Tag Archives: magic number

NPB 2020 Sept. 15

Sugano runs streak to 11

Tomoyuki Sugano equaled a team record set by Hall of Famer Victor Starffin by winning 11-straight decisions from Opening Day in the Yomiuri Giants’ 6-3 come-from-behind win over the Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo Dome on Tuesday.

Sugano (11-0) allowed three runs, all scored by Tigers leadoff man Koji Chikamoto on seven hits and a walk while striking out five over six innings. The Giants ace’s command was not up to his usual high standards, and though his fastball was occasionally untouchable, he had to work extremely carefully to get out of a couple of tight spots.

Tigers lefty Haruto Takahashi (2-3) allowed single runs in the second and fourth before his command deserted him in the bottom of the sixth and the Giants began taking advantage of his mistakes to overcome a 3-2 deficit.

Kazuma Okamoto singled in the tying run with no outs. It seems clear that the Tigers bench was taken by surprise by the lefty’s 10-pitch meltdown since no one was ready to replace him until Yuta Iwasada took over with no outs and the bases loaded.

Iwasada surrendered a two-run single to Takumi Oshiro, who added another RBI single in the eighth, and the Giants cut it close in the ninth with Rubby De La Rosa on the mound.

With two on and one out, second baseman Naoki Yoshikawa robbed Chikamoto of his fourth hit of the game with a diving stop and a force at second.

The Tigers, who left the bases loaded in the fourth, wasted a two-on no-out opportunity in the seventh, running into an out at third base on a broken buster-and-run when they trailed 5-3.

Instead of two on, no outs and a 2-0 count to one of the Tigers’ best hitters, catcher Ryutaro Umeno, the Tigers had a 1-1 count, one out, and a runner on second after Umeno swung at a pitch nowhere near the strike zone and the lead runner was out at easily at third.

Sugano’s streak is the longest for a CL pitcher to start the season after throwing on Opening Day, matching the 1982 run by Hiroshima Carp Hall of Famer Manabu Kitabeppu. The Giants franchise record was set in 1938 by Russian Hall of Famer Victor Starffin.

Giants-Tigers highlights.

Japan’s stupidest magic trick

The Giants win gave them a magic number to clinch their second-straight CL pennant of 38 with 48 games to play. This is a Japanese magic number, mind you, a mind-numbing formula that requires knowing the number of games your closest rival has remaining with you. It’s fairly complicated math. Teams who meet the criteria have their magic number “lit up.” Fans celebrate it and the media never shuts up about it.

Should the other CL teams improve relative to the Giants, Yomiuri’s magic number, 38 after the win with 48 games left to play, can disappear. Teams can win pennants without ever having a magic number.

Asked about it after Tuesday’s game, Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said, “It’s something that has nothing to do with me.”

Seiya later

Seiya Suzuki capped a four-run first inning with a three-run homer off Yudai Ono (5-5) whose six-game complete-game streak came to an end in the Hiroshima Carp’s 6-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Ono settled down after allowing the first four batters to reach, retiring 12 of the last 14 he faced before being pulled for a pinch-hitter. Carp right-hander Allen Kuri (4-4) allowed a run over six innings to earn the win. Geronimo Franzua worked the ninth for his ninth save.

Soto sparks Stars

Two-time Central League home run champ Neftali Soto hit his 15th home run and drove in three runs off 40-year-old lefty Masanori Ishikawa (0-4) in the DeNA BayStars’ 8-3 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Tatsuhiro Shibata came off the bench for the BayStars and doubled in three runs in the eighth to complete the rout.

Must be the shirt

Seiichiro Oshita, whom Orix added to their 70-man roster on Monday after taking him in the sixth round of last year’s developmental draft, broke a 1-1 second-inning tie with a three-run homer in his first career at-bat as the Orix Buffaloes beat the Rakuten Eagles 5-1 at Hotto Motto Field Kobe.

The Buffaloes, formed out of the 2004 merger of the Orix BlueWave and the Kintetsu Buffaloes, wore BlueWave uniforms at that club’s old home park in Kobe. Unfortunately, the Buffaloes didn’t have a special uniform available with Oshita’s new No. 40, so he wore the No. 102 of batting practice pitcher Yukihiro Yamaoka.

His feat mimicked that of Lotte Marines right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura, who was activated the day of his trade and struck out the side in order that night wearing the shirt of longtime batting practice pitcher Akihiro Fukushima.

Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto (5-3), the hardest-throwing starting pitcher in Japan, allowed Hideto Asamura’s 23rd home run to lead off the second, but only two other hits and two walks while striking out nine over eight innings.

Fighters get past Senga

Haruki Nishikawa drove in three runs against SoftBank Hawks ace Kodai Senga (6-4) in the Fighters’ 3-2 win at Sapporo Dome as veteran lefty Naoki Miyanishi again cut it close before recording the save.

