Matt Moore (3-1) overcame an awkward start to allow two runs over 6-1/3 innings as the SoftBank Hawks departed from protocol by not practicing prior to crushing the Rakuten Eagles at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Moore struggled with the bottom of umpire Tomiji Iizuka’s strike zone and threw 24 pitches in a first inning as he pitched out of a two-on one-out jam. He surrendered Stefen Romero’s 18th home run with no outs and one on in the seventh, registered his sixth strikeout and then made his exit.
Ukyo Shuto had four hits, stole two bases–he leads the PL with 20–and scored twice for the Hawks, while Yuki Yanagita hit his 24th home run for the hosts.
Neal triggers Buffaloes stampede
The Orix Buffaloes scored six runs off Zach Neal (3-6) and routed the Seibu Lions 8-2 to earn Opening Day starter Taisuke Yamaoka (1-3) his first win of the season at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Steven Moya, activated on Thursday, hit his first home run of the year to open the scoring in the first with a two-run shot into the second deck. Neal then surrendered four-straight hits followed by a sac fly in the five-run inning.
Yamaoka allowed two runs over six innings on eight hits and a walk while striking out six. Yutaro Sugimoto, one of the minor leaguers acting manager Satoshi Nakajima activated had four hits, scored two runs and drove in two for the Buffaloes.
Marines lose fight with reserves
Reserve outfielder Go Matsumoto singled in a run in the Nippon Ham Fighters’ five-run third inning and added a two-run home run in a bullpen day for the hosts in their 7-3 win over the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.
Nick Martinez, who started the season in the rotation but has been relieving of late, allowed three runs over three innings, but Takayuki Kato (2-1) picked up the slack with three scoreless innings to earn the win while three others worked one scoreless run apiece.
The Fighters did most of their damage against lefty Toshiya Nakamura (2-3) tagging him for six runs, five earned, over 3-2/3 innings.
Austin powers Ino to victory
Tyler Austin’s sixth home run, a three-run second-inning moon shot, was the big blow in the DeNA BayStars’ 6-0 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Yokohama Stadium.
Shoichi Ino (6-4) worked six innings, and Spencer Patton, Kenta Ishida and Tomoya Mikami finished up to hand the Giants their second shutout loss since their magic number “appeared” on Tuesday. The 34-year-year-old Ino got the better of 20-year-old rookie right-hander Shosei Togo (7-4).
The BayStars win moved them to within 11 games of the defending champion Giants.
Swallows gut Carp
Naomichi Nishiura drove in four runs, including the game’s first with a sacrifice fly as the Yakult Swallows left a 14-5 mark on the Hiroshima Carp at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Albert Suarez (3-0) allowed four runs over six innings, striking out seven without issuing any of the walks that got him demoted in July when he was leading the CL in ERA, to earn his first win since July 1. Tetsuto Yamada brought the hosts back from a run down with his ninth homer, a two-run shot in the Swallows’ five-run fifth off Hiroki Tokoda (1-6).
Oyama kills Dragons in their lair
Yusuke Oyama homered twice and drove in six runs as the Hanshin Tigers overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the Chunichi Dragons 8-4 at Nagoya Dome.
Former Dodger and Korean RBI king Jerry Sands batted fourth in front of Oyama and reached base four times. He walked twice, singled and was hit by a pitch and scored on both of his teammate’s home runs.
Yuki Nishi (7-3) threw his second-straight four-hit shutout as the Hanshin Tigers bedeviled Angel Sanchez (4-3) in an 11-0 Central League win at Tokyo Dome on Thursday.
Koji Chikamoto launched a high-straight fastball from Sanchez to open the game and the Tigers simply overran the Giants. Sanchez issued a two-out bases-loaded walk in the first and then caught a break with a doubtful interference call when second baseman Akihiro Wakabayashi cut in front of the runner from first to get a slow chopper and clipped him with his hand.
In a three-run second, Tigers captain Kento Itohara scored from first on a single to center, speeding home from third when center fielder Yoshihiro Maru made a lazy lob of his throw to the infield.
