Tag Archives: Norichika Aoki

NPB 2020 Oct. 3

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Marines’ counterattack levels Lions

Three-run homers by Shuhei Fukuda and Hisanori Yasuda lifted the Lotte Marines to a 6-3 win over the Seibu Lions on Saturday at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

Fukuda’s homer canceled out two by the Lions, a Takumi Kuriyama solo shot and two-run homer by Fumikazu Kimura. After Friday’s game was decided 1-0 by Ernesto Mejia’s solo homer, all10 runs scored in two game have crossed the plate on home runs.

Reed Garrett made his first start for the Lions after beginning the season with some success as their setup man. The right-hander was pulled after issuing his first walk, leaving two on with two outs in the third inning. The next pitcher issued a walk to load the bases, but retired Yasuda to end the inning.

Marines closer Naoya Masuda allowed the tying run to come to the plate in the ninth but held on to record his Japan-best 27th save.

Snappy answers to stupid questions

The loss meant the Lions, the two-time defending Pacific League champions, can no longer win the league under their own power. Asked the obligatory questions about the significance of this event that nobody seems to care about except Japanese sports editors, Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji said, “We don’t care about things like that.”

Yanagita homers in Hawks’ cleanup battle

A day after the SoftBank Hawks employed light-hitting utility infielder Keizo Kawashima in the No. 4 spot, Yuki Yanagita, the Pacific League’s premier hitter, took over the cleanup duties and homered in a 2-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Instead of Kawashima, with a career .254/.335/.363 slash line, Yanagita took over. Easily Japanese ball’s most productive hitter over the last seven seasons, opened the scoring in the second with his 25th home run, this one to the opposite field off Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (5-8) who took the complete-game loss.

Yanagita is one of only two players in Japanese pro baseball history to lead his league in on-base percentage and slugging average in four straight years (2015-2018).

This led to another memorable Hawks hero interview as Yanagita deadpanned about his competition with Kawashima for the No. 4 spot, although it probably doesn’t match the time Seiichi Uchikawa and Tsuyoshi Wada suggested a powerful God lived in the restroom behind the Hawks’ bench.

  • Q: How did you feel going up to bat in the second inning?
    • Yanagita: “Keizo batted fourth yesterday, and even though he got results, I usurped his spot. Because of that, I felt I had to do more to make up for his production we lost.”
  • Q: Kawashima was the hero yesterday, and now you’re the cleanup hitter and your a hero, too. Is there something special about being the Hawks’ cleanup hitter?
    • Yanagita: “To be honest, my only feeling was one of anxiety about whether I could compare favorably with Keizo.”

Kudo: “Cut that shit out”

Veteran Hawks outfielder Akira Nakamura was hurt sliding head-first into second legging out a double and was taken out of the game. He’s one of the hardest players in Japan to get a swinging strike against, and skipper Kimiyasu Kudo spoke about the incident afterward.

“He wanted the extra-base and thought he could get it, but from my point of view, I want him to be more careful, so I told him to forget about doing that stuff,” Kudo said.

Asamura hits 29th HR in Eagles’ win

The Rakuten Eagles shook off the loss of slugger Stefen Romero in the first inning as Hideto Asamura hit his Japan-best 29th home run to tie it en route to a 5-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Romero was hit in the head by a pitch in the first inning to load the bases with two outs, but reliever Koki Saito (1-1) retired veteran Ginji Akaminai to end the inning.

Steven Moya hit a two-run homer for the Buffaloes in the bottom of the first, but Asamura tied it in the third, when Akaminai singled in the go-ahead run.

Alan Busenitz allowed a run in the ninth but held on to earn his 16th save for the third-place Eagles.

Hatake, Oshiro lead Giants pastTigers

Seishu Hatake (2-3) worked 5-1/3 scoreless innings in the Yomiuri Giants’ 7-4 win over the Hanshin Tigers, who were held scoreless for eight innings at Koshien Stadium.

Takumi Oshiro’s three-run sixth-inning homer was the big hit for the Giants, who needed three pitchers to close ut the bottom of the ninth.

First-year Tigers right-hander Joe Gunkel (1-3) made his second start in Japan and trailed 2-0 through five innings. The Giants denied a Tigers run in the bottom of the fifth when Koji Chikamoto tried to score from first on a double to the gap. The relay from center fielder Yoshihiro Maru to shortstop Hayato Sakamoto got the ball to Oshiro, who applied a good tag.

Chikamoto capped the Tigers’ ninth with a three-run homer before Rubby De La Rosa came on to get the final out.

Dragons hold off feisty BayStars

The Chunichi Dragons came close to blowing an eight-run lead but held on for a 9-7 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.

Closer Raidel Martinez allowed a run in the ninth but stranded the potential tying run to earn his 16th save, lifting Chunichi into third place ahead of the BayStars.

