Tag Archives: Norichika Aoki

NPB 2020 8-26 Games and news

Ojima ends Wakui’s win streak

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

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

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

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

Matsuda spearheads Hawks comeback

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

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

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

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

Villanueva lands 1st punch in slugfest

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

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

Wheeler boosts well-coached Giants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nomura pitches Carp past BayStars

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

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

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

Bour, Tigers maul Dragons

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

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

Hawks drop Despaigne, Higashihama

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

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

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

Moore back with 1st team

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

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

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

Active roster moves 8/26/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/5

Central League

Activated

GiantsP96Nattino Diplan
BayStarsOF52Seiya Hosokawa
CarpIF00Kaisei Sone
SwallowsP20Kazuki Kondo

Dectivated

BayStarsIF2Jose Lopez
CarpIF63Ryoma Nishikawa
SwallowsP13Hikaru Nakao

Pacific League

Activated

HawksP21Tsuyoshi Wada
HawksOF64Yusuke Masago
EaglesP72Shun Ikeda
BuffaloesOF56Yusuke Matsui

Dectivated

HawksP16Nao Higashihama
HawksOF54Alfredo Despaigne
EaglesP23Hayato Yuge
MarinesP15Manabu Mima
BuffaloesIF42Aderlin Rodriguez

Starting pitchers for Aug. 27, 2020

Pacific League

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

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

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

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

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

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

Central League

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

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

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

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

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

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

NPB 2020 8-22 games and news

Jones ruins Utsumi’s Cinderella comeback

Adam Jones homered twice, taking a bat to Tetsuya Utsumi’s hopes of winning his first game in two years, by driving in four runs in the Orix Buffaloes’ 5-2 Pacific League victory on Saturday afternoon.

Jones, who homered and drove in all of Orix’s runs on Friday, when they won their first game under acting skipper Satoshi Nakajima, broke open a scoreless pitching duel between the 38-year-old Utsumi (0-1) and unheralded 26-year-old Taiwan right-hander Chang Yi (1-1).

Chang, who went to school in Japan following in the footsteps of his cousin, Yang Dai-kang, joined Orix in 2017 on a non-roster developmental contract. Since he went to school here, he is still known by how the Chinese characters in his Mandarin name are read in Japanese “Cho Yaku.” After a tough start in his season debut nine days before, Chang’s fastball was crisp and hard for the Lions to handle.

The right-hander pitched out of jams in the third and fourth innings, and he left after allowing five hits, a walk and a hit batsman.

“Honestly, I was resigned to giving up runs (in the fourth inning), but even so I was going to fight them,” Chang said.

Nakajima, who has seen a lot of Chang during his time as the Buffaloes’ farm manager said Saturday’s performance is in line with his skill level.

“You saw what he does well,” Nakajima said. “He had late life on his fastball and attacked hitters. He had an elbow issue that delayed him getting to this point, but he’s going to contribute.”

Never a flame-thrower, Utsumi long thrived on precision and movement, getting foul strikes and soft contact. He retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced. With one out in the fourth, Buffaloes slugger Masataka Yoshida miss-hit a fastball and chopped it through the infield for a one-out single, Orix’s first hit.

Utsumi nearly got himself out of trouble, but instead set himself up for a fall. He fielded a one-hop comebacker but his uncatchable throw to second spoiled any chance for an out, let alone a double play. Utsumi’s next throw also missed by the smallest of margins, a first-pitch changeup to Jones just above the knees, that he lofted over the left-field wall.

“I just wanted in that situation to get a ball up and drive the runner in and I was fortunate enough to drive the ball out of the ballpark,” Jones said.

Seibu’s Takeya Nakamura, a six-time PL home run champ, hit his sixth of the year in the top of the sixth off reliever Keisuke Sawada.

Jones struck again in the sixth. With two outs and none on, Utsumi missed up just a little with a slider and Jones lined it into the second deck.

“The second one, that was a little more fun. I tried to be aggressive and not let the pitcher get ahead with a strike and just try to be aggressive in the zone. And I didn’t miss it at all,” Jones said.

After three home runs and seven RBIs in two games following a slow start to the season, Jones was asked the obligatory question about whether he was seeing the ball better or not.

