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NPB 2020 7-7 GAMES AND NEWS

baseball and robots

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Senga opens with a win

Kodai Senga threw hard at the start, hitting 161 kph against his first batter but was missing all over, especially with his splitter, but it was good enough for a winning debut as the SoftBank Hawks beat the Rakuten Eagles 4-3 in the Pacific League on Tuesday.

Senga had been out with a calf injury compounded by arm issues, and only went five innings. Yuki Yanagita tied it with a two-run first-inning homer at PayPay Dome off Hayato Yuge (2-1). Ryoya Kurihara homered in the second to make it 3-2 only for Hideto Asamura to hit his ninth home run and tie it in the third. Yanagita broke the tie in the fifth with a hard-hit RBI single.

Albers corners Fighters in Buffaloes’ win

Andrew Albers (1-1) allowed two hits but no walks over seven innings while striking out eight for the Orix Buffaloes in their 7-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Aderlin Rodriguez opened the scoring against right-hander Toshihiro Sugiura (1-1) in the second with his second homer in three games, and Adam Jones’ two-run double made it 3-0 through three. Masataka Yoshida went 4-for-4 with a homer, two RBIs and two runs.

Former San Diego Padre Christian Villanueva went 1-for-3 in his Fighters debut.

Fighters activate Villanueva

The Nippon Ham Fighters activated third baseman Christian Villanueva on Tuesday. The infielder, who did not re-sign with the Yomiuri Giants over the winter following his first season in Japan, had an appendectomy in May.

In his place, the Fighters have played rookie Yuki James Nomura.

Marines wear down Lions

Seibu’s Kona Takahashi struck out nine batters but ran into a buzz saw in the fifth and sixth inning in the Lions’ 8-6 loss to the Lotte Marines at Chiba’s wind-swept Zozo Marine Stadium.

Leonys Martin’s two-out, two-run fifth-inning double broke a 1-1 tie, and rookie Hisanori Yasuda’s two-run homer capped a three-run sixth for the Marines.

Marines right-hander Yuki Ariyoshi (1-0) allowed two runs over six innings, but the bullpen coughed up four runs to make it close.

Dragons lose in 10th with no hitters left

The Chunichi Dragons loaded the bases in the bottom of the 10th inning but lost 2-1 to the Yakult Swallows. Dragons manager Tsuyoshi Yoda burned through his nine reserve position players and sent reliever Takuya Mitsuma up to pinch-hit with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th.

Mitsuma fouled off one two-strike pitch before swinging and missing to end the game.

Norichika Aoki led off the Swallows’ 10th with a walk. With one out and first base open, Yoda ordered an intentional walk of red-hot Naomichi Nishiura. But Taishi Hirooka walked with two outs, and 36-year-old career minor leaguer Suguru Ino walked on six pitches to force in the run.

With two outs and runners on the corners in the bottom of the 10th, Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu ordered the bases loaded to bring the Dragons pitcher’s spot up with no position players left on the bench.

“It was 100 percent my mistake,” Yoda said according to Sports Nippon. “I mean one has to have at least one position player on the bench. I was conflicted about that last change and it came back to bite me.”

There are days when robots might be preferable.

And then there was Takatsu’s turn…

Takatsu himself had one of Japan’s most famous relief pitcher pinch-hitting appearances. In 1995, Central League manager Katsuya Nomura ordered Takatsu to pinch-hit for Hideki Matsui after Pacific League skipper Akira Ogi called Ichiro Suzuki in from right field to face the future major leaguer. Suzuki pitched to future big leaguer, just not the one people wanted to see.

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

Live blog: Hawks vs Eagles

The Rakuten Eagles made it look easy last week taking five of six against the Lotte Marines in Sendai — when the Marines entered on the back of an eight-game win streak. The Hawks went 3-2 with a tie at Sapporo Dome against the Fighters.

Tonight will be the 2020 season debut of Hawks ace Kodai Senga. He injured his right calf on the first day of spring training, and hurt his right forearm when he was on the verge of returning to fitness.

Top 1st

Senga starts out Eigoro Mogi with hard stuff, hitting 161 kph on his 4th pitch and gets him looking at a 159 kph inside fastball. If he can keep this location up when he starts with his secondary stuff it could be a long night for the Eagles but a fast game.

Daichi Suzuki hits the first pitch that isn’t a four-seam fastball, a 1-2 cutter away down the line in left for a single. Blash is rung up checking his swing on a low 3-2 slider. That’s about the closest call I’ve seen on a checked swing strike this year. The umps have been pretty forgiving unless a guy has gone well around.

