Monday was a day for public remorse for events on and off the field, for Hotaka Yamakawa, who was accused of, but not charged with sexual assault, but who on Monday was suspended indefinitely, and the Yakult Swallows’ ballpark DJ Patrick Yu, for his unwitting comments after an on-field incident that drew the ire of the Hanshin Tigers on Sunday.
Both are interesting, less because of what was said than by what wasn’t.
Yamakawa apologizes for causing trouble
The Seibu Lions on Monday suspended first baseman Hotaka Yamakawa indefinitely after Tokyo prosecutors decided not to indict him over an allegation of rape due to insufficient evidence.
The 31-year-old, a three-time Pacific League home run leader who played for Japan in March’s World Baseball Classic, was referred to prosecutors for allegedly raping a female acquaintance at a Tokyo hotel last November.
“We take this situation very gravely and have punished the individual in order to encourage him to do some serious self-reflection,” Lions President and CEO Tsuyoshi Okumura said according to Kyodo News.
Yuki Nishi (7-3) threw his second-straight four-hit shutout as the Hanshin Tigers bedeviled Angel Sanchez (4-3) in an 11-0 Central League win at Tokyo Dome on Thursday.
Koji Chikamoto launched a high-straight fastball from Sanchez to open the game and the Tigers simply overran the Giants. Sanchez issued a two-out bases-loaded walk in the first and then caught a break with a doubtful interference call when second baseman Akihiro Wakabayashi cut in front of the runner from first to get a slow chopper and clipped him with his hand.
In a three-run second, Tigers captain Kento Itohara scored from first on a single to center, speeding home from third when center fielder Yoshihiro Maru made a lazy lob of his throw to the infield.
The Tigers win snapped an eight-game losing streak at Tokyo. Chikamoto homered again in the sixth for his second two-homer game of the series and Justin Bour homered in the seventh to make it 7-0.
“Yano wasn’t really at his best. He worked really carefully. When he doesn’t have a lot of room for error, that’s when you see his real skill,” said Tigers manager Akihiro Yano, who was also asked about Chikamoto’s success at Tokyo Dome.
“Does he do well in this park? Is that really a thing?”
Giants manager Tatsunori Hara, who stirred a national debate on Aug. 6 by using utility man Daiki Masuda as an emergency pitcher–something rarely seen in Japan–sent his top pinch-runner to the bullpen late in the game to warm him up but he didn’t take the mound.
Rookie Taiki Hamada homered in a three-run fifth inning to chase Michael Peoples (2-2) as a pair of 2018 Yakult draftees took center stage in a 9-0 win for the Swallows over the DeNA BayStars at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
The hosts got on the board in the second when 36-year-old Tomotaka Sakaguchi singled and scored on a throwing error when shortstop Tatsuhiro Shibata airmailed his short throw to second on a force play.
The 20-year-old Hamada, a fourth-round pick, homered to open the fifth. Alcides Escobar followed with his second double and scored on a double by his former Kansas City Royals teammate Norichika Aoki.
Sakaguchi plated Aoki with a sac fly to close the book on Peoples, and 23-year-old Shota Nakayama, the Swallows’ second pick in 2018, homered off nominal closer Yasuaki Yamasaki with one out in the sixth. Nakayama tied a 44-year-old team record of three pinch-hit home runs in a month set by Hall of Famer Katsuo Osugi.
Osugi is best known for a home run that ignited the most famous protest in Japan Series history.
The 1978 series MVP hit one down the line in the sixth inning that saw Hall of Fame manager Toshiharu Ueda pull his team off the field at Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium, delaying the game for 1 hour and 16 minutes. This led the Pacific League to punish teams pulling their players off the field with a forfeit–a rule that was not adopted in the Central League or in the Japan Series–where Chunichi Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai did it in Game 1 of the 2004 series.
Hawks get emotional
Akira Nakamura, who along with superstar Yuki Yanagita is now the second big wheel in the SoftBank Hawks’ offense, singled to help break up a scoreless tie in the ninth inning of a 2-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.
The Hawks are now mourning Wednesday’s death of longtime conditioning coach Takashi Kawamura at the age of 55. The 30-year-old Nakamura, who has spent much of the last two years with the team’s rehab group where he worked a lot with the trainer, was asked to take part in the postgame hero interview, where the interviewer did what “hero” interviewers tend to do when a team or a player is dealing with a death, ask the player over and over about the deceased.
