Tag Archives: Lotte Orions

NPB 2020 7-4 GAMES AND NEWS

Sunday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB.

Wada gets assist from Fighters in 1st win

Former Cub Tsuyoshi Wada took a no-hitter into the seventh and ended up with his first win of the season as the SoftBank Hawks beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 8-3 at Sapporo Dome.

The 39-year-old lefty frequently missed in the zone, but the Fighters only hit two balls hard off him through six, both drives straight to Hawks outfielders. Instead of playing “see the ball, hit the ball” against a pitcher whose fastball sat at 85 miles per hour, they guessed and watched and looked and waited.

Wada’s changeup was first rate, and it was if the Fighters were waiting for him to throw it up in the zone, something he refused to do. Instead, whenever they got a fastball up they either watched it, missed it or miss-hit it. He surrendered his first hit to Kensuke Kondo to open the seventh.

The Fighters’ most patient hitter had taken strike after strike in the zone in his first two at-bats, and should have been rung up on a low 0-2 changeup. But umpires are umpires the world over, Kondo got a second life and pulled an inside 1-2 fastball between first and second for a single.

In the seventh, the Fighters changed tactics and began taking easy swings at mistakes in the zone. They loaded the bases with three no-out singles and Wada was gone.

“They are professional hitters. It wasn’t a matter of if they would get a hit, but when,” Wada said.

The Hawks opened the scoring in the first, when Kenta Imamiya homered with one out and none on against Takayuki Kato (0-1). Imamiya, on Friday moved into a tie for seventh all-time in career sacrifice hits with 300. Three straight hits, including a Wladimir Balentien double gave the Hawks the lead for good.

Here are the game highlights:

Kishi wins season debut

The Rakuten Eagles won a seven-inning rain-shortened 3-1 game over the Lotte Marines at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi. Takayuki Kishi (1-0) allowed a first-inning run over five innings in his season debut by pitching out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fourth.

Former Padre Kazuhisa Makita worked a scoreless sixth, and former Dodger JT Chargois pitched the seventh to earn his first save in Japan.

Here are the game highlights:

Yoshida homer lifts Buffaloes over Lions

Masataka Yoshida’s third home run of the season, a two-run shot in the eighth inning, brought the Orix Buffaloes from a run down and lifted them to a 4-3 win over the defending Pacific League champion Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.

Buffaloes starter Daiki Tajima (1-0) had one brush with trouble and it cost him in a three-run fourth, capped by Takeya Nakamura’s two-run double. Aderlin Rodriguez’s fifth-inning solo homer made it a 3-1 game in the fifth and Tajima left after seven.

A one-out walk, a wild pickoff throw and an RBI single by Koji Oshiro made it a 3-2 game before Yoshida homered with two outs.

Tyler Higgins worked the eighth for Orix and Brandon Dickson closed in the ninth to record his first save of the season.

Maru drives in 6 as Giants whip Dragons

Yoshihiro Maru homered twice and added an RBI double as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Chunichi Dragons 7-3 at Tokyo Dome.

Hayato Sakamoto walked twice, homered, singled and scored three runs, while Gerardo Parra doubled twice and singled.

Marte, Bour rip as Tigers gut Carp

Jefry Marte hit a two-run first-inning home run off Carp ace Daichi Osera (2-1) in a 9-3 Hanshin Tigers win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Justin Bour had three hits for the Tigers and a sacrifice fly, while starting pitcher Yuta Iwasada (1-1) allowed three runs over six innings to earn the win.

Osera, who entered the game having opened the season with back-to-back complete-game victories, allowed five runs on eight hits over four innings. Osera failed to score or drive in a run on Saturday, but did single in his only at-bat, raising his average to .625.

Marte did not return to third base in the bottom of the third inning after complaining of tightness in his left calf.

Martinez 1st import to catch in 20 years

A day after being called up, 24-year-old Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez saw his first duty behind the plate on Saturday. Coming on as a sixth-inning pinch-hitter, Martinez walked, scored and stayed in to catch.

In so doing, he became the first imported player to catch in an NPB game since former Australian big leaguer Dave “Dingo” Nillson caught in one game for the Dragons in 2020. Prior to that, Mike Diaz caught 21 games for the Lotte Orions from 1990 to 1991.

Martinez, who joined Chunichi as a non-roster developmental signing in 2018, was signed to a standard contract this past week and added to the Dragons’ 70-man roster. He looked good behind the plate and threw out the first runner who tried to steal against him.

Swallows walk the walk

The Yakult Swallows overcame home runs by Neftali Soto and Jose Lopez by drawing seven walks in a 10-8 win over the DeNA BayStars, who outhit the Swallows 15-6.

