The JBU, the Japanese Baseball Universe, on Friday occupied a space in time between the Moody Blues and the X-Men, with a day of future past in Chiba, where Japan’s future met its past in a pitchers’ duel between Roki Sasaki and Masahiro Tanaka that didn’t disappoint.
Marines 3, Eagles 2
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, the pitchers’ duel between Lotte rookie rocket Roki Sasaki and Rakuten’s former Yankee Masahiro Tanaka didn’t disappoint and neither did another former Yankee, Brandon Laird, who opened the scoring with his 21st home run and closed the scoreline with his 22nd, a two-out walk-off shot against reliever Tomohito Sakai (3-2).
Laird did his sushi thing after feasting on a first-pitch fastball with one out in the second that came in straight and high and went out the same way for a 1-0 Lotte lead. Yudai Fujioka opened the third with a single off a good 0-1 slider from Tanaka and scored on a sacrifice and a one-out Takashi Ogino single. Ogino, whose ninth-inning homer lifted Lotte into a 2-2 tie with Orix on Thursday, fouled off two two-strike pitches before lining a forkball that Tanaka left up in the zone.
Sasaki retired the first 12 Eagles before getting a run on four pitches. Eigoro Mogi hammered Sasaki’s first pitch, a slider above the letters for a double. Three pitches and two ground balls behind the runner and it was a 2-1 game.
Career minor league infielder Tsuyoshi Yamasaki, whose been playing second while cleanup hitter and captain Hideto Asamura is benched due to “poor form” hammered a 151-kph Sasaki left up and drove it out to center for his first home run in two years.
Both starters went eight innings. Sasaki’s command was often not as sharp, but he missed in the zone with better stuff than Tanaka did and touched 158 kph (98.2 mph) — his highest figure on the top team.
Sasaki allowed two hits and struck out nine without allowing a walk and needed just 99 pitches to go eight. Although he got away with a couple of bad mistakes in the first inning, he settled in with that nice easy throwing motion of his, challenging hitters in the zone with his slider, heater and forkball.
Tanaka threw more of his fastball than we’ve seen and threw some really good ones, and though both of the runs scored occurred on mistakes, he didn’t make a ton of them. He struck out seven, walked one and allowed four hits in his 120-pitch outing.
Buffaloes 7, Lions 1
At MetLife Dome, Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto (13-5, 1.54) struck out nine while allowing two walks and two hits over six scoreless innings, while Takahiro Okada homered to lead off the second with his 11th home run and singled the Buffaloes’ run in the third off Wataru Matsumoto (7-7, 3.72). Yamamoto’s winning decision was his 10th straight.
Kotaro Kurebayashi’s triple made it 3-0 in the fourth. Yutaro Sugimoto opened the fifth with his 25th home run, tying him with Yuki Yanagita and Leonys Martin for the league lead, while rookie Ryoto Kita capped the three-run inning with a two-run single.
Glenn Sparkman worked two innings, surrendering Shuta Tonosaki’s fifth homer in the seventh before retiring six straight. Tyler Higgins followed suit with a 1-2-3 ninth as Orix kept pace with Lotte.
Fighters 4, Hawks 4
At Sapporo Dome, SoftBank’s Nick Martinez pitched out of a couple of tight spots to go six scoreless innings against his former club. The Hawks opened the scoring in the fourth after side-arm lefty Ryusei Kawano hit Yuki Yanagita and Ryoya Kurihara. Alfredo Despaigne’s seeing-eye single brought one run home and another scored on a grounder by Richard Sunagawa, who reached on an error. Masaki Mimori singled and scored in the fifth on a booming double by Yanagita.
With Martinez watching from the bench, the Hawks bullpen gave up four runs in the seventh. Yugo Bando left with two outs and one on after a walk and a Ryusei Sato RBI double on a good 1-2 pitch. Back-to-back singles off two different relievers and a walk loaded the bases and made it a one-run game. The Hawks’ fourth reliever of the inning, rookie Yuto Furuya, gave up a two-run single to Daiki Asama.
Bryan Rodriguez was called on to save the game but hit Sunagawa and issued a walk to start the ninth. Mimori’s two-out single tied it. Yanagita walked to load the bases but Rodriguez averted disaster by striking out Kurihara.
Yuito Mori, in his second game back from injury, worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to lock down the tie.
Tigers 4, Carp 1
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima’s Seiya Suzuki failed to match the NPB record of homering in seven straight games, but Hanshin starter Yuki Nishi (5-9, 3.48) allowed a run over five innings, and Jerry Sands, batting for him in the sixth, singled in the go-ahead run, helping him become the 140th pitcher to reach 100 career wins, 74 of which came with Orix.
Koji Chikamoto doubled to open the game off Daichi Osera (6-5, 3.26) and scored. The Carp held Nishi’s feet to the fire in the home half, loading the bases with one out for red-hot Shogo Sakakura, but had to settle for a sacrifice fly and a tie game. In the fifth, Nishi walked Suzuki intentionally to load the bases with two out and Sakakura flied out.
Osera, who drew a leadoff walk in the fifth and spent the entire inning on base, allowed the Tigers to load the bases with one out in the sixth. Sands made it 2-1, and Takumu Nakano singled to make it 3-1.
An eighth-inning Chikamoto RBI single completed the scoring, and the fifth Tigers reliever, Robert Suarez, recorded his CL-leading 30th save.
Dragons 10, Giants 1
At Tokyo Dome, Chunichi’s Yota Kyoda hit the first pitch of the game from Yuki Takahashi (10-4, 3.01) for a home run and made it 5-1 in the fifth with his third home run of the season.
Nobumasa Fukuda, making his first start in forever, led off the second with his sixth home run, and catcher Takuya Kinoshita singled in a run to cap the two-run inning. Kinoshita brought home Fukuda with a sixth-inning sac fly and drove in two in the eighth with his ninth home run.
Yudai Ono (6-8, 2.99) allowed a run over seven innings to win his third straight start.
Saturday’s starting pitchers
Fighters vs Hawks: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Lions vs Buffaloes: MetLife Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Marines vs Eagles: Zozo Marine Stadium 5 pm, 4 am EDT
Giants vs Dragons: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Swallows vs BayStars: Jingu Stadium 5:30 pm, 4:30 am EDT
Carp vs Tigers: Mazda Stadium 1:30 pm, 0:30 am EDT
Active roster moves 9/10/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/20