Tag Archives: Neftali Soto

NPB 2020 7-19 games and news

Niho outduels Buffs ace Yamamoto

There were quips made when Hawks manager named Akira Niho to be the last man in his six-man starting pitching rotation. When the 30-year-old right-hander did as well as expected out of the gate, Kudo stuck with him, and on Sunday, Niho did what he was capable of walked away with a win after matching up with one of Japan’s best, Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

Niho (2-2) threw six scoreless innings, and the SoftBank Hawks took advantage of their one chance against Yamamoto to leave Osaka’s Kyocera Dome with 3-2 win.

Niho escaped a two-out bases-loaded jam in the third when Adam Jones grounded into the final out.

After starting the Buffaloes cleanup hitter on the outside edge with his two-seam fastball, he left a slider up in the heart of the zone and then missed with a fastball inside. Jones fouled off the fat slider and was jammed by the 89-mph fastball on the hands.

Niho then retired eight of the last nine batters he faced before three good swings changed the game in the seventh.

Left-handed-hitting Seiji Uebayashi hit a high fastball away and sliced it into the left field corner for a leadoff double and the Hawks’ second hit of the game. Yuki Yanagita, who struggled against Yamamoto’s splitter in his second at-bat made some headway against it his third time up.

Yanagita survived a narrow escape when he grounded a splitter to first (again) only for it to bounce foul by inches. The next pitch, Yamamoto’s seventh to him, hung up and the left-handed-hitting slugger slammed it to the warning track in right for a tie-breaking double.

Akira Nakamura followed, and somehow pulled a fastball up and over the outside part of the plate and his drive just cleared the wall in right for his first home run of the year.

“I was waiting for something fast. It’s a confidence boost to be able to hit one of the best pitchers in baseball,” Nakamura said.

Submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi, the PL’s 2019 rookie of the year, whose been in relief this season, worked a scoreless seventh against the bottom of the Buffaloes order, but dependable lefty Livan Moinelo couldn’t locate in the eighth and ran into trouble.

The Cuban reliever surrendered a leadoff single before issuing three walks, forcing in a run, and bringing Jones to the plate with a chance to turn the game around.

Jones, who has seen precious few fastballs in the strike zone this season, fouled off an 0-1 heater and then chased and fouled off a curve out of the zone. Moinelo missed up high with a change up and Jones got under it, flying out to center to bring home a run.

The play resulted in the second out when Ryoichi Adachi took off for third and was tagged out on the throw from Yanagita in center when he over-slid the bag.

Hawks closer Yuito Mori worked a 1-2-3 ninth to record his fifth save.

Orix manager Norifumi Nishimura blamed the loss on failure to execute, pointing to a failed sacrifice in the third inning after Ryo Ota opened with a leadoff single.

“We had the failed bunt,” he said. “There are times when things will take a wrong turn if you don’t execute properly.”

Rookie Kawano earns 1st win

Rookie lefty Ryusei Kawano allowed two runs over eight innings to win his first game as a pro in the Nippon Ham Fighters’ 9-2 win over the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.

Sho Nakata’s three-run, third-inning home run capped a four-run outburst against right-hander Yuki Ariyoshi (1-1).

Kawano, who has shown good stuff since Day 1, has become more and more assertive in the strike zone with each passing day, and Sunday’s start was another step in that direction.

Through the early innings, Kawano, the Fighters’ top pick last autumn in NPB’s draft, tried to hit corners but was less hesitant about challenging hitters in the zone with his fastball and then making them look bad against his changeup.

With a 4-0 lead in the fourth, catcher Shingo Usami began setting his target squarely in the zone and Kawano responded to the encouragement.

Through seven innings, he allowed three base runners. He finished with seven strikeouts, two walks and four hits after allowing two eighth-inning runs on a Leonys Martin double. Brandon Laird went 2-for-4 in his old home park.

Former Lion Asamura flies with Eagles

HIdeto Asamura bounced back from two hitless games with two days worth of hits and four RBIs to lead the Rakuten Eagles’ comeback in a 9-5 win over his old team, the Seibu Lions, at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Stefen Romero opened the scoring with a solo homer off lefty Daiki Enokida, making his first start of the season, but Hotaka Yamakawa’s third home run in three days, a three-run third-inning shot off former Lions ace Takayuki Kishi made it 5-1 Seibu.

Former Lion (one can say that A LOT in Sendai) Asamura made it a 5-2 game in the third with his second hit, an RBI single that plated Daichi Suzuki.

Kishi was pulled after 2-13 innings, but the bullpen picked up the slack and Asamura hit his Japan-best 11th home run to lead off the sixth against Enokida. The Lions lefty was yanked after allowing three runs over five-plus innings.

Seibu’s bullpen workhorse Katsunori Hirai took over and worked around a hit batsman to keep it 5-3 through six. Eagles right-hander Alan Busenitz (1-0) worked a scoreless seventh, and Asamura tied it with a two-run single in the bottom of the inning.

Hirai (2-1), who led both leagues in games pitched last season with 81, allowed three runs on two walks, a hit batsman and six hits over one-plus inning of work. He was replaced by stocky Kaima Taira.

The right-hander, who struck out Romero on a 99.4 mph fastball after entering with no outs and the bases loaded, went into Asamura’s kitchen with a 1-2, 98 mph heater that brushed him back. Asamura, however, brushed that off and stroked a cutter away into right for a two-run single that tied it.

With two outs and the bases reloaded, Yasuhito Uchida homered off Taira to complete the Eagles’ comeback.

Okamoto, Giants burn BayStars closer in 9th

Pinch-runner Daiki Masuda stole second with one out in the ninth inning and scored the tying run from second on an infield singe before Kazuma Okamoto blasted a two-run home run in the Yomiuri Giants’ 5-3 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.