Senga and Kai try to get Hideto Asamura to chase on 3-2 but he’s not biting. It’s two on with two outs for Hiroaki Shimauchi, who survives a close call on a low 1-2 fastball to stay alive. Shimauchi fouls off a cutter inside. Senga misses straight and down the pipe and Shimiuchi drills it over Yuki Yanagita’s head in center for a two-run double. Eagles 2, Hawks 0.

Stefen Romero pops up a first-pitch fastball, and the Eagles are done in the first at the Casa de Pepe.

Bottom 1st

Ryoya Kurihara, who is in left today, to lead off for the Hawks against the 1.93-meter lefty Hayato Yuge. The lefty clips him on the arm and the leadoff man is on. Mr. “300 sacrifice-bunts” Kenta Imamiya is up, and the announcers, of course, have to mention that, although no show of displeasure that he’s not squaring around.

Imamiya misses a fastball and rolls to short, not hard enough for a GDP. Yuki Yanagita takes a big swing on a first-pitch cutter that floats up in the zone and he miss-hits it just a little but still propels it into the home run terrace in left. We’re tied. Hawks 2, Eagles 2.

Yuge tried so hard to stay away from Yanagita, and he had no business swinging at that pitch, but what are you going to do. He strikes out Coco Balentien on a bouncer that gets away from catcher Hikaru Ota for “furinige” as Balentien reaches on an uncaught swinging third strike.

Keizo Kawashima, the right-handed-slap-hitting utility infielder is batting behind Coco and playing first. It’s like manager Kimiyasu Kudo lost a bet with someone. Kawashima reaches on an infield single, and Nobuhiro Matsuda smashes a bouncer into left and the bags are juiced.

Yuge appears to have regained his composure and strikes out the lefty-swinging Seiji Uebayashi, and the pops up Takuya Kai on the first pitch and the Hawks leave them loaded.

Top 2nd

Ginji Akaminai leads off with a four-pitch walk, and now with the speed and the hit-and-miss location, it feels like Kodai Senga is REALLY back. Senga hangs a splitter up in the zone, but Eagles catcher Hikaru Ota looks at it for Strike 3.

Mogi grounds to first and Kawashima — can’t get used to him wearing No. 99 — gets the force at second for the second out. Daichi Suzuki up with runners on the corners but quickly down 0-2 and looks at a strike on the outside corner — that Senga was trying to go inside with.

Bottom 2nd

With one out, Ryoya Kurihara barrels up a straight 1-0 fastball in the heart of the zone and pulls it into the permanents seats in right. Hawks 3, Eagles 2.

Yuge’s location is also kind of here and gone. He loses Imamiya on a 3-2 pitch, to put a man on for Yanagita. Yuge misses in the zone with his first pitch, but Yanagita misses, too, and fouls it off. Two hard ones inside and Yanagita grounds out to first.

Balentien, who pretty much never saw anything over the plate in Sapporo, gets a fastball in the zone and one inside for 1-1. Yuget gets him on a changeup low in the zone that Balentien lines softly to short.

Top 3rd

Blash opens the third with a smash to short that nearly knocks Kenta Imamiya off his feet for the first out. But just like that, Hideto Asamura hits his eighth home run and we’re tied. That’s a decent curve from Senga, but Asamura is all over it and drives it 12 rows back in the permanent seats. Hawks 3, Eagles 3.

Very rare for the announcing crew to comment on the umpiring, but they do when Romero takes an 0-2 pitch down the middle and umpire Kunio Kiuchi dutifully gives the batter the benefit of the doubt. Romero hammers the next pitch through the box for a single, that Senga does well to duck. But Senga recovers by getting Akaminai on a pair of curves, that he apparently calls sliders.

Bottom 3rd

Kawashima grounds out to open the Hawks’ third and the Hawks go down in order.

Fun fact: On Jan. 1, 2008, Kawashima was traded by the Nippon Ham Fighters with pitcher Yoshitaka Hashimoto and Takehiko Oshimoto to the Yakut Swallows for lefty Shugo Fuji, right-hander Yataro Sakamoto and current Rakuten manager Hajime Miki. On July 20, 2014, the Swallows sent him and lefty Ryo Hidaka to the Hawks for Nagisa Arakaki and submarine right-hander Hirofumi Yamanaka — who has the distinction of being the only player to still be active after a trade involving Kawashima.

