Tag Archives: Kohei Arihara

NPB 2020 7-17 games and news

Inside story

Is it just me, or are NPB umps beginning to adopt the old major league standard of shifting the strike zone one ball width away from the batter? This was done in the States, I understand, to decrease hit batsmen. As long as I can remember, Japanese umps have called the vertical edges of the zone by the rules as well as their talents allowed.

But Friday’s games got me to wondering. Looking at the pitches that were called strikes and balls in Sendai’s game between the Lions and Eagles, and in Osaka between the Hawks and Buffaloes and at Koshien between the Dragons and Tigers, it sure seemed like inside strikes meant getting the ball entirely over the plate, while pitchers tended to get more leeway outside.

It may just be me, but a narrow strike zone definitely impacted at least one game.

Neal outpitches Norimoto in Sendai

Rakuten Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto has been very tough this season and he was pretty darn good on Friday, but sometimes things just have a way of going south. And while things didn’t go his way, Seibu Lions right-hander Zach Neal had his best outing in three weeks and picked up the win in a 10-2 victory in Sendai.

After both pitchers were rock solid in the first, Norimoto ran into trouble in the second. He hit the leadoff man, and pitched carefully to 2019 Pacific League MVP Tomoya Mori and ended up walking him. After that, he pretty much made his pitches but didn’t get the results he might have.

OK, he threw a straight fastball down and in to Takeya Nakamura that the slugger lined to left. The opening run scored on the play when left fielder Hiroaki Shimauchi failed to gather in the ball on a hop.

After that it was back-to-back singles off good pitches. An inside fastball jammed Takumi Kuriyama but resulted in a flair to left that fell in for an RBI single. Cory Spangenberg did a super job to go down and get a splitter and single to load the bases.

Norimoto had thrown 22 pitches in the inning at that point the wheels kind of fell off. But oddly enough, the Lions had pretty much done all the damage they were going to do in the inning.

He threw three straight pitches down the pipe, a first-pitch fastball resulted in an RBI single. A hanging first-pitch slider would have brought in another run had Shimauchi not made a good sliding catch in left. Sosuke Genda then watched a fat first-pitch fastball go by before offering at a splitter out of the zone that let the Eagles get a force at the plate.

The Lions added two more runs in the third when he REALLY missed to dangerous hitters, resulting in a Hotaka Yamakawa home run and a hanging curve that missed being a two-run homer by a few feet.

Neal — remember Zach Neal? — gave up a couple of hard-hit balls to his fielders in the second, and had trouble with the strike zone, see above, in the third, when he issued two, two-out walks — credit to Daichi Suzuki for the second — before Eigoro Mogi lined a pitch to center that went for a two-run double when center fielder Shohei Suzuki failed to make a shoe-string catch.

That brought league RBI leader Hideto Asamura to the plate. Neal got a 1-0 strike on the outside corner, and Asamura missed a fastball up and in before flailing at a changeup low and well out of the zone. You could see that changeup coming a mile away, and it was poetry.

Neal walked just those two batters, while striking out five and allowing five hits. With the win, he was able to extend his streak of consecutive winning decisions to 13.

Hawks take advantage of Buffaloes youngster

As happens a lot, walks opened the door for the SoftBank Hawks offense and they never looked back in their 9-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Hard-throwing 21-year-old Tsubasa Sakakibara (0-1) went into the fourth inning with the game tied 1-1, but four walks in the inning proved his undoing.

Sometimes pitchers walk hitters because they can’t locate their pitches and sometimes because they have a poor approach, and in Sakakibara’s case it seemed more of an inability to adjust to umpire Fumihiro Yoshimoto’s narrow strike zone.

A leadoff walk on four borderline pitches to Yuki Yanagita was a case of his trying to hit the edge of the zone and locating, but not getting the calls. Another walk followed before a three-pitch strikeout of Wladimir Balentien. But at that point, Sakakibara’s ability to execute began to slip. He missed all over the place to Nobuhiro Matsuda to load the bases before Takuya Kai ground out a walk that broke the tie.