Soto had four hits, including two homers, but Naomichi Nishiura and Norichika Aoki each hit two-run shots for the Swallows. Nishimura, who had lost his shortstop job to Alcides Escobar, has grabbed it back by hitting four homers in four games.

Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama entered the ninth with a four-run lead but allowed two runs on Soto’s third home run of the year.

On a side note

Toru Hamaura during his time in the States.

One of the cool things I noticed when doing the post on preseason complete games was who was throwing all those pitches. Toru Hamaura was the first player who caught my attention. A guy I’d never heard of until a peek at Wikipedia hit home. There’s a nice little piece here about Hamaura by Mr. Bob Lemke.

Starting at the age of 19, Hamamura was among the California League’s better strikeout pitchers in his two seasons in Fresno. He returned to Japan to pitch for the Fukuoka-based Taiheiyo Club Lions but never won more than four games in a season. The control that was his calling card in Single-A, didn’t translate to NPB, where he walked almost as many batters as he struck out.

Frank Johnson, the original Mr. Baseball

Although I was unfamiliar with Hamaura, we are connected in a way. As a freshman and sophomore at Ravenswood High School in East Palo Alto, California, one of the teaching assistants at the school was a former San Francisco Giants player named Frank Johnson. Frank helped coach the baseball team and wore a neon-blue Lotte Orions warm-up jacket. On one of my first days at school, when we were getting to know each other he commented that my classmate’s first name “sounded Japanese.” It didn’t mean much to me at the time until I learned a year later that he had played in Japan.

 I haven’t seen Frank since I was 21 or so and he was working security at a K-Mart not far from my part-time job at a 7-11 when I was in college.

He was a big friendly guy, always ready with a kind word and a smile, so it was a huge pleasure to find that Frank was — in a sense — the original Mr. Baseball: an American that the Giants traded to Lotte for Hamaura.

The other name that caught my attention was Osamu Shimano, who unlike Hamaura, is actually fairly well known — but more for being what Paul Harvey would have called, “the rest of the story.” Shimano was the Yomiuri Giants’ first draft pick in 1968. In March 1975, Shimano gave himself a lifeline with a complete-game victory over the Atlanta Braves in spring training, but within a year, he was with the Hankyu Braves, having pitched in just 24 Central League games for the Giants.

He never pitched for the Braves at the top level, but became famous when after his retirement Shimano was asked to put on a bird costume and become Hankyu’s mascot “Bravey.” Shimano, who also created Orix’s mascot “Neppie” after the leasing company purchased the Braves from the Hankyu Railroad, is also famous for NOT being iconic fire-eating right-hander Senichi Hoshino.

Hoshino’s professional persona was largely shaped by his antipathy for the Giants — the team he longed to play for as a pro and expected to be drafted in the first round by in 1968. Instead, Hoshino was drafted by the Chunichi Dragons. As a manager, Hoshino beat the Giants in several CL pennant races, the Japan Series remained out of reach for him. That was until 2013, in a season marked by the heroics of Masahiro Tanaka, Hoshino’s Rakuten Eagles brought the disaster-ravaged Tohoku region its first Japan championship and a win over the Giants to boot.

Preseason complete games

Nippon Ham’s Satoshi Niimi was one of at least 13 pitchers who threw nine innings in a preseason exhibition in March 1975.

OK, so it’s hardly the heart of darkness, but back in the 1970s, pitchers in preseason exhibitions occasionally threw complete games as they prepared for the Nippon Professional Baseball season.

When you look at old box scores, the numbers of pitches thrown by starters can be an eye-opener, but the sight of seeing a guy throw 90 pitches in an exhibition game on March 1, 1975, catches one’s attention. The pitcher in question, journeyman right-hander Toru Hamaura, threw 91 pitches over five innings that day for the Fukuoka-based Taiheiyo Club Lions.

This was when teams looked at innings, rather than pitch totals — although pitch counts were dutifully reported in Japan’s sports newspapers. What you notice is that guys aren’t throwing more than six innings the first two weeks.

So while innings were curtailed, Hanshin Tigers veteran Tomohiro Tanimura threw 111 pitches over five innings on March 11. Shigeo Nagashima, then a rookie skipper with the Yomiuri Giants, may have just been showing off on the same date in Florida, when Osamu Shimano was allowed to throw a 100-pitch complete game in the Grapefruit League.

By the third week of March, seven-inning starts and 100-pitch outings became more and more common. One of the features of the schedule then was a large number of double headers, and this even penetrated the preseason, with teams frequently playing two. In a March 23 doubleheader against the Yakult Swallows, Satoshi Niimi threw 124-pitch complete game in the opener, while Fighters ace Naoki Takahashi wrapped up the nightcap with an efficient 113 pitches. The apex or nadir — depending on one’s view point — came on March 27, when Lotte Orions ace Fumio Narita threw 144 pitches over nine innings.