With a one-run lead in the ninth, Yasuaki Yamasaki (0-2) took the mound for the BayStars and surrendered a one-out single to Hayato Sakamoto. Pinch-runner Daiki Masuda stole second and with two outs, he gambled and was safe at home on Yoshihiro Maru’s grounder deep into the hold behind first.

BayStars manager Alex Ramirez yanked his closer, and Yuki Kuniyoshi served up an 0-1 fastball to Okamoto who drove it out well beyond the wall in right center for his ninth home run.

The BayStars’ Neftali Soto scored three runs and homered to tie it 2-2 in the third inning. Soto was hit by a pitch in the fifth and scored on a Jose Lopez double.

Swallows Carp

The Hiroshima Carp bullpen proved able to solve the Yakult Swallows once the game was tied and the bases loaded, which they did in both the ninth and 10th innings to finish in a 3-3 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

The visitors took a 2-0 lead into the seventh, but the heart of the Hiroshima attack found their third look at right-hander Hirotoshi Takanashi to their liking. After allowing just two hits and a walk through six innings, Takanashi gave up a single to Shota Dobayashi and back-to-back doubles by Seiya Suzuki and Ryuhei Matsuyama that tied it up.

Yugo Umeno got out of the inning but not before Tsubasa Aizawa singled in the go-ahead run. In the eighth, 23-year-old Noboru Shimizu loaded the bases on two one-out walks and a single but struck out Matsuyama and Hisayoshi Chono to prevent the game from getting away.

Norichika Aoki singled in the tying run in the ninth and the Swallows loaded the bases with one out for Munetaka Murakami. But journeyman right-hander Yasunori Kikuchi got the easiest double play imaginable, when the 20-year-old slugger tipped a low forkball into the dirt in front of home plate. Aizawa collected it, stepped on the plate and threw to first to end the inning.

New Carp D.J. Johnson loaded the bases in the 10th — the last inning allowed in NPB this season — but ended the inning with a strikeout. Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama then pitched out of a two-on, one-out pickle in the bottom of the 10th to ensure the tie.

Tigers blow out Dragons

On a night when hard-hitting first baseman Justin Bour was out of the Hanshin lineup, the Tigers still erupted for 11 runs on 14 hits and eight walks in an 11-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons and a sweep of their three-game series at Koshien Stadium outside Osaka.

Jerry Sands, batting third in manager Akihiro Yano’s lineup singled in the game’s first run and scored on Kosuke Fukudome’s sacrifice fly in the Tigers’ three-run first.

The 43-year-old Fukudome, who came off the bench to wreak havoc on the Swallows on Thursday, was in the starting lineup and responded with two singles, a double, two sacrifice flies and four RBIs.

Sands also doubled and drew one of the Tigers’ two bases-loaded walks in their three-run fourth inning.

The Dragons’ Dayan Viciedo continued to rip it up at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a walk and a home run.

Active roster moves 7/19/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/29

Central League

Activated

BayStarsC36Shuto Takajo
DragonsOF60Yuki Okabayashi

Dectivated

BayStarsC29Hikaru Ito
DragonsOF31Masaru Watanabe

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP30Daiki Enokida
MarinesP36Yuki Ariyoshi

Dectivated

LionsP17Wataru Matsumoto
FightersP14Takayuki Kato

NPB 2020 7-15 games and news

Buffaloes pen turns pitchers’ duel into rout

Tsuyoshi Wada picked up his second win after he and unheralded Orix Buffaloes right-hander Yu Suzuki duked it out for six innings in a 1-0 pitchers’ duel in what became a 7-0 win for the SoftBank Hawks at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Wada (2-0) allowed a single and three walks, while striking out three and never allowed a leadoff runner to reach.

The 23-year-old Suzuki (1-2), who earned the victory his first career start, against the Seibu Lions on July 1, tried to be too careful in his second start last week in his loss to the Nippon Ham Fighters. This time, however, he went back to challenging hitters and making them hit his pitches.

“Obviously, he took a lot away from his last game and built on those lessons,” Buffaloes manager Norifumi Nishimura said.

The Hawks broke the scoreless deadlock in the fourth, when Kenta Imamiya doubled and scored on a Yuki Yanagita single, but it stayed a one-run game through six.

Lefty Nobuyoshi Yamada took the mound in the seventh, worked carefully to Yanagita and walked him. Wladimir Balentien followed with a smash up the middle that had “big inning” written all over it.

But the Buffaloes brought their “A” fielding game on Wednesday after being badly outplayed on defense the night before. Second baseman Koji Oshiro, got to Balentien’s grounder and flipped to shortstop Ryoichi Adachi to start a double play. Adachi, who had let a pop fly fall behind him in center in a mix-up with center fielder Yuma Mune on Tuesday, was on EVERYTHING in shallow left and center.

But Yamada then surrendered another smash up the middle, but Oshiro, shading the Akira Nakamura toward right, was in position to snag that one. Seiji Uebayashi followed by blasting his second home run in two nights.

Wakui earns 4th win with gem against Lions

Hideaki Wakui showed why he still has some value on Wednesday as he located his pitches to dominate his former club in the Rakuten Eagle’s 11-0 win over the Seibu Lions at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Wakui (4-0) walked four, but executed with precision whenever he found himself in a jam. With one out and one on in the first Wakui froze Shuta Tonosaki with a perfectly located changeup. He got out of the jam by attacking Tomoya Mori inside and getting him to foul out – with some help from third baseman Daichi Suzuki making a good catch at the edge of the seats.

The top three in the Eagles order, rookie Hiroto Kobukata, Suzuki and shortstop Eigoro Mogi combined to score five runs and drive in 10.

Lions starter Tatsuya Imai (1-2) stranded five batters through the first three innings, surviving three two-out walks in the third before the roof collapsed in the fourth. For the fourth straight inning, the right-hander retired the first two batters before six straight reached in the five-run rally. Suzuki broke the ice with a bases-loaded single and Mogi followed with a three-run homer.