Dragons catcher Takumi Kinoshita drove in five runs with a homer and a two-run first-inning single, but the BayStars scored six runs over the final four innings to make a game out of it.

DeNA starter Haruhiro Hamaguchi (6-5) allowed eight runs over 1-1/3 innings.

Carp slaughter Swallows

Rookie Masato Morishita (7-3) allowed six hits and a walk while striking out five in the Hiroshima Carp’s 13-2 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

With the Carp leading 13-0 in the bottom of the eighth, reliever Yasunori Kikuchi lost control of a ball that went behind Norichika Aoki, knocking him to the ground and out of the game.

As Tetsuto Yamada took his spot in the batter’s box, first base coach Ryosuke Morioka approached home plate, benches emptied and pushing and shoving ensued. Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu then informed the umpires he was playing the game under protest. It was NPB’s first protest of the season.

Swallows starter Albert Suarez (4-1) allowed four runs on 10 hits and a walk over 6-1/3 innings to take the loss.

Romero stretchered off field

Rakuten Eagles outfielder Stefen Romero was carried off the field in the top of the first inning on Saturday at Kyocera Dome after being struck on the helmet by a 145-kph pitch from Taiwan right-hander Chang Yi, who earned the automatic ejection for a “dangerous pitch.”

Chang, known here by the Japanese reading of his name’s Chinese characters, “Cho Yaku,” was the fifth pitcher ejected this season for hitting a batter in the head and the third in the Pacific League.

Despaigne to miss 2-3 weeks

The SoftBank Hawks announced Saturday that Best Nine-winning designated hitter Alfredo Despaigne will miss two to three weeks due to a bone bruise on his right tibia.

The 34-year-old Cuban complained of pain in his right knee on Thursday.

“Once the inflammation goes down, he should quickly be able to move again,” Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said.

Active roster moves 10/3/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/13

Central League

Activated

SwallowsC45Motohiro Shima

Dectivated

GiantsP45Nobutaka Imamura
SwallowsP33Matt Koch

Pacific League

Activated

None

Dectivated

None

Starting pitchers for Oct. 4, 2020

Pacific League

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

Manabu Mima (8-2, 4.66) vs Wataru Matsumoto (4-3, 3.92)

Buffaloes vs Eagles: Kyocera Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Hiroya Miyagi (-) vs Ryota Takinaka (0-1, 7.04)

Hawks vs Fighters: PayPay Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Tsuyoshi Wada (5-1, 3.03) vs Ryusei Kawano (2-3, 4.64)

Central League

Swallows vs Carp: Jingu Stadium 6:30 pm, 5:30 am EDT

Daiki Yoshida (1-5, 4.77) vs Yuta Nakamura (0-2, 4.22)

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

Shinichi Onuki (7-4, 2.36) vs Takahiro Matsuba (3-5, 3.54)

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

Takumi Akiyama (6-2, 2.77) vs Shosei Togo (8-4, 2.70)

NPB 2020 Sept. 26

Shuto gains redemption

Ukyo Shuto made up for a dropped ball that contributed to a loss the night before by driving in four runs to help lift the SoftBank Hawks to a 7-3 win over their nemeses, the Lotte Marines, at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

With two outs in the second and runners on second and third, Shuto singled off Toshiya Nakamura (2-4) to put the Hawks up by two. The speedster took second when the ball got past center fielder Takashi Ogino and scored on a Keizo Kawashima single.

Shuto then capped a three-run third with his second RBI single of the game to make it 6-2. He added to his day with a good play at second base to deny the Marines a fifth-inning leadoff single.

Nao Higashihama (5-1) allowed three runs over six innings, retiring 10 of the last 11 batters he faced after Leonys Martin hit his 23rd home run of the year in the third to make it 6-3 Hawks.

The Hawks win improves their record against Lotte this season to a dismal 4-9-1.

Kiyomiya saves day for Fighters

Kotaro Kiyomiya’s three-run double tied it in the ninth off Buffaloes closer Brandon Dickson. Taishi Ota drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th and scored an insurance run for Nippon Ham Fighters in their 6-5 win over Orix at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Four of Orix’s runs came on solo homers. Two by Takahiro Okada, one by Steven Moya and one by Hayato Nishiura in the bottom of the 10th, when Katsuhiko Kumon stranded two runners to earn his first save.

Lefty Andrew Albers started for the Buffaloes and allowed a run on six hits and no walks over 5-1/3 innings. He struck out six.

Fighters ace Kohei Arihara allowed three runs over six innings, and though neither bullpen was lights out, the Fighters scored five late runs to come from behind. Dickson got one out before loading the bases on a singled and two walks for Kiyomiya, who went down for a low pitch and found the gap to tie it.

