Tag Archives: Nao Higashihama

NPB 2020 OCT. 17

Saturday’s games

CL

  • BayStars vs Giants, postponed, rain
  • Tigers vs Swallows, postponed, rain
  • Dragons 5, Carp 2

PL

Other news

Higashihama wins 6th straight

Nao Higashihama struggled with his location but got enough on his pitches to keep the Rakuten Eagles from squaring him up over seven innings in the SoftBank Hawks’ 5-0 win at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Higashihama (8-1) started on Opening Day for the Hawks, but was up and down over the first two months. He allowed four hits, walked two and hit while striking out seven en route to winning his sixth straight start.

Yuki Yanagita took Ryota Ishibashi (1-5) deep in the first inning for his 27th home run, and the game was still 1-0 when Higashihama’s lack of command allowed the Eagles to juice the bags with one out on two walks and a Stefen Romero single. But even though he missed up in the heart of the zone, Higashihama got two easy outs to end it.

Yurisbel Gracial homered in the home half and Ryoya Kurhihara doubled with the bases loaded in the fifth to complete the scoreline.

We’re only here for the beer

Postgame hero interviews run the gamut from completely inane to hilarious, and somedays it seems like the purpose of the exercise for SoftBank Hawks players is to be as campy as possible.

With Asahi brewers the sponsors for Saturday’s hero interview, Yuki Yanagita, Ryoya Kurihara and winning pitcher Nao Higashihama all spoke about their motivation for the day being to earn a one-year’s supply of Asahi beer.

Chang delivers on Lions’ Taiwan Day

Chang Yi (2-2) struck out eight over six scoreless innings, and the Orix Buffaloes got home runs from rookie Seiichiro Oshita and Steven Moya to beat the Seibu Lions 4-1.

The Lions were having one of their regular Taiwan Day promotions at their MetLIfe Dome ballpark across the border from Tokyo in Saitama Prefecture. Chang, a cousin of Yang Dai-kang and Yang Yao-hsun, who attended high school and university in Japan, ended up celebrating the day at his hosts’ expense.

Tyler Higgins worked a 1-2-3 eighth to preserve a two-run lead and Brandon Dickson recorded his 14th save in the ninth for the last-place Buffaloes.

Oblgatory lip service

Rookie Seiichiro Oshita broke up a scoreless game on Saturday when he led off the Orix Buffaloes’ fifth inning with his second career home run and then, as Ray Liotta’s character said in “Goodfellas,” he did the right thing, by denying he wanted to hit a home run.

The Nikkan Sports published a story based on the flash quotes distributed during the game by the team from every player who drives in a run.

“My plan going up to the plate first and foremost was to get on base,” Oshita said through the team. “The contact felt really good, so I thought it was gone the instant I hit it.”

“I so wanted to get in that first run, so I’m glad I could do that with a home run.”

Had he reversed that, and started talking about the home run, and then added the afterthought that his first thought was getting on base, Oshita would have been guilty of violating Japanese baseball norms, by suggesting he was trying to hit a home run.

Carp bullpen blows up again

For the second straight day the Hiroshima Carp bullpen surrendered four late runs, this time allowing the Chunichi Dragons to turn a one-run deficit into a 5-2 win at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Rookie of the year candidate Masato Morishita was rock solid through seven, allowing a run on five hits and no walks while striking out eight. But setup man Atsuya Horie (3-4) left with two on and one out in the eighth.

Geronimo Franzua, who has often been called on to get four outs, came in to get five. He got ahead of Yohei Oshima 1-2 but couldn’t get a called strike and walked him to load the bases.

With two outs, Franzua made a decent first pitch to Toshiki Abe, but the Dragons second baseman got the end of the bat on it and bounced it through the infield for a two-run single. Dayan Viciedo then iced the game with another two-run single.