‘I’ve been seeing the ball the same,” Jones said. “I am just trying to play the game the way I know how to play.”

“Our pitchers were terrific. Cho battled his butt off and gave us a great opportunity to win the game. And when the opportunity arose to drive some runners in, we did a good job.”

“Home runs are always fun to hit. The bench was going crazy. There’s been a lot of energy the last couple of days. We want to continue to play the game hard and have fun.”

The Lions added a run in the seventh against lefty Nobuyoshi Yamada, forcing setup man Tyler Higgins into the game with two outs and two on to preserve Orix’s lead. Nakamura lined a shot over short, but Koji Oshiro leaped to make a catch, end the inning and save at least a run.

After Higgins worked a scoreless eighth, defensive substitute Yuya Oda doubled in the Buffaloes’ fifth run. Oda, who made a big catch in the ninth on Friday, made another big play on Saturday.

After a Tomoya Mori single to lead off against closer Brandon Dickson, Hotaka Yamakawa drilled a liner to left that Oda short. Mori assumed the ball would be caught and was retreating to first when Oda forced him at second for 7-4 force. A double play followed and it was over.

It was a decent start for Utsumi, if not a winning one for the former ace of the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants. Utsumi joined Seibu after the 2018 season as part of the compensation package for the Giants signing free agent catcher Ginjiro Sumitani. The loss saw Utsumi’s career record against Orix to 2-3 with the previous four games coming in interleague play.

Ironically, Utsumi’s PL debut came against Orix, who drafted him first in 2000 out of high school. Utsumi turned them down out of desire to play for his grandfather’s old team, the Giants. After three seasons in corporate league ball, he turned pro with the Giants.

Yanagita puts on show against Marines

Yuki Yanagita hit a mammoth two-run homer to open the scoring and doubled in the tie-breaking run as the SoftBank Hawks moved back into a tie for first place in the Pacific League with the Lotte Marines, who they beat 3-2.

The camera’s at Zozo Marine Stadium were not prepared for the lunar launch trajectory of Yanagita’s 17th home run, and viewers on TV could only see it drop down and strike the top of the center-field fence, ostensibly after hitting high up on the scoreboard.

Akira Nakamura slashed a leadoff single in the eighth against Frank Herrmann (3-1) for his third hit of the game. Yanagita followed by finding the gap in left center for an RBI double.

Imamiya could be out for up to 2 months

SoftBank Hawks shortstop Kenta Imamiya is expected to miss between six to eight weeks due to a left calf injury. The club announced Saturday that an MRI revealed damage to the soleus muscle in his left leg.

Imamiya, a two-time Best Nine shortstop with five Golden Gloves, complained of pain in the leg on Aug. 19.

Arihara sharp again for Fighters

Nippon Ham Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (3-5) produced his second-straight solid start, allowing a run over six innings, while Sho Nakata homered and drove in three runs in a 5-1 over the Rakuten Eagles at Sapporo Dome.

Arihara gave up six singles and a walk while striking out six, and he quickly had three runs to work with after his teammates opened the scoring in the bottom of the first off Takahiro Shiomi (3-4).

Haruki Nishikawa’s single, the third straight to open the inning, made it 1-0, and Nakata followed with a two-run double. Shiomi allowed four runs over five innings, and Nakata hit his Japan-best 20th home run in the fifth.

Dragons rookie Rodriguez blots out ‘Stars

Cuban rookie Yariel Rodriguez improved to 2-0 in three impressive starts for the Chunichi Dragons, who beat the DeNA BayStars 5-0 at Nagoya Dome.

Rodriguez allowed two singles and two walks over six innings, while striking out just three batters over six innings. The 23-year-old, who is eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award, has now allowed three runs over 19-1/3 innings.

Dragons captain Shuhei Takahashi opened the scoring in the first against DeNA rookie Kosuke Sakaguchi (0-1) with a one-out bases-loaded single. Takahashi added a two-run home run in the fifth.

Osera goes 8 as Carp walk past Giants

Hiroshima Carp ace Daichi Osera (5-2) allowed two runs over eight innings in a 10-4 win over the Yomiuri Giants, who issued nine walks in the game at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Osera allowed former Carp teammate Yoshihiro Maru to tie it 1-1 in the second with his 12th home run.