The Tigers win snapped an eight-game losing streak at Tokyo. Chikamoto homered again in the sixth for his second two-homer game of the series and Justin Bour homered in the seventh to make it 7-0.
“Yano wasn’t really at his best. He worked really carefully. When he doesn’t have a lot of room for error, that’s when you see his real skill,” said Tigers manager Akihiro Yano, who was also asked about Chikamoto’s success at Tokyo Dome.
“Does he do well in this park? Is that really a thing?”
Giants manager Tatsunori Hara, who stirred a national debate on Aug. 6 by using utility man Daiki Masuda as an emergency pitcher–something rarely seen in Japan–sent his top pinch-runner to the bullpen late in the game to warm him up but he didn’t take the mound.
Rookie Taiki Hamada homered in a three-run fifth inning to chase Michael Peoples (2-2) as a pair of 2018 Yakult draftees took center stage in a 9-0 win for the Swallows over the DeNA BayStars at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
The hosts got on the board in the second when 36-year-old Tomotaka Sakaguchi singled and scored on a throwing error when shortstop Tatsuhiro Shibata airmailed his short throw to second on a force play.
The 20-year-old Hamada, a fourth-round pick, homered to open the fifth. Alcides Escobar followed with his second double and scored on a double by his former Kansas City Royals teammate Norichika Aoki.
Sakaguchi plated Aoki with a sac fly to close the book on Peoples, and 23-year-old Shota Nakayama, the Swallows’ second pick in 2018, homered off nominal closer Yasuaki Yamasaki with one out in the sixth. Nakayama tied a 44-year-old team record of three pinch-hit home runs in a month set by Hall of Famer Katsuo Osugi.
Osugi is best known for a home run that ignited the most famous protest in Japan Series history.
The 1978 series MVP hit one down the line in the sixth inning that saw Hall of Fame manager Toshiharu Ueda pull his team off the field at Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium, delaying the game for 1 hour and 16 minutes. This led the Pacific League to punish teams pulling their players off the field with a forfeit–a rule that was not adopted in the Central League or in the Japan Series–where Chunichi Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai did it in Game 1 of the 2004 series.
Hawks get emotional
Akira Nakamura, who along with superstar Yuki Yanagita is now the second big wheel in the SoftBank Hawks’ offense, singled to help break up a scoreless tie in the ninth inning of a 2-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.
The Hawks are now mourning Wednesday’s death of longtime conditioning coach Takashi Kawamura at the age of 55. The 30-year-old Nakamura, who has spent much of the last two years with the team’s rehab group where he worked a lot with the trainer, was asked to take part in the postgame hero interview, where the interviewer did what “hero” interviewers tend to do when a team or a player is dealing with a death, ask the player over and over about the deceased.
Nakamura sounded both heartfelt and patient dealing with the incessant badgering.
“Kawamura-san helped me from the time I came out of high school. He invited me to train in the offseason with him and he taught me what it means to be a pro,” Nakamura said. “I owe him so much. Extending my career as long as I can take it will be my way of repaying my debt of gratitude.”
The game was tremendous pitchers’ duel between natives of Urama, Okinawa Prefecture (population 121,843), Nao Higashihama (4-1) the Hawks’ Opening Day starter, and Kenta Uehara (0-1) of the Fighters.
The Hawks defense turned the Fighters back in the third and the sixth. Higashihama made a great play on a safety squeeze in the third to cut down a runner at the plate. In the sixth, Christian Villanueva was out trying to advance from second on a foul fly by right fielder Ryota Nakamura.
Uehara threw 90 pitches through eight innings and came out in the ninth. He issued a leadoff walk, and Nakamura singled only after fouling off two attempts.
“I felt like I had to gain some redemption after being unable to get a bunt down,” Nakamura said of his 1,000th career hit on a ground smash fumbled at third.
Yurisbel Gracial singled in one run, and the second run–the one Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo had not been playing for–scored on an error. The two-run edge allowed closer Yuito Mori to overcame a tremendous opposite-field homer by Sho Nakata to record his 22nd save.
