Tag Archives: Koji Chikamoto

NPB 2020 Sept. 17

Tigers crush Giants

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.

Giants-Tigers highlights.

Enemies of the Peoples: Baby Swallows a hit

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.

Yakulty yak

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.

Jones deactivated

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.

Active roster moves 9/17/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/27

Central League

Activated

SwallowsP14Hirotoshi Takanashi
SwallowsOF65Shotaro Tashiro

Dectivated

DragonsP29Daisuke Yamai
SwallowsP64Ren Kazahari
SwallowsOF50Tsuyoshi Ueda

Pacific League

Activated

BuffaloesP17Hirotoshi Masui
BuffaloesIF42Aderlin Rodriguez
BuffaloesOF1Steven Moya

Dectivated

HawksP13Akira Niho
BuffaloesC62Katsuki Yamazaki
BuffaloesOF10Adam Jones

Starting pitchers for Sept. 18, 2020

Pacific League

Fighters vs Marines: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Nick Martinez (1-4, 3.49) vs Toshiya Nakamura (2-2, 3.80)

Buffaloes vs Lions: Kyocera Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Taisuke Yamaoka (0-3, 3.09) vs Zach Neal (3-5, 4.68)

Hawks vs Eagles: PayPay Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Matt Moore (2-1, 2.60) vs Ryota Ishibashi (1-3, 6.88)

Central League

Swallows vs Carp: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Albert Suarez (2-0, 0.78) vs Hiroki Tokoda (1-5, 5.34)

BayStars vs Giants: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shoichi Ino (5-4, 3.23) vs Shosei Togo (7-3, 2.37)

Dragons vs Tigers: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yuya Yanagi (3-4, 3.10) vs Onelki Garcia (2-5, 3.93)

NPB 2020 7-26 games and news

Keizo Kawashima and Kenshi Sugiya settle a disputed out call at second with a hand of “janken” — rock, paper, scissors. Unfortunately the video review overturned Kawashima’s victory, the call on the field stood, and the Hawks super sub returned to the dugout.

Surprise package Niho holds off Fighters

For the second-straight week, journeyman right-hander Akira Niho got the job done, allowing a run in five-plus innings, while the SoftBank Hawks bullpen provided four-plus innings of solid relief in a 6-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters and their rookie lefty Ryusei Kawano.

Niho was not nearly as sharp as a week ago, but made enough good pitches to scatter six hits and three walks.

For the first time since his debut, Kawano (1-3) had a worse outing then the one before. His stuff has been fairly solid, but his first games looked like they were more about the confidence needed to go after good hitters in the strike zone.

Against the Hawks, it was more a case of lousy command, as he struggled to hit targets and ended up throwing a few poor pitches in the zone and then he had some poor luck in terms of poorly hit balls finding holes.

Kenta Imamiya, dropped into the leadoff spot, singled, doubled and walked against the rookie, scored three runs and drove in two. His two-run second-inning double off the first pitch from Kawano broke a 1-1 tie. Imamiya scored on a Yuki Yanagita sacrifice fly.

With two out and two on in the Fighters third, Niho got out of the inning by throwing an 0-2 ball in the zone that he might have wanted lower. Taishi Ota tagged it but it went for an out on the warning track.

Eagles salvage win against Buffaloes’ ace

The Rakuten Eagles salvaged a victory from their six-game home series against the Orix Buffaloes and their ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto in a 5-4 come-from-behind win at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Yamamoto had neither good command nor his best stuff, and the Rakuten Eagles scored four runs off him over six innings by taking their walks and by not trying to do too much when he came into the zone. All but two of the nine hits off him were to the pull field. Yamamoto gave up two walks, hit a batter and struck out six.

The Eagles lost their starter, Shoma Fujihira, when his seventh pitch hit Koji Oshiro in the head and he was automatically ejected. Both runners scored and Tomohiro Anraku allowed another in the first but kept the game from slipping away and left after three innings with the score 3-0. Sung Chia-hao allowed one run over two innings, during which time the Eagles tied it against Yamamoto.

Yamamoto loaded the bases in the sixth with two outs but did not allow a run. In the seventh, former closer Hirotoshi Masui walked the bases loaded in the sixth with one out, but Yudai Aranishi got out of it.

