Yuki Yanagita has scary power. When he connects, the ball can go a long way to any field. This wasn’t one of those, but rather what happens sometimes when he is fooled. In the spring he hit an opposite field home run when he was fooled by a breaking pitch off balance and with his top hand off the bat.
On Tuesday, he did it again with a three-run shot that powered the SoftBank Hawks to an 8-7 win over the Orix Buffaloes. Here’s the home run. Anyone see a guy fooled on a swing so much that his helmet came off? Anyone ever seen such a swing produce a home run? You have now.
Yanagita hit two home runs and was seen in the dugout cheering up second baseman 22-year-old infielder Hikaru Kawase, whose two sixth-inning errors opened the door for six unearned Orix runs off ace Kodai Senga (4-1).
Asked what he told the youngster in the hero interview, Yanagita said, “I told him, it’s not your fault. It was Senga’s. Just come out tomorrow play baseball like you know you can.”
Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto allowed five runs in five innings, while Akira Nakamura homered for the Hawks, and Takahiro Okada hit a grand slam for the Buffaloes.
Marines Mima, Martin destroy Fighters
Free agent acquisition Manabu Mima (3-2) allowed a run in five innings, and Leonys Martin hit a three-run home run, his fifth homer in four games to lift the Lotte Marines to a 3-1 victory over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Naoyuki Uwasawa (2-2) allowed three runs on four walks and three hits over six innings.
Kobukata saves the day for Eagles
Rakuten rookie Hiroto Kobukata brought the Rakuten Eagles from behind with a two-run seventh-inning double and doubled in another run in the ninth in their 7-5 win over the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.
Ernesto Mejia, a one-time home run champ relegated to reserve status since the ascendance of first baseman Hotaka Yamakawa, started in place of Yamakawa on Tuesday and turned back the clock.
The 34-year-old Mejia hit two home runs, doubled, drove in three runs and made a couple of terrific plays at first. His first homer gave the Lions a 4-3lead in the fifth, but Kobukata doubled in two with two outs in the seventh to put Rakuten ahead for good.
Note: The original story had the Lions winning 7-5.
Tigers’ Garcia, Sands eclipse BayStars
Lefty Onelki Garcia (1-4) allowed a run over seven innings, and Jerry Sands drove in a pair of big runs for the Hanshin Tigers in their 9-2 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.
Garcia allowed four hits and walked four while striking out seven. With the game tied 1-1 in the sixth, Sands delivered an RBI double to break the tie and scored on Ryutaro Umeno’s double.
Leadoff man Koji Chikamoto opened the game with a double and scored the first of his three runs on a sacrifice fly by Sands.
Fukutani, Takahashi lift Dragons over Carp
Right-hander Koji Fukutani (1-1) allowed a run over 5-2/3 innings, and captain Shuhei Takahashi opened the scoring with his second home run of the season, a two-run fourth-inning blast off Yusuke Nomura (2-1) in the Chunichi Dragons’ 8-1 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Although the game was already a rout by the ninth inning, the Dragons had more than just two runs to celebrate in the final frame when Akira Neo, the Dragons’ top draft pick in 2018, had his first hit in the top flight after starting his career 0-for-17 with nine strikeouts.
Veteran right-hander Kazuki Mishima worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to earn his first career save in place of battered closer Yasuaki Yamasaki on Wednesday as the DeNA BayStars held on to a 3-2 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome.
BayStars lefty Haruhiro Hamaguchi (2-1) was effectively wild at the start, walking four and hitting one threw four hitless and scoreless innings thanks to a pair of inning-ending 4-6-3 double plays. Hamaguchi allowed two runs on three hits over 5-2/3 innings while striking out seven.
Takayuki Kajitani homered with two outs in the third off Giants right-hander Shosei Togo to record the visitors’ first hit, while catcher Shuto Takajo added a two-run homer for the visitors in the fifth.
Togo (3-2) allowed three runs on four hits and a walk while striking out seven over five innings.
The Giants got their first hit in the fifth, Yang Dai-kang’s leadoff single, and their first run in the seventh, when Yoshihiro Maru opened the inning with his eighth home run. With two outs, mid-season acquisition Zelous Wheeler pulled the Giants within one with his fourth home run to drive Hamaguchi from the mound.