Sakakibara, whose fastball was sitting at 150 kph but was pretty straight, got the grounder he needed to keep it a 2-1 game but the ball went for an infield single and he was yanked after four.

Orix rookie Ryo Ota, whose first pro hit was a home run on Thursday, had a home run for his second hit as well, when he tied it in the second off Nao Higashihama. The Hawks starter, who was in the leg by a batted ball early in the game, left after three innings.

Arihara earns 1st win for Fighters

Nippon Ham Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (1-3) allowed two runs over six innings, scattering eight hits and three walks in a 7-4 win over the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.

Arihara allowed just a run in the first despite a leadoff single and a Leonys Martin double and didn’t have a stress-free inning until his 1-2-3 sixth. Marines starter Ayumu Ishikawa (0-2) had three 1-2-3 innings through six but surrendered six runs on 10 hits and a walk to take the loss.

Fighters cleanup hitter doubled in a run in the hosts’ two-run first, and put the game out of reach with a seventh-inning grand slam.

Aoyagi, Sands pace Tigers past Dragons

Right-handed side-armer Koyo Aoyagi had the Chunichi Dragons pounding the ball into the dirt, grounding out 16 times over seven innings in a 4-1 Hanshin Tigers victory at Koshien Stadium.

The Dragons managed four hits and a walk off Aoyagi (3-1), who struck out two. The Tigers broke out for three runs in a fortunate third inning against Dragons lefty Yudai Ono (0-3).

Ono sawed off Seiya Kinami’s bat at the handle with a 1-1 slider on the hands but the ball looped over the mound for a leadoff infield single. After the pitcher sacrificed, failed to get a called first strike and sort of gave up on trying to get Yoshio Itoi and walked him on four pitches. Kento Itohara lucked into an infield single hitting an 0-2 pitch well out of the zone off the end of the bat for a perfect swinging bunt down the third base line. A throwing error by third baseman Hayato Mizowaki advanced all three runners and let in a run.

The infield came in, and Jerry Sands, whose eighth-inning home run tied Thursday’s game against Yakult and set the stage for a Tigers comeback, hit Ono’s pitch. The lefty spotted a 3-0 two-seamer low and away only for Sands to reach for it and launch it the other way into the right field gap for a two-run double.

Dayan Viciedo got a run back for the Drgons with his eighth home run of the year in the fourth.

Maru makes difference in rainy Yokohama

Yoshihiro Maru launched a third-inning tie-breaking home run at rainy Yokohama Stadium and the Yomiuri Giants earned a 2-1 win over the DeNA BayStars when their game was called after six innings.

The Giants opened the scoring in the second thanks to some quality swings from Takumi Oshiro, Gerardo Parra and Zelous Wheeler as three singles loaded the bases with no outs against Shoichi Ino (2-1). Oshiro scored on a double play.

Ino struck out six and walked one, while allowing six hits. Giants lefty Nobutaka Imamura (1-0) won his season debut. He allowed six hits and a walk while striking out two, and served up a pair of groundball double plays as the base cutouts at Yokohama Stadium began to resemble mud wrestling venues.

Maru broke the tie with two outs in the third, when Ino hung a curve ball that he launched off the end of his bat and just into the outfield seats atop their high wall in left.

Carp spoil Swallows rookie’s debut

Shota Dobayashi, long a favorite of the Hiroshima media, made his debut in the Carp No. 3 spot and went 4-for-5 with three runs, while Seiya Suzuki and Ryuhei Matsuyama combined to drive in eight in a 9-2 win over the Yakult Swallows.

Right-hander Daiki Yoshida, Yakult’s second draft pick last autumn, allowed five runs on nine hits over 2-1/3 innings to take the loss in his first-team debut.

Carp ace Daichi Osera (3-1) allowed two runs over six innings, while striking out five and walking two. New import D. J. Johnson had his best outing yet for Hiroshima as he struck out the side in the eighth inning.

Alcides Escobar drove in both Yakult runs with a sixth-inning double that missed the top of the wall at Mazda Stadium by a few feet.

