Tag Archives: Masahiro Tanaka

NPB Wrap 5-8-21

Japanese baseball is hard

Masahiro Tanaka will attest to this after he got hit hard on Saturday in his fourth start. All that despite locating most of his pitches pretty well and having good velocity on his fastball and the Nippon Ham Fighters coming off a week in which they were barely able to practice.

Tanaka spills on his 2nd loss

In a country where practice volume is considered the most important factor in success, every failure is often attributed to a lack of practice. The Fighters are now 2-0 since a coronavirus cluster shutdown the club after their game on May 1. But because lack of practice is fatal, their next loss, whenever that comes, will be attributed to their layoff, while every win between now and then will be treated as an anomaly.

Fighters 4, Eagles 1

At Sapporo Dome, Naoyuki Uwasawa (3-2), the Opening Day starter for the last-place Nippon Ham Fighters, beat Tanaka for the second time, holding Pacific League-leading Rakuten to a run over seven innings, while his teammates tagged Masahiro Tanaka (2-2) for five runs over seven.

Tanaka lacked command of his splitter and threw a lot of straight fastballs that the Fighters were able to square up, and after three games of announcers and analysts wondering when we might see the two-seamer he used to throw a lot in the majors, that pitch finally made its debut.

A Kenshi Sugiya single and doubles by Kensuke Kondo and Wang Po-jung made it 2-0 in the first. A Sho Nakata single, a Wang double and a walk set the table for Shingo Usami’s RBI single. After Eigoro Mogi opened the Eagles’ fifth with his sixth homer, Kondo hit his sixth in the home half to complete the scoring. “There was nothing positive to take away from my pitching today but that (going seven innings),” Tanaka said according to Tokyo Sports Web reported.

Buffaloes 5, Marines 2

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Orix’s Daiki Tajima (2-1) allowed two runs, one earned, over six innings, while the Elmore Leonard gang, Yuma Tongu and Yuma Mune, each homered for the Buffaloes. Tongu hit a two-run shot in the second, his fifth, and Mune a solo shot in the sixth for his fourth of the year. Adam Jones also had a pinch-hit RBI single in the ninth, when Steven Moya and Stefen Romero both singled and scored.

Tajima allowed four hits while striking out six without issuing a walk. Marines starter Manabu Mima (2-1) struck out nine but allowed three runs on five hits and a hit batsman over seven innings. Leonys Martin had a hand in both Lotte runs, singling in the first and doubling to help set up the second.

Three weeks shy of his 42nd birthday, Orix’s Atsushi Nomi earned his second save and struck out Brandon Laird to become the 57th pitcher with 1,500 career strikeouts and the oldest in history when he reached the milestone.

Lions 2, Hawks 0

At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Seibu’s Reed Garrett walked the bases loaded in the ninth inning before jamming SoftBank star Yuki Yanagita with a 98-mph fastball for the final out.

After scoring nine runs for Nick Martinez (1-1) in his Hawks debut, SoftBank managed just five hits and a walk over six innings against Wataru Matsumoto (3-3). Takumi Kuriyama singled in a first-inning run, and Wu Nien-ting singled with two on and two outs, but Yanagita threw a strike to the plate from right field to end the inning. A Cory Spangenberg walk, a sacrifice and an Aito Takeda double made it 2-0 in the fifth. Martinez last seven innings. He allowed five hits and a walk while striking out four.

SoftBank Hawks outfielder-infielder Yurisbel Gracial left the game with a hand injury that was diagnosed as a broken right ring finger that will likely keep him out of action for a month.

Tigers 4, BayStars 1

At Yokohama Stadium, the Hanshin Tigers gave the DeNA BayStars the rookie treatment as lefty Masashi Ito (3-0) allowed a run over eight innings, while striking out five and Teruaki Sato singled twice and drove in a run each time. Sato was the Tigers’ top pick last autumn and Ito their second, while shortstop Takumu Nakano, Hanshin’s sixth pick, singled and scored a run.

Jerry Sands also singled twice for the visitors, while Robert Suarez earned his eighth save.

First-year import Fernando Romero (0-1), who tested positive for coronavirus when he arrived in Japan, allowed four runs over five innings in his NPB debut.

Tyler Austin singled and doubled for the BayStars, while DeNA rookie Shugo Maki accounted for his team’s run with his seventh home run. Mel Rojas Jr, who led KBO in RBIs in 2020 after Sands led that league in 2019, made his Japan debut, too, going 0-for-4 with two punchouts and gdp.

Carp 4, Dragons 3

And speaking of rookies, at Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome rookie Hiroshima closer Ryoji Kuribayashi earned a five-out save after entering the eighth inning with the bases loaded, getting a double play and then stranding two runners in the ninth for his ninth save.

Carp starter Allen Kuri (4-3) allowed two runs over six innings to earn his first win since April 10, while Chunichi’s Opening Day starter, Koji Fukutani (1-3) gave up four runs over 6-1/3 innings to take the loss. Fukutani did, however, contribute to two Dragons runs with a sacrifice and a game-tying RBI single.