Dragons starter Yuya Yanagi (4-6) scattered eight hits and two walks over seven innings to earn the win. The damage would have been worse but Moises Sierra made a couple of tricky catches in left when he appeared to struggle with the sun.

Raidel Martinez struck out the side in the ninth to earn his 21st save.

Hanshin forms women’s club

The Hanshin Tigers announced Saturday it was forming a women’s hardball club that will begin play next year, according to the Nikkan Sports.

The club will be the second operated by a Nippon Professional Baseball team following the announcement in April that the Pacific League’s Seibu Lions had established a club.

The Tigers’ club is an offshoot of the organization’s outreach programs to make the game more accessible to women. The Tigers said its purpose was three-fold:

  1. To cultivate the desire among women to play baseball
  2. To create an environment where it is easier for women to start in baseball.
  3. To increase the number of women players, women fans and Tigers fans.

The Tigers will begin accepting applications this month, with practices to be held once a week in the area around the club’s home base in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture. Some practices may take place at the Tigers’ home park, historic Koshien Stadium, or its minor league facility in Naruohama.

Active roster moves 10/17/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/27

Central League

Activated

CarpIF69Ryutaro Hatsuki
DragonsP17Yuya Yanagi

Dectivated

DragonsP13Yuki Hashimoto

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP21Ken Togame
HawksP34Arata Shiino
EaglesP12Hiroki Kondo

Dectivated

LionsP47Koki Matsuoka
HawksP11Yuki Tsumori
EaglesP17Takahiro Shiomi

Starting pitchers for Oct. 18, 2020

Pacific League

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

Wataru Matsumoto (4-5, 4.34) vs Hiroya Miyagi (0-0, 3.60)

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

Manabu Mima (9-3, 4.28) vs Kohei Arihara (6-8, 3.53)

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

Tsuyoshi Wada (7-1, 2.99) vs Ryota Takinaka (1-1, 3.63)

Central League

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

Taiga Kamichatani (2-3, 4.02) vs Seishu Hatake (3-3, 3.16)

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

Takumi Akiyama (7-3, 2.96) vs Yasuhiro Ogawa (9-5, 4.09)

Carp vs Dragons: Mazda Stadium 1:30 pm, 0:30 am EDT

Yuta Nakamura (2-2, 2.91) vs Tatsuya Shimizu (1-0, 1.84)

NPB 2020 Oct. 10

Saturday’s games

Other news

Higashihama mows down Marines

SoftBank Hawks Opening Day starter Nao Higashihama (7-1) allowed a run over eight innings in a 5-1 win over the Lotte Marines on Saturday at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome that kept his team atop the Pacific League standings.

The win was SoftBank’s fifth in16 tries this season against their nemeses, who pulled into a virtual tie with a 3-1 win on Friday.

Higashihama gave up three hits and three walks while striking out eight. Rookie Kazuki Sugiyama pitched around a pair of one-out singles in the ninth to close it out.

Keizo Kawashima opened SoftBank’s account in the second with a one-out single off rookie lefty Toshiya Nakamura (2-5). He scored on a Nobuhiro Matsuda double, and Ryoya Kurihara capped the inning with his 14th home run.

The Marines changed pitchers in the third, with rookie Takuro Furuya making his first-team debut. The right-hander issued a one-out walk to Akira Nakamura. A wild pitch and a Yuki Yanagita single made it 4-0.

A base-running out by Matsuda allowed Furuya to work around a single and three straight walks in the fourth. The Marines got their lone run in the sixth on a Kenji Nishimaki double and a Kyota Fujiwara single. Both were called up Tuesday, when the Marines switched out 11 players following a series of coronavirus infections.

Yurisbel Gracial completed the scoring in the seventh with his ninth home run.

Arihara throws 1st shutout

Nippon Ham Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (6-8) did everything right in his six-hitter except get Pacific League batting leader Masataka Yoshida out in a 4-0 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Sapporo Dome.