But Giants starter Seishu Hatake (0-3) didn’t survive the third inning. He opened it by walking Osera, and by the time the dust had settled, six runs were in and 12 batters had come to the plate.

Israel Mota, who the Giants signed this year from their developmental roster, had his first hit in Japan, a two-run ninth-inning home run.

Tigers survive Swallows ambush

Robert Suarez got Norichika Aoki to fly out with two on and two outs in the ninth to nail down his ninth save as the Hanshin Tigers held on to beat the Yakult Swallows 7-5 at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Aoki, whose eighth-inning grand slam brought the Swallows within two runs. Facing Suarez, he did his best to elevate a low 1-0 pitch but his high fly to center was held up by a stiff wind and died at the warning track along with the Swallows’ chances of a come-from-behind win.

Yusuke Oyama belted a three-run first-inning homer off Matt Koch (0-1), who allowed six runs over four innings in his Japan debut for the Swallows.

Tigers starter Yuki Nishi (4-3) allowed a run over seven innings and doubled in a run in Hanshin’s three-run fourth inning only for relievers Yuya Nakao and Yuta Iwasada to let the hosts get back in the game.

Setup man Joe Gunkel allowed a hit and a walk before getting the final out in the inning and turning it over to Suarez in the ninth.

Active roster moves 8/22/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/1

Central League

Activated

BayStarsP12Kousuke Sakaguchi
SwallowsP33Matt Koch

Dectivated

BayStarsOF37Taishi Kusumoto

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP27Tetsuya Utsumi
FightersP59Yuki Yoshida

Dectivated

LionsP23Shogo Noda
FightersP27Nick Martinez

Starting pitchers for Aug. 23, 2020

Pacific League

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

Drew VerHagen (4-1, 3.72) vs Yuya Fukui (0-2, 5.54)

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

Toshiya Nakamura (1-0, 3.86) vs Shuta Ishikawa (5-0, 2.08)

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

Andrew Albers (2-5, 4.04) vs Wataru Matsumoto (1-3, 5.10)

Central League

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

Yasuhiro Ogawa (5-2, 3.43) vs Takumi Akiyama (4-1, 3.80)

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

Yudai Ono (3-3, 3.02) vs Hiromu Ise (0-0, 1.80)

Carp vs Giants: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Atsushi Endo (2-2, 3.77) vs Daisuke Naoe (-)

NPB 2020 8-20 games and news

Marines traverse 10th-inning mine field to beat Hawks

The Lotte Marines pulled into a tie for the Pacific League lead on Thursday with the SoftBank Hawks, whom they beat 5-4 in 10 innings.

With the game tied 2-2 after nine innings, the Marines walked Yuki Yanagita with one out and a runner on third. As much as I hate intentional walks, facing Yanagita with the go-ahead run on third is not a pleasant thought. It still proved to be a poor decision as the free pass resulted in the Hawks scoring twice on a two-out Ryoya Kurihara single to make it 4-2.

The Marines got the first two runners on in the bottom of the 10th, but Shogo Nakamura had to beat the throw to first to stay out of the triple play. Leonys Martin then tied it with a home run off the wall behind the right-field stands at Zozo Marine Stadium. With two on and two out, Hawks reliever Arata Shiino uncorked a wild 3-2 pitch. Takashi Toritani, the 39-year-old former Hanshin Tigers captain who was signed over the winter after a tryout, took off from second with the pitch and scored to win it.

Shimauchi homer derails Fighters’ victory plans

Hiroaki Shimauchi’s two-out, two-strike, three-run homer off closer Ryo Akiyoshi took Rakuten Eagles starter Yuki Matsui off the hook for a tough loss while depriving Nippon Ham Fighters starter Nick Martinez of his second win as

Martinez threw five scoreless innings at Sapporo Dome, leaving only after a line drive stung his pitching hand as he recorded a tough out to end the fifth inning. Martinez got a lot of weak contac,t although he went through a stretch in the third where the Eagles seemed to be sitting fastball and he obliged them with misses in the heart of the zone.