Steven Moya drew a leadoff walk in the ninth from veteran lefty Naoki Miyanishi (2-1), He was pulled for a pinch-runner but the Buffs left the bases loaded in the eighth.

Trailing by a run in the 10th, Moya, who’d hit four homers in the last six games, was out of the game when his spot came up with one out and one on against Kumon.

Lions survive loss of starter

Seven relivers picked up after the Seibu Lions lost starter Sean Nolin after one inning in a 5-1 win over the Rakuten Eagles at MetLife Dome with Sosuke Genda tripling in two runs to break a 1-1 seventh-inning tie.

Nolin worked a 1-2-3 first but left due to severe tightness in his left shoulder. The Eagles took the lead in the second on a Stefen Romero RBI single. With the game tied 1-1 in the fifth, Lions center fielder Fumikazu Kimura threw out a runner trying to score from second on a two-out single.

Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi allowed a run over five innings, and D.J. Johnson worked a 1-2-3 sixth before the roof caved collapsed in the seventh with Tomohito Sakai on the mound. Corey Spangenberg, who reached base three times, singled in Genda to make it 4-1.

Swallows hold off Tigers

Munetaka Murakami singled in one run and broke a 1-1 tie with his 18th home run, making a winner out of Albert Suarez (4-0) in a 2-1 win over the virus-hit Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

The Swallows loaded the bases from the get-go against Joe Gunkel with a hit batsman, a Norichika Aoki double and a walk to Tetsuto Yamada. Murakami singled in one run. Gunkel, however, caught a break on a line out to second before striking out the next two hitters.

Suarez issued a walk in the first but it could have been a disaster as the first two balls were squared up bit hit straight to Swallows defenders. The right-hander gave up the tying run in the third.

Gunkel was pulled for a pinch hitter after allowing a run over four innings, and Murakami homered off Shintaro Fujinami in ( 1-6) in the sixth.

The Tigers came within a hair of scoring the tying run in the seventh but were thwarted when left fielder Norichika Aoki reacted well to a ball coming off a teammate’s glove and reserve catcher Akihisa Nishida made a good tag for the third out at the plate.

Relievers Nobuhiro Shimizu held Hanshin scoreless in the eighth and closer Taichi Ishiyama did the same in the ninth to earn his 13th save.

More Tiger trouble

A day after the Tigers dropped nine players from the active roster after four of them tested positive for the coronavirus, Hanshin’s Western League farm team, played Saturday’s game with just 17 players.

On Saturday evening, the team said Naomasa Yokawa, one of the infected players, had been admitted to a Tokyo hospital with a high fever. This is the most serious symptom yet reported by an NPB player. The worst symptoms reported so far was in March when pitcher Shintaro Fujinami lost his sense of taste.

Kinoshita lifts Dragons over Giants

Dragons catcher Takuya Kinoshita homered to break a 2-2 eighth-inning tie off reliever Kan Otake (1-2), lifting the Chunichi Dragons to a 3-2 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome.

Yota Kyoda hit a two-run homer for the Dragons in the fifth, but Chunichi starter Koji Fukutani allowed the hosts to tie it in the seventh.

Hayato Sakamoto drew his second walk, Kazuma Okamoto doubled, and both scored on a single by the rejuvenated Hiroyuki Nakajima to chase Fukutani. Daisuke Sobue (1-0) retired both batters he faced to close out the seventh and earn the win.

Hiroto Fuku worked the eighth and Raidel Martinez earned his 14th save in the ninth, when he got an assist from Kinoshita, who gunned down pinch-runner Daisuke Masuda trying to steal second.

Giants-Dragons highlights

BayStars beat rookie Morishita

Toshiro Miyazaki went 4-for-5 with a homer, a triple an RBI and three runs to lead the DeNA BayStars attack against Hiroshima Carp rookie Masato Morishita (6-3) in a 5-2 win at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Haruhiro Hamaguchi (6-4) allowed two runs over six innings to earn the wins. Edwin Escobar, Kenta Ishida and Kazuki Mishima picked up the pieces over the final three innings. Mishima collected his 10th save.

Jose Lopez had four hits scored a run and drove in one, while Tyler Austin hit his ninth home run for the BayStars.