With the BayStars leading by a run in the seventh, manager Alex Ramirez called on Yamasaki to see if his struggling closer might regain his stuff in a middle relief role. The right-hander allowed a one-out infield single to speedy pinch-hitter Shinnosuke Shigenobu. A stolen base on a strikeout, and a wild pitch put the tying run on third with two outs, but Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto flied out to end the inning.
Spencer Patton worked the eighth and walked Wheeler with one out. Wheeler was replaced by Daiki Masuda, the flagship of manager Tatsunori Hara’s pinch-running fleet. Patton, however, struck out the next two batters to get the game to Mishima.
The 30-year-old right-hander, who had not allowed a hit or a walk since he was lit up for three runs on July 16, got tough left-handed hitter Takumi Oshiro swinging at a 1-2 splitter out of the zone. Veteran left-handed-hitting grinder Yasuyuki Kamei flied out before Shigenobu went down swinging to end it.
Swallows kiddy corps beats Tigers
Twenty-year-old Munetaka Murakami brought the Yakult Swallows from behind with a two-run fourth-inning home run and 21-year-old lefty Hiroki Hasegawa saved the day out of the bullpen in a 3-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
After allowing the visitors on the scoreboard in the first, Yakult right-hander Juri Hara (2-0) got out of a one-out bases-loaded jam in the first inning with a pair of strikeouts. Hara worked five innings, allowing three hits and five walks while striking out six.
Tigers lefty Onelki Garcia cruised through the first three innings before surrendering a leadoff double to Norichika Aoki in the fourth. Murakami followed with his fifth home run.
Yugo Umeno, a 21-year-old right-hander, followed Hara in the sixth and walked the first batter he faced. He left with one out the bases loaded. Hasegawa, however, popped up leadoff hitter Koji and struck out veteran Yoshio Itoi.
Yakult’s Yasutaka Shiomi, who homered when he returned to action on Tuesday, a month after being injured by a pitch, homered off veteran lefty Atsushi Nomi to open the bottom of the sixth.
Scott McGough pitched a 1-2-3 seventh for the hosts, while impressive 23-year-old rookie Noboru Shimizu worked around a pair of walks in the eighth when he caught Chikamoto looking at Strike 3. Taishi Ishiyama worked the ninth for his sixth save.
The Tigers opened the scoring through Chikamoto. He doubled to open the game when his drive popped out of center fielder Kotaro Yamasaki’s glove, stole third and came home on a Yusuke Oyama infield single. Garcia gave up four hits and a walk, while striking out five.
Carp’s Suzuki decides pitchers’ duel
Seiya Suzuki broke open a scoreless game in the sixth inning, when he homered for the ninth time this year with a two-run shot off lefty Takahiro Matsuba in a 2-0 Hiroshima Carp win over the Chunichi Dragons at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Making his second start of the season, veteran Carp right-hander Yusuke Nomura (1-0) was perfect through five innings. He allowed four hits and no walks over eight innings while striking out two.
Geronimo Franzua struck out the side in the ninth to earn his first save.
Matsuba (2-1) allowed five hits and two walks while striking out five and hitting a batter. He surrendered Jose Pirela’s second hit of the game with one out in the sixth, and with two outs, Suzuki took him deep.
39-year-old Wada shuts down Lions
Veteran southpaw Tsuyoshi Wada (3-0) turned back the clock as he combined his usual guts and finesse with good movement on his fastball to strike out nine over six-plus innings for the SoftBank Hawks in a 4-2 win over the Seibu Lions at Fukuoka’s PayPayDome.
The 39-year-old Wada, who said afterward he wanted to come out with guns blazing after not getting out of the fifth inning in his last start, came out getting swings and misses with his fastball and struck out two batters in a 1-2-3.
Hawks speedster Ukyo Shuto opened the scoring for the Hawks in the bottom of the first, when he tripled and scored on Kenta Imamiya’s sacrifice fly. Three-straight one-out singles made it 2-0 as Ryoya Kurihara drove in Yuki Yanagita.
The Lions got their first runners of the game on in the top of the second, but Wada stranded two, and the Hawks added a third run in the bottom of the inning. Nobuhiro Matsuda singled, took second on a throwing error by the pitcher, went to third on a groundout and scored on a Shuto sac fly.
Seibu’s Fumikazu Kimura, who struck out to end the Lions’ second with two in scoring position, hit a solo home run in the fifth, but Yanagita answered that with his 10th home run, a one-out solo shot in the home half.