I was thinking about that last week, when Kawashima was starting against the Fighters, playing for a team that had won five of the last six Japan Series after being a middling piece in a trade over 12 years earlier.

Top 4th

With one out, Ryosuke Tatsumi walks for the second time but is cut down on a throw from Kai that reminded us what he was like back in 2018 as the Japan Series MVP basically for his ability to gun down runners.

Bottom 4th

Yuge needs 11 pitches, six of them on Kai, to get a 1-2-3 inning.

Top 5th

Senga gets Suzuki to fly out on an 0-1 fastball but runs the count full to Blash, who entered the game third in the league in strikeouts and second in walks. But Blash actually swings and misses this time for the second out.

Senga’s location is getting incrementally better as the game goes along. Asamura is up and he fouls a 1-1 fastball in the zone, and a high slider, too. Asamura nearly gets hit with a splitter that gets away and it’s 2-2. The inning ends with a strike zone as Senga hangs a splitter up high and Asamura misses it.

Bottom 5th

A throwing error by shortstop Eigoro Mogi allows Kenta Imamiya to start the inning at second, and Yuki Yanagita drives a fastball over the inside half of the plate toward the gap in right-center. What a beautiful swing, balanced, compact. Oh if it weren’t for service time manipulation. Hawks 4, Eagles 3.

Yuge gets Balentien to hit into a double play and survives a two-out Kawashima single. Yuge is up to 75 pitches.

Top 6th

Submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi, the PL’s 2019 rookie of the year, is on in relief for Senga, who allowed three runs on four hits and four walks while striking out six.

Bottom 6th

The first two Hawks go down on three pitches, and they have to rush Takahashi out of the clubhouse to start throwing on the sideline. Taisei Makihara goes up there and apparently has been ordered to take some time up there. He fouls off three, two-strike pitches before grounding out on Yuge’s eighth delivery.

Top 7th

The Eagles bat for catcher Hikaru Ota, and Yuya Ogo flies out on the first pitch. Umpire Kiuchi has not been a big fan of pitches at the bottom of the zone, and lets Tatsumi draw his third walk on a low 3-2 pitch.

Mogi flies out on the first pitch, but Suzuki smashes a hanging 0-1 breaking ball down the pipe and pulls it into right for a single, bringing Blash to the plate with Asamura on deck. Blash reaches when Kawashima can’t hang on to a low throw from Imamiya.

The bases are loaded for Asamura. He misses an 0-1 pitch in the heart of the zone, and Takahashi gets a perfect strike on the outside edge for 1-2. A fastball inside misses, 2-2. The right-hander misses up in the zone, and Asamura fouls out to Kawashima.

Bottom 7th

Right-hander Tomohito Sakai on for the Eagles. Yuge allows four runs, three earned, over six innings. He gave up six hits and a walk and hit a batter while striking out three.

Sakai jams Kurihara, and Imamiya chases a low 2-2 pitch and flies out. Yanagita swings at a first-pitch strike and flies out to center.

Top 8th

Cuban lefty Livan Moinelo on for SoftBank to take on the Eagles’ fifth, sixth and seventh spots. He strikes out two in a 1-2-3 inning.

Bottom 8th

Sakai on for his second inning of work and he keeps it close, retiring Balentien, Kawashima and Matsuda.

Top 9th

Yuito Mori is on to close out the one-run game against the bottom of the Eagles’ order. Kazuya Fujita offers at a first-pitch breaking ball up and grounds to short. Tatsumi grounds a 1-1 fastball to second, and Mogi flies out to short to end it.

Final score: Hawks 4, Eagles 3

NPB 2020 6-25 games and news

Hooray for the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Rick van den Hurk and Wladimir “Coco” Balentien wreck the Seibu Lions in Pacific League action on Thursday. Van den Hurk took a no-hitter into the eighth, and Balentien, Japan’s single-season home run record holder, homered twice, his first since moving from the Central League over the winter.

“I want to thank my boy Coco for doing what he did tonight. Before the game he said ‘Let’s go, the Kingdom of the Netherlands boys, let’s put a good game together.'”

SoftBank Hawks pitcher Rick van den Hurk

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Friday’s starters are HERE.

Wheeler now a Giant

Zelous Wheeler leves the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles on Thursday after five seasons in Sendai, where he was the first import in franchise history to reach 100 home runs. The right-handed-hitting 33-year-old moves to the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants in exchange for 27-year-old lefty Shun Ikeda, who was a junior member of the first team bullpen in 2017 and 2018.