Active roster moves 9/26/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/6

Central League

Activated

TigersP27Yuya Onaka
DragonsOF31Masaru Watanabe

Dectivated

DragonsOF6Ryosuke Hirata

Pacific League

Activated

FightersC64Yua Tamiya
BuffaloesC33Masato Matsui

Dectivated

FightersIF44Christian Villanueva
BuffaloesIF31Ryo Ota

Starting pitchers for Sept. 27, 2020

Pacific League

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

Wataru Matsumoto (3-3, 4.06) vs Ryota Takinaka (0-0, 1.69)

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

Manabu Mima (7-2, 4.50) vs Akira Niho (4-4, 4.09)

Buffaloes vs Fighters: Kyocera Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Sachiya Yamasaki (3-4, 4.55) vs Kosei Yoshida (0-0, 3.60)

Central League

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

Shosei Togo (7-4, 2.97) vs Takahiro Matsuba (3-4, 3.33)

Swallows vs Tigers: Jingu Stadium 6:30 pm, 5:30 am EDT

Daiki Yoshida (1-4, 4.81) vs Takumi Akiyama (5-2, 2.75)

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

Yuta Nakamura (0-1, 5.79) vs Shinichi Onuki (6-4, 2.45)

NPB 2020 Sept. 25

Marines throw 1st punch

The Lotte Marines exploited a few bad pitches and a fumbled ground ball to put five runs off Matt Moore (3-2) in a 7-4 win over the SoftBank Hawks at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium on Friday.

The win moved the second-place Marines to within one game of the league-leading Hawks, who are now 3-9-1 against Lotte but have a winning record against the other four PL teams.

Former Marine Alfredo Despaigne popped the cork on this one in the second inning with a solo homer off Kota Futaki (5-2), who allowed four runs over 6-1/3 innings and earned the win.

Moore was hammered in one bad inning when the Marines hit their share of bad pitches, second baseman Ukyo Shuto dropped a ball after the first two runners reached and Leonys Martin hit a flare single when he was jammed inside with a good fastball.

Moore reasserted himself until he was finally pulled in the eighth inning after a leadoff single and a sacrifice with the Hawks trailing 5-4. Yuki Matsumoto allowed the inherited run and one more to score.

Marines right-hander Yuki Karakawa surrendered an inherited run in the seventh in relief of Futaki, but Hirokazu Sawamura and closer Naoya Masuda shut the door on their way out with Masuda earning his 24th save.

Spangenberg wins Padre challenge

Corey Spangenberg broke a 4-4 seventh-inning tie with a single off former San Diego Padres teammate Kazuhisa Makita (1-1) as the Seibu Lions beat the Rakuten Eagles 5-4 at MetLife Dome.

Ernesto Mejia drove in three runs with a pair of RBI singles for the Lions and took the Fighters by surprise with his baserunning and a great slide into home in the fifth inning. Lions starter Zach Neal, allowed four runs over five-plus innings but was taken off the hook by his teammates in a win that snapped the Eagles’ five-game winning streak.

Moya slams Fighters

Steven Moya homered for the third time in three games with a fourth-inning grand slam off Nick Martinez (1-5) as the Orix Buffaloes beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 9-2 at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Opening Day starter Taisuke Yamaoka (2-3) delivered his third straight solid start, allowing two runs over 6-2/3 innings to earn the win as Orix improved to 7-2-1 over the last 10 games.

Sakamoto, Giants march on

Hayato Sakamoto drove in two runs and had two hits to move within 37 of 2,000 in his career, while cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto hit his Central League-leading 23rd home run, drove in four and drew three walks in the Yomiuri Giants’ 8-4 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Tokyo Dome.

The Giants lowered their magic number to 26 to clinch their second straight pennant and the 47th league championship.

Giants-Dragons highlights.

Swallows beat Tigers

Jerry Sands and Justin Bour each drove in a run for the Hanshin Tigers, who twice blew leads in a 6-3 loss to the Yakult Swallows on a day in which Hanshin dropped nearly a third of its active roster due to novel coronavirus infections.

Bour homered in the second and doubled with a man on in the sixth, when Hanshin wasted a two-on, no-out opportunity with two strikeouts and an out on the bases.

Norichika Aoki homered for the Swallows, while his former Kansas City Royals teammate Alcides Escobar singled in two runs in the fourth to tie it 3-3. Naomichi Nishiura singled in Aoki in the sixth to put the Swallows ahead against Yuki Nishi (7-4).

Takahiro Araki hit a two-run homer off Atsushi Nomi, who had been called up that day, to ice it in the seventh.

Tokoda puts brakes on BayStars

Hiroki Tokoda (2-6) allowed a run over seven innings and the Hiroshima Carp bludgeoned Shoichi Ino (6-5) for five runs in five-plus innings in a 5-3 win over the DeNA BayStars at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Tokoda, who last won on July 11, snapped a streak of five straight losing starts. The southpaw struck out nine and walked one while allowing eight hits.

Carp shortstop Kosuke Tanaka delivered the big blow for the hosts with a two-run homer in the third following Tokoda’s leadoff single.

Tigers’ show goes on

The Hanshin Tigers announced Friday that teamwide testing in the wake of a positive coronavirus test on the farm team, four first-team players, including captain and second baseman Kento Itohara, and two first-team staff members have also tested positive.