Nakata lifts Fighters past Marines

Cleanup hitter Sho Nakata drove in three runs and cracked a 4-4, eighth-inning tie with a sacrifice fly for the Nippon Ham Fighters in a 6-4 win over the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.

Nakata’s two-run RBI single opened the scoring after Haruki Nishikawa singled and Kensuke Kondo doubled with one out to set the table in the first against Marines starter Kazuya Ojima.

The Marines took the lead in the fifth when Leonys Martin homered for the second-straight game with perhaps the longest home run I’ve ever seen at this ballpark. His one-out three-run shot made it 4-2 Marines.

Former Padre Christian Villanueva led off the sixth with a home run and Nishikawa singled in the tying run after Takuya Nakashima singled and stole second.

Nakashima scored the go-ahead run in the eighth when Nakata flied to the wall in right. Nakashima reached to open the inning on a throwing error by third baseman Brandon Laird.

Fighters starter Nick Martinez allowed four runs on five hits and five walks over six innings.

Togo earns 3rd win as Giants pound Carp

 Twenty-year-old right-hander Shosei Togo (3-0) worked six scoreless innings and Zelous Wheeler hit his first home run for his new team as the Yomiuri Giants clobbered the Carp 12-1 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Togo allowed two hits and three walks while striking out four, while the Giants got to Carp lefty Kris Johnson (0-3) for five runs over five innings. Kazuma Okamoto broke the ice in the first by singling home rookie Takumi Kitamura, who opened the game with a single. Wheeler, who joined the Giants in a June trade from the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles, completed the damage against Johnson with a two-run homer in the fifth.

Wheeler singled in two more runs in the Giants’ five-run sixth, when Okamoto added a two-run shot.

Matsuba earns 1st win as Dragon

Takahiro Matsuba (1-0) allowed a run over 5-1/3 innings and Dayan Viciedo doubled in two to pace the Chunichi Dragons to a 2-1 win over the DeNA BayStars at Nagoya Dome.

The loss extends the BayStars’ record streak of winning and losing alternating games to 16 straight. The visitors’ only run came on Neftali Soto’s sixth home run of the year in the sixth.

Matsuba, who was making his season debut, earned his first win in a Chunichi uniform since being traded last summer from the Orix Buffaloes.

Haruhiro Hamaguchi (1-1) took the loss for the BayStars. He struck out nine but walked three and surrendered seven hits over 5-1/3 innings.

Swallows wear down Tigers

Alcides Escobar had four hits including a two-run home run as the Yakult Swallows beat the Hanshin Tigers 9-5 at Koshien Stadium.

Swallows starter Gabriel Ynoa allowed a run over five innings, but lefty 21-year-old Hiroki Hasegawa allowed all three runners he faced in the sixth to reach, and Scott McGough allowed the two runners he inherited to score.

Munetaka Murakami, who singled to open the scoring in the first off Onelki Garcia, broke a 4-4 tie in the seventh with another RBI single.

Garcia, who beat out a bunt single to open the Tigers’ fifth and appeared to cramp up in the process, returned in the sixth after a 30-minute rain delay, when he issued a two-out walk and surrendered Escobar’s home run. The lefty allowed four runs on two walks six hits over six innings.

Justin Bour went 3-for-5 with his fourth home run for the Tigers.

Mariners’ Hirano tests positive

Yoshihisa Hirano has tested positive for COVID-19, according to Kyodo News.

Seattle placed the right-hander on the injured list earlier in the day. Hirano signed a one-year deal with Seattle in January after going 9-8 with a 3.47 ERA over two seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Yoshihisa Hirano

The 36-year-old had been the Orix Buffaloes’ closer until he filed for free agency after the 2017 season and signed with the Diamondbacks, whose manager Torey Lovullo, played in Japan for the Yakult Swallows.

According to Kyodo, Hirano is the first Japanese major leaguer to test positive. In March three Hanshin Tigers players tested positive, while two Yomiuri Giants players tested positive in May.

Transactions

Rakuten Eagles traded LHP Yuhei Takanashi to Yomiuri Giants for RHP Hosei Takata*

NOTE: To facilitate management of 70-man rosters, until recently it was customary to assign a player acquired in a trade the same number as a player he was traded for. I don’t know when it last happened, but the Takanashi-Takata trade simplified that matter since both were No. 53 with their former clubs.

Active roster moves 7/15/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/25

Central League

Activated

CarpP30Ryuji Ichioka
CarpC40Yoshitaka Isomura
DragonsP38Takahiro Matsuba

Dectivated

CarpC31Yoshiyuki Ishihara
SwallowsP19Masanori Ishikawa

Pacific League

Activated

LionsIF52Haruka Yamada
HawksP21Tsuyoshi Wada
HawksIF00Hikaru Kawase
FightersP59Yuki Yoshida
FightersC22Shinya Tsuruoka
BuffaloesP66Ryo Yoshida

Dectivated

HawksP40Kazuki Sugiyama
HawksIF36Taisei Makihara
FightersP15Naoyuki Uwasawa
FightersC10Yushi Shimizu
BuffaloesP49Keisuke Sawada

NPB 2020 7-11 games and news

Buffaloes exploit reliever’s mistakes

The Orix Buffaloes won for the fifth time in seven games with a 5-3 win on Saturday over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome on Saturday.

With both teams giving away opportunities and then throwing away their chances, the Buffaloes finally broke up the 1-1 tie that had existed since the first inning.

Southpaw Katsuhiko Kumon (0-1), the sixth pitcher on a bullpen day for Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama, made two momentary lapses in the field and that was enough to turn the game Orix’s way. The lefty came in throwing strikes and executing his pitches for the most part.

With a runner on second after a leadoff single and a sacrifice, Yuma Mune hit a grounder to first. Kumon went to cover first, and though he’d been able to locate his pitches, he was unable to locate the bag. Only after taking the throw from first baseman Sho Nakata did he realize that he had stopped more than a stride from the bag as Mune sped past and reached safely with an “infield single.”