Nakamura sounded both heartfelt and patient dealing with the incessant badgering.
“Kawamura-san helped me from the time I came out of high school. He invited me to train in the offseason with him and he taught me what it means to be a pro,” Nakamura said. “I owe him so much. Extending my career as long as I can take it will be my way of repaying my debt of gratitude.”
The game was tremendous pitchers’ duel between natives of Urama, Okinawa Prefecture (population 121,843), Nao Higashihama (4-1) the Hawks’ Opening Day starter, and Kenta Uehara (0-1) of the Fighters.
The Hawks defense turned the Fighters back in the third and the sixth. Higashihama made a great play on a safety squeeze in the third to cut down a runner at the plate. In the sixth, Christian Villanueva was out trying to advance from second on a foul fly by right fielder Ryota Nakamura.
Uehara threw 90 pitches through eight innings and came out in the ninth. He issued a leadoff walk, and Nakamura singled only after fouling off two attempts.
“I felt like I had to gain some redemption after being unable to get a bunt down,” Nakamura said of his 1,000th career hit on a ground smash fumbled at third.
Yurisbel Gracial singled in one run, and the second run–the one Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo had not been playing for–scored on an error. The two-run edge allowed closer Yuito Mori to overcame a tremendous opposite-field homer by Sho Nakata to record his 22nd save.
Graceless under pressure
The postgame interviews following a death can be awfully trying. Generally, the questioner isn’t satisfied until he gets some grand emotional response and hopefully tear. This happened famously when current Eagles pitcher Yuya Fukui was a rookie with the Hiroshima Carp and was asked to comment on the death of his brother.
These pitiless interviewers typically ask, “Don’t you think the deceased is looking down on you from heaven now and smiling?”
The nadir came after one player’s wife died after a long illness, that those around him said was exacerbated by his womanizing and shabby treatment of her. In his first hero interview that spring, he was asked the routine interview questions, the tears flowed, and the fans were pleased.
Marines maul Lions every which way
The Lotte Marines bunted the Seibu Lions senseless in a two-run second inning and Leonys Martin hit his 21st and 22nd home runs to back Daiki Iwashita (5-5) in an 8-1 win at MetLife Dome.
Ikuhiro Kiyota opened the second with a double off 38-year-old lefty Tetsuya Utsumi (1-2), who then nearly collided with catcher Tomoya Mori as they both chased a sacrifice bunt that Mori fumbled for an error.
Kiyota held at second on the play, and when the Marines tried again to bunt him over, Mori’s throw to third sailed and a run scored. The second run came home on a safety squeeze and the Marines never looked back.
Iwashita, who struck out Lions cleanup hitter Hotaka Yamakawa three times, allowed a run in the ninth, giving up four hits and a walk while striking out five over eight-plus innings.
Matsui wins duel of former closers
Rakuten Eagles lefty Yuki Matsui (2-3) allowed two runs over five innings to beat Hirotoshi Masui (0-2) in a battle of former closers in a 5-4 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Hotto Motto Field Kobe.
Eagles first baseman Daichi Suzuki made the play of the day diving to catch a foul pop and end the bottom of the first. He then singled with two outs in the third and scored on Kazuki Tanaka’s sixth home run.
Alan Busenitz allowed an unearned run in the ninth, and wrapped up his 11th save when Suzuki made a good play in foul territory to end it with two runners on.
Adam Jones was deactivated with a stiff lower back, and was replaced on the active roster by Aderlin Rodriguez, who singled in a run in the Buffaloes’ two-run fourth.
Carp ace Osera has surgery
Daichi Osera, the Opening Day starter for the Central League’s Hiroshima Carp the past two seasons, has undergone right shoulder surgery the team announced Wednesday.
No timeline was given for the 29-year-old right-hander’s return, but he will likely miss the rest of the season after having arthroscopic surgery to clean out the joint at a hospital in Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture.
Osera opened the season with back-to-back complete games for first-year manager and former Carp pitcher Shinji Sasaoka. He has twice been deactivated for “poor form.”
Marines’ Hermmann out of action
Lotte Marines reliever Frank Herrmann was deactivated Wednesday after he was diagnosed with tendon damage in his right index finger. He reportedly will refrain from throwing for two weeks.