Wheeler’s English language NPB page is HERE, while Ikeda’s is HERE.

Both clubs are off to solid starts, although as Jason Coskrey points out, that COVID-19 may have played a hand in the Giants decision. With the pipeline to overseas talent the Giants often depend on for midseason reinforcements currently severed, Yomiuri may be looking to acquire spare parts for the coming months.

The production of DH-right fielder Jabari Blash and the acquisition of free agent infielder Daichi Suzuki from the Marines has left Wheeler on the outside looking in.

Live blog: Lions vs Hawks

I had planned to go with the BayStars-Dragons game tonight, but don’t get the cable channel that covers the BayStars home games and they’ve pulled off the streaming service I subscribe to, so its back to MetLife Dome, amid the reservoirs overlooking Tokyo.

Go to NEWEST.

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

Top 1st

Keisuke Honda starting for the Lions tonight, and he’s a guy I liked quite a bit last year. An easy fly out to open the game, an easy grounder, and Yuki Yanagita skies one to the warning track for a 1-2-3 inning.

I’m due to appear on the Sports Information System podcast, on Thursday in the States I think, and the host asked me about who was good at framing pitches. Well I don’t know if Tomoya Mori is good at it, but he certainly looks like he got the first on Yanagita by yanking a ball into the zone.

Bottom 1st

Rick van den Hurk on the mound for the Hawks for another abbreviated season. Injuries in the spring and the summer limited him to two regular season starts in 2019.

He fans Corey Spangenberg with his spike curve to open the game, and then gets a fly out to left, where Wladimir Balentien is playing tonight for the second out. Mori rips a first-pitch fastball, but it goes straight to second baseman Keizo Kawashima.

Top 2nd

Honda misses in the heart of the plate with a 3-2 slider and Balentien drives it over the fence in left for his first Pacific League home run.

Yuya Hasegawa flies out on a high 1-0 fastball and beauty of a 2-strike changeup inside at the knees and Seiji Uebayashi looks at Strike 3 for the second out. Nobuhiro Matsuda grounds to short and we go to the bottom of the second. Hawks 1, Lions 0.

Bottom 2nd

Two-time PL home run king Yamakawa pops up a high fastball, and Shuta Tonosaki walks. But Takeya Nakamura hammers a low fastball to shortstop Kenta Imamiya, who was shading the slugger toward third and started an easy double play.

Top 3rd

Honda gets two quick outs to open the third, a 1-0 fly to left by Taisei Makihara, and a fly to center from Takuya Kai. Ryoya Kurihara, however, battles and draws a nine-pitch walk, and Kawashima singles up the middle to bring up Yanagita.

Yanagita fouls off the first two fastballs he sees, but lays off the next four pitches, the fourth being a 3-2 fastball over the inside corner for Strike 3.

Bottom 3rd

Lions veteran Takumi Kuriyama goes down looking at a fastball on the inside edge and doesn’t look any happier than Yangita did, but umpire Shoji Arizumi has been calling them there all night. Fumikazu Kimura grounds the first pitch to third, and Yuji Kaneko grounds to short.

Top 4th

Balentien goes about as deep as you can go in his second at-bat, blasting a lazy fastball up and over the plate to the walkway behind the left-field stands. Coco 2, Lions 0.

But Honda has little trouble after that. Hasegawa strikes out swinging at a high fastball. Uebayashi grounds a changeup to second, and Matsuda misses a low 0-2 curve.

Bottom 4th

Spangenberg grounds out and Sosuke Genda gets jammed on a first-pitch fastball and flies out to center. Van den Hurk overpowers Mori, who hits a come-backer and we’re going to the fifth.

Top 5th

Tonosaki at second base well positioned to scoop a hard-hit grounder from Makiharafor the first out. Two easy flies from Kai and Kurihara make it 1-2-3.

Bottom 5th

Another 1-2-3 inning for van den Hurk as the Lions cannot get the barrel on the ball as he locates with the fastball and mixes in that slider and his curve.

Top 6th

Shota Hamaya, the Lions’ second draft pick last autumn out of the corporate leagues relieves Honda, and surrenders a leadoff homer to 1.73-meter Keizo Kawashima. Hawks 3, Lions 0. Hamaya issues a two-out walk to Yuya Hasegawa, but gets out of further trouble.

Bottom 6th

A groundout and two strikeouts against the Lions tail, and van den Hurk has now faced the minimum thanks to the second-inning double play.