Matsui, who is transitioning this season from closer to starter, allowed two runs on three hits and two walks over six innings. A leadoff walk and a single off a good pitch put runners on the corners. Matsui missed badly to Sho Nakata, but the Fighters cleanup hitter miss-timed it and hit a tough grounder into the hole, where rookie shortstop Hiroto Kobukata made a good play to record the second out as Haruki Nishikawa scored.

In the fourth inning, Nakata blasted a fastball in the heart of the zone in the well up into the outfield seats for his 19th home run of the season and his fourth in five games. Like Martinez, Matsui got away with some mistakes, but after the first inning, he established a rhythm as he mixed his bread-and-butter slider with well-located fastballs and splitters.

The Fighters scored off reliever J.T. Chargois in the seventh after leadoff hitter Ryo Watanabe put a good swing on a good low fastball to reach on a leadoff single. After pinch-hitter Kenshi Sugiya’s textbook sacrifice, Chargois, who had been unleashing some of the filthiest sliders you’ll see, hung one in the heart of the zone and light-hitting catcher Yushi Shimizu got it through the infield for an RBI single.

A trio of Fighters relievers, lefty Mizuki Hori, right-hander Taisho Tamai and lefty setup man Naoki Miyanishi retired nine straight, while Eagles right-hander Tomohiro Anraku survived loading the bases with two outs to keep it a 3-0 game going into the ninth.

After a one-out walk and a single, Akiyoshi struck out Eagles batting star Hideto Asamura for the second out. Shimauchi hit a foul fly that was nearly caught to run the count to 1-2, when the side-armer hung a fastball up in the zone, and the left-handed-hitting Shimauchi launched if 15 rows back into the distant right-field stands.

Veteran Chihiro Kaneko stranded a runner in scoring position and left the mound pumping his fist after striking out two batters looking at fastballs away to keep the game tied going into the bottom of the 10th.

Eagles right-hander Alan Busenitz, however, matched him in the bottom of the 10th, escaping a two-on, one-out jam against – despite a hanging 3-2 breaking ball to Nakata – to preserve the tie.

Lions send Nishimura out on losing note

What looked like a bullpen day for the Seibu Lions was one fitting their relief warhorse, Katsunori Hirai (5-2), who threw five scoreless innings in his first career start before six teammates finished up a 6-4 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Buffaloes skipper Norifumi Nishimura announced his resignation after the game and he will be replaced by long time former Nippon Ham Fighters player coach Satoshi Nakajima, who has coached with Orix since last year and is currently their Western League farm manager.

Giants complete shutout sweep of Tigers

Hayato Sakamoto drove in both runs to earn rookie Shosei Togo (6-2) the win in a 2-0 Yomiuri Giants victory over the Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo Dome that completed a three-game shutout sweep.

Togo worked 6-2/3 innings. He gave up three hits and a walk while striking out 11. Rubby De La Rosa worked a scoreless ninth to earn his fifth save.

Koyo Aoyagi (5-3) allowed a run over six innings, with the lone run coming in the sixth off a hustling leadoff triple by Shinnosuke Shigenobu and a high first pitch to Hayato Sakamoto that was tailor made to drive for a long fly to bring in the run.

BayStars hammer Johnson in Peoples’ 1st win

First-year DeNA BayStars import Michael Peoples (1-1) allowed a run over five innings to earn his first win in Japan in a 12-1 blood-letting against the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Peoples allowed three hits, including Shota Dobayashi’s 10th home run, without issuing a walk. Carp starter Kris Johnson, the 2016 Sawamura Award winner, fell to 0-5 after allowing four runs over 5-1/3 innings. DeNA’s Neftali Soto, the two-time defending Central League home run champ, hit his ninth home run, a three-run shot in the eighth inning.

Swallows’ Takanashi stops Dragons’ streak

Hirotoshi Takanashi (2-2) allowed two runs over six innings for the Yakult Swallows in their 7-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium. The loss snapped Chunichi’s longest win streak of the year at four games.

The game was the first of the season for Swallows catcher Yuhei Nakamura, who during the summer fell victim to the team’s most frequent malady, a lack of upper-body fitness. Nakamura singled, had an RBI double, twice reached on errors and scored twice. Norichika Aoki broke a 2-2 tie, when he led off Yakult’s five-run fifth with his eighth home run.