Mune stole second on the first pitch to left-handed slugger Masataka Yoshida, who after a steady diet of pitches targeting the low-away corner of the zone, chopped one back to Kumon. The southpaw hesitated for a split second to see the runner coming home, but then couldn’t find the ball in his glove. His delayed throw home gave his catcher no chance for a play as the Buffaloes took their first lead.

With lefty Takahiro Okada on deck, Kumon worked extra carefully to Adam Jones and walked him. It was at that point that the game got out of control. Kumon missed with a 1-0 slider in the heart of the zone to Okada. Although he’s having a tremendous start to the season, the Buffaloes slugger missed and popped it up.

But Kumon’s early ability to execute was now gone. He tried to go inside with a first-pitch fastball to Aderlin Rodriguez but missed high and over the plate. Rodriguez, who had demolished the Fighters the day before, put a beautiful swing on it and lined it over second for a two-run single.

The game marked an end to Kumon’s record-setting streak of 182 career games without a loss, and rather than sympathy, one suspects he is going to receive a heaping helping of pitchers fielding practice.

Kumon’s replacement walked the next to batters to make it 5-1, and Buffaloes right-hander Keisuke Sawada coughed up two runs in the ninth on Kotaro Kiyomiya’s second home run of the season before Brandon Dickson came in to face one batter, tough left-handed leadoff man Haruki Nishikawa. Dickson retired him on three pitches to earn his third save.

Buffaloes lefty Daiki Tajima allowed a run over five innings on three hits and three walks. Nakata singled home Nishikawa, after Tajima walked the first two batters he faced in the first.

Chihiro Kaneko, who won a Sawamura Award as Japan’s most impressive starting pitcher during his days as Buffaloes ace, led off the Fighters’ bullpen relay. He surrendered a leadoff single to Koji Oshiro, who scored from third on a wild pitch.

After Tajima left the game, Hirotoshi Masui and Nobuyoshi Yamada each worked a scoreless inning, as did new import Tyler Higgins (1-0) who earned the win in relief. Higgins located a good fastball with an effective change to more or less dictate things from the mound.

Marines power past Lions

The Lotte Marines took a bat to Seibu Lions starter Wataru Matsumoto (0-2) in a 6-4 victory at Chiba’s breezy Zozo Marine Stadium.

After an error put the leadoff man on, Marines No. 3 hitter Tsuyoshi Sugano fouled off three two-strike pitches before finding a straight fastball in the heart of the zone to his liking and pulling it well back into the right field stands.

Brandon Laird drew an eight-pitch walk after he popped up the seventh near first base. There, the wind prevented a catch in foul territory. Seiya Inoue followed homering for the second-straight game to make it 4-0 Lotte, hitting the first strike he saw, a low 2-0 fastball and powering it into the left field seats.

Marines starter Atsuki Taneichi (1-1) brought a lively fastball and was able to survive a third-inning scrape with just two runs scored off him. Over six innings, he gave up three runs on seven hits, two walks and two hit batsmen while striking out 10.

Frank Herrmann, Tsuyoshi Ishizaki and Naoya Masuda finished up for Lotte, with Masuda earning his fifth save.

Niho outlasts Kishi as Hawks slam Eagles

Journeyman right-hander, who somehow got a spot in the SoftBank Hawks starting rotation, showed why he deserved that chance as he outpitched veteran Takayuki Kishi in an 8-4 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Niho (1-2) entered the game with eight career wins. He allowed four runs on four hits, a walk and a hit batsman over seven innings while striking out three. In a game that seemed like a hopeless mismatch, Niho executed his pitches, while the Hawks ran the bases better and fielded better than the Hawks.

Yasuhito Uchida blasted a three-run second-inning homer in an inning led off by good at-bats from Hiroaki Shimauchi, who walked, and Stefen Romero, who singled.

The Hawks scored twice in the second thanks to some opportunistic base running that the Eagles failed to counter. With two outs and a man on in the third, Nobuhiro Matsuda tied it when he appeared to be looking for a first-pitch changeup from Kishi and drilled it for his second home run of the season and second in two games.

Yuki Yanagita, who doubled in the first and walked three times, walked to open the seventh and broke the 4-4 tie on a double by Kenji Akashi, who had scored in both the second and third innings.

Akashi’s first run was simple theft. After he singled and went to second when Matsuda walked, Takuya Kai singled to center. The Eagles appeared to have Matsuda hung up between second and third, but while they focused on him Akashi sprinted home. The throw went home late and both runners advanced. Matsuda then scored on a squibber down the line. Catcher Hikaru Ota went to field it but could not tag Matsuda as he ran past to score.

Big fish inning defeats Dragons

Shogo Itakura, a 22-year-old catching prospect had a pair of RBI singles in the third inning and went 4-for-5 with a walk and a double in the Hiroshima Carp’s 19-4 demolition of the Chunichi Dragons at Nagoya Dome.

The Carp broke a 1-1 tie with nine runs in the third, five off right-handed starter Akiyoshi Katsuno (0-1), while Hiroshima lefty Hiroki Tokoda (1-1) allowed three runs over six innings to earn the win.

Hiroshima’s Jose Pirela went 2-for-5 with a walk and a home run on the game’s first pitch, while the new Dragons new, 24-year-old Cuban Ariel Martinez batted third and went 2-for-4 with an RBI double and two strikeouts to keep his average at .500.

New Carp import D. J. Johnson made his debut and allowed one run in the ninth.

Takahashi out again, rookie Ishikawa to get call

Dragons captain Shuhei Takahashi injured his left hamstring as he was striding to first base in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game and is expected to be out between three weeks and a month according to a report in the Nikkan Sports.

Takahashi posted a career-high .345 on-base percentage last season when he missed 26 games, largely due to a leg injury. He will be deactivated on Sunday

According to the report, Takahashi will be replaced on the roster by slugging rookie Takaya Ishikawa, whom Chunichi won the rights to in a draft-day lottery after he was picked first by three clubs.