Top 7th

A 1-2-3 for Hamaya against the bottom of the Hawks lineup.

Bottom 7th

Van den Hurk has needed 63 pitches through six, but no matter how easy he’s making it look, this lineup isn’t easy. Spangenberg hits a high changeup in the air to short. Genda and Mori both strike out swinging, and van den Hurk has seven on the night.

Top 8th

Three up, three down for Hamaya and we’re back to the star of the show for the bottom of the eighth.

Bottom 8th

Middle of the Lions lineup, and Hotaka Yamakawa swings and misses at a high fastball for Strike 1. He can’t hold up on a slider on the outside corner and its Strike 2. Yamakawa then hammers a high pitch out of the zone. Van den Hurk deflects it as it bounces past. Kawashima grabs it but can’t throw Yamakawa out at first and the no-hitter is no more.

Tonosaki grounds into a force, giving the Lions speed on the bases, but not quite enough to score when Takeya Nakamura finds the gap in right center for a double.

Kuriyama, a grinder who always dictates his at-bats, has looked lost tonight. A 1-0 curve catches the outside for a strike. Van den Hurk misses low with a fastball and way outside with a curve. A slider in the zone fouled back and it’s 3-2. He tops a breaking ball in the heart of the zone back to the pitcher, who gets the easy out. Hawks 3, Lions 1.

And that’s all for van den Hurk. Cuban lefty Livan Moinelo is on with a runner at third and two outs.

And we have a game. Kimura smashes a breaking ball between third and short to plate Nakamura, and the tying run is on. Hawks 3, Lions 2.

No. 9 hitter Yuji Kaneko up and quickly behind 0-2. Moinlo misses with two fastballs before whiffing Kaneko with another.

Top 9th

In relief of their second-round pick last year, the Lions bring in their top pick, Tetsu Miyagawa. The right-hander strikes out Balentien, but Hasegawa tattoos a pitch in the middle of the zone for a single.

Pinch runner Daiki Mimori on and steals second, and Uebayashi grounds to first. Matsuda barely gets the barrel on a curve and Kaneko can’t make the catch as he races in from center. Hawks 4, Lions 2.

Makihara walks and the Hawks have two on and a chance to put this game out of reach, and it’s battling Keizo Kawashima. But Miyagawa keeps the pesky right-handed hitter from doing any damage and we go to the bottom of the ninth.

Bottom 9th

Closer Yuito Mori on in the ninth to face the top of the Lions order. Mori falls behind gets Spangenberg to ground out on an offspeed pitch. Genda strikes out swinging and Ukyo Shuto, in left for Balentien gloves it for the win.

Final score: Hawks 4, Lions 2

NPB 2020 6-24 live

The Giants suffered their first loss of the year, in June no less, while Justin Bour gets his first hit after starting his season 0-for-16, while the most highly touted rookie of the season runs into a buzz saw called Hideto Asamura. All that and more from Japan on Wednesday night.

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Thursday’s starters are HERE.

Kuri hands Giants 1st loss

Allen Kuri allowed an unearned run over seven innings, and the Hiroshima Carp beat the Yomiuri Giants 5-1 at Tokyo Dome.

Seiya Suzuki and Kosuke Tanaka each homered off Cristopher Mercedes, who lasted just three innings. Ryosuke Kikuchi, who gave up on finding at major league job before camp started and returned to the Carp, had three hits, including a home run.

BayStars’ bullpen holds on

Takayuki Kajitani, a player whose once electric future has been hampered by frequent injuries, homered to break a 2-2, fifth-inning tie at Yokohama Stadium, and a quartet of DeNA BayStars relievers held the Chunichi Dragons scoreless over the final four innings.

Spencer Patton, coming off a nightmare of a 2019 season, struck out two of the four batters he faced to set up for closer Yasuaki Yamasaki, who recorded his second save in precarious fashion.

After Yohei Oshima’s two-out single, Issei Endo missed the left field fair pole by a foot or two before drawing a walk. Another walk loaded the bases before Dayan Viciedo grounded out to end the game.

Former Giant Suarez stops Tigers

Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Albert Suarez (1-0) allowed an unearned run over six innings at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium to pitch the Yakult Swallows to a 6-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers. Suarez struck out four while allowing two singles. He walked a batter and hit a batter.

No one likes to lose, but there was no mistaking the relief on Justin Bour’s face when he singled in the seventh inning for his first hit since the season started on Friday.