A number of Tigers players were deemed to have been in close contact with those infected, resulting in nine players being dropped from the active roster on Friday.

Despite the result, Hanshin’s game against the Yakult Swallows went on as scheduled at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, where the plague cats lost 6-3 to the hosts, with two runs scoring off Atsushi Nomi, one of Friday’s nine call-ups.

On Sunday when the team was in Nagoya, two groups of players including those who tested positive dined out.

The team allows players to eat out provided they do so in private rooms with no more than four individuals, but one of the groups included eight people.

The Tigers’ Western League farm game against the Chunichi Dragons on Friday was called off. Meanwhile, the Hiroshima Carp canceled their Western League game on Saturday against the Orix Buffaloes after Wednesday’s report that one of Orix’s minor league pitchers had tested positive.

The Tigers were the first team with reported infections when pitcher Shintaro Fujinami and two others tested positive in March. The Yomiuri Giants also reported two infections just prior to Opening Day.

Active roster moves 9/25/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/5

Central League

Activated

GiantsIF68Kazuya Katsuki
TigersP14Atsushi Nomi
TigersP19Shintaro Fujinami
TigersP34Masaki Tanigawa
TigersP48Yukiya Saito
TigersIF00Hiroki Uemoto
TigersIF2Fumiya Hojo
TigersIF4Takahiro Kumagai
TigersOF9Shun Takayama
TigersOF53Kairi Shimada
CarpP30Ryuji Ichioka

Dectivated

GiantsOF9Yoshiyuki Kamei
TigersP17Yuta Iwasada
TigersP18Kosuke Baba
TigersP56Keisuke Kobayashi
TigersP66Ippei Ogawa
TigersP67Suguru Iwazaki
TigersIF0Seiya Kinami
TigersIF33Kento Itohara
TigersIF55Naomasa Yokawa
TigersOF8Kosuke Fukudome
TigersOF25Taiga Egoshi

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP57Tsubasa Kokuba
LionsOF51Manaya Nishikawa
EaglesP17Takahiro Shiomi
MarinesP18Kota Futaki
MarinesOF0Takashi Ogino

Dectivated

LionsP21Ken Togame
LionsP36Sho Ito
MarinesOF10Shohei Kato

Starting pitchers for Sept. 25, 2020

Pacific League

Lions vs Eagles: MetLife Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Sean Nolin (1-2, 7.08) vs Ryota Ishibashi (1-4, 6.46)

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

Toshiya Nakamura (2-3, 4.44) vs Nao Higashihama (4-1, 2.66)

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

Andrew Albers (3-6, 3.97) vs Kohei Arihara (5-7, 3.93)

Central League

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

Seishu Hatake (1-3, 4.56) vs Koji Fukutani (4-2, 2.42)

Swallows vs Tigers: Jingu Stadium 6:30 pm, 5:30 am EDT

Albert Suarez (3-0, 1.86) vs Joe Gunkel (1-2, 2.96)

Carp vs BayStars: Mazda Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Masato Morishita (6-2, 2.40) vs Haruhiro Hamaguchi (5-4, 3.75)

NPB 2020 Sept. 17

Tigers crush Giants

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.

Giants-Tigers highlights.

Enemies of the Peoples: Baby Swallows a hit

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.

Yakulty yak

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.

Jones deactivated

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.

Active roster moves 9/17/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/27

Central League

Activated

SwallowsP14Hirotoshi Takanashi
SwallowsOF65Shotaro Tashiro

Dectivated

DragonsP29Daisuke Yamai
SwallowsP64Ren Kazahari
SwallowsOF50Tsuyoshi Ueda

Pacific League

Activated

BuffaloesP17Hirotoshi Masui
BuffaloesIF42Aderlin Rodriguez
BuffaloesOF1Steven Moya

Dectivated

HawksP13Akira Niho
BuffaloesC62Katsuki Yamazaki
BuffaloesOF10Adam Jones

Starting pitchers for Sept. 18, 2020

Pacific League

Fighters vs Marines: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Nick Martinez (1-4, 3.49) vs Toshiya Nakamura (2-2, 3.80)

Buffaloes vs Lions: Kyocera Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Taisuke Yamaoka (0-3, 3.09) vs Zach Neal (3-5, 4.68)

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

Matt Moore (2-1, 2.60) vs Ryota Ishibashi (1-3, 6.88)

Central League

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

Albert Suarez (2-0, 0.78) vs Hiroki Tokoda (1-5, 5.34)

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

Shoichi Ino (5-4, 3.23) vs Shosei Togo (7-3, 2.37)

Dragons vs Tigers: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yuya Yanagi (3-4, 3.10) vs Onelki Garcia (2-5, 3.93)

NPB 2020 Sept. 12

Austin returns with bang

Tyler Austin, missing from the DeNA BayStars lineup since his unfortunate encounter with an outfield wall on July 31, hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat on Saturday to spark a 7-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Yokohama Stadium.