Yoshida went 3-for-4 with a double to raise his average to .354, but his teammates couldn’t solve the right-handed Arihara.

“Their hitters came in ready to swing at the first pitch and I used that to my advantage,” said Arihara, who walked two and struck out six.

Buffaloes right-hander Taisuke Yamaoka (2-4) allowed three runs over six innings on six hits, a walk and a hit batsman but got zero run support for the second straight outing. He gave up a one-out solo homer to Ryo Watanabe in the second and two more runs in the sixth before making his exit.

“I was the one who allowed the first run. And that was the ballgame,” said Yamaoka.

Hatake silences Dragons

Yomiuri Giants right-hander Seishu Hatake extended a pre-game moment of silence at Nagoya Dome, muting the Chunichi Dragons’ offense for seven innings in a 7-1 win.

With the home team wearing the No. 88 of late Dragons manager and Hall of Fame second baseman Morimichi Takagi, who passed away in January, a moment of silence was observed in his memory.

Hatake (3-3) overcame an awkward start as he worked seven scoreless innings after allowing five this and three walks. Dragons starter Yariel Rodriguez (2-4) kept the Giants in check until the wheels fell off in a four-run fifth.

Rodriguez, who had impressed in his first two outings this season against the Giants, allowed a second-inning run on a Yoshihiro Maru single and a Zelous Wheeler double.

The right-hander struck out the side in the third and fourth before Wheeler singled to open the fifth. Wheeler was caught stealing for the second out on a busted run-and-hit, but Gerardo Parra followed with the first of five straight hits.

Wheeler homered in the sixth, while Zoilo Almonte cashed in the Dragons’ only run with an eighth-inning RBI single.

Austin, Soto overpower Tigers

Tyler Austin hit his 16th home run and Neftali Soto continued to climb back into the home race with his 20th and 21st homers as the DeNA BayStars overcame an early two-run deficit to beat the Hanshin Tigers 5-3 at Koshien Stadium.

Tigers starter Joe Gunkel (1-4) allowed four runs, three earned, on nine hits over six innings. He struck out four without a walk.

Austin homered in the third and Soto went deep in the fourth to make it a 2-2 game. Hanshin’s Yusuke Oyama singled in his second run of the game in the bottom of the fourth to retake the lead for the Tigers. Austin re-tied it in the fifth with an RBI single, Soto homered in the sixth and Austin singled in another run in the seventh.

Rookie Hiromu Ise (1-0), the BayStars’ third pick last autumn, struck out two in two perfect innings to earn his first career win. Spencer Patton and Edwin Escobar followed with one scoreless inning apiece before Kazuki Mishima earned his 13th save.

Jon Edwards allowed one run in an inning of relief for the Tigers.

Rookie Morishita dodges bullets for 8th win

The Hiroshima Carp’s top pick in last year’s draft, Masato Morishita extricated from a pair of bases-loaded predicaments to go six innings in a 3-0 victory over the Yakult Swallows at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Morishita (8-3) allowed four hits, issued three walks and hit a batter while striking out eight. Koki Ugusa, the Carp’s second pick last autumn, had two hits, driving in two in the fifth with a high chopper over the head of the shortstop.

“It’s not like we didn’t have an approach planned for him (Morishita),” Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu said. “We just didn’t do a very good job of executing it.”

Tsuji slams decision to start in rain

Seibu Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji was not in a forgiving mood on Saturday when Daiki Enokida, called up to bolster his depleted starting rotation, needed to throw 75 pitches against the Rakuten Eagles in a game that began in the rain Sendai and was called after three innings.

The game is to be replayed on Tuesday, putting Tsuji in a bind.

“This is a problem, because we simply don’t have the pitchers,” Tsuji said.

The game started in a steady rain, with water standing in pools.

“Common sense would tell you we couldn’t play baseball in that,” Tsuji said.