Fighters right-hander Naoyuki Uwasawa (6-3) threw eight scoreless innings as the hosts took a 3-0 lead into the ninth. Miyanishi, filling in for regular closer Ryo Akiyoshi has now escaped with two-straight saves after opponents’ trimmed the Fighters’ lead to a run in the ninth.

He surrendered solo home runs to Yuki Yanagita, his 23rd, and former Fighter Keizo Kawashima, his fourth.

Senga struck out 12 but walked six and gave up nine hits in his 148 war of attrition with the strike zone.

Spangenberg rescues endangered Lions

Corey Spangenberg’s 11th home run, a two-run eighth-inning shot off veteran right-hander Frank Herrmann brought the Seibu Lions from a run down in their 4-3 win over the Lotte Marines at MetLife Dome.

Marines starter Ayumu Ishikawa left with one out and a man on in the eighth. Herrmann retired Sosuke Genda before he missed a pitch that Spangenberg didn’t.

Lions starter Kona Takahashi, who lost a no-hit bid in the eighth inning a week earlier, allowed three runs, two earned over seven innings. Tatsushi Masuda worked the ninth for Seibu to earn his 18th save.

Active roster moves 9/15/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/25

Central League


TigersIF58Fumiya Araki
SwallowsIF0Ryota Fujii
SwallowsOF51Taiki Hamada


CarpP23Kazuki Yabuta

Pacific League


EaglesP56Sora Suzuki
MarinesP12Ayumu Ishikawa
BuffaloesP15Yudai Aranishi
BuffaloesOF00Hayato Nishiura
BuffaloesOF40Seiichiro Oshita


LionsP48Shota Takekuma
EaglesP17Takahiro Shiomi
MarinesP18Kota Futaki
BuffaloesP39Yuya Iida
BuffaloesIF67Keita Nakagawa
BuffaloesOF6Yuma Mune

Starting pitchers for Sept. 16, 2020

Pacific League

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

Toshihiro Sugiura (5-3, 3.12) vs Akira Niho (4-4, 4.26)

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

Shota Hamaya (0-0, 9.35) vs Kazuya Ojima (5-5, 3.52)

Buffaloes vs Eagles: Hotto Motto Field 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Daiki Tajima (1-4, 4.02) vs Hideaki Wakui (8-2, 3.19)

Central League

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

Kazuto Taguchi (3-3, 4.44) vs Koyo Aoyagi (6-4, 3.52)

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

Hiroaki Saiuchi (-) vs Taiga Kamichatani (1-1, 4.09)

Carp vs Dragons: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yusuke Nomura (4-1, 3.78) vs Yuichiro Okano (2-1, 4.86)

NPB games, news of Sep. 1, 2019

Strange magic

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Yomiuri Giants went into Sunday’s game against the Hanshin Tigers with a magic number of 16 to clinch the pennant. Before they were back at their hotel that night, the magic was gone. Because the number – in Japan – only exists when you can clinch the pennant without having to beat your nearest pursuer. But with their loss to the Tigers and the BayStars’ win over the Carp, that condition no longer exists and…poof.

Central League

BayStars 3, Carp 2

At Mazda Stadium, Shota Imanaga (13-5) gave up two early runs but no more over 7-1/3 innings, while striking out eight to earn the win as DeNA beat Hiroshima. Neftali Soto tied it 2-2, in the sixth with his 34th home run, and Tatsuhiro Shibata put the visitors in front with a sacrifice fly.

Tigers 2, Giants 0

At Koshien Stadium, Yuta Iwasada (2-3) allowed three hits over six innings, while striking out six and walking none, and three relievers completed Hanshin’s shutout win over Yomiuri. Thirty-nine-year-old Kyuji Fujikawa converted his 11th-straight save opportunity with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Game highlights are HERE.

Swallows 3, Dragons 1

At Nagoya Dome, Wladimir Balentien ruined Yudai Ono’s day with a quality at-bat in which he singled in two first-inning runs, lining a fastball inside the opposite way, as Yakult held on to beat Chunichi.

Ono (7-8) allowed three runs over six innings. He tried to be a hero on the bases in the fifth inning. On third with one out, he was gunned down on a close play at the plate after a fly out to right fielder Yuhei Takai.

Norichika Aoki was hit by a pitch for the 100th time in the first inning and scored on Balentien’s single. He becomes the 22nd player to reach that painful plateau after he was hit for the first time in his career by current Lotte right-hander Hideaki Wakui in 2005.