Austin saw two fastballs and hit a low 1-0 pitch from Takahiro Matsuba (2-4) out for his fifth home run in Japan.

“I have been out of games for a while so I was extremely excited I was able to contribute tonight,” said Austin, who proved to still lack the essentials of Japanese postgame hero interviews.

Most Japanese players asked to comment on their home run would deny that driving the ball was their goal: “I was just trying to keep the rally alive, not try to do too much.”

Manager Alex Ramirez said he batted Austin sixth on a last-minute decision.

“The original plan was not to use Austin, but to rest him, maybe give him one at-bat as a ‘dai-da’ (pinch-hitter), but we needed him so bad, and I realized we needed him in the lineup, which was already done, so I put him there batting sixth, and I said from tomorrow I’ll be using him maybe second, but that’s why he was ‘roku-ban’ (sixth) today.”

“It means a lot. He brings hope to the team. When he’s in the lineup, the whole lineup looks way different. I’m very happy that he’s in the lineup.”

Haruhiro Hamaguchi (4-4) allowed three runs, one earned, on four hits and four walks while striking out four. A quartet of relievers, Spencer Patton, Edwin Escobar, Kenta Ishida and Kazuki Mishima held the Dragons to one hit and walk the rest of the way.

Oyama, Akiyama lead Tigers past Carp

Young Hanshin Tigers cleanup hitter Yusuke Oyama hit a three-run first-inning home run, and right-hander Takumi Akiyama (5-1) made it stand up in a 3-1 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Koshien Stadium.

The 25-year-old Oyama blasted his 18th home run out to center off 23-year-old Carp right-hander Atsushi Endo (2-3). Endo hung on for 4-2/3 innings but the Carp couldn’t make a dent in Akiyama until the right-hander issued his only two walks to open the eighth. One run scored after reliever Joe Gunkel got a double play. Robert Suarez worked the ninth for his 15th save.

Akiyama was asked afterward how it felt when Oyama gave him the lead. Instead of saying how the home run changed everything and gushing about his teammate, he said he still had to do his job.

“Frankly, I’m happy to get the lead, but it doesn’t change what I have to do. I still have to concentrate on every hitter and execute every pitch,” he said, while admitting that prepare as he might he still found the on-field interview format daunting.

“What (reliever Suguru) Iwazaki said the other day was so cool, so I thought I should have something ready in case I was called to the podium. I’m afraid I’ve flubbed it though. So now my goal is to pitch really well so I get another chance and can do it right.”

Two-homer Okamoto sinks Swallows

The Yomiuri Giants’ Kazuma Okamoto joined Saturday’s three-run first-inning home run party with his 20th of the season and then finished off the Yakult Swallows with a seventh-inning solo shot in a 5-4 win at Tokyo Dome.

The Swallows tied it in the fifth on a pair of home runs, including a two-run shot from Norichika Aoki. His 13th homer tied it. After the Swallows took the lead in the sixth, Giants catcher Takumi Oshiro went deep to make it a 4-4 game and set the stage for Okamoto’s seventh-inning blast.

Giants-Swallows highlights

Takaya punches out Lions

Reserve catcher Hiroaki Takaya hit a three-run homer, what else, and drove in the SoftBank Hawks’ first four runs in an 8-4 win over the Seibu Lions.

In the game at Fukuoka’s Casa de Pepe — Does anybody else remember the Steve Martin routine about speaking French or am I just too freaking old? – Shota Takeda (2-0) came back from taking a line drive to the gut in his last start to deliver a gut punch to the Seibu Lions, holding them scoreless for four innings.

Meanwhile, the Hawks offense did what the Hawks offense does, which is put good swings on good pitches and then blow games up when pitchers – in this case – Sean Nolin (1-1) make mistakes. Two hits off good pitches, a Nobuhiro Matsuda double and a Takaya single, made it 1-0 in the second, before the Hawks just wore the lefty out in the third.

A leadoff walk and a missed two-strike fastball to Akira Nakamura put runners on the corners. A grounder to first didn’t produce an out. Ernesto Mejia, who has been putting on clinics in hitting and playing first base, opted for the out at the plate on a grounder to first but failed to get it.

A one-out walk loaded the bases, and some quality hitting from Yurisbel Gracial produced a shot that second baseman Shuta Tonosaki dived for but couldn’t gather in and two more runs scored.

With two on and two outs, Nolin got ahead of Takaya 0-2 with two slow pitches before missing a 1-2 slider in the heart of the zone that Takaya lined over the right-field fence for his second home run – the highlight is that he was able to turn the tables on Gracial, whom he assists in his home run celebration.