Carp rookie Ryutaro Hatsuki homered and then singled in his team’s second run, while Ryosuke Kikuchi doubled in the tie-breaking run and scored an insurance run in the seventh. 

Starting pitchers

Sunday is going to see a tasty Central League matchup between two pitchers who had mixed results in their 2020 debut seasons but who have started 2021 on the right foot, Hanshin’s Joe Gunkel and DeNA’s Michael Peoples.

In the Pacific League, the Fighters-Eagles game will be a matchup between the phenom and the castoff, as lefty Takahisa Hayakawa, one of the prizes in the 2020 draft, goes against Takahide Ikeda, a former second-round Eagles pick. Ikeda has pitched well for the Fighters since the Eagles dealt him in March for slugging reserve infielder Taketoshi Yoko.

Pacific League

Fighters vs Eagles: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Takahide Ikeda (2-3, 3.23) vs Takahisa Hayakawa (3-2, 3.41)

Marines vs Buffaloes: Zozo Marine Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Kazuya Ojima (0-1, 4.03) vs Hirotoshi Masui (1-3, 4.28)

Hawks vs Lions: PayPay Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Yuki Matsumoto (1-2, 6.00) vs Katsunori Hirai (3-1, 3.60)

Central League

Giants vs Swallows: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Nobutaka Imamura (2-1, 2.37) vs Cy Sneed (-)

BayStars vs Tigers: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Michael Peoples (1-0, 0.00) vs Joe Gunkel (5-0, 2.29)

Dragons vs Carp: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Yuya Yanagi (2-1, 2.08) vs Shogo Tamamura (0-1, 7.20)

Active roster moves 5/8/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 5/18

Central League

Activated

TigersOF24Mel Rojas Jr.
BayStarsP42Fernando Romero

Dectivated

TigersP14Chen Wei-Yin
BayStarsP49Kevin Shackelford

Pacific League

Activated

HawksOF24Yuya Hasegawa
BuffaloesP29Daiki Tajima

Dectivated

HawksP47Jumpei Takahashi
BuffaloesP45Shota Abe

Tanaka Episode 4

I wasn’t planning to write much about Masahiro Tanaka’s fourth start, in some ways his worst so far, although he did manage to go a season-high seven innings in his second loss of the season to the Nippon Ham Fighters. Tanaka, who is from western Japan but went to high school in Tomakomai, an hour or so from Sapporo, lost his first game at Sapporo Dome since he was a rookie in 2007.

He couldn’t locate the splitter at all and although he threw a lot of really good sliders as he usually does, one of the ones he missed got hammered, and his changeup was also problematic.

A week after his fastball command was really poor, he was throwing hard, but everybody was able to square it up. So either it wasn’t spinning as much or without his split the Fighters hitters were sitting on it the way they had in his April 17, when the ones he threw dead center got hit over the wall.

He mixed in some two-seam fastballs, which for a while had been a bread-and-butter pitch with the Yankees, but one he’s admitted he’s never had a great feel for. It did make the broadcast crew go nuts since the two-seamer has had kind of a cult status since Japan’s hitters struggled against it at the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Anyway, the reason I gave in and did a Tanaka post was I saw this on Youtube, and translated the bulk of his comments below.

“The Fighters beat me last time, so I came out wanting to get them back, but they got me again. I gave up early runs and put my team in a bad situation.”

“I want to thank you for so many comments.
Among those was a request about the pitch that was the turning point and hitters who impressed me.”

“Today, it was the first run, in the first inning.”

“There’s no mistaking (Kensuke Kondo) is a really good hitter. In the first inning, I had to throw good pitches to get him out. But he doubled off me when my control was poor and I left a pitch in the heart of the zone.”

“(In the third) there were no outs runners on second and third and then I loaded the bases with a walk. I got an out and then two. I was thinking that if If I can get out of that and hold them scoreless, things might turn around. My first pitch to (Shingo) Usami got more of the plate than I wanted it to, and he hit it for an RBI single.”

“Having gotten two outs, that was really a wasted opportunity for me. Had we gotten out of it, the game could have gone differently, but it turned out the way it did.”

“Then my teammate hit a home run and the lead was cut to 3-1. And then then Kondo hit a home run in the next half inning. Was that a bad way to allow runs? Well in order to win, there are points when you have to prevent them from scoring. Today, that’s when they hit me. So that was the reason my pitching lost us the game. After a game like this, it’s really hard to talk to anyone.”

“I changed my approach a bit, used my two-seamer, changed the axis of the spin. I think the best thing today was my in-game adjustment.”

“Until today, I’d only thrown six innings, but today I threw seven and was around 100 pitches. Of course, I felt I could have gone eight. I need to build up my strength, and go deeper. Of course, allowing fewer runs is important, but so is beinga able to throw more innings, and hand it over to my teammates in good fashion or even go the distance. That’s what I want.”