Wada gave up a run in the seventh on a leadoff double to Takeya Nakamura and a Takumi Kuriyama RBI single. Lefty Shinya Kayama, however, worked around a one-out single to strand two runners. Another lefty, Livan Moinelo, worked the eighth, while closer Yuito Mori pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his eighth save.
Matsumoto (1-3) gave up all four runs on seven hits and two walks over five innings.
Martinez, Kondo get Fighters past Buffs
Nick Martinez allowed a run over six innings and Kensuke Kondo drove in four runs for the Nippon Ham Fighters in their 6-2 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Sapporo Dome.
Orix right-hander Yu Suzuki struggled but stranded six runners as he held the Fighters to a run over four innings. Taishi Ota drew a leadoff walk in the second and opened the scoring on Kotaro Kiyomiya’s bases-loaded sac fly.
The Buffaloes repeatedly threatened to blow the game open, but Martinez prevailed through tough pitching and some good luck.
Masato Matsui got the Buffaloes’ first hit off Martinez when first baseman Kiyomiya fielded a ball Martinez couldn’t reach, and then neglected to see the pitcher covering first and waiting for his throw that never came.
Orix skipper Norifumi Nishimura’s customary sacrifice when trailing on the road and a Ryo Nishimura single put runners on the corners with one out. A stolen base and a comebacker opened first base with two outs, and after Martinez fell behind Masataka Yoshida 3-0, Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama ordered the left-handed slugger walked. Martinez then won a 10-pitch duel with Adam Jones by getting a routine fly out to center.
The Buffaloes tied it in the fifth after a walk and two singles, one an infield dribbler, and a Yoshida sac fly.
Once more, Jones came up with a chance to some damage with two outs, but home plate umpire Atsushi Fukuya called him out on a 2-2 pitch that missed badly inside. Martinez tried to hide the disbelief at his good luck behind his glove as he walked off the mound. Jones could do little but express his own disbelief with Fukuya’s perception of the strike zone.
With Suzuki out of the game after 85 pitches, Buffaloes right-hander Kazumasa Yoshida allowed the Fighters to retake the lead. He promptly gave up a Kenshi Sugiya leadoff double. A sacrifice bunt and a Kondo sac fly put the Fighters back in front. That, too, was short-lived.
With Martinez gone, the Buffaloes tied it in the seventh when Aderlin Rodriguez was struck near the wrist with the bases loaded. But that was it for Orix. Sugiya drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning, was sacrificed to second on Takuya Nakashima’s second sac bunt of the game and the 230th of his career. Kondo singled to bring in the go-ahead run and scored on a two-out Ota double.
Fighters lefty Naoki Miyanishi worked the eighth inning and became the 16th pitcher in Japanese pro baseball history to appear in 700 games. The active leader is Ryota Igarashi of the Swallows (822).
Wakui continues remarkable turnaround
After going 3-0 in his first three starts and looking truly mediocre, Hideaki Wakui has been rock solid since and continued that on Tuesday when he allowed a run in seven innings as the Rakuten Eagles beat the Lotte Marines 5-1 at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Wakui (5-0) has allowed three runs, two earned, over his last 20-1/3 innings after giving up tons of hits in his early games. Against the team that sold him in December, the 34-year-old right-hander went to the mound with a two-run lead thanks to Hideto Asamura’s 12th homer of the season.
Leonys Martin touched Wakui for a first-inning home run, but that was about it for the Marines offense as the right-hander continued to spin the ball away from opposing bats and mix his pitches.
Stefen Romero, who hit a pinch-hit grand slam the night before, took lefty Kazuya Odajima (2-3) out to dead center to open the fifth, and then tripled and scored in the seventh.
“I’ve been able to keep leadoff hitters off base, and that was what I was trying to keep up tonight,” said Wakui, who joined the Marines as a free agent from the Seibu Lions in 2014. “It did feel kind of strange tonight since I hadn’t been a visiting player her for so long. I’m just glad I didn’t go back to the wrong dugout.”
Tsuyoshi Wada picked up his second win after he and unheralded Orix Buffaloes right-hander Yu Suzuki duked it out for six innings in a 1-0 pitchers’ duel in what became a 7-0 win for the SoftBank Hawks at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Wada (2-0) allowed a single and three walks, while striking out three and never allowed a leadoff runner to reach.
The 23-year-old Suzuki (1-2), who earned the victory his first career start, against the Seibu Lions on July 1, tried to be too careful in his second start last week in his loss to the Nippon Ham Fighters. This time, however, he went back to challenging hitters and making them hit his pitches.
