The Lotte Marines moved to within a half game of the Pacific League-leading SoftBank Hawks on Monday, when Kota Futaki (4-2) threw a three-hitter in a 5-0 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
The 25-year-old right-hander struck out three without issuing a walk in a 108-pitch effort. The win was Futaki’s third in three starts.
“Futaki established a real good rhythm, was very aggressive inside to their left-handed hitters and was very confident with his fastball in the strike zone,” Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi said.
“Today we wanted to be ready to hit, and we did a good job of not chasing and putting good swings on mistakes.”
Rookie cleanup hitter Hisanori Yasuda, who had three run-scoring hits in Sunday’s win over Orix, opened the scoring with a two-run third-inning double off Andrew Albers (3-6), following a one-out Leonys Martin walk and a double by Shogo Nakamura.
Solo home runs by Yudai Fujioka, Nakamura and Ikuhiro Kiyota completed the scoring.
Albers allowed all five runs over five innings.
VerHagen goes 8 to beat Eagles
Drew VerHagen (6-3) threw eight scoreless innings, and lefty Naoki Miyanishi survived a ninth-inning scare to nail down his first save as the Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Rakuten Eagles 2-1 at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Eagles starter Takahiro Shiomi (4-6) was victimized in the fourth inning, when Kensuke Kondo got the barrel on a slider low and away and it carried out to left for an opposite-field home run.
Kondo singled to open the seventh by smashing a hanging curve on the ground through the infield, becoming the Fighters’ first leadoff runner of the game. Cleanup hitter Sho Nakata followed by chopping an 0-1 slider that missed up through the infield.
Rookie right-hander Kanji Teraoka, who earned his first career win the night before, got one out before leaving a slider in the heart of the zone that Taishi Ota also smashed through the infield for an RBI single.
The Eagles’ bullpen played with fire in the top of the eighth and ninth. By stranding six runners over two innings, they kept their team in the game,.
Kazuki Tanaka homered to open the bottom of the ninth off Miyanishi, who ran the count full to the next two hitters, getting one out and giving up one single. With two outs, Miyanishi got ahead of left-handed-hitting Eigoro Mogi.
Throughout the game, umpire Masaharu Kasahara had been hesitant to call strikes low and away, and for a cross-firing side-arm lefty against a left-handed hitter, Kasahara really tried Miyanishi’s patience running the count to 2-2 after a couple of pretty close pitches. When the lefty threw another slider on the outside corner but up a little, Mogi thought he was safe only for Kasahara to ring him up and end the game.
The Lotte Marines completed a three-game sweep of the SoftBank Hawks on Sunday, beating them 4-2 behind a solid six-inning effort from Kota Futaki (3-2). The win moved the Marines to within a half-game of the Pacific League-leaders and improved Lotte’s record this season against SoftBank to
Futaki kept the hosts’ hitters off balance for five innings and scraped by for one more, allowing two runs on four hits over six innings. He hit one batter and struck out six.
The right-hander had a mediocre splitter and occasionally filthy slider and by using them a lot, he kept the Hawks from zeroing in on a fastball with good life. The number of fastballs the Hawks took down the pipe suggested a lot of them were waiting on the splitter, which because it didn’t tumble was more of a change of pace that Futaki didn’t command well.
“As usual, we tried to establish a rhythm and get ahead in counts. I think I pitched really well through the fifth inning, but when they got to me in the sixth, it reminded me how much more I have to be able to do,” Futaki said.
Hawks starter Shuta Ishikawa is, at times, a picture-dictionary description of “effectively wild,” a right-hander with good stuff whose pitches are randomized by his annoying inability to locate consistently. Through four innings, he’d allowed no hits while striking out four, walking three and hitting one.
But in the fifth, the Marines took him down in textbook fashion.