The 19-year-old who starred for Japan’s U-18 team last summer, suffered from inflammation in his right shoulder during camp. He has played in all nine of the Dragons’ farm club’s Western League games, batting fourth and playing third.

Ogawa pitches Swallows past Giants

Right-hander Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa” (3-0) allowed two runs over six innings while striking out six to earn the win as the Yakult Swallows beat their Tokyo rivals, the Yomiuri Giants, 9-2 at Hotto Motto Field Kobe.

Swallows shortstop Alcides Escobar had his 1.85-meter frame to thank for being able to reach up and snag a flyball in a run-saving first-inning catch. Munetaka Murakami doubled off Angel Sanchez (2-2) to open the Swallows fourth and scored the tie-breaking run on a Yuhei Takai sac fly.

Norichika Aoki homered, doubled, scored twice and drove in three for the Swallows.

Sanchez allowed four runs, three earned, on four hits and two walks in 5-1/3 innings. He struck out eight.

Soto finishes dramatic DeNA comeback

Neftali Soto capped a three-run ninth-inning rally with a two-run homer off Kyuji Fujikawa (0-2) in the DeNA BayStars’ 4-2 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium.

Soto walked and scored in the eighth to make it a 2-1 game. With one out in the ninth, Takayuki Kajitani walked. Substitute outfielder Kai Ueda, who had entered in the bottom of the eighth as a pinch runner, let Masayuki Kuwahara’s single get past him, allowing Kajitani to score from first. Soto then blasted a 2-1 fastball for his fifth home run.

The Tigers had led since the second inning, when Justin Bour hit his fourth home run of the season, off BayStars southpaw Shota Imanaga, who left after six innings.

Four relievers finished up for the BayStars, with lefty Kenta Ishida (1-0) working the eighth to earn the win, and Yasuaki Yamasaki stranding two in the ninth to earn his fifth save.

The ninth-inning comeback spoiled a solid start by Hanshin right-hander Yuki Nishi, who struck tout seven over 6-1/3 scoreless innnings.

NPB 2020 7-4 GAMES AND NEWS

Sunday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB.

Wada gets assist from Fighters in 1st win

Former Cub Tsuyoshi Wada took a no-hitter into the seventh and ended up with his first win of the season as the SoftBank Hawks beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 8-3 at Sapporo Dome.

The 39-year-old lefty frequently missed in the zone, but the Fighters only hit two balls hard off him through six, both drives straight to Hawks outfielders. Instead of playing “see the ball, hit the ball” against a pitcher whose fastball sat at 85 miles per hour, they guessed and watched and looked and waited.

Wada’s changeup was first rate, and it was if the Fighters were waiting for him to throw it up in the zone, something he refused to do. Instead, whenever they got a fastball up they either watched it, missed it or miss-hit it. He surrendered his first hit to Kensuke Kondo to open the seventh.

The Fighters’ most patient hitter had taken strike after strike in the zone in his first two at-bats, and should have been rung up on a low 0-2 changeup. But umpires are umpires the world over, Kondo got a second life and pulled an inside 1-2 fastball between first and second for a single.

In the seventh, the Fighters changed tactics and began taking easy swings at mistakes in the zone. They loaded the bases with three no-out singles and Wada was gone.

“They are professional hitters. It wasn’t a matter of if they would get a hit, but when,” Wada said.

The Hawks opened the scoring in the first, when Kenta Imamiya homered with one out and none on against Takayuki Kato (0-1). Imamiya, on Friday moved into a tie for seventh all-time in career sacrifice hits with 300. Three straight hits, including a Wladimir Balentien double gave the Hawks the lead for good.

Here are the game highlights:

Kishi wins season debut

The Rakuten Eagles won a seven-inning rain-shortened 3-1 game over the Lotte Marines at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi. Takayuki Kishi (1-0) allowed a first-inning run over five innings in his season debut by pitching out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fourth.

Former Padre Kazuhisa Makita worked a scoreless sixth, and former Dodger JT Chargois pitched the seventh to earn his first save in Japan.

Here are the game highlights:

Yoshida homer lifts Buffaloes over Lions

Masataka Yoshida’s third home run of the season, a two-run shot in the eighth inning, brought the Orix Buffaloes from a run down and lifted them to a 4-3 win over the defending Pacific League champion Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.

Buffaloes starter Daiki Tajima (1-0) had one brush with trouble and it cost him in a three-run fourth, capped by Takeya Nakamura’s two-run double. Aderlin Rodriguez’s fifth-inning solo homer made it a 3-1 game in the fifth and Tajima left after seven.

A one-out walk, a wild pickoff throw and an RBI single by Koji Oshiro made it a 3-2 game before Yoshida homered with two outs.

Tyler Higgins worked the eighth for Orix and Brandon Dickson closed in the ninth to record his first save of the season.

Maru drives in 6 as Giants whip Dragons

Yoshihiro Maru homered twice and added an RBI double as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Chunichi Dragons 7-3 at Tokyo Dome.

Hayato Sakamoto walked twice, homered, singled and scored three runs, while Gerardo Parra doubled twice and singled.

Marte, Bour rip as Tigers gut Carp

Jefry Marte hit a two-run first-inning home run off Carp ace Daichi Osera (2-1) in a 9-3 Hanshin Tigers win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Justin Bour had three hits for the Tigers and a sacrifice fly, while starting pitcher Yuta Iwasada (1-1) allowed three runs over six innings to earn the win.

Osera, who entered the game having opened the season with back-to-back complete-game victories, allowed five runs on eight hits over four innings. Osera failed to score or drive in a run on Saturday, but did single in his only at-bat, raising his average to .625.

Marte did not return to third base in the bottom of the third inning after complaining of tightness in his left calf.