Graceless under pressure
The postgame interviews following a death can be awfully trying. Generally, the questioner isn’t satisfied until he gets some grand emotional response and hopefully tear. This happened famously when current Eagles pitcher Yuya Fukui was a rookie with the Hiroshima Carp and was asked to comment on the death of his brother.
These pitiless interviewers typically ask, “Don’t you think the deceased is looking down on you from heaven now and smiling?”
The nadir came after one player’s wife died after a long illness, that those around him said was exacerbated by his womanizing and shabby treatment of her. In his first hero interview that spring, he was asked the routine interview questions, the tears flowed, and the fans were pleased.
Marines maul Lions every which way
The Lotte Marines bunted the Seibu Lions senseless in a two-run second inning and Leonys Martin hit his 21st and 22nd home runs to back Daiki Iwashita (5-5) in an 8-1 win at MetLife Dome.
Ikuhiro Kiyota opened the second with a double off 38-year-old lefty Tetsuya Utsumi (1-2), who then nearly collided with catcher Tomoya Mori as they both chased a sacrifice bunt that Mori fumbled for an error.
Kiyota held at second on the play, and when the Marines tried again to bunt him over, Mori’s throw to third sailed and a run scored. The second run came home on a safety squeeze and the Marines never looked back.
Iwashita, who struck out Lions cleanup hitter Hotaka Yamakawa three times, allowed a run in the ninth, giving up four hits and a walk while striking out five over eight-plus innings.
Matsui wins duel of former closers
Rakuten Eagles lefty Yuki Matsui (2-3) allowed two runs over five innings to beat Hirotoshi Masui (0-2) in a battle of former closers in a 5-4 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Hotto Motto Field Kobe.
Eagles first baseman Daichi Suzuki made the play of the day diving to catch a foul pop and end the bottom of the first. He then singled with two outs in the third and scored on Kazuki Tanaka’s sixth home run.
Alan Busenitz allowed an unearned run in the ninth, and wrapped up his 11th save when Suzuki made a good play in foul territory to end it with two runners on.
Adam Jones was deactivated with a stiff lower back, and was replaced on the active roster by Aderlin Rodriguez, who singled in a run in the Buffaloes’ two-run fourth.
Carp ace Osera has surgery
Daichi Osera, the Opening Day starter for the Central League’s Hiroshima Carp the past two seasons, has undergone right shoulder surgery the team announced Wednesday.
No timeline was given for the 29-year-old right-hander’s return, but he will likely miss the rest of the season after having arthroscopic surgery to clean out the joint at a hospital in Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture.
Osera opened the season with back-to-back complete games for first-year manager and former Carp pitcher Shinji Sasaoka. He has twice been deactivated for “poor form.”
Marines’ Hermmann out of action
Lotte Marines reliever Frank Herrmann was deactivated Wednesday after he was diagnosed with tendon damage in his right index finger. He reportedly will refrain from throwing for two weeks.
Takahiro Norimoto allowed a run over six innings to outduel Zach Neal in the Rakuten Eagles’ 2-1 win over the Seibu Lions on Friday at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Norimoto (5-3) struck out five, while walking two and allowing five hits. The 29-year-old right-hander’s stuff has continued to improve incrementally from start to start. His splitter, a problem pitch at the start of the start of the season, was dynamite in concert with a good fastball.
Both he and Neal (2-4) located well and generated routine outs, but with Neal lacking Norimoto’s good swing-and-miss pitches, it was a surprise to see the Lions score first.
Corey Spangenberg, who’d been unable to touch Norimoto’s fastball and splitter his first time up, stayed on a high 0-2 fastball and lined it for a one-out sixth-inning double. With two outs, Fumikazu Kimura brought Spangenberg home from third with a double into the left-field corner.
The Eagles took the lead, however, in the bottom of the inning against Neal. Hiroaki Shimauchi barreled a 1-2 two-seam fastball up in the zone for a leadoff single. Stefen Romero walked, and Takero Okajima miss-hit a hanging slider but got enough of it to ground it past first for an RBI single. Neal jammed the next hitter but
“I am hitting well right now,” Okajima said. “Nori is pitching well so it feels like we can win. Now it’s on to the weekend games.”