“Today was unfortunate. I can’t just leave it with them getting the best of me. Next time I pitch against the Fighters, I want to get them back. My next opponent will be a different team, but starting tomorrow I want to prepare my best so that I can do well in that game.”

NPB wrap 5-1-21

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Fighters-Lions called off due to virus

The Nippon Ham Fighters announced four new positive tests on Saturday, a day after three other players’ positive coronavirus results were announced. Three staff members, including a coach, combined to make the team an official coronavirus cluster, and causing Sunday’s game against the Seibu Lions to be postponed.

It is the first postponement since last summer when a game in Fukuoka between the Hawks and Lions was called off over an abundance of caution after a veteran working out with the farm team was infected.

Tanaka battles through to 2nd win

Eagles 3, Marines 0

At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, Rakuten’s Masahiro Tanaka (2-1) and his manager and pitching coach all said his fastball had more life on it, and it was good, even if he had trouble locating it and did get away with one stinker, and perhaps they were accounting for the fact that Lotte hitters did very little with the pitches he left in the heart of the zone.

Tanaka’s 3rd start and postgame interview

In any case, Tanaka worked six innings. He walked one, hit one, and allowed five hits while striking out six. Hideto Asamura drove in a run with Rakuten’s third third-inning single and Takero Okajima, who drove in a run in Tanaka’s 2-1 win the previous Saturday, hit his second home run of the season, a two-out blast in the fourth off the Marines’ Opening Day starter, Kota Futaki (1-2).

Rakuten’s Sung Chia-hao, Hiromoto Sakai and Yuki Matsui finished up with Matsui getting his seventh save.

Hawks 9, Buffaloes 0

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, the SoftBank Hawks offense gave new right-hander and former Nippon Ham Fighter Nick Martinez (1-0) a hearty welcome. The nine runs while he was the pitcher of record was the most in his 29 games in Japan. Martinez struck out four, walked one and allowed five hits over six innings.

Buffaloes starter Hirotoshi Masui (1-3) allowed eight runs, six earned, over five innings. 

Fighters 5, Lions 4

At Sapporo Dome, Seibu closer Tatsushi Masuda (0-2) blew a three-run save, surrendering a two-run homer to Sho Nakata – back in the three hole, a Taishi Ota RBI double high off the wall before leaving with two on so Tetsu Miyagawa could walk two batters as Nippon Ham literally walked off.

Nippon Ham’s Opening Day starter, Naoyuki Uwasawa allowed two runs over seven innings, while striking out six, but Cory Spangenberg blasted his first homer in the eighth and Wu Nien-ting doubled and scored another insurance run in the ninth.

Seibu starter Keisuke Honda allowed a run over five innings, and four relievers held the Fighters in check with Reed Garrett working the seventh and Kaima Taira striking out the side in the eighth. Taira recorded a team record of getting a “hold point”–a hold or a win in relief–in 13 straight games.

Dragons 9, Giants 6

At Tokyo Dome, four of Chunichi’s runs scored on ordinary flies that found holes, a pair of RBI flares, and a ninth-inning two-run triple off Thyago Vieira on a routine fly that iced the game and wasn’t caught because Yomiuri played the game by Japan’s book.

The Japanese book says bring the outfield in with two outs and a runner on second to keep him from scoring on a single. Trailing 7-6 in the ninth with two outs and runners on second and third, the Giants’ outfield came in and Yohei Oshima’s poke landed just beyond left fielder Zelous Wheeler’s glove.

With Chunichi’s bullpen, the difference between one and three runs really didn’t matter much. Right-handed side-armer Katsuki Matayoshi has stepped seamlessly into the spot vacated by Daisuke Sobue, who’s now on the farm, while Raidel Martinez was pumped. The right-hander’s roar when he struck out Justin Smoak to end it could be heard over Tokyo’s afternoon thunder.

New Dragon Mike Gerber went 2-for-5 with three strikeouts a single and a booming RBI double in Chunichi’s three-run sixth. Dayan Viciedo homered in the fifth, his fourth of the season and his third in four games.

Smoak and Wheeler helped power the Giants’ comeback from a 7-0 deficit, and a beauty of a swing by Wheeler propelled a seventh-inning curve on the outside corner out to the opposite field to close the gap to a run.

Giants lefty Nobutaka Imamura (2-1) allowed four runs in 4-2/3 innings. Dragons lefty Shinnosuke Ogasawara (2-2) struck out seven in five-plus innings, while allowing three runs and singling in a run.

Giants-Dragons highlights

BayStars 10, Swallows 2

At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA’s Tyler Austin homered off the scoreboard, singled twice walked and scored three runs to help power the BayStars. The home run was his fourth and his third in four days. Neftali Soto doubled in a run in DeNA’s six-run seventh.

Southpaw Edwin Escobar (1-0) struck out two in a 1-2-3 sixth to earn the win and Kevin Shackelford worked a perfect eighth for the BayStars, while Hirotoshi Takanashi (2-1) allowed four runs, one earned, over five-plus innings and took the loss.