Martinez 1st import to catch in 20 years

A day after being called up, 24-year-old Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez saw his first duty behind the plate on Saturday. Coming on as a sixth-inning pinch-hitter, Martinez walked, scored and stayed in to catch.

In so doing, he became the first imported player to catch in an NPB game since former Australian big leaguer Dave “Dingo” Nillson caught in one game for the Dragons in 2020. Prior to that, Mike Diaz caught 21 games for the Lotte Orions from 1990 to 1991.

Martinez, who joined Chunichi as a non-roster developmental signing in 2018, was signed to a standard contract this past week and added to the Dragons’ 70-man roster. He looked good behind the plate and threw out the first runner who tried to steal against him.

Swallows walk the walk

The Yakult Swallows overcame home runs by Neftali Soto and Jose Lopez by drawing seven walks in a 10-8 win over the DeNA BayStars, who outhit the Swallows 15-6.

Soto had four hits, including two homers, but Naomichi Nishiura and Norichika Aoki each hit two-run shots for the Swallows. Nishimura, who had lost his shortstop job to Alcides Escobar, has grabbed it back by hitting four homers in four games.

Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama entered the ninth with a four-run lead but allowed two runs on Soto’s third home run of the year.

ramping up: 21 days to go

One aspect of the long layoff forced by the novel coronavirus is that players who were due to miss the original March 20 start of the season, are now regaining fitness and may be able to make the roster when the season finally starts on June 19.

350 days

That’s how long it will be between starts for Naoyuki Uwasawa when he takes the mound for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Tuesday’s practice game.

Last season, Uwasawa was a key component of the Rube Goldberg contraption that was the Fighters’ pitching rotation last season. Manager Hideki Kuriyama used him and Kohei Arihara as the pillars in conventional starting roles, with a handful of others tasked with going either once or twice through the opposing lineup depending on the skipper’s confidence in them.

In a June 18 interleague game, Uwasawa was kneecapped by a batted ball hit by Neftali Soto, the DeNA BayStars’ two-time Central League home run champ. Prior to that game, the Fighters starting pitchers were 26-18 with a 3.65 ERA. Afterward, even with some superb 1-inning opening acts by Mizuki Hori, they went 18-31 with a 4.32 ERA.

On Thursday, he faced five batters in a simulated game at the Fighters’ minor league facility in Kamagaya, Chiba Prefecture, and is expected to pitch two innings on Tuesday at the Lotte Marines’ Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba.

Yanagita back with a bang

Yuki Yanagita, who until the recent ascension of Hiroshima Carp right fielder Seiya Suzuki, was considered the Japanese outfielder most coveted by MLB clubs, returned to the SoftBank Hawks’ first team for an intrasquad game on Saturday. Yanagita has been rehabbing since his 2019 dumpster fire of a season was capped with right elbow surgery in the offseason.

Yanagita missed most of the season with a knee injury and failed by the slimmest of margins to get the 140 days of service time needed to be a free agent this winter. Had the Hawks brought him up a few days earlier, he would have been on track to fulfil his stated goal of playing in the majors. They didn’t and he signed a long-ass contract that keeps him in Fukuoka for essentially the rest of his career.

On Saturday, according to the Sankei Sports, he hit an opposite-field homer from submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi, the Pacific League’s 2019 rookie of the year and another player who was due to miss the start of the season in March but now has a shot at helping out the rotation from the start.

Stewart takes drive off shin

The Hawks’ Carter Stewart Jr left the mound after pitching just one inning when he took a shot off his right shin that was turned into the final out of the inning.

Iguchi changes tune on Sasaki

Eighteen-year-old right-hander Roki Sasaki who repeatedly was clocked at over 100 miles per hour in his final high school season, apparently will appear in a practice game for the Lotte Marines in the coming weeks, manager Tadahito Iguchi indicated to the media on Saturday.

Earlier in the week, Iguchi had said Sasaki, who twice hit 160 kilometers per hour in a simulated game on Tuesday, would not be ready to appear in a game next month.

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.

Camping World: Feb. 15, 2020 Sasaki comes to town

On Saturday, two days after he threw his first bullpen session of spring training, 18-year-old Roki Sasaki was again the center of attention. This time, Sasaki, who touched 100 mph in his senior year of high school, drew a crowd of Chunichi Dragons before their game with his Lotte Marines according to the Nikkan Sports.

Sasaki’s first bullpen was a huge hit with a pair of former major leaguers, Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi and pitching coach Masato Yoshii. The former Met, who coached Shohei Ohtani in his last two seasons with the Nippon Ham Fighters, said he’d never seen anyone throw like that.

Indeed, Sasaki’s delivery is so effortless looking, that he is a fairly unique athlete. Sasaki said he was much happier with Saturday’s 48-pitch effort, saying, “I threw some pitches I was very happy with, although I was still wild.”

And the crowd?

“I noticed them, but they weren’t in my field of vision when I was throwing so no problem,” he said.

Disappointment from Bour

In what will probably be the first of many such stories this season, the Daily Sports reported on the results of new Hanshin Tigers Jerry Sands and Justin Bour, in their headline: “Sands gets 2 free passes, Bour grounds into bases-loaded double play.”

The game was the team’s first outside practice game, a 7-1 loss to the Hiroshima Carp.

New Buffalo Jones confesses to wanting to hit. 300

Sports Hochi reported Saturday that new Orix Buffaloes import Adam Jones, who has declined the Japanese custom of announcing numeric goals for the season, revealed to Orix executives that he wanted to hit .300. Stop the presses.

BayStars import Austin to start preseason opener

Journeyman first baseman and corner outfielder Tyler Austin will start in right field for the DeNA BayStars in Sunday’s preseason opener against the Yomiuri Giants in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, DeNA skipper Alex Ramirez said, according to Hochi Shimbun.

Tyler will bat second and play right, while two-time CL home run champion Neftali Soto, who split his time last season between second and right, will be at first base. Regular first baseman Jose Lopez, will be the DH. Ramirez said he would continue to use big hitters in the No. 2 hole this season.