Hawks drop van den Hurk, Carp call on Scott

A day after the briefest start of his career in Japan, right-hander Rick van den Hurk was deactivated by the SoftBank Hawks on Friday. The 35-year-old who opened his season with a dominating win over the Seibu Lions on June 25, is now 1-2 with 7.29 ERA in his sixth Japanese season.

Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said van den Hurk was feeling tightness in his back according to the Nikkan Sports.

“We’re going to give it a little time,” Kudo said at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome prior to Friday’s game against the Orix Buffaloes. “We want to know a little bit more about his condition, so he’ll be staying with the team for a bit.”

Meanwhile, a day after a Hiroshima Carp bullpen game imploded, the Central League club called up reliever Tayler Scott. The first-year right-hander has allowed seven runs over three innings and is 0-2 in five games. He has since pitched in two farm games and retired all six batters he faced for the Carp’s Western League team.

Active roster moves 7/17/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/27

Central League

Activated

GiantsP45Nobutaka Imamura
TigersC12Seishiro Sakamoto
TigersOF60Masahiro Nakatani
CarpP70Tayler Scott
SwallowsP28Daiki Yoshida
SwallowsP64Ren Kazahari

Dectivated

GiantsP46Takuya Kuwahara
BayStarsP93Ko Nakagawa
TigersP20Kenichi Nakata
TigersIF00Hiroki Uemoto
TigersOF9Shun Takayama
SwallowsP20Kazuki Kondo

Pacific League

Activated

HawksP34Arata Shiino

Dectivated

HawksP44Rick van den Hurk

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.

ramping up: 21 days to go

One aspect of the long layoff forced by the novel coronavirus is that players who were due to miss the original March 20 start of the season, are now regaining fitness and may be able to make the roster when the season finally starts on June 19.

350 days

That’s how long it will be between starts for Naoyuki Uwasawa when he takes the mound for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Tuesday’s practice game.

Last season, Uwasawa was a key component of the Rube Goldberg contraption that was the Fighters’ pitching rotation last season. Manager Hideki Kuriyama used him and Kohei Arihara as the pillars in conventional starting roles, with a handful of others tasked with going either once or twice through the opposing lineup depending on the skipper’s confidence in them.

In a June 18 interleague game, Uwasawa was kneecapped by a batted ball hit by Neftali Soto, the DeNA BayStars’ two-time Central League home run champ. Prior to that game, the Fighters starting pitchers were 26-18 with a 3.65 ERA. Afterward, even with some superb 1-inning opening acts by Mizuki Hori, they went 18-31 with a 4.32 ERA.

On Thursday, he faced five batters in a simulated game at the Fighters’ minor league facility in Kamagaya, Chiba Prefecture, and is expected to pitch two innings on Tuesday at the Lotte Marines’ Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba.

Yanagita back with a bang

Yuki Yanagita, who until the recent ascension of Hiroshima Carp right fielder Seiya Suzuki, was considered the Japanese outfielder most coveted by MLB clubs, returned to the SoftBank Hawks’ first team for an intrasquad game on Saturday. Yanagita has been rehabbing since his 2019 dumpster fire of a season was capped with right elbow surgery in the offseason.

Yanagita missed most of the season with a knee injury and failed by the slimmest of margins to get the 140 days of service time needed to be a free agent this winter. Had the Hawks brought him up a few days earlier, he would have been on track to fulfil his stated goal of playing in the majors. They didn’t and he signed a long-ass contract that keeps him in Fukuoka for essentially the rest of his career.

On Saturday, according to the Sankei Sports, he hit an opposite-field homer from submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi, the Pacific League’s 2019 rookie of the year and another player who was due to miss the start of the season in March but now has a shot at helping out the rotation from the start.

Stewart takes drive off shin

The Hawks’ Carter Stewart Jr left the mound after pitching just one inning when he took a shot off his right shin that was turned into the final out of the inning.

Iguchi changes tune on Sasaki

Eighteen-year-old right-hander Roki Sasaki who repeatedly was clocked at over 100 miles per hour in his final high school season, apparently will appear in a practice game for the Lotte Marines in the coming weeks, manager Tadahito Iguchi indicated to the media on Saturday.