Active roster moves 10/10/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/20

Central League

Activated

GiantsP47Takahiro Fujioka
BayStarsP43Takuya Shindo
DragonsP82Kento Marc Ishida

Dectivated

None

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP30Daiki Enokida
FightersOF26Daiki Asama

Dectivated

LionsP50Shunta Nakatsuka
FightersIF44Christian Villanueva
FightersOF3Wang Po-jung

Dectivated

None

Starting pitchers for Oct. 11, 2020

Pacific League

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

Kenta Uehara (1-2, 2.60) vs Hirotoshi Masui (1-2, 3.28)

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

Ryota Takinaka (0-1, 4.61) vs Wataru Matsumoto (4-4, 4.12)

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

Tsuyoshi Wada (6-1, 3.20) vs Manabu Mima (9-2, 4.31)

Central League

Dragons vs Giants: Nagoya Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Tatsuya Shimizu (0-0, 3.00) vs Shosei Togo (8-4, 2.75)

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

Takumi Akiyama (6-3, 2.82) vs Taiga Kamichatani (2-2, 3.71)

Carp vs Swallows: Mazda Stadium 1:30 pm, 0:30 am EDT

Yuta Nakamura (1-2, 3.45) vs Yasuhiro Ogawa (9-4, 3.70)

NPB 2020 8-26 Games and news

Ojima ends Wakui’s win streak

Hideaki Wakui overcame a rough start to work seven innings, but Marines lefty Kazuya Ojima, 10 years his junior, struck out a career-high 11 to deny the 34-year-old his ninth win to open the season as the Lotte Marines beat the Rakuten Eagles and their former teammate 2-0 on Wednesday at Sendai’s Rakuten Semei Park Miyagi.

Wakui pitched out of a two-out bases-loaded jam in the first inning with a good inside fastball to Katsuya Kakunaka that the former PL batting champion popped up. After Ojima worked out of a first-inning pickle, Wakui fell behind light-hitting Yudai Fujioka to start the second. The right-hander threw the Marines shortstop a 3-1 fastball down the pipe that he skied to right only for it to reach the seats at the foul pole for his first home run of the season. With two outs, Wakui hung an 0-1 breaking ball and Shuhei Fukuda pulled it down the right-field line for his third home run.

Ojima worked around a defensive mixup in the second that helped Stefen Romero to a leadoff double, and that second zero proved to be the ballgame as he allowed only two more batters to reach through seven innings. Former Eagle Frank Herrmann worked the eighth, while Naoya Masuda notched his 17th save in the ninth.

Wakui also went seven, and though he battled his command more than he has for most of the season, he figured things out as the game went on. He finished with five walks, nine strikeouts and three walks.

Matsuda spearheads Hawks comeback

Nobuhiro Matsuda hit a game-tying seventh-inning home run and singled to give the Hawks a out, ninth-inning beachhead they exploited in their 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Orix Buffaloes at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Masataka Yoshida doubled off 39-year-old Hawks lefty Tsuyoshi Wada to drive in a first-inning run and broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth against Wada with his xth home run.

Buffaloes lefty Daiki Tajima loaded the bases in the first but allowed no runs, but allowed a single and a home run in the fourth, reserve catcher Hiroaki Takaya’s first of the season. Tyler Higgins kept the Hawks off the board in the bottom of the eighth with the help of backup catcher Torai Fushimi, who cut down lightning-fast pinch-runner Ukyo Shuto trying to steal second.

After a scoreless ninth by Hawks closer Yuito Mori (1-1), Matsuda singled off Buffaloes closer Brandon Dickson (0-3) and Nakamura tripled home pinch-runner Taisei Makihara to end it.

Villanueva lands 1st punch in slugfest

The Nippon Ham Fighters’ Christian Villanueva blasted a three-run, second-inning homer to open the scoring off lefty Daiki Enokida (0-1) who surrendered seven early runs in an 8-5 win over the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.

