Tomoya Satozaki said, “His velocity was down and he couldn’t locate, so there weren’t a lot of positives.”
At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin closer Robert Suarez (1-1) blew up a 1-1 tie in the ninth when he just didn’t appear to have much feel for the ball. Tetsuto Yamada, who tied it in the seventh with his 21st homer, off Joe Gunkel, singled with one out. With two outs, Jose Osuna singled for the third time, and pinch-hitter Shingo Kawabata walked. After that, Suarez’s pitches got a little straight, and career minor leaguer Takeshi Miyamoto lined a straight 160-kph fastball to left for a two-run single. Kosuke Baba entered but allowed two inherited runs to score plus one he let on himself.
When Suarez took the mound, all I could think of was how lucky I was to watch such a well-pitched game. Gunkel struck out 10, walked none and allowed four hits over seven innings. Yamada’s homer was a fly to right that found the sweet spot at huge Koshien Stadium, where the outfield fence curves in at the foul pole to make an inviting home run target.
Swallows rookie Yasunobu Okugawa struck out six, walked none and allowed four hits over seven innings, including catcher Ryutaro Umeno’s sixth-inning leadoff homer.
Lions vs Buffaloes: MetLife Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT