Tag Archives: Orix Buffaloes

Tanaka marks anniversary of Nomura’s death

Rakuten Eagles right-hander Masahiro Tanaka observed the first anniversary of Hall of Fame catcher and manager Katsuya Nomura’s death on Thursday, Sponichi Annex reported. Nomura was Tanaka’s first manager when he turned pro out of high school.

“I didn’t have a real sense of what was going on,” said Tanaka, who revealed he’d have wanted a healthy Nomura to see him back in a Rakuten uniform. “He taught me everything about life in the pros. I wonder what he would say about the timing of my return (to Japan).”

“If only he could see me doing this uniform proud and fighting for the team to the very end.”

Lotte lifts Sasaki’s breaking ball bullpen ban

Roki Sasaki threw his fourth bullpen of the spring on Thursday, throwing 30 pitches—including his slider and for the first time, the team having lifted its prohibition on him throwing anything but fastballs, Sponichi Annex reported.

“My forkball was really good,” he said. “Since turning pro I’ve had to really labor on my forkball, but I think I may now seeing the results of that effort.”

Sasaki, who was clocked at over 100 mph at the start of his senior year in high school in 2019, has yet to pitch in an official game since turning pro a year ago. He is slated to work out with the minor league team after the first team moves on from Okinawa’s Ishigakijima and throw live BP before rejoining the first team for the remainder of camp.

Kitabeppu: Marathon man Kuri’s got it

Manabu Kitabeppu a Hall of Fame former ace of the Hiroshima Carp, had a My Fair Lady kind of response to 29-year-old Allen Kuri’s 347-pitch bullpen last week, he wrote in a piece for Daily Sports on Thursday.

 “I thought it was a bit much, but from what I saw on the video, his form was very loose and he only looked like he was really exerting himself at the finish. Usually, if you go all out, your pitches will be lacking by the time you get to 250. That’s what I saw from Kuri in the past.”

“But he used his lower body really well, so well that it looked like his arm was just swinging downward, smoothly and easily. I think he’s learned a lot over the past year. His form and his balance are better, and I think he’s getting the hang of this.”

OK. He didn’t say, “Bye George, I think he’s got it.” But he came close.

Buffaloes’ Higgins tests positive

The Orix Bufaloes announced Thursday that right-hander Tyler Higgins has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Nikkan Sports. Higgins, who debuted in Japan last season, tested negative before leaving the States on Jan. 13 and again when he arrived in Japan on Jan. 17.

Tigers Women hold first workout

The Hanshin Tigers Women held their first practice on Thursday, a national holiday in Japan, at the Tigers’ minor league facility in Naruohama, Hyogo Prefecture, the Daily Sports reported. All 17 players turned out and practiced and did weight training for three hours while observing coronavirus protocols.

Going forward, the team will have weekend practices at Naruohama and in the indoor facility at the Tigers’ main park, Koshien Stadium. The team is planning to enter the Kansai women’s hardball federation’s tourney.

Swallows teen gets boost from Furuta

Hall of Fame catcher Atsuya Furuta, the pillar of five Yakult Swallows championship teams between 1992 and 2001, has been working with his old club as a spring training instructor, and on Thursday caught rookie Yasunobu Okugawa, the team’s first pick in the 2019 draft.

Prior to the bullpen session, Furuta said he felt Okugawa had the tools to be a pitcher of the same caliber as Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano. Okugawa said he was really nervous throwing to Furuta, who said afterward, “I thought he could become like Sugano, but since he himself is aiming toward being like Masahiro Tanaka, that’s the kind of pitcher I hope he develops into.”

Hirano back with a buzz

Yoshihisa Hirano fielded questions from the media on Wednesday, following his return to the Pacific League’s Orix Buffaloes for the first time in four years. The 36-year-old right-hander signed a one-year deal reportedly worth 150 million yen ($1.43 million) with additional incentives.

Here are some excerpts from the presser provided by Sankei Sports:

  • Hirano: “I’m so looking forward to being able to play in Japan again. I’m overjoyed. I desire to my very best for Orix.
  • Is your buzz cut an expression of your determination?
  • Hirano: “(Laughs) I guess so. If you want to say that it’s fine by me.”
  • Hirano:“When last season ended, I thought, ‘Of course I want to stay in America,’ but given the state of the world now, the desire to play in Japan began to take shape.”
  • Hirano:“In the difficult circumstances posed by the coronavirus, I’m appreciative of the warm welcome, and the only way to repay that is by winning a championship.”
  • about your one-year contract…
  • Hirano: “Right now I’m not thinking about going back over there. My thinking is to approach each year as its own challenge. Physically, I’m in the same condition I always am at this stage.”
  • You are coming back just like Masahiro Tanaka…
  • Hirano: “Hey, this is me we’re talking about. I don’t think I’m quite comparable yet to young Mr. Tanaka.”

Kodai Senga sidelined

SoftBank Hawks ace Kodai Senga, who either led or tied for the Pacific League lead in wins, strikeouts and ERA last year, will join the team’s rehab group due to calf pain in both legs, manager Kimiyasu Kudo said Wednesday according to Sponichi Annex.

There is plenty of time for him to be fit in time for the Hawks’ March 26 season opener against the Lotte Marines, but Kudo said the move was a cautionary step.

“He’s not running now, and we aren’t going to push it,” Kudo said. “We want him to return 100 percent fit and want him to go at his speed without rushing. We don’t have a plan right now, but that’s the situation.”

Fighters see 2-way possibilities for Ito

He’s not Shohei Ohtani, but the Hiromi Ito, the Nippon Ham Fighters’ top pick in last autumn’s draft, could be their next candidate to contribute on both sides of the ball, the Nikkan Sports reported Wednesday.

“From the very start, we talked about maybe playing two-ways,” Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama said of the pitcher, a hard-throwing right-hander who has been flashing his foot speed in camp. “It doesn’t matter whether he does or doesn’t, but it was just one of the things I was thinking of.”

“Perhaps he could aim to lead the league in stolen bases as a pinch-runner before taking the mound as a closer. I need to give it some thought.”

NPB commissioner sees more games in future

Nippon Professional Baseball Commissioner Atsushi Saito said Tuesday Japan’s two top-tier leagues are considering playing more than their current 143-game schedule after 2021 in order to make up for the losses incurred in the coronavirus-hit 2020 season, the Nikkan Sports reported.

“One thing we can consider is related to the number of games. We now have 143, but if we increase the number of games, we can increase revenue.”

–NPB Commissioner Atsushi Saito

Saito said preparations are in the works for combatting the coronavirus this year, when Japan is set to host the Summer Olympics, and even next, and said he’s heard that some players would be on board with an expanded schedule.

Saito didn’t say why NPB didn’t consider MLB’s scorched-earth model of firing scouts, coaches and minor leaguers.

Viral tale

NPB’s coronavirus response mirrored the stance of Japan’s central government. In February 2020, when the virus was considered a threat to holding the the Olympics on schedule, preseason games were held behind closed doors and NPB mimicked the government by first saying the season would start on schedule and then repeatedly announcing new starting dates.

All that changed on March 24, the day Japan bowed to the obvious, that a July-August 2020 Tokyo Olympics were impossible when the IOC said it was a no-go.

No longer needing the illusion that Tokyo would be safe to host the Olympics from July, Japan’s infection count jumped by a factor of eight, and the fiction that pro baseball’s season would begin in April was abandoned.

The government soon announced its first state of emergency, and when it was lifted in May, NPB announced its June 13 Opening Day behind closed doors for a 120-game season with no all-star break or interleague play. Teams were allowed to admit up to 5,000 fans from July 10.

Teams were permitted to admit roughly half their venues’ attendance from the start of September.

Japan is now on the verge of announcing another state of emergency with infection rates hitting record levels. The government is also restricting entry to non-resident foreign nationals following the emergence of new strains of the coronavirus, and there is concern about the ability of players to travel here in time for the start of Spring Training on Feb. 1.

On Monday, the Orix Buffaloes announced that infielder Steven Moya arrived in Japan on Sunday in order to avoid any entry hassle. This year, he will be competing for playing time with both Adam Jones and returning slugger Stefen Romero, who had a productive 2020 season with the Rakuten Eagles.

NPB 2020 6-29 NEWS

Union: You want cuts? show us your books

The executive director of the Japanese Professional Baseball Players Association said Monday he expected tough salary negotiations in the autumn after this year’s games have been reduced and played behind closed doors but said teams would have to be open about their losses if they want concessions.

Speaking as the union announced that the average salary of Japan’s 727 domestically registered players surpassed 40 million yen ($360,000) for the first time, Mori said according to the Nikkan Sports, that the players side needed to be taken into consideration.

“Anyone can tell that profits are going to be down, but a lot of players have essentially been in camp all this time,” Mori said. “I want negotiations in good faith with the teams revealing their profit statements.”

Unlike in the majors, Nippon Professional Baseball does not have a collective bargaining agreement. Rather, Japanese law gives the players association the right to negotiate all changes to the working situation. Imported players do not typically join the union.

For that reason, the teams are likely to take Mori’s advice with a grain of sand, since the union has zero role to play in individual salary negotiations.

The figures are for the numbers stated on each individual player’s uniform player contract and would not include any additional revenues stipulated in the supplemental contracts most players agree to with their teams.

The Pacific League’s SoftBank Hawks were the biggest spenders for the first time in two years at an average of 71.1 million yen, while the PL’s Lotte Marines were at the bottom at 30.4 million yen, roughly 30,000 yen ($270) lower than last-years 12th-placed club, the PL’s Orix Buffaloes. The Rakuten Eagles, who were formed in 2005, moved into third place in the domestic-spending rankings for the first time.

NPB 2020 6-28 GAMES AND NEWS

Mima outpitches Yamamoto, Marines sweep

Manabu Mima got burned early and then was as careful as careful can be, allowing three runs over seven innings against Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who struggled to adjust to a lack of command and coughed up five runs in 5-2/3 innings in a 6-5 win for the Lotte Marines over Orix.

Brandon Laird homered to break a 5-5 tie in the eighth, and Jay Jackson finished it off with his first save in Japan in two years as the Marines managed their eighth-straight win and a six-game sweep of the Orix Buffaloes. See the live blog below for more in depth coverage.

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Mori lifts Lions over Hawks

Seibu submariner Kaito Yoza did not allow a hit after the second inning, three relievers worked 1-2-3 innings, and 23-year-old SoftBank rookie Keisuke Izumi (0-1) was thrown into the Lions’ den in the ninth inning of a tie game. He loaded the bases with no outs for Tomoya Mori who singled in the winning run at MetLife Dome in a 4-3 victory.

Yuki Yanagita of the Hawks opened the scoring in the first with his third home run, and Hotaka Yamakawa tied it in the sixth with his fifth home run.

New Lions reliever Reed Garrett struck out the side in the eighth. He has retired all nine batters he’s faced since Friday, striking out six of them.

Sugiura outpitches Ishibashi in Fighters’ win

Nippon Ham Fighters starter Toshihiro Sugiura (1-0) struck out seven, while scattering five singles and a walk over six innings to allow two runs and earn the win in a 6-4 victory over the Rakuten Eagles.

Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi (0-2) allowed five runs over four innings. Jabari Blash hit a two-run, eighth-inning home run for the Eagles.

Sanchez wins 2nd for Giants

Angel Sanchez (2-0) walked four, but pitched out of trouble three times to work six innings and earn the win as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Yakult Swallows 12-0. Kazuma Okamoto went 3-for-4 with a home run, an RBI single and a walk.

Morishita gives up 1st runs, earns 1st win

Elite Hiroshima Carp prospect Masato Morishita opened his pro career with 15 scoreless innings before the Chunichi Dragons scored three off him in the bottom of the ninth at Nagoya Dome. But after no decision in his debut, the rookie earned the win as Hiroshima came out on top 10-3.

Heading into the ninth, Morishita had a 10-run lead, having struck out seven, while allowing three hits, a walk and a hit batsman on 110 pitches. The rookie left after 136 pitches, the second time a Carp starter reached 130 over the weekend following ace Daichi Osera’s 132 on Friday.

The Carp already have two complete games this season, and first-year manager Shinji Sasaoka, who threw 66 in his career, seems to hold those in a higher regard than may be healthy for his pitching staff.

BayStars Tigers

Kentaro Taira, whom the DeNA BayStars acquired after the 2016 season as free agent compensation for the Yomiuri Giants’ signing of Shun Yamaguchi, delivered his second-straight quality start, allowing one run over six innings to earn the win in a 9-1 victory over the Hanshin Tigers.

The BayStars welcomed Tigers starter Kenichi Nakata (0-1) back to the Central League with a leadoff double from Takayuki Kajitani and two-out doubles by captain Keita Sano and Toshiro Miyazaki. On a day when manager Alex Ramirez rested several regulars, catcher Yasutaka Tobashira started and singled in the BayStars’ third run of the inning.

BayStars drop Peoples, activate Escobar

The Central League’s DeNA BayStars swapped out starting pitcher Micheal Peoples for hard-throwing left-handed reliever Edwin Escobar on Sunday.

On Saturday, the right-handed Peoples allowed five runs over five innings in an 8-6 loss to the Hanshin Tigers after closer Yasuaki Yamasaki’s struggles continued by allowing three runs in the ninth inning.

In Peoples’ first start, he allowed a run over six innings with seven strikeouts against the Hiroshima Carp on June 20.

The 28-year-old Escobar is entering his fourth season in NPB. He pitched in 74 games last year with 88 strikeouts in 75-1/3 innings. He was 5-4 with 33 holds, the third highest figure in the CL behind Joely Rodriguez of the Dragons and Pierce Johnson of the Tigers, both of whom left Japan this year for jobs in the majors.

Go to NEWEST.

For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Live blog: Marines vs Buffaloes

Manabu Mima vs Yoshinobu Yamamoto at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium east of Tokyo. The Marines have won seven straight, while the Buffaloes haven’t won since Yamamoto beat the Eagles the previous Sunday in Osaka.

Top 1st

Keita Nakagawa barrels up a running fastball up in the zone and pulls it down the left field line for a leadoff double. Ryoichi Adachi, a prototypical Japanese No. 2 hitter, a fast, light-hitting middle infielder, is up their sacrificing until the second strike.

Announcer “He wants to move that runner up of course, because you want the early lead and Yamamoto is on the mound.”

Adachi chops it behind the runner to first, bringing up tough lefty Masataka Yoshida, who looks at a backdoor slider for Strike 1 before getting jammed inside by a running fastball inside that he grounds to first as Adachi scores. Buffaloes 1, Marines 0.

Adam Jones lines a hanging first-pitch slider off the top of the wall in left but with the outfield playing him deep, he can only get a single. Takahiro Okada lines a 1-2 fastball down the pipe over the fence in right for a two-run shot and his second homer of the season. Buffaloes 3, Marines 0.

Mima gets out of the inning when Aderlin Rodriguez miss-hits a hanging slider and flies out to second.

Bottom 1st

After a week of hype about his stuff especially his curve, Yamamoto treats the Marines to first-inning heat. He falls behind with two high fastballs before getting leadoff man Takashi Ogino to pop up to second on a cutter up and in. Koki Fukuda takes a high curve for Ball 1 before missing three high fastballs. Ikuhiro Kiyota goes down chasing a 1-2 cutter on the outside edge.

Top 2nd

Mima opens with some good pitches and gets an easy fly and a grounder to third. Shunta Goto keeps the inning alive by knocking a fat 1-0 running fastball between first and second. Goto steals second, but Nakagawa strikes out.

Bottom 2nd

after a pair of hard cutters away, Yamamoto hangs a curve to Brandon Laird and he knocks it between third and short for a leadoff single. Leonys Martinez hits a skipping stone down the first base line and Okada is unable to handle it. He’s given an error and the Marines have runners on second and third.

Shogo Nakamura pops up an 0-1 splitter Yamamoto left up in the zone, and here comes Seiya “Asia” Inoue. The 114-kilogram right-handed hitter falls behind 0-2 but Yamamoto can’t find the outside corner and Inoue won’t chase and ends up walking him to load the bases.

Lotte catcher Tatsuhiro Tamura looks at beautiful cutter low and away and waves at fastball down the middle. Yamamoto’s splitter isn’t working and he bounces it for Ball 1. Another fastball in the heart of the zone and Tamura hits it off the end of the bat to center for a two-run single. Buffaloes 3, Marines 2.

Yamamoto getso out of trouble when Yudai Fujioka chops a high pitch to the mound and the pitcher starts a double play.

Top 3rd

Mima leaves a fat 1-1 pitch up and Adachi slams it on the ground into left for a leadoff single. But Adachi 30-for-37 as a base stealer the past two years is cut down on a perfect throw by Tamura. Yoshida singles on a hanging forkball and along comes Jones.

Jones lines one off the end of the bat to second. Mima is staying away from the strike zone as much as he can, although he did sneak a curve down the middle past Okada, who walks. But Rodriguez pops up a low fastball for the third out.

Bottom 3rd

Takashi Ogino leads off with a double past Nakagawa at third and Fukuda advances him to third by hitting behind the runner. With the infield in, Kiyota hits a bullet to short but Ogino, running on contact, easily scores the tying run. Laird grounds out on the next pitch and we’re tied. Marines 3, Buffaloes 3.

Top 4th

Mima is working ever so carefully now, showing his hard stuff and executing offspeed stuff in the zone, resulting in three miss-hit easy grounders and a 1-2-3 inning against the Buffaloes tail.

Bottom 4th

It’s back to the no-nonsense hard stuff for Yamamoto and two easy outs as Martin swings at a 1-2 fastball away and Nakamura grounds out.

But Yamamoto’s location is not great and every instance of attempted cuteness is costing him. He tries to get Inoue to chase and misses, and it’s another walk. Tamura is up there battling, intentionally fouling off the hard stuff and he walks on the 10th pitch.

Yudai Fujioka is not trying to walk. He’s taking some real swings. when Yamamoto misses with a straight high 1-2 fastball, he lines it to the gap in right for a single. Marines 4, Buffaloes 3.

The inning ends when Tamura is caught in a rundown between third and home. And if you’ve ever seen a more poorly executed rundown, I’d like to see it. Fujioka follows and they get two runners trapped at third and it still takes extra throws to get the out.

Don’t try this at home, children.

Top 5th

Nakagawa grounds out to second on two pitches. With two outs, Yoshida forces Mima over the plate and singles to center off the end of the bat. Tying run on first with Jones up.

First-pitch splitter, the best one Mima’s thrown so far, for a swinging strike out of the zone. Jones went after two pitches out of the zone last time, and Mima goes outside for 1-1. The splitter stays up, and Jones is on it, but smacks it straight to third for an easy out.

Bottom 5th

Ono up to lead off the fifth. Two hard strikes inside but nothing to change speeds with in the zone, and Ogino gets a good swing on a low fastball and finds a hole through the infield for a single. Fukuda launches a straight fastball on a line to the warning track in center but Goto overtakes it and makes a terrific catch.

Yamamoto is missing all over the place but catches one of his few breaks today. With Ogino running on a 2-2 pitch, Yamamoto hangs another curve and Kiyota doesn’t hit it well. Nakagawa gloves the soft liner at third and throws to first for an easy double play.

Top 6th

Okada falls behind 0-2 looking at a get-me-over slider, missing a running fastball away and grounding a slider to second. Rodriguez offers at two sliders outside, misses one and flies out easily on the second. The Buffaloes are really guessing badly. Wakatsuki is jammed by a fastball in the heart of the zone and grounds out to short.

Bottom 6th

Yamamoto gets Laird out easily but loses Martin with his fourth walk of the afternoon. Nakamura flies out on a beautiful cutter away after fouling off a slider for Strike 2. I may be wrong, but that could be the first strike Yamamoto has gotten from his slider all day.

After falling behind 2-0 to Inoue, Okada comes over to talk to Yamamoto, and it appears he is just killing time so someone can get warm in the bullpen. When Inoue lines the next pitch to right, Yamamoto’s looking around to see if he’s coming out of the game and he is.

26-year-old right-hander Keisuke Sawada on to try and get an out before Lotte gets another run. But Goto can’t catch a sinking liner to center. Marines 5, Buffaloes 3.

Top 7th

Three up, three down for Mima in the seventh. He’s retired seven straight and 13 of the last 14 and is at 96 pitches. It looks like he’s headed for the clubhouse in good shape for his second win.

Bottom 7th

Lefty Tomoyuki Kaida on in the seventh. After struggling with his command against Ogino, who flies out, Kaida needs just four pitches to retire Fukuda and Kiyota. It’s a nice bounce back for Kaida after he faced seven batters in his previous outing on Friday and allowed four runs.

Top 8th

Right-hander Fumiya Ono on in the eighth to preserve the two-run lead. Mima allowed three runs, all in the first inning, on seven hits. He walked one and struck out two over seven innings.

Adachi opens the inning by stinging a straight1-0 fastball for a single. Yoshida walks on four pitches. Jones hits a slider off the label, lining it straight to left for the first out.

Okada flairs a high 2-0 slider to center. Adachi scores, and Tamura fumbles the throw home, allowing Yoshida to reach third.

Ono is gone in favor of right-hander Taiki Tojo. Both Masuda and Okada are out for pinch runners. Yuya Oda is at third running for Yoshida. Kodai Sano, running at first, steals second.

Rodriguez singles in the tying run, but Sano is caught in a rundown for the second out with Rodriguez taking third during the confusion. Marines 5, Buffaloes 5.

Tojo strikes out Wakatsuki and the Marines avoid falling a run down.

Bottom 8th

Former closer Hirotoshi Masui on for Orix in the eighth to face former Nippon Ham Fighters teammate Brandon Laird.

Laird flies to center and the ball just gets over the glove of Goto, who leaps at the wall. Laird’s fifth home run makes it Marines 6, Buffaloes 5.

Martin strikes out swinging at a 1-2 splitter out of the zone, but Shogo Nakamura singles and Orix manager Norifumi Nishimura goes to the pen for another righty, Tomoki Higa to face Inoue.

Inoue flies out to bring up the Marines’ biggest troublemaker of the day, Tamura. He’s driven in three runs and his walk helped set up the go-ahead run in the fourth. The Marines catcher draws his second walk, causing Nishimura to come out of the dugout again.

The Buffaloes’ third pitcher of the inning is lefty Nobuyoshi Yamada, who strikes out Fujioka for the final out.

Top 9th

The reason we didn’t see Jay Jackson in the eighth is because manager Tadahito Iguchi was saving him for the ninth. He’s on now with a chance for his first save in Japan since 2018, his last season with the Hiroshima Carp.