Gunkel gets his feet wet

Tigers right-hander Joe Gunkel (0-1) allowed three runs in four innings on seven hits and two walks. His pitches sank a lot but the Swallows hitters made enough contact on them and it seemed like almost everything they put their bats to found a hole. While some of that was probably just bad luck, it appears Gunkel will need to make some adjustments. It’s a pretty common thing for new pitchers in Japan.

Wakui, Asamura spoil Kawano’s debut

Three days after his 34th birthday, Hideaki Wakui won his first game as a Rakuten Eagle, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out five over seven innings in a 5-2 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters.

The Eagles trailed rookie Ryusei Kawano 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth, when the Fighters walked Jabari Blash with two outs and a man on only for the inning to go south in a hurry.

With one run in and two on, Asamura launched an opposite-field homer off the end of his bat. He only had two hits but the two outs he made were pretty impressive in their own right.

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Laird makes Buffalo sushi

Former New York Yankee Brandon Laird hit a three-run, first-inning home run, walked, singled and scored twice to help the Lotte Marines to a 6-4 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

Leonys Martin also singled, walked and scored a run for the Marines, who improved to 4-1, while former Cleveland Indians right-hander Frank Herrmann earned his third hold in the four games. The former Eagle is 1-0 in four scoreless outings so far in Chiba.

Here’s Laird’s hero interview

Hawks beat Lions at their own game

The Seibu Lions are kind of like Japan’s answer to pro wrestling. You can expect a lot of weird things, a lot of blows, a lot of falls. The combination of a historically good offensive and an unhealthy amount of mediocre pitching means no game is ever safe until the ref gives the final count.

The two-time-defending Pacific League champs got a dose of their own medicine on Wednesday in a 9-6 loss to the SoftBank Hawks. Kenta Imamiya tipped the scales with a three-run, sixth-inning homer off a high hanging curve from Tatsuya Imai (0-1) while Seiji Uebayashi went deep with a three-run bomb in the first.

The Lions got four RBIs from two-time home run king Hotaka Yamakawa at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo, and a 2-for-5 night from new leadoff man Corey Spangenberg, but starter Tatsuya Imai surrendered seven runs and that was that.

Live blog: Eagles vs Fighters

Go to NEWEST.

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

Hideaki Wakui retired the Eagles in order in the first, finishing the inning by fanning Kensuke Kondo on three pitches, so that’s an impressive start for the veteran at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park.

Bottom 1st

It’s the pro debut of Ryusei Kawano*, the Fighters’ top draft pick in 2019 out of the corporate leagues.

The lefty popped up leadoff man Eigoro Mogi on a first-pitch fastball, but Jabari Blash fouled off a 2-2- pitch before walking on seven pitches. He does that a lot. New Eagle Daichi Suzuki flied out to deep right to bring up Hideto Asamura.

Kawano starts him off with a breaking ball in the dirt, and misses with a fastball and then another curve. Asamura takes a fastball right down the pipe for Strike 1, but puts a good swing on a curve from the lefty and pulls it past utility man Toshitake Yokoo at third.

With runners on the corners, and two outs, Kawano gets the tough Hiroaki Shimauchi to ground a high first-pitch fasrball to second for an easy force.

Top 2nd

Sho Nakata opens the inning and the scoring by barreling up a decent high fastball from Wakui and driving it well over the fence in left center. Wakui went up high with a fastball on 0-2, and then brought it down a bit where Nakata could get it.

Ryo Watanabe grounded out before Wakui dodged a bullet. The right-hander got a tough call on a 2-2 changeup away to Kotaro Kiyomiya, and then hung a slider down the middle that the 21-year-old hammered to deep right, where Stefen Romero made the catch. Wakui then got Yokoo to wave at a 1-2 fastball away, and we go to the bottom of the second.

Bottom of 2nd

Kawano walks Romero to open the second. If he can stay healthy, this guy is going to be a tremendous acquisition. He gave Orix his best, but just suffered from one injury after another.

But Yasuhito Uchida grounds a first-pitch fastball to short, where Kazunari Ishii starts an easy double play. Kawano gets ahead of catcher Hikaru Ota 0-2 but loses him by missing low out of the zone. The rookie ends the inning when Ryosuke Tatsumi hammers a 3-2 slider, but Kiyomiya makes a nice grab behind the first base bag.

That’s 39 pitches for the rookie. Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama is perhaps the most iconoclastic in Japan at running his starting rotation, so there’s no telling how long he’ll stick with the kid.