First-year import Tyler Higgins (1-1), who has been very effective this season, allowed the Eagles to grab their first lead on a leadoff walk to rookie Hiroto Kobukata, and a triple by veteran Eigoro Mogi.

The Buffaloes got the leadoff runner aboard in the ninth, when Alan Busenitz walked Ryoicihi Adachi. Manager Norifumi Nishimura who absolutely loves to sacrifice when he’s trailing on the road, did so. With two outs and first base open, tough left-handed-hitting slugger Masataka Yoshida was walked, and Busenitz got Adam Jones to groundout to short to earn his first save.

Lions pen proves too deadly for Marines

Takumi Kuriyama twice put the Seibu Lions in front with an RBI double, and four relievers each threw a perfect inning in a 4-2 come-from-behind win over the Lotte Marines at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.

The starters, a pair of journeymen lefties, Lotte’s Toshiya Nakamura and Seibu lefty Daiki Enokida pitched to a virtual stalemate over five innings.

Nakamura allowed only one run thanks to shortstop Kenta Chatani making a great play that prevented the fourth inning from getting out of hand.

Enokida allowed two runs before making his exit after a leadoff single in the sixth, but surrendered no more thanks to Katsunori Hirai (3-1) coming on and retiring all three batters he faced. He was followed by Kaima Taira, Reed Garrett and Tatsushi Masuda, who each worked 1-2-3 innings. Masuda recorded his ninth save.

Lotte’s 23-year-old right-hander Fumiya Ono (1-2) retired the first batter in the sixth, but a single and a Takeya Nakamura double tied it. Kuriyama, whose first double was the 350th of his career, followed with his second to make it 3-2.

Carp feast on BayStars relievers

Tsubasa Aizawa hit a pair of late home runs, including a ninth-inning tie-breaker off closer Yasuaki Yamasaki in the Hiroshima Carp’s 10-6 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.

It’s been a tough week for the BayStars, whose manager, Alex Ramirez, appeared to be the target of an organized media smear campaign. But since that nonsense started, the BayStars had lost one, tied one, and won two in convincing fashion. But on Sunday, Kentaro Taira worked seven scoreless innings and led 6-0 before things started to awry in the seventh.

The BayStars bullpen allowed two inherited runners to score in the eighth to make it a 6-3 game before coughing up another seven on their own.

Kenta Ishida gave up a sacrifice fly for the second out in the eighth, and Spencer Patton surrendered back-to-back home runs to Shota Dobayashi and Aizawa to make it a one-run game.

Yamasaki’s pitches didn’t look good. His sinking pitch he calls a two-seamer–that looks and acts like a splitter–was not dropping much, and his fastball looked straight.

A single and a walk was followed by a Seiya Suzuki putting a punishing swing on a center-cut fastball that probably damaged the padding in the center field wall and resulted in an RBI single. With one out and first base open, Dobayashi was intentionally walked and Aizawa smoked a “two-seamer” out to right.

“That’s part of the game. There’s nothing we can do about that,” Ramirez said afterward. “Taira did a tremendous job today. The relievers tried to do the best they could. The Hiroshima Carp hitters are very good.”

“They (Patton and Yamasaki) threw a lot of strikes. They’re good hitters. We lost the game with our best two guys on the mound. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

Yamasaki might be one of their best, but he has not been himself this year. He’s not getting guys to chase out of the zone, he’s not getting nearly as many swings and misses and is instead giving away much harder contact.

Quien es mas malo?

Anyone remember the Saturday Night Live game show parody in which Bill Murray hosted a latin-oriented program called “Quien es mas macho?” Well the bottom of the ninth made this game look like another version called “Quien es mas malo?” or “Who is the worst?” or rather whose bullpen is worst.

Ryuji Ichioka came in for the Carp and loaded the bases with one out, but a BayStars comeback was not to be.

Relief Dragons awaken sleeping Tigers

My podcast partner will no doubt be talking about this when we record our program for Monday, but since the first time Dragons lefty Hiroto Fuku gave up runs this season — on a second-straight day of work — John E. Gibson has been telling me that he hasn’t been good after pitching the day before.

