The Rakuten Eagles’ pennant and playoff hopes were dealt a blow Tuesday when manager/general manager Kazuhisa Ishii revealed left-handed closer Yuki Matsui is no closer to taking the mound than he was on Aug. 25 when he was deactivated due to pain in his right thigh, Daily Sports reported.
The Eagles, who signed former New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka prior to camp, are in fourth place as they seek their first Pacific League pennant since Tanaka’s 2013 MVP season when he went 24-0 and earned the save when they clinched the Japan Series in Game 7 against the Yomiuri Giants.
Asked when Matsui is expected to pitch in a real game, Ishii said, “We still don’t know at all when that will happen. Right now, I think we’re still in a situation where there’s no guarantee he will return this season.”
“If he takes a chance with it and pitches, there is a chance of aggravating it. I don’t want this to be a rush job.”
Matsui has 24 saves with a 0.36 ERA, and the Eagles are 6-9 without him able to pitch in the ninth inning.
Sunday’s games saw Carter Stewart Jr. make his second start for the SoftBank Hawks, Enny Romero make his Pacific League debut two years after he left the Chunichi Dragons, and teammate abuser Sho Nakata slug his first Central League homer after getting a pre-game pep talk from Yomiuri Giants manager emeritus Shigeo Nagashima.
Hawks 4, Marines 2
At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Nobuhiro Matsuda lined a two-out, two-run tie-breaking double to left, as SoftBank salvaged the final game of its home series against Lotte.
Carter Stewart, Jr. made his second start for the Hawks, allowing a run over four innings, but poor location ratcheted up his pitch count. Stewart allowed three hits and walked three while striking out six. A walk to Takashi Ogino and a good swing by Kyota Fujiwara on a low-and-away fastball put the ball in the gap for a third-inning RBI double.
The Hawks did a poor job of turning lefty Enny Romero‘s five walks into runs and tied it on Ryoya Kurihara’s 12th home run in the fourth when they left the bases loaded.
SoftBank submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi walked two batters in the top of the fifth and Brandon Laird put the visitors on top with an RBI single. Two relievers each retired the only batter they faced to end the threat, and the Hawks retaliated against Romero in the home half.
Misaki Mori singled, stole second, was bunted to third and scored on Yuki Yanagita’s sac fly. Kurihara chased Romero with a double. With one out and runners on second and third, righty Yusuke Azuma came up big out of the bullpen, striking out Alfredo Despaigne and Akira Nakamura.
With the game tied after 8-1/2, Frank Herrmann (0-1), who struck out the side in his inning on Saturday, walked Despaigne to open the inning. Pinch-runner Ukyo Shuto took over the PL stolen base lead with his 21st. With two outs, the Marines intentionally walked pinch-hitter Yuya Hasegawa, and Matsuda leaned into a cutter away and drove it over speedster Takashi Ogino’s head in left.
The Marines outfield was playing in, but considering it was hit 10 meters past him, Ogino might not have caught it had he been playing at normal depth, but he would have had a chance of getting the third out or at least holding the Hawks to a run.
Lotte starter Romero was making his Pacific League debut two years after he went 8-10 with a 4.26 ERA for the Central League’s Chunichi Dragons. He’d spent the interim with Tijuana in the Mexican league.
Fighters 2, Eagles 1
At Sapporo Dome, Naoyuki Uwasawa (7-5, 3.25) allowed a run over seven innings, while Nippon Ham scored a run in each of the first two innings against Hideaki Wakui (6-8, 5.17), who was yanked after allowing three hits and two walks over 41 pitches.
The first run scored on an error, a single and a fielder’s choice, before Ronny Rodriguez, who had two hits, tripled in the second and scored on a Yushi Shimizu single. Rakuten made it a one-run game in the fourth on a Hiroaki Shimauchi double and an Eigoro Mogi single.
Rodriguez had a chance to widen the Fighters’ lead in the fifth but fouled out to end the inning with two on.
Bryan Rodriguez worked a scoreless eighth for Nippon Ham, and Toshihiro Sugiura closed it out with his 17th save.
According to ChunichiSports, Eagles skipper Kazuhisa Ishii said his starter was on a short leash with Wakui expected to focus on one inning at a time after he got shelled the week before against Seibu.
Lions 10, Buffaloes 3
At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Orix’s Sachiya Yamasaki (5-7, 3.45) allowed three straight singles to open the game, and Takeya Nakamura improved on his NPB record for career grand slams with his 21st.
Kaito Yoza (1-1, 4.67) allowed two runs over five innings to win his season’s starting debut. A pair of one-out second-inning walks led to both runs, but I’m guessing Orix missed our last podcast and allowed former closer Hirotoshi Masui to be used in relief, and he coughed up four more runs, three on rookie Junichiro Kishi’s seventh home run and another on a fourth-inning Nakamura double.
Tigers 2, Dragons 0
At Vantelin Dome Nagoya, Hanshin’s Takumi Akiyama (9-4, 2.88) allowed four singles and a walk over seven innings. Mel Rojas Jr. broke the ice with a second-inning solo home run, his third, and two relievers, Suguru Iwazaki and Robert Suarez retired the last six Dragons batters with Suarez earning his 27th save.
Shinnosuke Ogasawara (6-6, 3.12) allowed two runs over eight innings on five hits and a walk. The Tigers got an insurance run in the sixth, when Koji Chikamoto drew a one-out walk, went to third on Takumu Nakano’s weakly hit hit-and-run single and scored on a weak groundout.
The Tigers win moved them two full games ahead of the Yomiuri Giants in the CL standings.
Giants 4, BayStars 4
At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri hit four home runs, including Sho Nakata’s first in the Central League, and Zelous Wheeler’s 11th in a three-run seventh inning as the Giants came back to tie DeNA.
Yoshihiro Maru hit his 14th in the first inning off lefty Shota Imanaga, who struck out nine over seven innings and had a pair of hits.
Giants lefty Yuki Takahashi surrendered the lead in the fourth. Neftali Soto followed a leadoff walk with his second homer in two days and his 17th of the season to put DeNA in front. Toshiro Miyazaki doubled and scored, and Shugo Maki, whose three-run pinch-hit homer broke open Saturday’s win, singled him home.
Maki drew a leadoff walk in the sixth and scored an insurance run after Imanaga’s second single and a double by Masayuki Kuwahara.