Top of 3rd

Ishii grounds to second to open the Fighters third, as Wakui starts it against the last two hitters in the Nippon Ham order. A nice pick at third by Daichi Suzuki on a ball hit by catcher Yushi Shimizu and there’s two down.

Major league aspirant Haruki Nishikawa, who fouled out to open the game, does better this time, smacking a high 1-0 fastball to the gap for a double. Wakui then misses badly with a changeup inside to the right-handed-hitting Taishi Ota, and he muscles it over third for an RBI single. Fighters lead 2-0. Kondo goes down swinging for the second time to end the inning.

Bottom 3rd

Kawano strikes out Mogi swinging with a high fastball, the rookie’s first career K. Blash grounds out and Suzuki hits a can of corn to right for Kawano’s easiest inning yet.

Top 4th

Nakata goes down swinging on a 3-2 curve, Watanabe hits an easy fly to right and Kiyomiya holds up on a fat-looking 3-2 fastball up and takes first on a walk. Yokoo shows some good discipline, but he can’t do anything with the pitches Wakui puts in the zone, and flies out to second.

Bottom 4th

Can Asamura hit or can he hit. Nice first-pitch slider at the bottom of the zone, but he was on it only for his liner to get within range of Nishikawa in left, who slides to make the grab. Shimauchi grounds a fastball to short this time for the second out, before Romero accidentaly beats the Fighters shift with a single up the middle.

The Fighters, who began aggressively shifting last year, had Watanabe pulled right behind the bag against the right-handed-hitting Romero who got jammed on an inside fastball with the ball rolling to the right field side of the second base bag. Kawano then jammed Uchida with another fastball inside and the inning’s over with a dinky liner to Kiyomiya at first.

Top 5th

Wakui is by no means overpowering, but his fastball has a little zip on it, and he’s mixing his pitches, keeping guys off barrels, and more importantly going after guys. Tatsumi in center has to make a long run for the second out, but it’s an easy 1-2-3 inning for the veteran.

Bottom 5th

Kawano will go at least five unless he runs into serious trouble here. He dispatches Ota with a fastball flied out to center, but walks the No. 9 hitter Tatsumi and danger lurks. Mogi fouls out well down the left field line, but Tatsumi tags up and takes second.

Kawano’s been starting most guys off with a slider for a while, but misses with a first-pitch fastball away to Blash. The rookie is definitely trying to keep his misses down, as he misses low. The Fighters decide to put Blash on, and after a chat with pitching coach Masao Kida, Kawano faces the lefty Suzuki.

Tatsumi steals third on the first pitch without a throw. Kawano hangs a 1-1 slider, and Suzuki slams it up the middle. Fighters 2, Eagles 1, with Blash cruising into third and Asamura in the driver’s seat.

Asamura miss-hits a 1-2 fastball away off the end of the bat and that puppy carries over the fence for a two-run homer. Eagles 4, Fighters 2.

Shimauchi flies out to end the inning, but damn Asamura is a hitter.

Top 6th

Wakui might not have much tonight, but he’s more or less locating his fastball, and he’s dictating the pace. He starts the sixth with easy outs against a couple of tough hitters, Ota and Kondo, who grounds out after two-straight punch-outs. Nakata, who missed a curve the last time up for Strike 3, looks at a fastball and down he goes.

Bottom 6th

Kazutomo Iguchi on the mound for the Fighters to face Romero. Kawano’s line: 4 runs over 5 innings on 5 walks (1 intentional), 4 hits and 1strikeout.

Romero is retired on a sharp play be Yokoo at third. But Uchida launches a liner to left, and Kondo cuts it off to hold him to a single. The Eagles’ top draft pick, Hiroto Kobukata is on to pinch run, and Ota bunts him to second.

Tatsumi reaches on an infield single. Runners on the corners with two outs for Mogi, who battles but grounds out.

Top 7th

–Defensive change: Kobukata, who ran for the first baseman Uchida, stays in to play short. Mogi moves to third, Suzuki goes across to first.

Kobukata wastes no time in showing off his glove. Diving to his left to snag a one-hop smash and throw out Watanabe to open the inning. Kyomiya flies out to Mogi at third, and if Yokoo hits it to Suzuki at first, the Eagles will have a defensive substitution trifecta.

But Yokoo finally puts a good swing on a changeup in the zone and lines it to center for a single. Yuya Taniguguchi bats for the Ishii and fouls out to third.