Fuku, the loser on Sunday, when he blew a 3-2 lead by surrendering three runs, has allowed eight runs in his last two games when he pitched the day before. The previous four times he didn’t allow any runs.

Here are his results pitching after no game the previous day and on the second-straight day. On Saturday, the stocky lefty was lights out in a 1-0 Dragons win, but Sunday was a different story.

Fuku bukuro (grab bag)

BFHBBKRER
3312500
Pitching after no game the day before
BFHBBKRER
3196688
Pitching on the second-straight day

Tigers lefty Yuta Iwasada surrendered three runs, though only two were earned due to his throwing error, over four innings.

Dragons right-hander Kodai Umetsu had his second-best start of the season, giving up two runs, one earned, over six innings while striking out eight.

The Dragons broke through in the third after Umetsu singled to open the inning. A groundout and a throwing error put two on with one out. Toshiki Abe and Dayan Viciedo followed with back-to-back singles. Nobumasa Fukuda homered to make it 3-0 in the fourth.

The Tigers got on the board after rookie third baseman Takaya Ishikawa misjudged a hop for a two-out, two-base error. With two on, Koji Chickamoto singled in a run. Justin Bour’s sixth homer, a two-run shot off the left field fair pole made it a one-run game.

Fuku came on to face Chikamoto in the seventh with two outs and a runner on second. He surrendered a single up the middle. Tigers catcher Ryutaro Umeno, who singled to open the inning, has decent speed and runs the bases well, but was gunned down by a throw from center fielder Yohei Oshima on a good tag by catcher Ariel Martinez.

Unlike Mr. Gibson, I don’t see enough Dragons games to say what’s up with Fuku on second-straight games, but he was not locating today.

After getting a reprieve from the fielders, Fuku stayed in to pitch the eighth. Four of the five batters he faced reached, and even with a double play in the middle of that string, three of them scored in the five-run inning.

Chikamoto finished 4-for-5, while Umeno had three hits, and Yusuke Oyama blew out the candles on this one with a two-run, ninth-inning home run.

Giant Yoshikawa clubs Swallows

Naoki Yoshikawa capped a five-run first inning with his third home run in three games for the Yomiuri Giants in a 9-4 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Swallows starter Hirotoshi Takanashi (1-2) allowed six runs in 2-2/3 innings, while Giants starter Toshiki Sakurai (2-1) worked into the eighth inning to earn the win.

Four of the first seven Giants hitters reached base and the one who didn’t delivered a sacrifice fly.

Giants sign former Fighter Tanaka

The Yomiuri Giants on Sunday signed 26-year-old right-handed pitcher Toyoki Tanaka, who had been with the club on a non-roster developmental contract since the Giants saw him in a tryout last November.

The club was in need of pitchers after Saturday’s scheduled starter, Angel Sanchez, was scratched with discomfort in his right shoulder. Sanchez, and his replacement, former closer Hirokazu Sawamura, were both deactivated Sunday, while Tanaka was added to the active roster.

Tanaka was the fifth draft pick of the Fighters in 2015 and appeared in 31 first-team games for them from 2016 to 2018.

Active roster moves 7/26/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/5

Central League

Activated

GiantsP19Toyoki Tanaka

Dectivated

GiantsP15Hirokazu Sawamura
GiantsP20Angel Sanchez

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesP19Shoma Fujihira
EaglesP52Taisei Tsurusaki
MarinesP48Toshiya Nakamura
FightersIF32Ryota Yachi

Dectivated

EaglesP68Kanji Teraoka
EaglesOF51Yuya Ogo
FightersOF3Wang Po-jung

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.

NPB 2020 6-21 live

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Giants sweep Tigers

Angel Sanchez, who went 17-5 last year in KBO for the SK Wyverns, had a rocky start in his NPB debut Sunday, but earned the win as Kazuma Okamoto and Gerardo Parra homered to lift the Yomiuri Giants to a 7-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers and a three-game series sweep at Tokyo Dome for the defending CL champs.

Sanchez allowed one run, on a leadoff homer to Koji Chikamoto, allowed four walks and four hits, but lasted 5-2/3 innings.