Fighters starter Toshihiro Sugiura allowed three runs over 5-1/3 innings. He didn’t allow a run until the sixth, when two walks and a single opened the floodgates to a five-run Lions innings, highlighted by a three-run Corey Spangenberg home run.

Wheeler boosts well-coached Giants

Zelous Wheeler hit a two-run first-inning home run and put his team in front with a sixth-inning RBI single for the Yomiuri Giants, who took advantage of an umpire’s inattention in a 12-5 see-saw win against the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

With the game tied 5-5 in the sixth, Wheeler put the Giants in front and cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto, hitless in his first three at-bats, singled in one more. A seven-hit five-run ninth turned the game into a rout.

The Swallows overturned their early deficit via a one-out Tetsuto Yamada home run, a Norichika Aoki walk and Munetaka Murakami’s 11th home run off Nattino Diplan. But the Giants retook the lead in the second with two runs against lefty Keiji Takahashi after a Hiroyuki Nakajima leadoff single and a double by rookie reserve catcher Yukinori Kishida.

The Swallows were denied an inning-ending double play because third base umpire Yoshiharu Yamaguchi wasn’t paying attention. Nakajima was caught between third and home on a grounder to third and beat a hasty retreat only to find Mota occupying the bag. Swallows catcher Yuhei Nakamura did the smart thing and tagged both men. Nakajima, mistakenly thinking he was out, walked off the bag until third base coach Koji Goto yanked him back.

Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu came out to argue but in the ump’s judgement, Goto preventing Nakajima from getting tagged out did not constitute help or he wasn’t looking. Either way, Hayato Sakamoto followed with a two-out two-run double.

Tomotaka Sakaguchi’s two-run homer in the fifth put Yakult back on top, only for Wheeler and the Giants to turn the game around once more.

Kishida walked to open the sixth, pinch-runner Daiki Masuda stole second and scored on Shinnosuke Shigenobu’s single. A walk put two on for Wheeler who singled between third and short.

Giants reliever Yuhei Takanashi (1-0) earned the win, extending his scoreless game streak to 15 with two scoreless innings.

Nomura pitches Carp past BayStars

Yusuke Nomura (3-1) allowed two runs over eight innings, while Shota Dobayashi and Seiya Suzuki each scored twice in the Hiroshima Carp’s 4-2 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohoma Stadium.

The Carp opened the scoring in the fourth on a one-out Dobayashi single, a Suzuki double and Ryuhei Matsuyama’s two-run single. In the home half, Carp center fielder Takayoshi Noma threw out Neftali Soto at the plate to end the inning. The BayStars tied it 2-2 in the fifth on Takayuki Kajitani’s 10th home run, but Dobayashi put the visitors ahead in the sixth. He walked, stole second and scored on Matsuyama’s second RBI single off Haruhiro Hamaguchi (3-3).

Suzuki’s 14th home run, off Spencer Patton in the ninth, completed the scoring, and Geronimo Franzua struck out the side in the bottom of the inning to record his seventh save.

Bour, Tigers maul Dragons

Justin Bour homered twice and drove in three runs, while Onelki Garcia (2-5) allowed two runs over six innings in the Hanshin Tigers’ 11-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Koshien Stadium.

Bour dropped his bombs against Dragons right-hander Koji Fukutani (2-2), who hit his first bump in the road in his transition to starting pitcher, allowing six runs in six innings to take the loss after four decent outings. The Tigers took the lead in the second when Bour hit his 11th of the season with two outs and none on. His two-run home run capped Hanshin’s five-run sixth

Hawks drop Despaigne, Higashihama

The SoftBank Hawks deactivated two-time Best Nine Award-winning designated hitter Alfredo Despaigne and Opening Day starter Nao Higashima on Wednesday.

The 34-year-old Despaigne has been suffering from pain in his left knee. The right-handed-hitting slugger returned to Japan in July with Cuban teammate Yurisbel Gracial and rejoined the first team on Friday and has appeared in three games.