Last year, he caught flak for “insulting Japan” by having the national team cleanup hitter, new Tampa Bay Ray Yoshitomo Tsutsugo bat second.

Villanueva vows to adjust with new club

Christian Villanueva was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his intrasquad debut with the Nippon Ham Fighters, whom he joined after an unsuccessful NPB 2019 debut campaign with the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants.

He said he was grateful to the Fighters for accepting him and that he would adjust so that he could be able to be as effective as possible, the Hochi Shimbun reported.

Mota making strong appeal for Giants call-up

Israel Mota, a 24-year-outfielder who spent five years in the Washington Nationals farm system, continued to swing a hot bat in camp, the Hochi Shimbun reported Saturday. Mota, who joined Yomiuri on a developmental contract last year, singled and doubled in three practice game at-bats against KBO’s Samsung Lions.

In the same game, new Giant Gerardo Parra was greeted by Giants fans showing off their “Baby Shark” chops when he appeared as a pinch-hitter at Okinawa Cellular Stadium. He struck out.

The kotatsu league: Johnson, Coco taking their leaves

Much of Friday’s news from NPB concerned foreign-registered players who will not be back next season with their current teams. The big leavers include two quality middle relievers and Japan’s single-season home run record holder.

Coco free to go go

Wladimir Balentien’s run with the Central League’s Yakult Swallows has come to an end Kyodo News reported Friday. According to the report, the Swallows international director Masayuki “Michael” Okumura said, “Time’s up. We were unable to come to agreement.”

The 35-year-old Balentien, who in 2013 shattered Japan’s single-season home run record by hitting 60, hit 288 home runs and posted a .378 on-base percentage in his nine seasons with Yakult. He led the CL in home runs three times, in on-base percentage twice and was 2013 MVP.

Because of his nine years of service, he no longer counts against the four-active-player limit for foreign-registered players.

Kyodo News’ Japanese language story is HERE.

Tigers’ Johnson 1 and done

Reliever Pierce Johnson (28) will be handed his release on Nov. 2, Kyodo News reported Friday. Johnson posted a 1.38 ERA in his lone Japan season with the Hanshin Tigers. He went 2-3 and logged 40 holds.

According to Delta Graphs, Johnson led all Tigers pitchers with 50-plus innings in swinging-strike percentage (16.0) –and was second in the CL. Opposing batters made contact on just 66.5 percent of their swings against him, the best figure in the CL and the fourth best in NPB.

Dragons’ Rodriguez leaving Nagoya

Left-hander Joely Rodrirguez, whose 44 “hold points” (holds plus relief wins) led the CL by two over Pierce Johnson’s 42, is also on his way out of the Chunichi Dragons organization, the team announced Friday according to Kyodo News.

Hiroyuki Kato, the Dragons’ official representative to NPB, said Rodriguez’s agent suggested “the lefty’s priority was a contract with an MLB team” and therefore the Dragons decided not to include him on their reserved list.

The 28-year-old Rodriguez, who has displayed a plus two-seamer and changeup, has been solid in middle relief since joining the Dragons in the middle of the 2018 seasons.

Uwasawa apologizes for broken kneecap

In today’s “Only in Japan” corner, Nippon Ham Fighters Opening Day Starter Naoyuki Uwasawa accepted a pay cut of 10 million yen ($94,000) because he missed half the season due to injury. The lefty, one of two starting pitchers used in a traditional fashion by Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama this season, had his season ended on June 18.

A drive off the bat of DeNA BayStars slugger Neftali Soto struck Uwasawa on the left knee cap and broke it.

On Friday, he said, “I’m afraid I was unable to carry my weight and was a bother to the team.”

I don’t know about you, but that’s like getting hit by a bus and then apologizing to the driver that hit you for making him late.

Here’s the Sponichi Annex story.

NPB games, news of Sept. 19, 2019

Nobumasa Fukuda twice doubled home Yosuke Hirata, and Joely Rodriguez caught three batters looking in a 1-2-3 eighth inning as the Chunichi Dragons came from a run down to beat the Yomiuri Giants on Thursday in NPB.

The Giants entered the game with a magic number of four to win the Central League for the first time since 2014 and end the franchise’s longest pennant drought.

Hayato Sakamoto extended his career best in home runs with his 37th, but the hosts tied it in the home half at Nagoya Dome. Hirata singled with one out off Cristopher Mercedes, and was on second after Yota Kyoda tried to bunt for a base hit. Fukuda, who’d grounded out in the first on a low fastball, and popped up in the fourth chasing a low changeup, was ready for something low. He pounced on a 1-1 changeup at the bottom of the zone and lined it into the left-field corner.

Joely Rodriguez, the second Dragons pitcher to come on in relief of Shinnosuke Ogasawara, caught three-straight Giants hitters looking at called third strikes on his fastball on the edge of the zone.

“It looked to me like we were getting overpowered by fastballs,” batting coach Sadaaki Yoshimura said. “We were not batting decisively on either strikes or balls.”

Rodriguez (3-4) earned the win in relief, when Hirata doubled with one out in the eighth off Hirokazu Sawamura (2-2) and scored on Fukuda’s second two-out RBI double of the game.

Raidel Martinez worked the ninth to earn his eighth save as four Dragons pitchers combined to retire the last 11 Giants.

BayStars 11, Carp 8, 11 innings

At Yokohama Stadium, Neftali Soto started DeNA’s fightback from a 7-0 deficit with a three-run sixth-inning homer and ended it with a three-run sayonara shot in the 11th inning that eliminated Hiroshima from contention for a fourth-straight CL pennant.

Takayuki Kajitani tied the game in the sixth with a pinch-hit grand slam and re-tied it in the eighth with an RBI double. The home run was the 100th of his career. With his 41st and 42nd home runs, Soto pulled into a tie for the Japan lead with Seibu’s Hotaka Yamakawa.