Starting pitchers

Pacific League

Eagles vs Marines: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Takahisa Hayakawa (3-2, 2.56) vs Shota Suzuki (1-1, 2.45)

Buffaloes vs Hawks: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Sachiya Yamasaki (0-3, 4.56) vs Yuki Matsumoto (1-1, 5.40)

Central League

BayStars vs Swallows: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Kousuke Sakaguchi (1-1, 2.79) vs Yasuhiro Ogawa (2-1, 4.23)

Tigers vs Carp: Koshien Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Joe Gunkel (4-0, 1.78) vs Yusuke Nomura (0-2, 4.42)

Active roster moves 5/1/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 5/11players marked with an asterisk are coronavirus deactivations and can be activated as soon as they are cleared to play.

Central League

Activated

None

Dectivated

BayStarsP20Yuya Sakamoto

Pacific League

Activated

HawksP37Nick Martinez
MarinesP18Kota Futaki
FightersOF66Chusei Mannami

Dectivated

MarinesP48Toshiya Nakamura
EaglesC44Yuichi Adachi
FightersOF61Yuma Imagawa*

NPB wrap 4-24-21

Tanaka ‘comes home’, wins 100th in Japan

Eagles 2, Lions 1

At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, Masahiro Tanaka (1-1) earned his 100th victory in Japan in his first game back at Rakuten’s home park since saving Game 7 of the 2013 Japan Series. He allowed a run on a walk and three hits while striking out four over six innings.

His postgame hero interview began with the announcer welcoming him back to Sendai, to which he answered, “I’m home.”

Notes on Tanaka’s 2nd start

A day after homering in his Japan debut, Brandon Dixon drove in the first of two Eagles first-inning runs with a two-out bad-hop infield single, and looked like a Golden Glove winner at first base after a quick-thinking unassisted double play after he dropped a scorching second-inning liner.

That play and a good catch in center to open the game ensured Tanaka would only allow one run. Cory Spangenberg was hit by a pitch in the third, stole second and scored when Wu Nien-Ting did a good job singling on a low splitter. Tanaka allowed another single in the inning, but with the game in the balance, retired the last 10 batters he faced.

Sung Chia-hao, HIromoto Sakai and Yuki Matsui closed it out for the Eagles with one scoreless inning each.

Keisuke Honda (0-1) allowed two runs over 3-2/3 innings in his season debut for Seibu. Reed Garrett contributed a scoreless eighth for the Lions.

Fighters 5, Buffaloes 3

At Sapporo Dome, the Nippon Ham Fighters pounded out five runs against Orix lefty Sachiya Yamasaki (0-3), capped by Haruki Nishikawa’s second homer, a two-run shot.

Naoyuki Uwasawa (2-2) allowed two runs over seven innings.

Masataka Yoshida belted his fifth homer for the Buffaloes to lead off the fifth and came within a hair of making it a 5-4 game in the sixth. With two on and two outs, Yoshida drove one to deep to left field that Nishikawa raced back and made a leaping grab on.

The win was the Fighters’ first of the season at Sapporo Dome.

Marines 11, Hawks 9

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, four walks derailed Carter Stewart Jr.’s second outing for the SoftBank Hawks, as he allowed two of the Lotte Marines last six runs when he retired just two of the seven batters he faced in the fifth inning.

Hawks starter Rei Takahashi allowed five runs over 3-1/3 innings, but the Hawks retook the lead in the top of the fifth and sent Stewart out to pitch with a 6-5 lead. He allowed a leadoff double and left after issuing back-to-back bases-loaded two-out walks. SoftBank re-tied it in the top of the sixth, only for Katsuya Kakunaka to put the hosts ahead for good in the home half with an RBI single.

Frank Herrman put a stop to the Hawks’ comeback in the seventh, and Leonys Martin, who singled and scored in Lotte’s three-run third, helped put the game away in the home half with his eighth home run, a two-run shot.

Yurisbel Gracial had four hits and a walk, scored a run and drove one in for SoftBank, while Marines rookie Akito Takabe hit a two-run homer in the fourth to give the Marines a 5-4 lead and pushed across the tying run in the fifth.

Marines starter Manabu Mima got shelled for six runs over 4-1/3 innings. Closer Naoya Masuda entered with the tying runners on with no outs in the ninth and worked around a walk to earn his fourth save.

Carp 6, Giants 3

At Tokyo Dome, Seiya Suzuki’s fifth homer and his second in two nights put Hiroshima in front for good against Yomiuri’s Shosei Togo (2-2), who allowed four runs in four-plus innings.

Rookie Carp lefty Koya Takahashi (1-0) gave up three runs, two earned in 4-1/3, and matched Togo’s RBI from a second-inning squeeze by singling in a run with two outs in the fourth.

Hiroshima’s bullpen, which has made great strides this year with the inclusion of two rookies, middle man Haruki Omichi and closer Ryoji Kuribayashi, looked fragile on Saturday, allowing four walks and two hits over the last 3-2/3 innings but stranded six runners. Kuribayashi worked around two ninth-inning walks to record his seventh save.