“Obviously, he took a lot away from his last game and built on those lessons,” Buffaloes manager Norifumi Nishimura said.
The Hawks broke the scoreless deadlock in the fourth, when Kenta Imamiya doubled and scored on a Yuki Yanagita single, but it stayed a one-run game through six.
Lefty Nobuyoshi Yamada took the mound in the seventh, worked carefully to Yanagita and walked him. Wladimir Balentien followed with a smash up the middle that had “big inning” written all over it.
But the Buffaloes brought their “A” fielding game on Wednesday after being badly outplayed on defense the night before. Second baseman Koji Oshiro, got to Balentien’s grounder and flipped to shortstop Ryoichi Adachi to start a double play. Adachi, who had let a pop fly fall behind him in center in a mix-up with center fielder Yuma Mune on Tuesday, was on EVERYTHING in shallow left and center.
But Yamada then surrendered another smash up the middle, but Oshiro, shading the Akira Nakamura toward right, was in position to snag that one. Seiji Uebayashi followed by blasting his second home run in two nights.
Wakui earns 4th win with gem against Lions
Hideaki Wakui showed why he still has some value on Wednesday as he located his pitches to dominate his former club in the Rakuten Eagle’s 11-0 win over the Seibu Lions at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Wakui (4-0) walked four, but executed with precision whenever he found himself in a jam. With one out and one on in the first Wakui froze Shuta Tonosaki with a perfectly located changeup. He got out of the jam by attacking Tomoya Mori inside and getting him to foul out – with some help from third baseman Daichi Suzuki making a good catch at the edge of the seats.
The top three in the Eagles order, rookie Hiroto Kobukata, Suzuki and shortstop Eigoro Mogi combined to score five runs and drive in 10.
Lions starter Tatsuya Imai (1-2) stranded five batters through the first three innings, surviving three two-out walks in the third before the roof collapsed in the fourth. For the fourth straight inning, the right-hander retired the first two batters before six straight reached in the five-run rally. Suzuki broke the ice with a bases-loaded single and Mogi followed with a three-run homer.
Nakata lifts Fighters past Marines
Cleanup hitter Sho Nakata drove in three runs and cracked a 4-4, eighth-inning tie with a sacrifice fly for the Nippon Ham Fighters in a 6-4 win over the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.
Nakata’s two-run RBI single opened the scoring after Haruki Nishikawa singled and Kensuke Kondo doubled with one out to set the table in the first against Marines starter Kazuya Ojima.
The Marines took the lead in the fifth when Leonys Martin homered for the second-straight game with perhaps the longest home run I’ve ever seen at this ballpark. His one-out three-run shot made it 4-2 Marines.
Former Padre Christian Villanueva led off the sixth with a home run and Nishikawa singled in the tying run after Takuya Nakashima singled and stole second.
Nakashima scored the go-ahead run in the eighth when Nakata flied to the wall in right. Nakashima reached to open the inning on a throwing error by third baseman Brandon Laird.
Fighters starter Nick Martinez allowed four runs on five hits and five walks over six innings.
Togo earns 3rd win as Giants pound Carp
Twenty-year-old right-hander Shosei Togo (3-0) worked six scoreless innings and Zelous Wheeler hit his first home run for his new team as the Yomiuri Giants clobbered the Carp 12-1 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Togo allowed two hits and three walks while striking out four, while the Giants got to Carp lefty Kris Johnson (0-3) for five runs over five innings. Kazuma Okamoto broke the ice in the first by singling home rookie Takumi Kitamura, who opened the game with a single. Wheeler, who joined the Giants in a June trade from the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles, completed the damage against Johnson with a two-run homer in the fifth.
Wheeler singled in two more runs in the Giants’ five-run sixth, when Okamoto added a two-run shot.
Matsuba earns 1st win as Dragon
Takahiro Matsuba (1-0) allowed a run over 5-1/3 innings and Dayan Viciedo doubled in two to pace the Chunichi Dragons to a 2-1 win over the DeNA BayStars at Nagoya Dome.
The loss extends the BayStars’ record streak of winning and losing alternating games to 16 straight. The visitors’ only run came on Neftali Soto’s sixth home run of the year in the sixth.
Matsuba, who was making his season debut, earned his first win in a Chunichi uniform since being traded last summer from the Orix Buffaloes.