After a leadoff walk and a sacrifice on the next pitch, Ishikawa left a fastball up, and Shohei Kato stayed on it, chopping it up the middle for a single. Kato took second when center fielder Yuki Yanagita missed the cutoff man and scored when Tsuyoshi Sugano lofted a hanging curve over third base for an opposite-field single.
Hisanori Yasuda upper-cut another hanging curve and pulled it into the right-field stands for 4-0 Lotte lead.
Akira Nakamura and Yanagita, the engines that power the Hawks offense, had come close to getting to Futaki in the fourth inning when they saw him for the second time. Nakamura finally timed a fastball and smashed it – straight at a defender, while Yanagita who had been fooled badly by some superior sliders in the first inning, drove a high hanger to the warning track in center.
Futaki hit the leadoff hitter in the sixth, and Ukyo Shuto drilled a low splitter for a one-out single. Nakamura lined a hanging slider for an RBI single and Yanagita again barely missed a home run, but this time hit a hanging splitter off the wall in center for an RBI double. With one out and runners on second and third, Futaki put all he had into some great fastballs and got out of the inning.
Two relievers, Taiki Tojo and Fumiya Ono combined to work a scoreless seventh, Yuki Karakawa got past the heart of the order in the eighth, and Frank Herrmann pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save with the Marines. He’d saved 19 over three seasons with the Rakuten Eagles but none since 2018.
Lions KO VerHagen, punchless Fighters
The Seibu Lions seized both of their scoring opportunities and starting pitcher Wataru Matsumoto seven runners over six innings a 4-2 win against the Nippon Ham Fighters, who left the bases loaded twice at Sapporo Dome.
Matsumoto (2-3) allowed five singles, three in the Fighters’ two-run second, and five walks while striking out five. Ryosuke Moriwaki, Kaima Taira and Tatsushi Masuda each put up one more zero on the board with Masuda earning his 16th save.
Drew VerHagen (5-3) issued a leadoff walk in the first, retired the next eight batters, and finished his seven innings by setting down the last 11 he faced. In between, however, was trouble.
The Lions tied it in the third on a two-out walk followed by back-to-back doubles by Shuta Tonosaki and Sosuke Genda, whose slicing drive landed just fair to make it 2-2.
Things took another wrong turn for the Fighters in the fourth.
Takumi Kuriyama was credited with an infield single when Christian Villanueva dove to stop his smash down the line and his good one-hop throw to first was in time but not caught by first baseman Sho Nakata. Ernesto Mejia followed with an opposite-field double to the gap in right.
With the infield in, reserve Lions catcher slashed a grounder past Nakata. He was playing even with the bag and nearly came up with it. VerHagen gave Yuji Kaneko a high fastball and he did his duty, bringing Mejia home with a sacrifice fly.
To score is human
The scoring on the single that opened the Lions’ fourth seems to be really common this season. Has anyone else noticed this?
Balls that require good stops, where the throw was in time but is uncaught because it either bounces or is off target, would – it seems – have generally been called errors in the past, punishing fielders for making good stops.
From time to time, it seems, NPB has quietly adjusted its scoring and it seems to me like this is one of those times.
When I first arrived in Japan, very few errors were given. Outfielders who misplayed bouncing balls were rarely charged, with balls going between their legs being scored doubles and triples.
This practice stopped sometime over the past 20 years, and I’ll be damned if I know when or why. It could largely be the influence of watching MLB games and becoming accustomed to how they are scored. The outfield single-and-error scoring used to be very, very rare. Now it happens a few times a week.
We still don’t have the scoring convention of crediting a pitcher with an assist when a batted ball deflects off his body to an infielder, but who knows.
Willing to make exceptions
There was a time when former Carp first baseman Gail Hopkins said he couldn’t make an error to save his life. Locked in a battle for the 1976 Central League batting title with the Chunichi Dragons’ Kenichi Yazawa and the Yakult Swallows’ Tsutomu Wakamatsu, Hopkins said his team encouraged him to hit less. The CL had not had an import win the batting title since Wally Yonamine did it with the Giants in 1957, and no non-Asian had ever done it.