Giants-Carp highlights

Swallows 4, Dragons 3

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Yakult’s Jose Osuna followed his two-hit Japan debut on Friday with two more on Saturday, including a two-out line single into the gap in right off Chunichi closer Raidel Martinez (0-1) to clinch a walk-off win.

Tetsuto Yamada put Yakult in front with his seventh home run and third in two nights, a two-run, third-inning shot into the first row in left field off Yuya Yanagi, who worked six innings. Yakult’s Hirotoshi Takanashi surrendered Takuya Kinoshita’s second home run that made it 2-1 in the fifth, and left with the game tied in the sixth with two on and none out.

Hiroki Kondo, signed after being released last winter by the Rakuten Eagles, prevented either runner from scoring. Noboru Shimizu worked a 1-2-3 seventh before Yota Kyoda hammered Scott McGough’s fifth pitch in the eighth for his first homer of the season. The right-hander, however, retired the three toughest outs in Chunichi’s lineup.

Rookie lefty Koshiro Sakamoto (1-0) worked a 1-2-3 ninth for the Swallows and earned his first pro win. Yamada and Munetaka Murakami set the table in the ninth with no-out walks, before Osuna ended it.

Tigers 13, BayStars 1

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin rookie lefty Masashi Ito (2-0) allowed a run on a walk and five hits over the distance, preventing the DeNA BayStars from posting their second winning streak of the season and contributed with one of the Tigers’ seven first-inning hits off Taiga Kamichatani (0-3).

Koji Chikamoto doubled to open Hanshin’s first inning and scored from third when Jefry Marte chopped one threw the drawn-in infield for al one-out single. Three straight hits followed with rookie Teruaki Sato singling in two. After a fielder’s choice, Seiya Kinami cleared the bags with a three-run double.

Sato singled in two more runs in the second, while Jerry Sands, who singled in the first and second, had an RBI double in Hanshin’s three-run fourth. Right-hander Kevin Shackelford, who joined DeNA on a non-roster developmental contract in December and was added to the 70-man roster on Friday, was called up Saturday and struck out one batter in a 1-2-3 seventh.

Starting pitchers

Pacific League

Fighters vs Buffaloes: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Chihiro Kaneko (0-1, 2.38) vs Daichi Takeyasu (1-0, 3.00)

Eagles vs Lions: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Takahisa Hayakawa (2-2, 2.10) vs Katsunori Hirai (3-0, 1.82)

Marines vs Hawks: Zozo Marine Stadium 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Shota Suzuki (0-1, 2.35) vs Yuki Matsumoto (1-0, 1.80)

Central League

Giants vs Carp: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Nobutaka Imamura (2-0, 0.92) vs Yusuke Nomura (0-2, 4.73)

Swallows vs Dragons: Jingu Stadium 5:30 pm, 4:30 am EDT

Yasuhiro Ogawa (1-1, 4.35) vs Shinnosuke Ogasawara (1-1, 1.42)

Tigers vs BayStars: Koshien Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Joe Gunkel (4-0, 1.09) vs Kosuke Sakaguchi (1-1, 1.80)

Active roster moves 4/24/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 5/4

Central League

Activated

GiantsP35Toshiki Sakurai
TigersP43Koki Moriya
TigersOF97Dan Onodera
BayStarsP49Kevin Shackelford
BayStarsIF60Naoto Chino
SwallowsP35Koki Sugiyama

Dectivated

GiantsP15Angel Sanchez
TigersP19Shintaro Fujinami
TigersIF26Fumiya Hojo
BayStarsIF31Tatsuhiro Shibata
SwallowsP11Yasunobu Okugawa

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP45Keisuke Honda
EaglesC44Yuichi Adachi

Dectivated

EaglesOF12Rusney Castillo

NPB wrap 4-23-21

Fujinami helps BayStars snap skid

BayStars 7, Tigers 1

At Koshien Stadium, DeNA’s Yuya Sakamoto (1-1) worked six solid innings, and of the three different Shintaro Fujinamis we’ve seen, protégé Fujinami (2013-2015), problem child Fujinami (2016-2019) and comeback Fujinami (2020-2021), Friday’s version definitely looked like the 2016-2019 version with four runs from six walks in four-plus innings.

The BayStars’ win snapped a 12-game winless streak of 10 losses and two ties. With a 3-1 lead in the fifth, Tigers rookie Teruaki Sato made the misplay of the game. He charged a two-out ground ball into right, overran it. Kazuki Kamizato, who scored on the play, was credited with a three-run single.

The BayStars opened the scoring in the second in a most Fujinami way, on a groundout after three no-out second inning walks. Fujinami walked in the BayStars’ third run by following Keita Sano’s third-inning RBI double with three more straight walks.

Giants 2, Carp 1

At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri ace Tomoyuki Sugano (2-1) threw his second straight complete game victory, outdueling Hiroshima’s Allen Kuri (3-2) with all three runs coming on home runs, a two-run fifth-inning shot by Giants catcher Takumi Oshiro and Seiya Suzuki’s fifth home run in the sixth.