Any runners on base will wait at home plate for the home run hitter, and then follow him to the dugout to receive high fives and fist bumps from their team. But Takaya, who normally awaits Gracial at the end of the dugout and where he is “punched out” by Gracial after an exchange of play punches. But to return the favor, Gracial had to break the rules, run ahead of Takaya so that he could wait for the catcher to return and punch him out for a change.

Active roster moves 9/12/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/22

Central League

Activated

GiantsOF39Soichiro Tateoka
BayStarsIF23Tyler Austin

Dectivated

GiantsOF43Shinnosuke Shigenobu
BayStarsOF52Seiya Hosokawa

Pacific League

Activated

HawksP61Masato Okumura

Dectivated

HawksP50Yugo Bando
EaglesP12Hiroki Kondo
FightersP18Kosei Yoshida

Starting pitchers for Sept. 13, 2020

Pacific League

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

Takayuki Kishi (1-0, 7.30) vs Kohei Arihara (4-6, 3.43)

Marines vs Buffaloes: Zozo Marine Stadium 5 pm, 4 am EDT

Manabu Mima (6-2, 4.84) vs Chang Yi (1-2, 3.74)

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

Shuta Ishikawa (6-1, 2.69) vs Wataru Matsumoto (2-3, 4.27)

Central League

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

Cristopher Mercedes (3-4, 3.25) vs Yasuhiro Ogawa (8-2, 3.05)

BayStars vs Dragons: Yokohama Stadium 5 pm, 4 am EDT

Shinichi Onuki (6-2, 2.03) vs Kazuki Yoshimi (1-2, 6.23)

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

Shintaro Fujinami (1-5, 5.27) vs Kazuki Yabuta (0-2, 4.13)

NPB 2020 Sept. 4

Mori, Yamakawa get Neal a win

Zach Neal (3-4) got the help he needed to secure his first win since July 17 as he allowed 10 base runners but just two runs over 5-1/3 innings in the Seibu Lions’ 6-2 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters.

The Lions were handed the early lead when Corey Spangenberg’s two-out bases-loaded grounder was misplayed. First baseman Kotaro Kiyomiya retreated to first instead of grabbing it and flipping to his pitcher. Instead of making the third out, Spangenberg was credited with an RBI infield single.

Tomoya Mori made it 3-0 in the second, hitting his sixth homer with Sosuke Genda on base. Sho Nakata hit his Japan-best 23rd homer in the fourth and Ryo Watanabe tripled and scored on a Christian Villanueva infield single in the sixth to make it a one-run game. With one on and one out, rookie Tetsu Miyagawa preserved the lead. Kaima Taira, Reed Garrett and Tatsushi Masuda finished up for Seibu.

Fighters starter Toshihiro Sugiura retired 12 straight after Mori’s home run, and stranded two runners in the sixth before making his exit.

Hotaka Yamakawa, trailing Nakata in the race for his third-straight PL home run crown, made it 6-2 in the seventh with his 20th, a three-run shot off right-hander Kazutomo Iguchi.

Asamura carries Eagles over Buffaloes

Hideto Asamura homered twice and the player the Rakuten Eagles see as his future heir at second base, Fumiya Kurokawa, drove in a game-tying run in his first career plate appearance in a 4-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes.

Taisuke Yamaoka (0-2), Orix’s Opening Day starter, allowed four runs over seven innings. The right-hander surrendered three solo home runs, but allowed just a run in the second, when loaded the bases with no outs. His inning was put in jeopardy when right fielder Yuya Oda misplayed a ball that put two men in scoring position. But after a walk, Yamaoka regrouped and allowed only a sacrifice fly on a good swing from Kurokawa, the Eagles’ second draft pick last year.

The Buffaloes broke the ice when Masataka Yoshida extended his hitting streak to 22 games with a two-out RBI single off Takahiro Norimoto.

Norimoto loaded the bases in the top of the third, allowing the go-ahead run on a one-out bases-loaded sacrifice fly. The Eagles ace was pulled after the third having thrown 48 pitches due, according to Pro Yakyu News analyst Hiroki Nomura, to “a cut on his pitching hand.”

Asamura tied it in the third with his 19th homer, and catcher Yuichi Adachi put the hosts up with a homer in the fifth. After the Buffs tied it in the top of the sixth, Asamura went deep again in the home half to make it 4-3.

Six Rakuten relievers finished up. Alan Busenitz pitched out of a two-out, two-on jam to earn his ninth save.

Ishikawa pitches Marines past Hawks

Ayumu Ishikawa (6-2) allowed two runs over seven innings and the Lotte Marines got to the SoftBank Hawks bullpen as they overcame two Yurisbel Gracial home runs in a 4-3 win at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Ishikawa allowed three hits and a walk while striking out four, and was on the losing end against Hawks southpaw Matt Moore, who battled his command for 5-2/3 innings. The first-year-import scattered five hits and three walks, and got a big play to end the Marines’ fifth from first baseman Akira Nakamura and preserve a 2-0 lead.