Lions suspend 2 for covid-19 rule violations

The Seibu Lions have suspended two minor leaguers for violating the team’s protocols to prevent infections from the novel coronavirus, the Daily Sports reported Thursday.

The pair, 23-year-old infielder Ryuse Sato and 26-year-old outfielder Makoto Aiuchi, have been suspended indefinitely after it was learned that the two went to Chiba Prefecture to play golf when they were under orders to refrain from unnecessary activities.

Sato committed a moving violation while driving his car on their outing, ostensibly the reason they were caught out.

BayStars’ Patton has with lower-back sprain

DeNA BayStars reliever Spencer Patton (32) is dealing with a minor lower-back sprain manager Alex Ramirez revealed Thursday according to Sanspo.com.

The right-hander took the mound on Tuesday to start the eighth inning in Hiroshima, but left the game with lower-back stiffness after issuing a seven-pitch walk. According to Ramirez, Patton’s status is day to day.

Active roster moves 8/20/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/30

Central League

Activated

GiantsOF43Shinnosuke Shigenobu
BayStarsP45Michael Peoples
SwallowsP44Hiroki Onishi
SwallowsC52Yuhei Nakamura

Dectivated

GiantsP42Cristopher Mercedes
GiantsOF94Shuhei Kato
BayStarsP59Kentaro Taira
SwallowsP16Juri Hara
SwallowsP54Masato Nakazawa
SwallowsC57Yudai Koga

Pacific League

Activated

HawksP66Yuki Matsumoto
HawksIF36Taisei Makihara
FightersP27Nick Martinez

Dectivated

HawksP10Kotaro Otake
HawksIF6Kenta Imamiya
FightersP35Takahiro Nishimura

Starting pitchers for Aug. 21, 2020

Pacific League

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

Takayuki Kato (0-1, 3.98) vs Takahiro Norimoto (3-3, 3.95)

Marines vs Hawks: Zozo Marine Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Ayumu Ishikawa (3-2, 4.21) vs Nao Higashihama (2-1, 2.90)

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

Sachiya Yamasaki (2-2, 4.46) vs Zach Neal (2-2, 5.26)

Central League

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

Daiki Yoshida (1-2, 4.81) vs Shintaro Fujinami (0-4, 4.00)

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

Takahiro Matsuba (2-3, 3.08) vs Shinichi Onuki (5-2, 1.86)

Carp vs Giants: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Masato Morishita (4-2, 2.31) vs Kazuto Taguchi (2-2, 4.03)

NPB 2020 7-25 games and news

Professional baseball 2020: Day 105

Dragons win high school style

The Chunichi Dragons beat the Hanshin Tigers in a 1-0 pitchers’ duel on Saturday afternoon at Nagoya Dome, but the real story was not the tight pitching but the seventh-inning high school-style offense that produced the winning run.

Masataka Iryo, 30-year-old reserve outfielder, drove in the run off Yuki Nishi (2-2) who took the loss for his strong seven-inning effort.

Dragons right-hander Akiyoshi Katsuno allowed four hits, two by Jerry Sands, and two walks. After he was gone, lefty Hiroto Fuku, and right-handers Daisuke Sobue and Raidel Martinez were all lights out. But the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was that seventh inning.

Nobumasa Fukuda did the hard work with a leadoff single and was replaced by a pinch-hitter. That’s when the story really really began. Takaya Ishikawa, the Dragons’ 19-year-old slugging rookie infielder sacrificed.

“There it is, his first career sacrifice bunt,” the TV announcer crowed. Ishikawa hasn’t homered yet, and as excited as he was, it seemed like a sacrifice was the next best thing. Ishikawa admitted that he hadn’t bunted in a game since elementary school although he does practice bunting.

Dragons captain Shuhei Takahashi, who rejoined the team earlier than expected after suffering a hamstring strain two weeks earlier, hit behind the runner to advance him to third.

Iryo’s sharp grounder into the hole was grabbed by shortstop Seiya Kinami, who had no play at first, but Iryo did what Japanese players with a surplus of fighting spirit are expected to do: he went into the bag head first in a “spirited slide.”