Morishita shines in pro debut for Carp

Masato Morishita, Hiroshima’s top draft pick out of Meiji University, struck out eight in his pro debut against the DeNA BayStars. The righty, who I had a look at in the spring, walked two and gave up four hits in a 104-pitch, seven-inning outing at Yokohama Stadium.

Unfortunately, there was no fairy tale finish in Morishita’s debut as four-straight BayStars batters hit line drives off Tyler Scott in the ninth. Toshiro Miyazaki finishes it off by finding the gap against the drawn-in outfield and two runs scored to end it.

“I believe that our strategy was good but that guy was real good. He has the potential to be an ace pitcher. I was glad they took him out of the game,” DeNA skipper Alex Ramirez said.

BayStars right-hander Kentaro Taira allowed a run over six innings on a walk and five hits, while striking out two.

“It was a great game all the way from the beginning. Taira did a great job from the beginning and the relievers did a great job.”

Yuki Kuniyoshi worked two scoreless innings of relief, and Spencer Patton, who worked the eighth, got the win.

Lions rookie Yoza solid in losing debut

Kaito Yoza allowed three runs over six innings in his first-team for the Seibu Lions, but the bullpen blew up over the final three innings in a 12-2 loss to the Nippon Ham Fighters. Solo homers from Sho Nakata and Taishi Ota gave the visitors an early lead they would never give up.

Mima wins Marines debut

Manabu Mima, who joined Lotte over the winter as a free agent from the Rakuten Eagles, allowed a run while striking out nine in just five innings in the Marines’ 5-1 victory over the SoftBank Hawks.

Seiya Inoue homered in the second off reliever Yuki Tsumori after the Hawks starter, journeyman Akira Niho loaded the bases by hitting Shogo Nakamura in the head. Pitches that strike a batter in or around the head are referred to as “kikenkyu” (dangerous pitches) and call for an automatic ejection for the pitcher.

Former major leaguers Brandon Laird and Leonys Martin reached base before Nakamura was hit and scored as Inoue put the game out of reach early.

June 21 Live blog: Buffaloes vs Eagles

Off to a bit of a slow start on Sunday, folks. Having a look at Orix and Rakuten today, because my favorite Japanese pitcher, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is on the mound for the Buffaloes.

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For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Top 2nd

Yamamoto has consistently the best stuff in Japan, and it looks like he’s put some muscle on his once spindly frame. He struck out the side in order in the first and got a one-run lead in the home half, but two ground balls in the second produced the Eagles’ first hit.

  1. Dangerous Hideto Asamura grounds out softly to 2nd.
  2. Hiroaki Shimauchi gets a grounder through between 1st and 2nd
  3. Former Buffaloe Stefen Romero grounds to short and the enigmatic Ryoichi Adachi starts the inning-ending double play.

Bottom 2nd

Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi went 8-7 as a rookie last year and was second on the team in innings pitched with 127-1/3 because the club’s two best starters, Takayuki Kishi and Takahiro Norimoto missed time with injuries

Ishibashi’s average fastball velocity last year was 145.2 kph, and he’s a four-seam, cutter, splitter, and two-seam guy, although be aware the two-seam description generally encompasses two distinctly different pitches, a hard running fastball and a two-seam sinking fastball–which is the rarer of the two in Japan.

  1. Kenya Wakatsuki grounds out.
  2. Ryoichi Adachi singles to center.
  3. Shunta Goto singles to right to put runners on the corners for Takahiro Okada.
  4. Okada, who slid home headfirst to score on Keita Nakagawa’s sac fly in the first, singles in the Buffaloes’ second run.
  5. Aderlin Rodriguez looks like a player built for Japan, a smooth compact swing, who makes excellent contact. Ishibashi hangs a forkball and Rodriguez hits it high up the wall in left for an RBI double, Buffaloes 3, Eagles 0.
  6. Rodriguez, however, contributes an out on the bases, thanks to some slick defense by Eagles first baseman Ginji Akaminai. Ginji goes to a knee to stab a ball off the bat of Masataka Yoshida, makes the play at first and then throws behind Rodriguez who is trapped between second and third.