Bottom 7th

Iguchi still in for the Fighters, and a 3-2 slider to Blash is hit off the end of the bat for a deep fly to left. Suzuki gets jammed and lines out, while Iguchi shatters Asamura’s bat he still drives it to deep center.

Top 8th

Right-hander ALAN BUSENITZ in for Wakui. The 34-year-old leaves after an impressive night. His line: 2 runs over 7 innings, on 1 walk, four hits and five strikeouts.

Busenitz needs just nine pitches to take the Fighters out of the eighth inning and everything is going right for the Eagles.

Bottom 8th

Rookie Kenya Suzuki* — of the funky delivery — surrenders a hustling one-out double to Romero, who leaves for a pinch runner. Yokoo can’t make a circus catch on a smash by Ota down the third base line and he doubles in Kobukata. Eagles 5, Fighters 2.

Kenya Suzuki

Top 9th

Kohei Morihara in for the three-run save here in the ninth. He’s got Kondo, Nakata and Watanabe due up.

Kondo lines an 0-2 pitch to left for the first out. A fly out to left center, and Kobukata fields a one-hopper at short and makes the throw to first to end it as the Eagles improve to 4-1.

Final score: Eagles 5, Fighters 2

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Here are the announced starting pitchers in Nippon Professional Baseball for June 24.

Pacific League

Eagles vs Fighters: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hideaki Wakui vs Ryusei Kawano*

This is a battle of the ages as 34-year-old Hideaki Wakui takes the mound for the first time with his new team, the Eagles, against perhaps the top pitching prospect of last autumn’s NPB draft, 22-year-old lefty Ryusei Kawano.

Lions vs Hawks: MetLife Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Tatsuya Imai vs Shuta Ishikawa

Tatsuya Imai

Imai, the Lions’ first pick in the 2016 draft, turned pro out of high school. He threw 135-1/3 innings last season, when he walked 72 batters, the second-highest total in Japan, topped only by Kodai Senga’s 75 — although the Hawks’ ace led both leagues with 180-1/3 innings pitched.

Among pitchers with 90-plus innings, he was fourth in his percentage of pitches outside the zone, and couldn’t get batters to chase and gave up more than his share of hard contact. About half of his pitches so far have been four-seam fastball (146 kph avg velocity), with sliders next and curves and changeups rounding out his mix through 2019. He’s had his best results with the slider and change. Like most pitchers the question will be whether he can locate his fastball often enough.

Shuta Ishikawa

Ishikawa appeared in two regular season games after coming back from a right hamstring injury in the spring that was followed by a right-knee injury. He’s a fastball, curve, slider guy, with a couple of different curves, and an occasional splitter.

A 28-year-old, Ishikawa worked his way up from a non-roster developmental contract like ace Kodai Senga and starting catcher Takuya Kai. In 2018, when he threw 127-1/3 innings, the right-hander’s hard-contact percentage was sixth-lowest in Japan among pitchers with 90-plus innings. Even without a single dominant pitch, Ishikawa attacks the zone but misses barrels.

Marines vs Buffaloes: Zozo Marine Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kazuya Ojima vs Kohei “K” Suzuki

Kazuya Ojima

Ojima was Lotte’s third pick in the 2018 draft out of Waseda University. As a rookie in 2019, his mix was a 139 kph fastball with a cutter and splitter. He didn’t work in the zone and walked a lot of batters, but was around the NPB average in strikeout percentage despite missing fewer bats than almost anyone in NPB.

Kohei “K” Suzuki

Known in Japanese as “K-Suzuki” a play on teammate Takahiro Okada’s registered name “T-Okada.” The right-hander was Orix’s secon pick in the 2017 draft, and needed something to distinguish him from minor league infielder Kohei Suzuki, thus the “K”.

Despite the moniker, Suzuki was below the team average in strikeouts and above average in walks. He’s a fastball (145.1 kph in 2019), slider guy with an occasional curve and split. The split and the fastball had the best results in 2019. In 102-2/3 innings in 2019, he was in the zone more than the league average, and was had the second lowest ground/fly ratio in Japan among pitchers with 90-plus innings, although his home run rate on fly balls was just ordinary.

Central League

Giants vs Carp: Tokyo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

CRISTOPHER MERCEDES vs Allen Kuri

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

Shoichi Ino vs Takumi Yamamoto

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

ALBERT SUAREZ vs JOE GUNKEL

Albert Suarez, the 30-year-old brother of Hanshin’s Robert Suarez, appeared in just four games last season for Yakult. He’ll face Joe Gunkel, who will be making his Japan debut.