New import Joe Gunkel, who entered the season in the Tigers starting rotation, returned to the team after suffering back stiffness and pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.

The ultimate sacrifice

Thirty years or so back, no Japanese baseball broadcast was complete without a bizarre liturgy regarding the sacrifice bunt. Whenever a bunting situation came up, the analyst and announcer would talk about how extremely difficult it is to get a bunt down, about the skill required and the challenges one needs to overcome.

This was a setup, of course, and similar to the kind of things former first baseman say whenever someone refers to their old position as less challenging.

The purpose is to heap praise on bunters. The irony is that whenever a player failed to execute a routine bunt–which seconds before had been treated as baseball’s ultimate challenge–the former player serving as an analyst would attack the hitter for his inability to execute the simplest of tasks.

It was a wonderful time to be a fan of Japanese baseball.

BayStars continue to rock

The DeNA BayStars continued to play like they are on a mission on Saturday in a 6-2 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Yokohama Stadium.

Following widespread criticism of manager Alex Ramirez for his willingness to keep Jose Lopez in the lineup and Keita Sano in the cleanup spot, the BayStars’s offense has been dynamite, scoring 21 runs over the last three games with Lopez and Sano doing much of the heavy lifting.

Sano and Lopez each had two hits and an RBI, while Tyler Austin doubled twice, walked and scored two runs for the BayStars.

Lefty Shota Imanaga (3-2) allowed two runs, one earned over six innings. Lefty Edwin Escobar struck out four over two scoreless innings and struggling closer Yasuaki Yamasaki worked a 1-2-3 ninth after not pitching the last two days.

Tomo Otosaka, batting for Imanaga in the sixth, hit a three-run pinch-hit home run.

Kawabata saves Swallows’ blushes

Shingo Kawabata, the injury-prone veteran infielder who won the Central League’s batting title in 2015, came off the bench in the ninth inning to stroke a sayonara single, lifting the Yakult Swallows to a 6-5 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Swallows right-hander Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa allowed three runs over seven innings, but rookie setup man Noboru Shimizu surrendered a run in the eighth, and closer Taishi Ishiyama blew the one-run save before stranding three Giants base runners.

Norichika Aoki hit a two-run homer in the first off former Giants closer Hirokazu Sawamura, drew three walks and doubled to open the ninth, when he was pulled for a pinch-runner.

Sawamura was an emergency starter in place of Angel Sanchez, who complained of discomfort in his right shoulder prior to the game.

Had the game ended 5-5, it would have been the Swallows third 5-5 tie in four games.

Yoshihiro Maru homered twice for the Giants

Nakata blast completes Fighters comeback

Sho Nakata’s three-run home run broke a 6-6 seventh-inning tie as the Nippon Ham Fighters came back from an early 6-0 deficit to beat the SoftBank Hawks at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Ryoya Kurihara belted a first-inning grand slam off former Cleveland Indians farmhand Toru Murata, and Hawks starter Shuta Ishikawa allowed three runs over six innings, but the Hawks bullpen proved uncharacteristically vulnerable.

Taneichi blanks Lions for 1st career shutout

Lotte Marines right-hander Atsuki Taneichi (3-1) struck out 10, while walking four in a four-hit shutout in a 5-0 win over the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome that was a scoreless game through six innings.

Lions starter Keisuke Honda (0-2) allowed a run in six-plus innings to take the loss. A walk and a stolen base by pinch-runner Hiromi Oka set up Lotte’s Hisanori Yasuda to drive in the opening run.

Yasuda, a 21-year-old left-handed-hitting corner infielder, was the Marines’ top draft pick in 2018. The rookie seems to hit one or two rockets every game. The Marines broke the game open in a four-run eighth off right-hander Tetsu Miyagawa, the Lions’ top draft pick last autumn.

Mune’s inside the parker sparks Buffs in 9th

Yuma Mune’s ninth-inning drive to the fence in right went for an inside-the-park home run, snapping a 3-3 tie for the Orix Buffaloes, who finished the night with a 6-3 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Eagles right fielder Jabari Blash leaped to try and catch Mune’s drive off Eagles closer Kohei Morihara, but hit the wall awkwardly and was unable to give chase immediately while the speedy Buffalo circled the bases.