Top 3rd

  1. Akaminai, who wears “Ginji” on his uniform as his registered name, grounds out to second, topping 1-2 splitter.
  2. Catcher Hikaru hits a little comebacker to Yamamoto for the second out.
  3. Ryosuke Tatsumi, the PL’s 2018 rookie of the year swings and misses at a low fastball for another 1-2-3 inning. The thing about Yamamoto is that he has so many quality pitches, that it’s very common to see everyone guessing wrong and getting terrible swings even at mistakes in the zone.

Bottom 3rd

  1. Adam Jones had two hits on Saturday, and put a sweet swing on a straight fastball in the first for a single that contributed to Orix’s first run. Ishibashi gets a generous call on a low pitch from home plate ump Masanobu Suginaga, and Jones goes down looking.
  2. Keita Nakagawa, who had a strong rookie season playing all over the musical chairs game the Buffaloes’ infield resembled last year, flies out to left.
  3. Koji Oshiro, another of those versatile infielders from 2019, grounds out to short.

Top 4th

  1. Eigoro Mogi gets under a high 151-kph fastball and flies out to left.
  2. Daichi Suzuki, the former Marines captain who moved to Sendai as a free agent over the winter, swings under a high 1-2 running fastball to go down swinging.
  3. Jabari Blash, who struck out looking in the first, flails at a beauty of an 0-2 curve.

Bottom 4th

  1. Buffaloes catcher Kenya Wakatsuki launches a hanging first-pitch slider away to the warning track for an opposite-field leadoff double.
  2. Adachi tops an attempted sacrifice bunt in front of the plate, and Ota throws out his opposite number at third.
  3. Akaminai, playing in tight at first base, makes a good play on a little chopper by Goto.
  4. Okada, who raked in the spring and in practice games, pulled a high hanging forkball over Akaminai and down the right-field line for his second double of the game and a 4-0 Buffaloes lead. This is quite a turnaround for Okada, whose career has been in decline for nearly a decade, and who spent most of the 2019 season on the farm after a handful of sloppy at-bats and fielding misplays at first base.
  5. Ishibashi snaps off a nasty curve to send Rodriguez down swinging.

Top 5th

  1. Not a great fastball, but Asamura doesn’t get a great swing on it and pops up down the left field line.
  2. An easy fly to lefty by Shimauchi and Yamamoto appears to be operating on cruise control.
  3. He works carefully to Romero, who ends a good 6-pitch at-bat by fouling out.

Bottom 5th

Rookie right-hander Taisei Tsurusaki on the mound for the Eagles after Ishibashi gives up four runs in four innings. Tsurusaki is making his debut against the middle of the Buffaloes lineup. He looks to have a repeatable delivery, comes over the top and keeps his hand on top of the ball.

  1. Yoshida, one of the best hitters in the PL, swings at a huge 12-6 curve before taking a cutter on the outside corner for Strike 3.
  2. Jones provides less of a challenge, grounding a first-pitch fastball away to second.
  3. Nakagawa walks on seven pitches and steals second easily.
  4. Oshiro walks on 6 pitches.
  5. Wakatsuki flies out off the handle, and the rookie survives without any damage done.

Top 6th

  1. Nice at-bat by Ginji, but he tips a 2-2 shoot into Wakatsuki’s glove for Strike 3.
  2. Backup catcher Ayatsugu Yamashita batting for his catching partner Ota and grounds out easily to first.
  3. Yamamoto is toying with Tatsumi, going after the corners with his hard stuff while getting three strikes with his curve. Tatsumi goes down swinging at one low out of the zone.
Thanks for that Jason. A Yamamoto curve is not fair to pinch-hitters.

Bottom 6th

Veteran lefty Wataru Karashima on the mound for the Eagles. He had a serviceable year in the rotation last season, going 9-6 in 117-1/3 innings. He is in middle relief this year with closer Yuki Matsui moving back into the rotation. He’s basically a fastball, slider, curve change guy.