Pacific League

Hawks 4, Lions 1

At MetLife Dome, Shota Takeda (5-3) had his best outing since his April 4 season debut, allowing a walk and four hits with eight strikeouts over six scoreless innings as SoftBank salvaged the finale of its three-game series with Seibu, leaving with a one-game lead over the Lions.

Yuki Yanagita and Nobuhiro Matsuda homered off Ken Togame (4-6).

Eagles 2, Fighters 1

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Jabari Blash opened the scoring with his 28th home run, and Ryota Ishibashi (7-6) allowed one hit and one walk over seven scoreless innings as Rakuten completed a sweep of slumping Nippon Ham.

Chihiro Kaneko (5-7) allowed two runs over four innings, leaving after throwing 55 pitches against 17 batters — with 18 usually being the trigger for Nippon Ham’s bullpen this season for most of their starters. But the Fighters jigsaw starting setup has been misfiring of late, and I wonder if it isn’t due to the non-news surrounding Mizuki Hori.

Marines 8, Buffaloes 6

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Leonys Martin hit his ninth home run in 129 NPB at-bats, a three-run shot that brought Lotte from behind in its win over Orix.


Dice-K still keen to roll

Despite nagging injuries and a fastball that would no longer dent bread, Daisuke Matsuzaka has no intention to go quietly into that good night, the Chunichi Dragons revealed Sunday.

Hiroyuki Kato, the club’s official representative to NPB, said he visited the right-hander where he was rehabbing to ascertain his intentions for next year.

“He wants to continue his playing career,” Kato told reporters at Nagoya Dome. “He’s been an important player in Japan’s baseball world. He’ll get special treatment, but he’s a player at about that stage…”

Matsuzaka pitched two games in July and has an 0-1 record. Last season he was NPB’s Comeback Player of the Year.

NPB games, news of Aug. 20, 2019

This is the start of Japanese baseball’s ugly “magic season.” It almost started after the all-star break, but the Yomiuri Giants prevented that by losing a bunch of games.

Tonight’s story from the Lions-Fighters game at MetLife Dome wasn’t about Shogo Akiyama but rather that the Lions’ win prevented the SoftBank Hawks’ magic number “lamp from being lit.”

Bad magic

The magic number in NPB is defined, not as the number of games one needs to clinch the pennant. It is that, of course, but that would be too simple for a nation where baseball is not really baseball unless it’s really, really anal retentive.

A Japanese magic number is much more. It is the number of games you have to win (or your nearest rival has to lose) for you to clinch the pennant, provided — and here’s the kicker — none of your wins come against that closest competitor. That last qualification decides when your magic number will appear. On occasion, teams needing to beat that team to win, will win a pennant without ever having a magic number at all.

The thing about the ugly magic season is that few teams are actually eliminated from contention in August, and nobody clinches, so newspapers waste a whole lot of copy inches writing about magic number lore, precedents and you name it. The earliest magic number in franchise history? You betcha.

And if the second-place team drops down in the standings, and is replaced by a team with more games against the leading pennant contender, then the magic number can vanish, prompting even more dumb stories from the nation’s ubiquitous sports dailies.

And now for something completely different: baseball.

Pacific League

Lions 4, Fighters 2

At MetLife Dome, on the day Shogo Akiyama qualified to file for international free agency this offseason, he singled in two runs to overturn a 1-0 deficit and give Seibu the lead in a win over Nippon Ham.

Zach Neal (7-1) only struck out one batter over six innings, but retired nine-straight batters at one stretch and six more at another to allow just a run on Haruki Nishikawa’s first-inning leadoff homer.

Bryan Rodriguez (6-4) started and went five innings, allowing two runs, one earned, as Nippon Ham seems to be giving Mizuki Hori a rest from his duties as opener.

Game highlights are HERE.

Marines 7, Eagles 3

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Ayumu Ishikawa (4-5) was his vintage self, striking out 11 over eight innings, while Takayuki Kishi (2-4) was misfiring, allowing three runs over 6-2/3 innings in Rakuten’s loss to Lotte.

Central League

Giants 2, Dragons 1

At Nagoya Dome, Yoshihiro Maru powered Yomiuri’s offense in the first inning, singling in Hayato Sakamoto with the game’s first run, moving to third on a fly out and scoring on a delayed double steal in a win over Chunichi.

Sakamoto’s first-inning double and Maru’s single represented the total of the Giants’ scoring opportunities through eight innings, the first seven against veteran lefty Yudai Ono (7-7). Giants starter Cristopher Mercedes (8-6) loaded the bases in the first with no outs, and left in the sixth with two on and no outs, but allowed just one run to earn the win.

Rubby De La Rosa earned his fifth save for the Giants after facing four batters in the ninth and striking out two.