Earlier in the week, Iguchi had said Sasaki, who twice hit 160 kilometers per hour in a simulated game on Tuesday, would not be ready to appear in a game next month.

Open and shut: NPB goes under cover

I’m calling this spring’s preseason stories “Open and shut” since a main theme so far is 72 exhibitions scheduled to be played behind closed doors as Japanese companies are being asked to curtail large gatherings in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Sands opens with pair

Hanshin Tigers newcomer Jerry Sands blasted two of his team’s five solo home runs in a 5-4 win over the SoftBank Hawks on Saturday. The Tigers got three scoreless innings from their Opening Day starter, Yuki Nishi, and another scoreless frame from former Hawk Kenichi Nakata.

Yusuke Oyama, who is fighting to secure the starting third base job for Hanshin, also homered twice, while 2016 rookie of the year Shun Takayama homered to continue his comeback spring effort. Hawks starter Nao Higashihama allowed four solo homer, all off breaking pitches.

Matsui goes 5 in Eagles restart

Yuki Matsui, making the shift from closer, started and went five innings for the Rakuten Eagles in a 4-2 win over the Lotte Marines. J.T. Chargois and Alan Busenitz worked scoreless innings in relief for the Eagles, while former Eagle Frank Herrman and former Carp Jay Jackson each worked an inning for Lotte.

The PL clubs exchanged a host of players over the winter via free agency and other deals with. Herrmann, (Opening Day starter) Manabu Mima, and a pair of young minor leaguers, infielder Kenji Nishimaki and pitcher Fumiya Ono joined Lotte. Going the other way were Lotte’s former captain, infielder Daichi Suzuki, veteran right-hander Hideaki Wakui and pitcher Tomohito Sakai.

Buffs, Fighters show off season openers

The Orix Buffaloes’ Taisuke Yamaoka worked five scoreless innings, while the Nippon Ham Fighters’ Kohei Arihara allowed a run in three as the two teams went with their Opening Day starters. Orix newcomer Tyler Higgens worked a scoreless inning of relief.

Orix first baseman Takahiro Okada, who was exiled to the minors for the duration of the season after letting a routine grounder go through his legs last summer, homered in his first at-bat.

Viciedo blasts off

Dayan Viciedo homered and singled in his home preseason debut at a silent Nagoya Dome, while new Carp pitcher DJ Johnson allowed a run in one inning of work.

The kotatsu league: Arihara tells Fighters his future is in MLB

Nippon Ham Fighters pitcher Kohei Arihara would like to pitch in the major leagues and hopes to be posted as early as the conclusion of the 2020 season. Arihara was the Pacific League’s rookie of the year in 2015 and led the PL this season in wins.

Another Fighter joins posting que

The Kyodo News story in Japanese is HERE.

“I had that thought in mind when I joined the team (as an amateur) and this year I formally relayed that,” Arihara told a press conference

The 27-year-old is the second front-line Fighters player to tell the team he’d like to be posted this offseason, following center fielder and leadoff man Haruki Nishikawa’s disclosure last month.

Arihara’s profile and my analysis can be found HERE.

Balentien on verge of signing with Hawks

The Nikkan Sports reported Wednesday that veteran slugger Wladimir Balentien was on the verge of signing with the SoftBank Hawks. The 35-year-old Balentien, who set Japan’s single-season home run record with 60 in his 2013 Central League MVP campaign, no longer counts against a team’s limit of four active foreign-registered players.

The Hawks are the only team that has been said to be in the hunt to sign Balentien, who has played all nine of his seasons with the Yakult Swallows, has 288 NPB home runs.

Dragons agree to terms with lefty Gonzalez

The Chunichi Dragons have agreed on a contract with 27-year-old Dominican lefty Luis Gonzalez according to the Chunichi Sports. According to the story, Dragons manager Tsuyoshi Yoda has been in the Dominican Republic, where Gonzalez has been playing winter ball.

Chunichi has lost the services of lefty Joely Rodriguez, who was arguably the Central League’s best middle reliever in 2019. HERE is Rodriguez’s NPB player page.