  1. I love watching Ginji Akaminai play first base. He is everywhere on everything, and knows where to look and when to throw. Another good play opens the first as he throws out Adachi to open the seventh.
  2. Goto flies out to left.
  3. Okada’s confidence is dialed up to “11” now after floundering for several seasons. He is balanced at the plate and ready to attack EVERYTHING. He walks to bring up Rodriguez.
  4. And Rodriguez, short to the ball on an inside pitch and pulls it down the line in left for a double. Okada to third.
  5. Okada, a small guy with a quiet stance in the left-handed batters box, doesn’t look like he should be dangerous, but he has serious power and plate discipline. Not this time though, as Karashima gets him to ground to short.

Top 7th

Don’t remember when the PL started the innovation of playing the visiting team’s Lucky Seventh song on the stadium speakers, but it is a nice touch, since no matter what park you’re at in the top flight there will be at least five or six hundred fans on the visitor’s side of the outfield waving their flags and cheering on their guys.

With no fans in the stands, the Kyocera Dome scoreboard was showing Eagles fans cheering from home on streaming video while, the Eagles song, what Casey McGehee called the “Igloo song,” plays.

  1. Mogi grounds out to open the visitors’ seventh.
  2. Suzuki misses a 3-2 inside fastball for Yamamoto’s 10th strikeout.
  3. Blash grounds one up the middle for an infield single.
  4. Asamura miss-hits a cutter to short for an easy out.

Bottom 7th

Tomohiro Anraku, who made a name for himself in high school with his brutal pitch counts, comes in to pitch the seventh for the Eagles.

  1. Jones looks at two fastballs low and away before grounding out to second.
  2. Nakagawa lined a pitch to short right center, and nearly got caught out thinking it would get through when Tatsumi cut it off in center.
  3. Pinch runner for Nakagawa at first, and Yuya Oda swipes second. Oshiro flies out to center but not deep enough to send Oda to third.
  4. Wakatsuki grounds out and we’re going to the 8th with the Eagles trailing 4-0.

Top 8th

  1. Shimauchi flies out to first on the second pitch.
  2. Romero flies out to second on the second pitch.
  3. Yasuhito Uchida, batting for Ginji, who may have twisted something when he miss-stepped making that play to open the seventh, rips a single to right.
  4. Yamashita his what they call a “bonda” in Japanese, an easy out, on a grounder to second.

That’s 94 pitches for Yamamoto and with a four-run lead, he won’t be back. Thirty years ago, I guarantee, he’d be getting ready for the ninth. Back then, there was no good excuse for lifting a starter who was leading. “How can you take him out? It’s a close game” or “How can you take him out with that big lead.” You name it, there was an excuse for it.

Bottom 8th

Anraku, the Eagles’ top draft pick in 2014, is back for the ninth.

  1. Adachi lines out.
  2. Goto fouls off two, two-strike pitches before striking out swinging in an eight-pitch at-bat.
  3. Anraku finally makes Okada look like the guy who could possibly be lost at the plate as he hesitates on a 1-2 fastball on the inside corner for Strike 3.

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Top 9th

United States international closer Brandon Dickson on in the ninth. He was a productive starter for the Buffaloes for six seasons, but last year, with no one else to turn to, he was thrust into the closer’s role, where he’s been dynamite. He finished 2019 as the closer for Team USA in the Premier 12.

  1. Pinch-hitter Kazuya Fujita flies out to left.
  2. Mogi grounds out to second.
  3. Suzuki fouls off a tough two-strike fastball on the outside corner. Takes a ball low for 2-2, and puts a good swing on a fastball but lines it straight to Goto in center for the Buffs’ first win of the season.

Final score: Buffaloes 4, Eagles 0

NPB games, news of Sept. 18, 2019

6 and 10 for Lions’ Neal

The Seibu Lions, warts and all, suddenly find themselves in the driver’s seat of the Pacific League pennant race after Zach Neal fell three outs shy of a Maddux on Wednesday in a 5-0 win over the Orix Buffaloes.

Neal (11-1) has allowed five runs in winning his last six starts, and became the fifth foreign-registered pitcher in Japan to win 10 straight decisions. He struck out five without issuing a walk for the third game in a row. The 10-straight winning decisions tied a Lions record for a foreign pitcher set by Kuo Tai-yuan, the “Orient Express.”

Afterward he paid tribute to shortstop Sosuke Genda and second baseman Shuta Tonosaki.