Afterward, Sugano was asked about Oshiro’s contribution.

“He called a good game, and helped me attack aggressively. I feel grateful for him since I have to say he carried me,” Sugano deadpanned as the Tokyo Dome crowd, prohibited from vocal cheering nevertheless erupted in laughter.

Oshiro shared the hero interview podium and one would have thought he was Giants manager Tatsunori Hara’s nephew instead of Sugano. Hara loves to tease reporters when asked about tactics by refusing to give away secrets.

Asked about his approach to the game, Oshiro borrowed from his skipper’s playbook, and said, “I can’t say that. It’s a secret.”

Giants-Carp highlights

Swallows 6, Dragons 4

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Tetsuto Yamada homered twice, doubled, scored three runs and drove in three in the Yakult Swallows’ come-from-behind win over the Chunichi Dragons. Yamada, who hit 12 homers last year, has seven in 2021.

Rookie Yasunobu Okugawa started for the Swallows and again proved very hittable as the Dragons put swings on lots of his pitches as he surrendered four runs on10 hits over five innings without issuing a walk. Lefty Takahiro Matsuba took a 4-1 lead into the fifth inning. Yamada’s RBI double, the Swallows’ third hit of the inning, chased him. Munetaka Murakami plated Yamada for the tying run with his third hit of the day, off new reliever Hiroshi Suzuki.

The Swallows were denied a run in the third when the umpires ruled Munetaka Murakami safe at the plate as he tried to score from second on a wild pitch. The Dragons asked for a video review of Matsuba’s tag, and the umps ruled Matsuba had tagged him without reference to the pitcher’s obstruction for blocking off the plate without the ball.

We’ve had lots of obstruction calls decided after video review, but no ump in Japan to my knowledge had ever ruled obstruction on the field. This was another case of the umps forgetting the rule book.

Two new Swallows made their debuts, first baseman Jose Osuna, who went 2-for-4 with a double, and outfielder Domingo Santana, who was hitless in four at-bats.

Hawks 3, Marines 2

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, four straight one-out hits off Lotte Marines closer Naoya Masuda (0-3) brought the SoftBank Hawks from a run down in the top of the ninth and closer Yuito Mori closed the door on the hosts with his seventh save. All three of Masuda’s losses have come against the Hawks.

Lotte starter Toshiya Nakamura was handed a two-run lead in his season debut against SoftBank’s Shuta Ishikawa, who couldn’t locate his breaking pitches and hit three batter and scared a few others.

SoftBank’s Yuki Yanagita, however, did that thing of his where he seems to flick at a pitch away and still drive it 400 feet to the opposite field. His fourth homer, in the fourth, made it 2-1 Lotte and there it stood.

Nakamura worked five innings, and three Marines relievers, Fumiya Ono, Frank Herrmann and Yuki Karakawa kept the champs at bay. Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo went with a pair of relievers to get Ishikawa out of a two-on two-out pickle in the seventh.

Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi said of his closer’s troubles against the Hawks, “We need to discuss that in a meeting. He’s not getting the job done.”

Buffaloes 6, Fighters 1

At Sapporo DomeTaisuke Yamaoka (1-2) struck out 10 while allowing a run over eight innings to pace the Orix Buffaloes to their fourth straight win, over last-place Nippon Ham. Drew VerHagen (0-1) worked into the fourth inning in his second start, allowing two runs in the fourth on Steven Moya’s first homer.

Lefty Ryusei Kawano followed VerHagen to the mound as he had a week earlier, but failed to replicate the three perfect innings he twirled against the Eagles. New Fighters third baseman Ronny Rodriguez fumbled a routine two-out grounder, allowing in a run and Kotaro Kurebayashi somehow pulled a low pitch away into the left-field corner for a two-run double that put the game on ice.

The Fighters remained without a win at Sapporo Dome.

Eagles 2, Lions 2

At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, the Rakuten Eagles’ Hideaki Wakui started against the Seibu Lions’ Kona Takahashi in a pitchers’ duel that neither team deserved to lose, and this being Japan, neither did.

Cory Spangenberg made an impact in his Lions’ season debut, walking twice singling and tying it 1-1 in the sixth with an RBI double.

Rakuten’s two new imported hitters also made their first appearances this year. Rusney Castillo injured a left oblique muscle fouling off a pitch in the second in his first at-bat and left the game. Brandon Dixon, not to be confused with Seibu rookie Brandon Tyson Tysinger or Orix Buffaloes reliever Brandon Dickson, homered in his second at-bat to open the scoring.

Rakuten’s Hiroto Kobukata homered in the sixth to tie it, but a Takumi Kuriyama leadoff single in the eighth and a two-out Spangenberg walk allowed Takeya Nakamura to tie it with an RBI single past short against his former teammate Wakui.

Lions shortstop Sosuke Genda probably would have gotten to the ball, but Kobukata isn’t in that class.

Starting pitchers

Masahiro Tanaka returns to Sendai on Saturday for his first game at his old home park since he saved Game 7 of the 2013 Japan Series.