In contrast to his first several starts, when Norimoto was having trouble both locating the splitter and getting the release he needed to make it tumble, it was working to perfection against the Lions and was unhittable by anyone gearing up for his heat.
“I was able to put guys away with the forkball, so I used it a lot,” Norimoto said. “I believe in the work I’ve been putting in, I’m confident that I come in to games well prepared.
When he came out after six, the Lions went from the frying pan into the fire, as Sung Chia-hao treated them to an even better fastball, a diving slider and a good change in a 1-2-3 seventh. Former Lion and Padre Kazuhisa Makita worked around a single in the eighth before Alan Busenitz overpowered the Lions in the ninth to earn his seventh save.
Takeda returns as Hawks crush Kaneko
Shota Takeda (1-0) worked seven innings in his first game of the season for the SoftBank Hawks, who crushed former Sawamura Award winner Chihiro Kaneko (1-2) for five runs in the first inning in a 9-1 win at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Sho Nakata singled in Taishi Ota in the first inning, but that was the Fighters’ high-water mark as Ryoya Kurihara highlighted the Hawks’ first with a three-run homer. He also walked twice and hit a solo homer, his 11th. Hawks superstart Yuki Yanagita, despite a stiff neck and legs belted his 19th homer in the second, yet another lunar launch to the remote reaches of the Casa de PePe’s right-field stands.
Takeda struck out six while walking one and allowing five hits.
Martin bombs Buffaloes
Leonys Martin drove in four runs on a pair of homers, both well back into the upper deck at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome in the Lotte Marines’ 5-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes.
Ayumu Ishikawa (5-2) gave up three runs over six innings, while Buffaloes starter Sachiya Yamasaki (2-3) served up both of Martin’s bombs and all five Marines runs over six innings.
Frank Herrmann struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth for the Marines before Naoya Masuda picked up his 18th save in a perfect ninth.
Abe doubles down as Dragons beat Giants
Toshiki Abe had two big doubles, one in Chunichi’s three-run sixth and another that drove in two and broke a 3-3 tie in the seventh as the Dragons came from behind to beat the Yomiuri Giants 5-3 at Tokyo Dome.
Raidel Martinez, the sixth Dragons pitcher, worked a scoreless ninth to earn his ninth save.
Uemoto lifts Carp over Tigers
Takashi Uemoto drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Hiroshima Carp overcame a blown save to beat the Hanshin Tigers 4-3 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Uemoto, whose older brother Hiroki was manning second base for the Tigers, came up with two on and one out after singles by Ryuhei Matsuyama and Shogo Sakakura. As Japanese teams do, the Tigers pulled the outfield in to keep the runner on second from scoring on a single, and drove one over the left fielder for a “single.”
Sakakura’s two-run homer in the second gave Hiroshima rookie Masato Morishita a 3-0 lead against Yuki Nishi, the Tigers’ Opening Day starter. But Nishi shut the door after that and Yusuke Oyama powered Hanshin’s comeback, singling and scoring in the fifth and homering in the seventh. He then singled in the ninth off closer Geronimo Franzua (1-1) following Jerry Sands’ leadoff single to help set up the tying run.
Peoples wins 2nd straight
First-year import Michael Peoples (2-1) threw six scoreless innings to win his second-straight start and the DeNA BayStars held off the Yakult Swallows 6-2 at Yokohama Stadium.
The BayStars’ Neftali Soto had two hits, scored a run and drove in one, while Keita Sano’s three-run seventh-inning homer put the game away after the Swallows score in the seventh to make it a 2-1 game.
Swallows rookie Daiki Yoshida (1-4) allowed two runs over six innings to take the loss.
Marines traverse 10th-inning mine field to beat Hawks
The Lotte Marines pulled into a tie for the Pacific League lead on Thursday with the SoftBank Hawks, whom they beat 5-4 in 10 innings.
With the game tied 2-2 after nine innings, the Marines walked Yuki Yanagita with one out and a runner on third. As much as I hate intentional walks, facing Yanagita with the go-ahead run on third is not a pleasant thought. It still proved to be a poor decision as the free pass resulted in the Hawks scoring twice on a two-out Ryoya Kurihara single to make it 4-2.