“Genda and Tonosaki are out of this world,” he said in Japanese.

“It’s special and so nice to have them behind me. I can pitch my game and be aggressive and not have to worry about much. So I’m thankful to have them.”

Here’s the Lions’ hero interview with Neal and Tonosaki, who scored twice and drove in a run with his 25th home run.

Orix manager Norifumi Nishimura gave more of the credit to his hitters’ inability to adjust.

“It’s not the first time we’ve faced him, but he’s beating us the same way as before,” Nishimura said. “Guys need to think more.”

The game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 6, Hawks 2

At Yafuoku Dome, Manabu Mima (8-5) allowed four of the first five SoftBank hitters to reach base, but allowed just two runs, one earned, over five innings as Rakuten won to pull within a half-game of the PL’s final playoff spot.

Handed a two-run lead in the first inning, Mima pitched out of trouble early and often, and the Eagles took the lead in a three-run sixth inning, when Hawks starter Rei Takahashi (11-5) allowed the first four batters to reach.

The Eagles, who were playing the first of six games in six days, brought in closer Yuki Matsui to pitch the ninth with a four-run lead.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Dragons 3, Giants 1

At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi broke up Yomiuri starter Yuki Takahashi’s no-hit bid in the seventh inning with two hits with no outs ignited a three-run inning. Yohei Oshima delivered the big blow with a two-run homer off lefty Kazuto Taguchi.

Tigers 3, Swallows 2

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin came from behind to beat Yakult as Koji Chikamoto raised his season hit total to 153, tying the record for CL rookies set in 1958 by Hall of Famer Shigeo Nagashima. Thirty-nine-year-old Kyuji Fujikawa stranded a pair of runners in the ninth to record his 13th save in 13 opportunities.

Game highlights are HERE.

NPB games, news of Sept. 12, 2019

Pacific League

Hawks 3, Lions 2

At MetLife Dome, SoftBank’s Kodai Senga (13-7) followed his no-hitter from last Friday with seven scoreless innings before surrendering a run in the eighth against Seibu. He worked eight innings and struck out nine as the Hawks regained the top spot in the PL.

Lions starter Ken Togame allowed eight runners but no runs through three innings and left with the game scoreless after seven.

Yurisbel Gracial homered to open the eighth against reliever Katsunori Hirai (5-3) who allowed three hits and two runs in one-third of an inning.

Game highlights are HERE.

Fighters 4, Eagles 2

At Tokyo Dome, Nippon Ham manager Hideki Kuriyama, who said he abandoned his use of an opener because it was wearing out his middle relievers, used six relievers to hold off Rakuten after short starter Ryuji Kitaura allowed one run over three innings.

Taishi Ota hit his 19th home run, a two-run, first-inning shot off Manabu Mima (7-5), who allowed four runs over three innings.

The win became a celebration of retiring Fighters infielder Kensuke Tanaka, who was playing his final game at Tokyo Dome, the Fighters home park until they moved to Sapporo in 2004. He made his first-team debut at the same park on Sept. 12, 2000.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Giants 8, BayStars 5

At Yokohama Stadium, Yoshihiro Maru homered twice and drove in five runs to power CL-leading Yomiuri over DeNA. Neftali Soto homered in his first at-bat, giving him 40-plus for his first two seasons in Japan.

The BayStars welcomed back third baseman Toshiro Miyazaki, who suffered a broken finger on

Carp 3, Dragons 2

At Mazda Stadium, Shota Dobayashi singled in the winning run in the ninth to beat Chunichi after Hisayoshi Chono homered for Hiroshima and Yusuke Nomura allowed two runs over six innings.

Swallows 12, Tigers 2

At Koshien Stadium, Taishi Hirooka reached base five times and scored three runs, while Hiroki Yamada (5-4) allowed two runs, one earned, over 6-2/3 innings. Yakult hammered Hanshin starter Haruto Takahashi () for eight runs, five earned, over four innings.

Wladimir capped a three-run first with a two-run home run, his 32nd, while Tigers rookie Koji Chikamoto had three hits, raising his first-year total to 145, eight shy of the CL rookie record of Hall of Famer Shigeo Nagashima.

Game highlights are HERE.