Higashihama, named to start on Opening Day for the first time in June, was sent down due to a stiff neck. He threw 132 pitches in a five-inning start on Friday against the Lotte Marines in which he allowed three runs. The right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA. He was replaced on the active roster by Wednesday’s starting pitcher, 39-year-old lefty Tsuyoshi Wada.

Moore back with 1st team

First-year import Matt Moore rejoined the Hawks first team on Wednesday for practice prior their game against Orix in Fukuoka. The 31-year-old lefty suffered a left calf injury on July 7.

“His leg is no issue,” manager Kimiyasu Kudo said. “Once he’s in games, we’ll control his pitch counts to some extent. I’ve watched video. The only thing that concerns me is the number of pitches.”

Elsewhere, the Orix Buffaloes deactivated first-baseman Aderlin Rodriguez, while the Central League’s DeNA BayStars dropped first baseman Jose Lopez.

Active roster moves 8/26/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/5

Central League

Activated

GiantsP96Nattino Diplan
BayStarsOF52Seiya Hosokawa
CarpIF00Kaisei Sone
SwallowsP20Kazuki Kondo

Dectivated

BayStarsIF2Jose Lopez
CarpIF63Ryoma Nishikawa
SwallowsP13Hikaru Nakao

Pacific League

Activated

HawksP21Tsuyoshi Wada
HawksOF64Yusuke Masago
EaglesP72Shun Ikeda
BuffaloesOF56Yusuke Matsui

Dectivated

HawksP16Nao Higashihama
HawksOF54Alfredo Despaigne
EaglesP23Hayato Yuge
MarinesP15Manabu Mima
BuffaloesIF42Aderlin Rodriguez

Starting pitchers for Aug. 27, 2020

Pacific League

Eagles vs Marines: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yuki Matsui (0-1, 5.16) vs Daiki Iwashita (3-3, 4.03)

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

Keisuke Honda (1-4, 3.45) vs Ryusei Kawano (2-3, 4.46)

Hawks vs Buffaloes: PayPay Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shunsuke Kasaya (1-2, 3.42) vs Taisuke Yamaoka (0-0, 1.23)

Central League

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

Hirotoshi Takanashi (2-2, 4.47) vs Shosei Togo (6-2, 2.11)

BayStars vs Carp: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shoichi Ino (4-3, 2.21) vs Kris Johnson (0-5, 5.83)

Tigers vs Dragons: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Koyo Aoyagi (5-3, 3.40) vs Yuya Yanagi (2-3, 2.36)

Open and shut: March 7, 2020 – Welcome to Japan, Joe Gunkel

New Hanshin Tigers right-hander Joe Gunkel started Saturday’s preseason game against the Nippon Ham Fighters at Koshien Stadium, and allowed seven runs in four innings. Despite the ugly totals it was anything but an ugly outing for the 28-year-old who pitched in the minors for the Red Sox, Orioles, Dodgers and Marlins.

Gunkel put a couple of floating sliders on a tee, and got a lesson in what left-handed hitters in Japan will do to two-seamers when they are not trying to crush the ball, but by and large it was entertaining.

A lesson in pitching to Japanese left-handed hitters.

From his low 3/4 slot, Gunkel had a lot of horizontal movement on a 91.3 mph two-seamer that he mercilessly jammed right-handed hitters with, and even got one batter looking on a backdoor two-seamer.

His slider was inconsistent in quality and command, as was his four-seamer, but he threw a splitter that really dropped and got him swinging strikes, and he is quick to the plate.

He got burned on ground balls that found holes, a couple of jam shots and a fly to deep center on a mistake pitch that carried out of the unusually windless park. He also struck out six.

Gunkel has a lot to work with, and he has a great catcher in Ryutaro Umeno to help him over a couple of minor rough spots. Hopefully, he’ll learn to use his arsenal quickly enough to keep up with the adjustments opposing hitters will make so that he doesn’t hit a prolonged rough patch. That’s because imported Tigers pitchers who have major rough patches learn more than they want to know about the Western League and get released.