The Marines got the first two runners on in the bottom of the 10th, but Shogo Nakamura had to beat the throw to first to stay out of the triple play. Leonys Martin then tied it with a home run off the wall behind the right-field stands at Zozo Marine Stadium. With two on and two out, Hawks reliever Arata Shiino uncorked a wild 3-2 pitch. Takashi Toritani, the 39-year-old former Hanshin Tigers captain who was signed over the winter after a tryout, took off from second with the pitch and scored to win it.
Shimauchi homer derails Fighters’ victory plans
Hiroaki Shimauchi’s two-out, two-strike, three-run homer off closer Ryo Akiyoshi took Rakuten Eagles starter Yuki Matsui off the hook for a tough loss while depriving Nippon Ham Fighters starter Nick Martinez of his second win as
Martinez threw five scoreless innings at Sapporo Dome, leaving only after a line drive stung his pitching hand as he recorded a tough out to end the fifth inning. Martinez got a lot of weak contac,t although he went through a stretch in the third where the Eagles seemed to be sitting fastball and he obliged them with misses in the heart of the zone.
Matsui, who is transitioning this season from closer to starter, allowed two runs on three hits and two walks over six innings. A leadoff walk and a single off a good pitch put runners on the corners. Matsui missed badly to Sho Nakata, but the Fighters cleanup hitter miss-timed it and hit a tough grounder into the hole, where rookie shortstop Hiroto Kobukata made a good play to record the second out as Haruki Nishikawa scored.
In the fourth inning, Nakata blasted a fastball in the heart of the zone in the well up into the outfield seats for his 19th home run of the season and his fourth in five games. Like Martinez, Matsui got away with some mistakes, but after the first inning, he established a rhythm as he mixed his bread-and-butter slider with well-located fastballs and splitters.
The Fighters scored off reliever J.T. Chargois in the seventh after leadoff hitter Ryo Watanabe put a good swing on a good low fastball to reach on a leadoff single. After pinch-hitter Kenshi Sugiya’s textbook sacrifice, Chargois, who had been unleashing some of the filthiest sliders you’ll see, hung one in the heart of the zone and light-hitting catcher Yushi Shimizu got it through the infield for an RBI single.
A trio of Fighters relievers, lefty Mizuki Hori, right-hander Taisho Tamai and lefty setup man Naoki Miyanishi retired nine straight, while Eagles right-hander Tomohiro Anraku survived loading the bases with two outs to keep it a 3-0 game going into the ninth.
After a one-out walk and a single, Akiyoshi struck out Eagles batting star Hideto Asamura for the second out. Shimauchi hit a foul fly that was nearly caught to run the count to 1-2, when the side-armer hung a fastball up in the zone, and the left-handed-hitting Shimauchi launched if 15 rows back into the distant right-field stands.
Veteran Chihiro Kaneko stranded a runner in scoring position and left the mound pumping his fist after striking out two batters looking at fastballs away to keep the game tied going into the bottom of the 10th.
Eagles right-hander Alan Busenitz, however, matched him in the bottom of the 10th, escaping a two-on, one-out jam against – despite a hanging 3-2 breaking ball to Nakata – to preserve the tie.
Lions send Nishimura out on losing note
What looked like a bullpen day for the Seibu Lions was one fitting their relief warhorse, Katsunori Hirai (5-2), who threw five scoreless innings in his first career start before six teammates finished up a 6-4 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Buffaloes skipper Norifumi Nishimura announced his resignation after the game and he will be replaced by long time former Nippon Ham Fighters player coach Satoshi Nakajima, who has coached with Orix since last year and is currently their Western League farm manager.
Giants complete shutout sweep of Tigers
Hayato Sakamoto drove in both runs to earn rookie Shosei Togo (6-2) the win in a 2-0 Yomiuri Giants victory over the Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo Dome that completed a three-game shutout sweep.
Togo worked 6-2/3 innings. He gave up three hits and a walk while striking out 11. Rubby De La Rosa worked a scoreless ninth to earn his fifth save.