Buffaloes lefty Daiki Tajima allowed three runs over seven innings, while Eagles southpaw Takahiro Shiomi held the Buffaloes to a run over six innings.

The visitors took a 3-2 lead in the seventh against former Lion and Padre submariner Kazuhisa Makita. Aderlin Rodriguez opened with a home run to tie it.

With two outs and runners on the corners, the Buffaloes finally executed a play that has backfired on them twice over the past few games, the delayed double steal, with Mune scoring the go-ahead run on what might have been the biggest home plate collision in Japanese baseball since they were outlawed in 2016.

Catcher Yuichi Adachi crossed into Mune’s path to catch the ball, which struck the runner. Mune was ruled safe, and would have been ruled safe even if a tag had been made since NPB prohibits players from obstructing the baseline even with the ball in hand.

Tajima, however, surrendered the tying run in the bottom of the inning, setting up the thrilling finish. Brandon Dickson worked the ninth for Orix, earning his fifth save.

Dragons recall Takahashi, Carp drop Osera

The Chunichi Dragons activated their captain, Shuhei Takahashi on Saturday, while the Hiroshima Carp have deactivated ace right-hander Daichi Osera.

Takahashi suffered a mild left hamstring strain on July 11.

The 29-year-old was pulled after two innings from the Carp’s game on Friday in Yokohama due to an “accident” a catch-all phrase that could include any kind of incident or injury.

The Carp said later only that his “condition was not good.”

Osera threw a 116-pitch complete game on Opening Day and a 132-pitch complete game seven days later in a lop-sided win. Since then, he has surrendered 10 runs on 24 hits and six walks over 19 innings.

Meanwhile, the Seibu Lions have activated Venezuelan slugger Ernesto Mejia for the first time this season.

Active roster moves 7/25/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/4

Central League

Activated

GiantsOF59Seiya Matsubara
TigersOF53Kairi Shimada
CarpP26Ren Nakata
CarpC22Shosei Nakamura
DragonsIF3Shuhei Takahashi

Dectivated

GiantsP45Nobutaka Imamura
TigersP67Suguru Iwazaki
CarpP14Daichi Osera
CarpIF4Tetsuya Kokubo

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP45Keisuke Honda
LionsIF99Ernesto Mejia

Dectivated

LionsIF39Wu Nien-ting
LionsOF68Junichiro Kishi

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

Aoki’s streak lost in Japan’s Opening Day myopia

If you’re lucky you learn something everyday.

On Monday, Norichika Aoki hit safely in his 16th straight game, with eight of those coming this season for the San Francisco Giants and eight last year for the Kansas City Royals. Thus it was perplexing that Kyodo News Japanese language stories coming to my desk made no mention of his new record — Aoki had hit safely in 15 games for the Brewers in 2012.

Our diligent MLB desk on the 19th floor surely had to know, so I ran up and was told that of course they knew, but that for them it seems odd to add the previous season’s accomplishments to this year’s streak. And this is coming from a culture that touts Sadaharu Oh’s home run total as the greatest in history and loves to measure career accomplishments by adding NPB totals to MLB totals — which seems odd to me.

This fascination with cutting the cord on Opening Day makes sense in Japan, where the next game is ALWAYS the biggest game of the season and sports editors  put five months of expectation into making Opening Day the biggest game of the season. When at the Daily Yomiuri I was tasked with translating a piece about Ichiro Suzuki opening the 2012 season at Tokyo Dome with the Mariners in which some “reporter” said, “Of course, Opening Day tells you a lot about how the season will turn out.” If my colleague John E. Gibson had written that I would have threatened to knock him upside the head.

So what happens after Opening Day? The hangover hits and everyone admits that it was just one game after all, but the next step is honoring records from the start of the season and that goes on for several weeks.

This season, Japanese readers were treated to the “knowledge” that the Yakult Swallows set a record (to start the season) by allowing three runs or less in 17 games to start the season, breaking the old mark of the 1956 Nishitetsu Lions, who Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast listeners will remember were in the news for having a record “season-opening” win streak — with no mention of how they finished at the end of 1955.