Yugo Bando (2-2) got the Hawks out of the sixth with a 2-1 lead but surrendered three runs in the seventh to take the loss. He was followed to the mound by Yuta Watanabe, who made his first team debut two weeks shy of his 29th birthday and worked a 1-2-3 eighth.

Frank Herrmann worked a scoreless eighth with a gift double play when the Hawks bunted into a twin killing with a runner on second. Closer Naoya Masuda surrendered Gracial’s second homer in the ninth en route to his 15th save.

Takahashi homer breaks tie in Dragons’ win

Shuhei Takahashi’s fourth homer proved to be the decisive blow, breaking a 2-2 tie in the Chunichi Dragons’ 4-2 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Zoilo Almonte tied it 2-2 with his third hit of the game, a two-out two-run fifth-inning double. Dayan Viciedo singled to open the Dragons’ sixth and scored on Takahashi’s fourth homer, off Hirotoshi Takanashi (2-4).

Katsuki Matayoshi (1-0) earned the win for two scoreless innings of relief, and three scoreless innings from Daisuke Sobue, Hiroto Fuku and Raidel Martinez, who earned his 10th save, wrapped it up.

The Swallows got on the board on Norichika Aoki’s 12th home run off starter Yuya Yanagi and made it 2-0 in the fourth when Yasutaka Shiomi doubled with two outs and scored on an Alcides Escobar single.

Tigers’ Nishi, Suarez hold off Giants

Starter Yuki Nishi (5-3) and closer Robert Suarez held off the Yomiuri Giants in a 5-4 win at Koshien Stadium after Jerry Sands homered for the third time in four games.

Yusuke Oyama homered and Justin Bour doubled and scored on a safety squeeze by pitcher Yuki Nishi in the second off rookie Shosei Togo (7-3). Jerry Sands hit his 15th home run, driving in two in Hanshin’s three-run sixth.

Nishi allowed four runs, three earned, over 7-2/3 innings. With two on and two out, closer Robert Suarez was brought on to face Yoshihiro Maru, who doubled in the Giants first run of the game in the seventh. Suarez struck him out swinging at a 159 kph (98.8 mph) fastball on his seventh pitch. He then worked a 1-2-3 ninth, wrapping up his 13th save when pinch-hitter Zelous Wheeler flied out to the warning track.

Nishi struck out nine and walked one while allowing seven hits in his 123-pitch outing. Togo allowed five runs in 5-2/3 innings.

Kikuchi powers Carp comeback

Ryosuke Kikuchi went 5-for-6 with two doubles, two runs and three RBIs to help power the Hiroshima Carp, who overcame two large deficits to salvage a 12-12 10-inning tie with the DeNA BayStars at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Kikuchi singled in two runs with two outs in the ninth as Kazuki Mishima blew a two-run save for the visitors, who led 5-0 after three 9-5 after the top of the sixth.

A battle between in-form right-handers Shoichi Ino and Carp rookie Masato Morishita devolved into a slug fest as each pitcher allowed five runs while neither made it through four innings.

Neftali Soto doubled and homered and drove in four runs for the BayStars, while Carp closer Geronimo Franzua and BayStars reliever Edwin Escobar each put up a zero in the 10th to ensure a tie.

Active roster moves 9/4/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/14

Central League

Activated

TigersIF33Kento Itohara

Dectivated

TigersC39Kenya Nagasaka
CarpP42Kris Johnson

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP29Ryuya Ogawa
HawksP48Yuta Watanabe
EaglesIF24Fumiya Kurokawa
BuffaloesP14Kazumasa Yoshida
BuffaloesC62Katsuki Yamazaki

Dectivated

LionsP19Hiromasa Saito
HawksP13Akira Niho
EaglesOF51Yuya Ogo
BuffaloesP17Hirotoshi Masui
BuffaloesC33Masato Matsui

Starting pitchers for Sept. 4, 2020

Pacific League

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

Kohei Arihara (3-6, 3.56) vs Sean Nolin (1-0, 4.50)

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

Takahiro Shiomi (3-5, 4.53) vs Sachiya Yamasaki (2-3, 4.38)

Hawks vs Marines: PayPay Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Shota Takeda (1-0, 1.29) vs Manabu Mima (5-2, 4.95)

Central League

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

Daiki Yoshida (1-4, 5.50) vs Takahiro Matsuba (2-3, 3.08)

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

Shintaro Fujinami (1-4, 4.26) vs Nobutaka Imamura (2-0, 4.02)

Carp vs BayStars: Mazda Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Daichi Osera (5-3, 3.45) vs Shinichi Onuki (5-2, 2.22)