A funny thing happened this week. The Yakult Swallows moved into first place in the Central League while playing like pennant contenders but without their manager acting like they are.Continue reading NPB wrap 9-23-21
Another week is a wrap, in which the Pacific League’s Lotte Marines were the clear winners, going 1-1-1 against their closest rival, the Orix Buffaloes and then dealing a body blow to the third-place Rakuten Eagles, while the SoftBank Hawks got beat on in Sapporo.
The Buffaloes pennantless streak is now the longest in NPB, running back to 1996. Although Lotte has won two Japan Series since then, Lotte last finished the regular season in first place in 1974. The Marines’ 2005 PL championship–and the Lions’ in 2004–came after they finished second and beat the regular-season leaders, the Hawks, in the PL playoffs.
The Hanshin Tigers finished Sunday three games ahead of the Swallows and Giants in a week when Seiya Suzuki’s home run streak was the league’s biggest news.
Marines 9, Eagles 2
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Lotte rookie Tokito Kawamura (2-0, 4.32) improved to 2-0 as a starter after his second straight five-inning, one-run outing, while Shogo Nakamura homered in the third off Ryota Ishibashi (0-1, 3.46), tying it 1-1 with eighth homer and Brandon Laird followed a Leonys Martin double with a two-run homer, his 23rd and third of the series. The Marines swept the third-place Eagles to move two-games ahead of second-place Orix.
Laird, who reached base four times a day after his 34th birthday, had a two-run single in the fourth. Eagles captain Hideto Asamura hit his 11th homer in the sixth off former teammate Frank Herrmann.
Lions 3, Buffaloes 1
At MetLife Dome, Cory Spangenberg homered for the second straight day, driving in three with his seventh, off Sachiya Yamasaki (5-9, 3.83), and 20-year-old Seibu rookie Yutaro Watanabe (3-3, 4.44) needed 106 pitches to get through five innings, but allowed only two walks and three hits, including Yutaro Sugimoto’s 26th home run.
Kaima Taira earned his 14th save for the Lions, while deposed closer Tatsushi Masuda retired Takahiro Okada to end the eighth with two on.
Fighters 3, Hawks 0
At Sapporo Dome, right-hander Kazuaki Tateno (2-1, 3.12) allowed three walks and two singles over 6-1/3 innings and fellow Nippon Ham rookie Yuma Imagawa had his first career hit, a one-out, two-run homer off 40-year-old former Cub Tsuyoshi Wada (5-6, 4.38), who worked five and also surrendered Yuto Takahama’s eighth homer in the third.
Toshihiro Sugiura, the Fighters’ fourth pitcher, completed the three-hit shutout as he worked the ninth for his 18th save.
BayStars 8, Tigers 1
At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA lefty Shota Imanaga (4-4, 2.96) surrendered a first-inning run but struck out 11 over eight innings without issuing a walk. Koji Chikamoto had three of Hanshin’s six hits, starting with a double to lead off the game. He scored from third after a sacrifice and a Jefry Marte infield single.
The BayStars took the lead off Joe Gunkel (7-2, 2.86) in the home half on a walk and Keita Sano’s 12th home run. Tyler Austin made it 4-1 in the third with his 24th, and stuck a fork in the Tigers with a three-run seventh-inning homer.
Dragons 9, Swallows 5
At Vantelin Dome Nagoya, 44-year-old Kosuke Fukudome’s two-run home run, his third, tied the game 5-5 in the seventh, and catcher Takuya Kinoshita broke the tie leading off Chunichi’s four-run eighth with his 10th home run.
The Dragons, with the fewest runs this season in NPB, won their third straight game and have now scored 40 runs in six games.
The Swallows took a first-inning lead on Munetaka Murakami’s three-run home run, his 33rd, off Yariel Rodriguez, who allowed four runs, three earned in four-plus innings.
Trailing 4-0 in the third, Dayan Viciedo singled in a run and starting Dragons catcher Ariel Martinez drew a bases-loaded walk. Shuhei Takahashi trimmed Yakult’s lead to a run with a fifth-inning RBI single, but Shingo Kawabata’s two-out pinch-hit RBI single made it 5-3 in the top of the seventh.
Yohei Oshima, who had two hits and scored three runs, singled with one out in the seventh off Kazuto Taguchi, who surrendered Fukudome’s 284th homer in Japan.
Giants 2, Carp 1
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, the up-and-down season of Yomiuri ace Tomoyuki Sugano (4-6, 3.72) continued as he allowed a run over seven innings in his second straight start on five-days rest.
The Giants scratched out a run on two singles and two groundouts, and Seiya Suzuki, after a two-game home run hiatus, tied it leading off the second with his 28th. Carp starter Hiroki Tokoda (3-3, 3.12) didn’t allow a third hit until Seiji Kobayashi hit his first home run with two outs in the seventh.
He started the season 2-2 after five quality starts, was hurt in his sixth, missed a month, came back but was mediocre to bad in four straight starts. He was dynamite on Sept. 1, then allowed seven runs over 4-1/3 innings.
Seishu Hatake, Yomiuri’s third pitcher, earned his first career save as the Giants stopped their six-game losing streak, and remained third, three back of the Tigers and trailing the Swallows on winning-percentage points.
Monday’s starting pitchers
Dragons vs Swallows: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Active roster moves 9/12/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/22