Game highlights are HERE.

Swallows 8, Tigers 0

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin’s Koji Chikamoto moved past Shigeo Nagashima to take sole possession of the CL’s record for hits by a rookie with his 154th, a first-inning single against Yakult’s Yasuhiro Ogawa (5-12).

Ogawa allowed nine hits, the most in a shutout since Orix’s Taisuke Yamaoka gave up nine on Aug. 26, 2017 against Seibu. The last shutout win with more than nine hits was Masahiro Tanaka’s 10-hitter against SoftBank on Aug. 22, 2010.

Ogawa’s 145 pitches were the most thrown by an NPB pitcher since Orix’s Brandon Dickson threw 146 on July 17, 2018.

Hanshin has now been shut out an NPB-high 15 times. One of those games ended in a 0-0 tie. It was only the second time this season an opponent has failed to score against Yakult.

Game highlights are HERE.

Pacific League

Lions 2, Fighters 0

At MetLife Dome, Ken Togame (5-6) threw seven-plus innings as Seibu beat Nippon Ham, shutting out an opponent in consecutive games for the first time since Aug. 16 and Aug. 17 against Rakuten. The win dropped the defending champs’ magic number to clinch the PL pennant to five.

The Fighters have now been shut out 12 times this season, equaling the Rakuten Eagles for the most in the PL.

Game highlights are HERE.

Hawks 4, Buffaloes 3

At Yafuoku Dome, SoftBank clinched its sixth-straight playoff berth after Akira Nakamura broke a 3-3 eighth-inning tie with a sacrifice fly, and Yuito Mori worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 33rd save. The loss eliminated Orix from playoff contention.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 2, Marines 0

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Takahiro Norimoto (4-5) allowed three singles and now walks over eight innings, as Rakuten shut out Lotte and moved pass the Marines into third place.

Game highlights are HERE.

NPB games, news of Aug. 2, 2019

The top two teams in each league as of Aug. 1, met for the start of three-game series on Friday at the home park of the second-place team. With Kodai Senga pitching for the Hawks in Sapporo and Tomoyuki Sugano going for the Giants in Yokohama, it made for an entertaining start to the weekend.

Central League

BayStars 4, Giants 2

At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA’s Kentaro Taira took his 138 kph (85.7 mph) side-arm fastball, a screwball a slider and kept the ball in or below the bottom of the strike zone to outpitch Yomiuri ace Tomoyuki Sugano (8-5).

Taira said teammates Neftali Soto and Jose “El Chamo” Lopez both promised to get hits for him, and in a sixth inning set up by a series of fat pitches from Sugano, Soto tied it with a line double before Lopez had to work for a hit, going down to get a decent slider and lofting it into right center for a two-run double.

Carp 7, Tigers 0

At Mazda Stadium, Xavier Batista hit a grand slam with his 25th home run of the season, and Daichi Osera (8-6) threw a five-hitter as third-place Hiroshima beat Hanshin to move within three games of the Giants.

Dragons 5, Swallows 4

At Jingu Stadium, Yota Kyoda drove in the winning run with a squeeze as Chunichi beat Yakult’s current closer, Scott McGough (4-2) in a game that saw five home runs.

Wladimir Balentien hit his 22nd of the season for the Swallows, giving Japan’s single-season record holder 277 home runs in NPB, tying him for fifth all-time among foreign hitters alongside former Minnesota Twins farmhand Greg “Boomer” Wells.

Pacific League

Hawks 2, Fighters 0

At Sapporo Dome, Kodai Senga (10-4) walked five but allowed just two hits, while striking out eight to post his first shutout of the season as SoftBank held off Nippon Ham.

Fighters right-hander Toshihiro Sugiura, who has been bouncing back and forth between the minors and the big club, making starts every two weeks or so and looking bad doing so, had his best game of the year, striking out five over five scoreless innings.

Alfredo Despaigne broke the scoreless deadlock in the sixth off Mizuki Hori, who had been dropped out of his short starter role after surrendering 13 runs over his last two starts.

Senga improved to 7-0 in his career at Sapporo Dome.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 5, Marines 2

At Rakuten Seimei Park, 1.69-meter right-hander Manabu Mima (7-3) allowed one unearned run over six innings, and Rakuten skipper Yosuke Hiraishi got a chance to use his closer for a save in the ninth against Lotte.

A Shogo Nakamura leadoff homer in the top of the ninth made it a three-run game, and Takashi Ogino’s two-out single created a save situation. Hiraishi trotted out Japan’s save leader just to prove he could, and lefty Yuki Matsui struck out Leonys Martin on seven pitches to earn his Japan-best 29th save.

Game highlights are HERE.

Buffaloes 9, Lions 8

At Kyocera Dome, Steven Moya drove in three runs as Orix beat Seibu–the second-straight night the Lions lost by a run after scoring eight-plus.

Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji juggled his lineup, dropping No. 2 hitter Sosuke Genda to the No. 9 spot, and batting catcher Tomoya Mori third, from where he homered twice and drove in five runs.

Game highlights are HERE.

News

Former Tigers, Buffaloes infielder Kamada dies

Minoru Kamada, who played 1,482 games, mostly at second base for the Tigers and Kintetsu Buffaloes and is best known for introducing the infielder’s backward toss to Japan, has died at the age of 80.

Kamada first saw major leaguers flipping the ball to their double play partners when he visited major league spring camps in Florida with the Tigers in the early 1960s, but said it took him four years of practice to get the hang of it.

A story goes that he rarely tried it in games because he disliked the media so much and said that if he were to make one mistake doing it the Tigers beat writers would never let him forget it.

When he moved to the Buffaloes in 1967, legendary manager Osamu Mihara instructed him not to do it. One story goes that Mihara, a former infielder said it would cause problems with the team’s other infielders, who were not that skilled. In response to that, Kamada famously said, “That’s the other infielder’s problem, and has nothing to do with me.”