Pacific League

Fighters vs Buffaloes: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Naoyuki Uwasawa (1-2, 4.81) vs Sachiya Yamasaki (0-2, 3.63)

Eagles vs Lions: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Masahiro Tanaka (0-1, 5.40) vs Keisuke Honda (-)

Marines vs Hawks: Zozo Marine Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Manabu Mima (2-0, 2.49) vs Rei Takahashi (1-1, 4.37)

Central League

Giants vs Carp: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Shosei Togo (2-1, 2.92) vs Koya Takahashi (0-0, 0.00)

Swallows vs Dragons: Jingu Stadium 5:30 pm, 4:30 am EDT

Hirotoshi Takanashi (2-0, 3.38) vs Yuya Yanagi (1-1, 1.73)

Tigers vs BayStars: Koshien Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Masashi Ito (1-0, 2.25) vs Taiga Kamichatani (0-2, 7.80)

Active roster moves 4/23/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 5/3

Central League

Activated

GiantsIF5Hiroyuki Nakajima
GiantsIF37Akihiro Wakabayashi
GiantsIF48Zelous Wheeler
GiantsOF8Yoshihiro Maru
CarpP46Mikiya Takahashi
SwallowsIF13Jose Osuna
SwallowsOF25Domingo Santana

Dectivated

GiantsP50Chiaki Tone
GiantsIF00Dai Yuasa
GiantsOF36Shingo Ishikawa
GiantsOF39Soichiro Tateoka
BayStarsP22Taisei Irie
CarpP66Atsushi Endo
SwallowsIF00Nobuyuki Okumura
SwallowsIF46Kengo Ota

Pacific League

Activated

MarinesP48Toshiya Nakamura
MarinesC32Toshiya Sato
LionsIF22Cory Spangenberg
EaglesIF9Brandon Dixon
EaglesIF36Yasuhito Uchida
EaglesOF12Rusney Castillo
BuffaloesP30Kohei Suzuki

Dectivated

MarinesP20Taiki Tojo
MarinesC39Yuta Yoshida
LionsIF31Ryusei Sato
BuffaloesP13Hiroya Miyagi

NPB wrap 4-17-21

Tanaka’s baaaaaaack

Fighters 4, Eagles 1

At Tokyo Dome, returning Rakuten star Masahiro Tanaka (0-1) started with seven good pitches before he began missing with his fastball, and that cost him the game, snapping his record streak of consecutive winning decisions in Japan at 28. He allowed three runs on four hits and a walk while striking out five over five innings.

Naoyuki Uwasawa (1-2), the Fighters Opening Day starter was razor sharp at the start and could easily have gone seven scoreless innings. He allowed a run on three hits and two walks while striking out seven.

The Tanaka buzz and flashbacks

Tanaka ran into trouble in the first with four high fastballs to Kensuke Kondo, Sho Nakata got a second chance when his pop fly was lost in the glare of Tokyo Dome’s translucent roof and Tanka missed with a fastball over the plate. It was Nakata’s first homer of the season.

“I think the spirt you guys invested in me all this time despite my being such a useless No. 4 hitter this year helped propel that ball out,” Nakata said of his first homer.

Nippon Ham’s Opening Day starter Naoyuki Uwasawa came out on fire, knocking down the three left-handed-hitting Eagles in the first by mixing perfectly located back-door sliders with fastballs on the outside corner. Hideto Asamura doubled to open the Eagles’ second and did well to beat the tag at home when rookie Fumiya Kurokawa celebrated his 20th birthday by singling in a grinding 10-pitch at-bat.

Tanaka, however, gave that run back with a misplaced a 1-0 fastball that Kazunari Ishii found and put in the seats for a leadoff homer in the bottom of the second. Tanaka, who is coming back from a calf-muscle injury suffered just before Opening Day, left after throwing 75 pitches in five innings.

With his slider working well and the cutter doing its job, Tanaka’s game began mimicking his MLB career as the four-seamer more or less disappeared. He went back to it now and then and threw some good ones, but it’s certain he’ll be doing his homework between now and next Saturday, when he’s slated to pitch against the Lions.

Nakata, who said his first homer against Tanaka allowed him to consider the game a reset for his season, joked about an incident a week earlier. He homered again in the sixth against former Padre Kazuhisa Makita. Nakata’s frustration had boiled over in an incident that involved him throwing his bat in the dugout and resulted in his having a swollen right eye that sidelined him for a game. “A lot of different things have happened. I had a swollen eye. And when the swelling went down, I took that as a sign that I would be destined to do the postgame hero interview,” Nakata told the fans after the game.

Hawks 7, Lions 1

At MetLife Dome, Rei Takahashi (1-1), the PL’s 2019 rookie of the year, allowed an unearned run over six inning in a comfortable start, while Nobuhiro Matsuda drove in three runs with a second-inning RBI single and a two-run fourth-inning homer off Lions lefty Shota Hamaya (1-3).