Austin, Soto go back to back

Taylor Austin hit his fourth home run of the spring for the DeNA BayStars on Saturday, while two-time defending Central League home run champion Neftali Soto followed him with his first. Get a look on Austin’s face after Soto’s home run.

When I saw they both came off SoftBank Hawks journeyman Ryoma Matsuda, who gives up a fair number of home runs, I wasn’t too surprised, but compared to some of the really fat pitches Austin crushed earlier in the preseason, it was a straight fastball but not a cookie.

The Hawks opened with Nao Higashihama, who’s been named their Opening Day starter, and he looked ready to go, although he did get away with a hanging curve to Soto up in the zone that the right-handed-hitting slugger pulled foul. Matsuda had less luck with his fat pitch.

Patton’s back

The BayStars got an inning of work from Spencer Patton, who ended a frustrating season by breaking his hand against a refrigerator door. I commented to a colleague that he didn’t pitch well last season, but looking at his sharp performance on Saturday and his numbers from Delta Graphs the past three seasons, nothing really stands out.

The one outlier is his win probability. He gave up an unusual number of hits in the most volatile moments. How much of that is down to bad luck and bad timing, I don’t know. An old fart uninterested in analytics might say he lacked the “will to win,” but I am going to go with really crappy timing and luck.

I am unaware of his contract situation, but a lot of teams would have been cautious about bringing Patton back. The BayStars do a good job with analytics, and I assume they want him around because they see the intrinsic quality and because he’s a good teammate. That stuff matters.

Open and shut: NPB goes under cover

I’m calling this spring’s preseason stories “Open and shut” since a main theme so far is 72 exhibitions scheduled to be played behind closed doors as Japanese companies are being asked to curtail large gatherings in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Sands opens with pair

Hanshin Tigers newcomer Jerry Sands blasted two of his team’s five solo home runs in a 5-4 win over the SoftBank Hawks on Saturday. The Tigers got three scoreless innings from their Opening Day starter, Yuki Nishi, and another scoreless frame from former Hawk Kenichi Nakata.

Yusuke Oyama, who is fighting to secure the starting third base job for Hanshin, also homered twice, while 2016 rookie of the year Shun Takayama homered to continue his comeback spring effort. Hawks starter Nao Higashihama allowed four solo homer, all off breaking pitches.

Matsui goes 5 in Eagles restart

Yuki Matsui, making the shift from closer, started and went five innings for the Rakuten Eagles in a 4-2 win over the Lotte Marines. J.T. Chargois and Alan Busenitz worked scoreless innings in relief for the Eagles, while former Eagle Frank Herrman and former Carp Jay Jackson each worked an inning for Lotte.

The PL clubs exchanged a host of players over the winter via free agency and other deals with. Herrmann, (Opening Day starter) Manabu Mima, and a pair of young minor leaguers, infielder Kenji Nishimaki and pitcher Fumiya Ono joined Lotte. Going the other way were Lotte’s former captain, infielder Daichi Suzuki, veteran right-hander Hideaki Wakui and pitcher Tomohito Sakai.

Buffs, Fighters show off season openers

The Orix Buffaloes’ Taisuke Yamaoka worked five scoreless innings, while the Nippon Ham Fighters’ Kohei Arihara allowed a run in three as the two teams went with their Opening Day starters. Orix newcomer Tyler Higgens worked a scoreless inning of relief.

Orix first baseman Takahiro Okada, who was exiled to the minors for the duration of the season after letting a routine grounder go through his legs last summer, homered in his first at-bat.

Viciedo blasts off

Dayan Viciedo homered and singled in his home preseason debut at a silent Nagoya Dome, while new Carp pitcher DJ Johnson allowed a run in one inning of work.