Hopkins said he botched two plays in a late summer series against the Swallows on grounders hit by Wakamatsu only to have his rival for the batting title get hits for his mistakes.
The next day, Hopkins tracked down the official scorer, who unlike in MLB, is an employee of the league, said his peace and backed off. Hopkins had a lot to do before games as he was studying to finish his PhD in biology, and often hit the books as much as possible in the spare time afforded him. He said he was willing to let it go, but that his interpreter ended up duking it out in the dugout with the unfortunate scorer.
Streaking Yoshida overpowers Eagles
Masataka Yoshida ran his hitting streak to 24 games with three hits, including two home runs and five RBIs to power the Orix Buffaloes’ 9-6 come-from-behind win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
The franchise and PL record is Atsushi Nagaike’s 32 games for the Hankyu Braves in 1971. The bigger news in Japan was that he has surpassed the mark of 23 that Ichiro Suzuki managed twice in 1994, his breakout season with the Orix BlueWave.
Yoshida’s 10th homer capped a six-run third inning as the Buffaloes overcame a 3-0 deficit against Eagles starter Yuya Fukui (0-4). His 11th, off Taiwan’s Sung Chia-hao, drove in three and provided the final margin for victory.
The Eagles scored twice in the bottom of the eighth off setup man Tyler Higgins, but Brandon Dickson worked a scoreless ninth to earn his ninth save.
Miyazaki blasts Carp
Toshiro Miyazaki went 3-for-5 with a home run, a sacrifice fly and four RBIs in the DeNA BayStars’ 8-5 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, where Monday’s scheduled game has been postponed in advance due to an advancing typhoon.
Carp starter Atsushi Endo, a nice surprise in their rotation this season, allowed four runs over three innings. The Carp took a 5-4 lead in the fifth on Hisayoshi Chono’s 11th home run, a two-run shot off BayStars starter Masaya Kyoyama (1-0), but the Carp bullpen could not keep up.
Neftali Soto’s sacrifice fly tied it in the sixth and Miyazaki’s one-out single plated his fourth run of the game and put the visitors ahead for good.
Ogawa rains on Dragons’ parade
Yasuhiro Ogawa (8-2) shook off a 30-minute rain delay at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, allowing one run over eight innings while the Yakult Swallows pounded Yariel Rodriguez (2-2) after the break in a 10-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons.
Rodriguez was dominant through five innings, but when play resumed and Ogawa needed just 11 pitches to work the top of the sixth, Rodriguez was unable to command his breaking pitches. The Swallows started shooting them around the ballpark.
Six pitches into the inning the game was tied on three-straight singles.
“When play resumed, perhaps it was a little thing about my rhythm,” Rodriguez said. “Things started going wrong and stayed wrong.”
For most of the first five years of his pro baseball career, Yu Suzuki has been a reliever. But going 6-3 as a starter in the Western League last season with a 2.81 ERA must have caught someone’s attention.
On Wednesday, the 23-year-old right-hander who was Orix’s ninth draft pick in 2014, was handed the ball for his first top-team start and threw five hitless innings, nearly doubling his career output with the Pacific League club. The result was his first career win as Orix snapped a seven-game losing streak in a 6-0 win over the Seibu Lions.
For five innings, he and Lions starter Tatsuya Imai (0-2) traded hitless innings, until in the sixth, the jig was up for the Seibu starter. After issuing a leadoff walk, Imai left a slider up a little too much to diminutive power hitter Masataka Yoshida, and the left-handed-hitter launched it over MetLife Dome’s right field fence.
An Adam Jones double and an Aderlin Rodriguez RBI single made it 3-0, when Seibu self-destructed. An error and three-straight bases-loaded walks completed the six-run sixth inning.
Four Orix relievers came in, and the Lions, who haven’t been no-hit in 20 years, didn’t get a hit until veteran slugger Takeya Nakamura’s hard grounder found a hole to lead off the eighth off new import Tyler Higgins.