Tigers 8, BayStars 0

At Kyocera Dome, DeNA walked Koji Chikamoto with two outs and two on in the fifth inning to load the bases, only for starter Haruhiro Hamaguchi (6-5) walked Seiya Kinami to open the scoring. Kosuke Fukudome followed with a three-run double to seal Hanshin’s win.

Tigers starter Koyo Aoyagi (6-8) struck out eight over 5-2/3 innings, including two back-to-back to escape a one-out, bases-loaded pickle in the second.

Jefry Marte iced the game in the seventh for Hanshin with a two-run home run.

Game highlights are HERE.

Carp 9, Swallows 8

At Mazda Stadium, Seiya Suzuki’s three-run ninth-inning homer off David Huff (1-3) tied it for Hiroshima, and Takumi Miyoshi singled in the winning run as Yakult blew a three-run ninth-inning lead.

Yakult appeared to have the game sown up after two-run, eighth-inning homers by Tetsuto Yamada and Yuhei Takai.

NPB games, news of Aug. 14, 2019

Half of Wednesday’s six NPB games were one-side butt-kickings, and another became so in the late innings as the league leaders improved their position.

Do it your self, Japanese style

Today, we introduce one of the pennant stretch words one begins hearing in the second half “Jiryoku’V’shometsu.” This dire situation –自力V消滅 in Japanese — is the status of a team that cannot win the pennant without help from other teams. On Wednesday, the Hiroshima Carp and Rakuten Eagles, both received this dire prognosis of their pennant chances.

They can now win all their remaining games and still not win the pennant unless the Yomiuri Giants in the Carp’s Central League or the SoftBank Hawks in the Eagles’ Pacific League lose at least once to another team between now and the end of the season.

A lot is made in Japanese baseball of the idea of being able to steam to a goal under your own power and this is essential to the almost religious seriousness that accompanies NPB magic numbers, which we’ll get to at another time.

I’m still not certain why anybody cares about being able to reach a goal without help when every team in your league still has 50 games to play is important.

Pacific League

Marines 9, Fighters 4

At Tokyo Dome, Takashi Ogino homered on a 3-2 fastball that Kosei Yoshida (1-2) threw down the middle of the strike zone like he was aiming for a bulls-eye, and Lotte never trailed against Nippon Ham.

The 18-year-old legend from last summer’s summer national high school championships was making his third start and his first against PL teams. He threw mostly fastballs in the first inning and when he missed in the zone with them the Marines crushed them. A walk and a Daichi Suzuki two-run homer got the Marines off to a 3-0 jump start.

Ogino hit another home run in the second inning, while Leonys Martin hit his seventh in 18 career NPB games.

Marines rookie Kazuya Ojima (1-3) allowed a run over six innings

Game highlights are HERE.

Lions 8, Buffaloes 7

At MetLife Dome, Seibu came from behind twice, the second time on a two-run, eighth-inning Hotaka Yamakawa homer, his 34th, to beat Orix. A night after five batters were hit by pitches and three were ejected, only one batter, Yamakawa, was plunked.

Game highlights are HERE.

Hawks 12, Eagles 3

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Shota Takeda (4-3) allowed three runs, two earned, over eight innings to win as a starter for the first time since April 11, while leadoff man Shuhei Fukuda and Yurisbel Gracial combined for seven hits, four runs and four RBIs in SoftBank’s win over Rakuten.

New Eagle Ren Wada tied it 3-3 in the bottom of the first with a two-run home run, but Rakuten starter Takahiro Norimoto (2-3) allowed six runs, five earned, over four innings to take the loss.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Giants 7, Carp 1

At Mazda Stadium, Tomoyuki Sugano (9-5), without a win since July 2, allowed a run over eight innings, and Yomiuri broke out of its scoring funk with him on the mound with six late runs in a win over Hiroshima.

Hayato Sakamoto doubled twice and walked, scored twice and drove in the Giants’ tie-breaking run in the seventh inning.

Swallows 15, BayStars 2

At Jingu Stadium, 39-year-old Masanori Ishikawa (6-5) allowed one hit and one walk over eight innings, while Yakult hammered Haruhiro Hamaguchi (6-4) for seven runs in the first inning.

Tetsuto Yamada opened the scoring with his 30th home run, while Wladimir Balentien hit his 25th and 19-year-old rookie Munetaka Murakami hit his 26th and took over the CL RBI lead.

Ishikawa had a no-hitter going until one out in the eighth when BayStars rookie Yukiya Ito hit his fourth homer in seven career games.

Tigers 6, Dragons 3

At Nagoya Dome, Hanshin rattled off six-straight hits after Daisuke Yamai (3-5) retired the first two batters in the fifth to overturn a 3-0 deficit in a win over Chunichi.

Tigers rookie Seiya Kinami sparked the fifth-inning rally with a pinch-hit single and homered in his next at-bat.