Haruhiro Hamaguchi (1-1) took the loss for the BayStars. He struck out nine but walked three and surrendered seven hits over 5-1/3 innings.
Swallows wear down Tigers
Alcides Escobar had four hits including a two-run home run as the Yakult Swallows beat the Hanshin Tigers 9-5 at Koshien Stadium.
Swallows starter Gabriel Ynoa allowed a run over five innings, but lefty 21-year-old Hiroki Hasegawa allowed all three runners he faced in the sixth to reach, and Scott McGough allowed the two runners he inherited to score.
Munetaka Murakami, who singled to open the scoring in the first off Onelki Garcia, broke a 4-4 tie in the seventh with another RBI single.
Garcia, who beat out a bunt single to open the Tigers’ fifth and appeared to cramp up in the process, returned in the sixth after a 30-minute rain delay, when he issued a two-out walk and surrendered Escobar’s home run. The lefty allowed four runs on two walks six hits over six innings.
Justin Bour went 3-for-5 with his fourth home run for the Tigers.
Seattle placed the right-hander on the injured list earlier in the day. Hirano signed a one-year deal with Seattle in January after going 9-8 with a 3.47 ERA over two seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The 36-year-old had been the Orix Buffaloes’ closer until he filed for free agency after the 2017 season and signed with the Diamondbacks, whose manager Torey Lovullo, played in Japan for the Yakult Swallows.
According to Kyodo, Hirano is the first Japanese major leaguer to test positive. In March three Hanshin Tigers players tested positive, while two Yomiuri Giants players tested positive in May.
NOTE:To facilitate management of 70-man rosters, until recently it was customary to assign a player acquired in a trade the same number as a player he was traded for. I don’t know when it last happened, but the Takanashi-Takata trade simplified that matter since both were No. 53 with their former clubs.
Thursday was a big day in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, for the Hanshin Tigers’ crowded field of imported players.
On the mound, reliever Jon Edwards made quick work of the three Rakuten Eagles batters he faced in a practice game. According to the Nikkan Sports, Edwards needed just 2 minutes, 30 seconds and eight pitches to get through the inning. His fastball, which touched 93.2 mph and has “natural cut,” produced three ground balls in quick succession against a trio of left-handed hitters.
Venezuelan Robert Suarez, who moved from the Pacific League’s SoftBank Hawks over the winter, also delivered a perfect inning in his bid to replace Pierce Johnson as Hanshin’s new setup man.
On the offensive side, newcomer Jerry Sands, who arrives this spring from KBO’s Kiwoom Heroes, had his first hit in live game action when he went the other way with an outside slider while behind in the count.
In addition to Sands, the Tigers have holdover Jefry Marte and have added Justin Bour. Two other pitchers are also looking to squeeze in under the four-import limit, third-year lefty Onelki Garcia and new import Joe Gunkel.
Stewart, Sunagawa impress against big boys
After spending his entire first season in Japan playing against amateurs for the SoftBank Hawks’ third team, Carter Stewart Jr faced first-team hitters on Thursday, the final day of spring camp according to Fullcount.
He was joined by Okinawa-born developmental contract player Richard Sunagawa (Richard Makoto Sunagawa O’Brien), who had two hits and a home run.
Stewart, the eighth selection in MLB’s 2018 draft, worked two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk and touched 153 kph (95 mph).
“His pitches had something on them,” said Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo, whose 224 career wins rank 13th in the history of Japanese pro ball. “He used his breaking pitches and his mechanics looked good. His slide step has improved, and looks like a good one.”
Head coach Hiroyuki Mori said, “He’s better than I expected. He may have a chance to pitch on the first team this year. We have a lot of injuries, so he could be like that beam of light that breaks through.”
The Chunichi Dragons, whose pitching staff was arguably the worst of NPB’s 12 teams this year, have parted company with left-handed starting pitcher Onelki Garcia, according to the Sankei Sports. According to Bill James Win Shares, see here WS 2018 Top 20 Pitchers, Garcia, who went 13-9 with a 2.99 ERA in his Japan debut season, was the highest ranking pitcher on the Dragons staff.
The former Dodgers, White Sox and Royals farmhand reportedly asked for a bump in pay from 50 million yen ($440,000) to a contract of three-plus years at 200 million yen ($1.76 million) per year. The club is expected to release him.
Here (Team Win Shares 2018)are the 2018 Win Share rankings by team. The Dragons’ pitching staff was credited with an NPB-worst 51.2 win shares.