Yurisbel Gracial’s second home run in two nights made it 3-0 in the third as the Hawks piled on, allowing them to bring in Carter Stewart Jr. in the ninth for his top-flight debut.

The eighth overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft, Stewart signed a six-year deal with the Hawks in 2019. He missed with four fastballs to the first hitter, struck out the second on four pitches, jammed the third on his ninth fastball. He needed 10 pitches, one a really wild pitch, against the fourth batter he faced to end the game with a called third strike on a changeup.

Carter Stewart

Stewart’s debut sent a buzz through the crowd, but the analysts and announcers couldn’t get over his wearing No. 2 in a country where no pitchers get single digits. It just doesn’t happen, and it seemed about as intriguing to a lot of people as the zip on his fastball and the idea that a 21-year-old American could throw a good curveball.

“You usually don’t see foreign pitchers throw good curveballs,” Dave Okubo said, spoiling a night of clarity and insight on Pro Yakyu News, with an instant of mindless babble.

Marines 7, Buffaloes 2

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Orix’s defense again looked not fatal but less than confidence-inspiring behind Sachiya Yamasaki (0-2), who allowed four runs, three earned, over 6-1/3 innings. Manabu Mima held Orix to two runs over 6-2/3 innings.

Shogo Nakamura reached base four times and scored three of Lotte’s runs. Leonys Martin doubled in a run in the seventh and scored on a single and a Nakamura single that big right fielder Yutaro Sugimoto couldn’t corral in right.

Sugimoto homered for the second straight game in the bottom of the sixth to make it a 4-2 game. Adam Jones drew a pinch-hit walk to put the tying runs on for the Buffaloes with two outs, but Frank Herrmann came in to put out the fire.

Yuki Karakawa, the next man in the Marines relief corps, worked a scoreless eighth before the Marines piled on two runs in the ninth to ice it.

Giants 7, BayStars 2

At Yokohama Stadium, the Yomiuri Giants broke a 1-1 tie in a six-run sixth inning against Taiga Kamichatani (0-2) that was jump-started by a two-out intentional walk and a two-run wild pitch and powered by a three-run home run from Katsuki Kazuki, the throw-away player the Giants scooped up in last year’s salary-dump trade of current Red Sox reliever Hirokazu Sawamura.

Shosei Togo (2-1) allowed a run on four walks and three hits over six innings. The 21-year-old right-hander struck out eight.

Kamichatani was charged with all seven runs on seven hits and three walks. He struck out seven.

Dragons 5, Carp 0

At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, Chunichi’s Yuya Yanagi (1-1) did a good right-handed impression of teammate Yudai Ono, striking out a career-high 14 batters over eight innings with a lot of  beautifully executed pitches. His teammates, meanwhile, eventually got good swings on a lot of pitches from Allen Kuri (3-1), who was pulled after allowing three runs through seven innings.

Yanagi pitched out of a first-inning jam by striking out Seiya Suzuki before splintering Shogo Sakakura’s bat, and escaped a bases-loaded pickle in the third by getting the Carp catcher on a comebacker.

Kuri cruised through three innings but was stung for a run in the fourth on a Yohei Oshima single, a sacrifice and hanging breaking ball that Kosuke Fukudome pulled into the right-field corner for a 1-0 Dragons lead. With Yanagi carving up the Carp, the Dragons took over. Fukudome came within a hair of a second RBI double. He turned on a low inside fastball with two outs and a runner on, but first baseman Alejandro Mejia robbed him with a diving catch.

Ariel Martinez undressed third baseman Masaya Yano with a line drive for an infield single to trigger a two-run seventh, with Akira Neo putting a good swing on a low pitch to drive in two. Fukudome contributed two a two-run eighth with a one-out single.

Lions unveil Matt Dermody

Starting pitchers

Pacific League

Fighters vs Eagles: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Robbie Erlin (-) vs Takahisa Hayakawa (1-2, 2.55)

Lions vs Hawks: MetLife Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Katsunori Hirai (3-0, 1.45) vs Yuki Matsumoto (1-0, 0.00)

Buffaloes vs Marines: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Hiroya Miyagi (2-0, 1.23) vs Shota Suzuki (0-1, 2.12)

Central League

BayStars vs Giants: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Kosuke Sakaguchi (1-1, 1.80) vs Nobutaka Imamura (2-0, 0.78)

Dragons vs Carp: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Shinnosuke Ogasawara (1-1, 1.45) vs Koya Takahashi (-)

Tigers vs Swallows: Koshien Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Joe Gunkel (3-0, 0.96) vs Yasuhiro Ogawa (1-0, 1.93)

Active roster moves 4/17/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/27

Central League

Activated

BayStarsP64Ren Kazahari

Dectivated

BayStarsP35Tomoya Mikami
SwallowsP19Masanori Ishikawa

Pacific League

Activated

LionsIF49Brandon Taiga Tysinger
EaglesP18Masahiro Tanaka

Dectivated

LionsOF68Junichiro Kishi
FightersIF93Ryunosuke Higuchi