Koyo Aoyagi (5-3) allowed a run over six innings, with the lone run coming in the sixth off a hustling leadoff triple by Shinnosuke Shigenobu and a high first pitch to Hayato Sakamoto that was tailor made to drive for a long fly to bring in the run.
BayStars hammer Johnson in Peoples’ 1st win
First-year DeNA BayStars import Michael Peoples (1-1) allowed a run over five innings to earn his first win in Japan in a 12-1 blood-letting against the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Peoples allowed three hits, including Shota Dobayashi’s 10th home run, without issuing a walk. Carp starter Kris Johnson, the 2016 Sawamura Award winner, fell to 0-5 after allowing four runs over 5-1/3 innings. DeNA’s Neftali Soto, the two-time defending Central League home run champ, hit his ninth home run, a three-run shot in the eighth inning.
Swallows’ Takanashi stops Dragons’ streak
Hirotoshi Takanashi (2-2) allowed two runs over six innings for the Yakult Swallows in their 7-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium. The loss snapped Chunichi’s longest win streak of the year at four games.
The game was the first of the season for Swallows catcher Yuhei Nakamura, who during the summer fell victim to the team’s most frequent malady, a lack of upper-body fitness. Nakamura singled, had an RBI double, twice reached on errors and scored twice. Norichika Aoki broke a 2-2 tie, when he led off Yakult’s five-run fifth with his eighth home run.
Lions suspend 2 for covid-19 rule violations
The Seibu Lions have suspended two minor leaguers for violating the team’s protocols to prevent infections from the novel coronavirus, the Daily Sports reported Thursday.
The pair, 23-year-old infielder Ryuse Sato and 26-year-old outfielder Makoto Aiuchi, have been suspended indefinitely after it was learned that the two went to Chiba Prefecture to play golf when they were under orders to refrain from unnecessary activities.
Sato committed a moving violation while driving his car on their outing, ostensibly the reason they were caught out.
BayStars’ Patton has with lower-back sprain
DeNA BayStars reliever Spencer Patton (32) is dealing with a minor lower-back sprain manager Alex Ramirez revealed Thursday according to Sanspo.com.
The right-hander took the mound on Tuesday to start the eighth inning in Hiroshima, but left the game with lower-back stiffness after issuing a seven-pitch walk. According to Ramirez, Patton’s status is day to day.
Dennis Sarfate returned to the mound in Fukuoka on Tuesday for the first time in nearly two years. In one of five preseason games (“Open sen” in Japanese) played Tuesday — all behind closed doors — the Hawks took on the Yakult Swallows in an interesting contest.
As he has in the videos he’s been posting to social media that past year or so, Sarfate looked comfortable throwing although was nowhere near regular season velocity, touching 143 kilometers per hour compared to his average fastball velocity in 2017 of 153.3. He allowed a single and got two flyouts.
Rick van den Hurk threw 3-2/3 innings for the Hawks, and looked ready for Opening Day, with his fastball touching 150 kph, and good command of all his pitches. Van den Hurk pitched in just three games last year during the regular season.
Swallows starter Hirotoshi Takanashi also looked ready for Opening Day with generally good movement and command of his fastball. Although he was a little inconsistent and a little lucky, he threw five solid innings.
Peoples makes spring debut
New import Michael Peoples made his preseason debut with the DeNA BayStars, allowing three runs over three innings in which he gave up a home run, walked a batter and hit a batter against the Rakuten Eagles in Shizuoka.
Tyler Austin resumed his hit parade with a double and a single in three at-bats, raising his spring exhibition average to .615 with three homers and three triples in 15 plate appearances. The Eagles’ Jabari Blash hit his second homer of the spring.
Lions’ Takahashi goes 5 strong
Kona Takhashi, who for an instant had been in the running to start the Seibu Lions’ opener according to manager Hajime Tsuji, struck out six over five scoreless innings against the Chunichi Dragons.
Daisuke Yamai, who at the age of 41 is trying to secure some starts this season, showed he has more work to do. He walked three while allowing four runs over two innings of relief.