Asamura punishes Marines some more
Hideto Asamura homered for the second-straight night in Sendai, while Hideaki Wakui (2-0) allowed two runs over five innings as the Rakuten Eagles beat the Lotte Marines 5-3 to pull into a tie for first place in the Pacific League.
Pitching against the club that sold him over the winter, Wakui sturck out seven, while allowing five hits and a walk.
Leonys Martin homered for the Marines, while JT Chargois and Alan Busenitz each worked an inning of relief for the Eagles. Busenitz allowed a run on three hits.
Ishikawa strikes out 10 in Sapporo
Shuta Ishikawa (1-0) of the SoftBank Hawks struck out 10, while walking one and allowing five hits in a 4-0 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.
Nick Martinez (0-2) started for the Fighters. He gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits and two walks while striking out five.
Austin, Patton turn on power against Giants
Tyler Austin’s three-run eighth-inning double off the wall at Tokyo Dome helped lift the DeNA BayStars to a 5-3 win over the Yomiuri Giants.
Reliever Spencer Patton (2-0), who entered in the seventh to face Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto and struck him out, got the win in relief. He provided an encore in the eighth by striking out the side, starting with cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto and finishing with Gerardo Parra.
Giants starter Cristopher Mercedes allowed a run over 5-2/3 innings but it could have been worse without a good catch from newly acquired utility man Zelous Wheeler, who denied the BayStars a leadoff single in the sixth with a sliding catch in left.
Escobar treats Swallows to ice cream cone
Naomichi Nishiura hit his second game-changing home run of the week with a fourth-inning two-run shot that put the Yakult Swallows in front in a 4-3 win over the Hiroshima Carp at at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
On Thursday, Nishiura hit a pinch-hit, three-run sayonara shot off Tigers closer Kyuji Fujikawa. On Wednesday, he went deep off Sawamura Award-winning lefty Kris Johnson (0-2).
Right-hander Albert Suarez (2-0) started for Yakult and allowed three runs, one earned, over five innings, while Scott McGough worked a scoreless eighth. The Carp mounted a rally against closer Taishi Ikeyama, and the lead looked blown on a two-out liner, only for new Swallow Alcides Escobar to save the game.
Yamamoto stops Tigers
Twenty-year-old Takumi Yamamoto (1-1) allowed two runs over five innings, while Zoilo Almonte doubled, walked and scored twice, and Dayan Viciedo singled in a couple of runs as the Chunichi Dragons beat the Hanshin Tigers 6-3.
Jerry Sands singled in a run for the Tigers, while Justin Bour hit his first home run in Japan, a ninth-inning consolation shot.
Dragons add catcher Martinez to roster
The Chunichi Dragons inked 24-year-old Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez to a standard contract on Wednesday. Martinez, signed to a non-roster developmental contract in 2018, hurt his right knee playing in Cuba’s Series Nacional prior to camp the Chunichi Sports reported.
He rejoined the Dragons for practice games from June 2 after completing his rehab.
Marines’ Futaki, Buffaloes’ Nakagawa dropped
Because Japanese baseball has no options and players can be activated or dropped from the active roster an unlimited number of times. So it’s common for a player, ostensibly on the active roster because the manager believes in him, to get sent down for a couple of bad plays.
Two heads rolled on Wednesday after poor performances the night before. The Lotte Marines deactivated right-handed starting pitcher Kota Futaki after the Rakuten Eagles teed off on too many first-pitches in Lotte’s 15-4 loss. The defeat snapped the Marines’ eight-game winning streak.
The Orix Buffaloes pulled the plug on 24-year-old utility infielder Keita Nakagawa, who finished fourth in the rookie of the year voting last year, for not hitting and for making a throwing error that led to the Seibu Lions’ third run in a 3-2 loss. The Buffaloes have lost seven straight.