Pinch-hitter Torai Fushimi waves at a slider and goes down swinging. The left-handed-hitting Goto is up and gets ahead 2-0 before taking a fastball for a strike. It’s 2-2 and Goto is up there spoiling now. Jackson misses with a slider and its 3-2, but got him to miss another at the bottom of the strike zone.

Nakagawa looks as Jackson misses with two sliders low and away, but watches a third down the pipe. A fastball away finds the zone and it’s 2-2.
Another slider low out of the zone, Nakagawa offers, misses, and it’s all over as Jackson strikes out the side to end it.

Final score: Marines 6, Buffaloes 5

NPB 2020 6-27 GAMES AND NEWS

Sunday’s announced starting pitchers are HERE.

Let’s go Jerry!

The Hanshin Tigers dialed the right number on Saturday, when they called up 2019 KBO RBI leader Jerry Sands to the active roster. Sands made a run-saving sliding catch in the fourth inning, and put the Tigers ahead for good in the ninth, with a two-out, three-run homer off closer Yasuaki Yamasaki (0-1) in an 8-6 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.

BayStars starter Michael Peoples allowed five runs in five innings. The right-hander struck out three, walked one and hit two. Jefry Marte’s sac fly opened the scoring in the first before Justin Bour singled in a run and stole a base in the visitors’ two-run inning.

The BayStars tied it in the bottom of the inning on doubles by Takayuki Kajitani, Neftali Soto and Keita Sano. With the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth, a BayStars runner on first an no outs, Sands slid into the left field corner to just snag a fly for the first out.

Trailing 6-5 in the ninth, Yamasaki, who also closes for Japan’s national team was in trouble for the second-straight game. The right-hander got two outs before walking Marte and pinch-hitter Yusuke Oyama. Sands belted a 1-2 pitch over the wall to put Hanshin in front.

Former Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, who reclaimed the Tigers’ closer role last summer, also got into hot water. The 39-year-old had blown his last save opportunity, the first time that had happened in over a year.

A walk to Soto, and a single to former Padre Tyler Austin, who drove in two runs in the sixth, put the tying runs on and a hit batsman loaded the bases with two outs before Fujikawa got out of it for his first save of the season.

Yamada crushes Giants

Tetsuto Yamada capped a sixth inning in which both teams combined for 11 runs with a grand slam as the Yakult Swallows beat the Yomiuri Giants 9-6 on Saturday.

Yamada doubled in a run and scored in the first inning, but the Giants pounded Swallows starter Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa for four runs in the sixth, two on Gerardo Parra’s third home run, a two-run shot.

Yoshimi stops Carp, Dragons’ losing skid

Kazuki Yoshimi (1-1), once the ace of the Chunichi Dragons staff, pitched out of a fourth-inning jam to allow a run over five innings in a 6-1 win over the Hiroshima Carp. Yoshimi, who has a long history of elbow surgeries and has had seven 100-inning seasons but only two since 2012. He struck out two and hit a batter while allowing four hits, all singles.

With a 3-0, fourth-inning lead, back-to-back, no-out singles brought up Seiya Suzuki, but the Carp star grounded into a double play. With two out and two on, Yoshimi retired Alejandro Mejia on a fly out to end the inning.

Sato caps Marines’ victory with 1st career hit

Toshiya Sato, the Marines’ second pick in last autumn’s draft, drilled a pinch-hit single to the wall in the 10th inning to lift Lotte to a 2-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes.

Tyler Higgins, made his Japan debut by getting three outs in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded for the Buffaloes, while Marines relievers Jay Jackson and Frank Herrmann each struck out two in a scoreless inning of relief. Herrmann (2-0) got the win.

The Buffaloes have now lost five straight since right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto won last Sunday. With the Pacific League looking to reduce travel among its far-flung teams by holding six-game series, Yamamoto will go to the mound tomorrow to prevent the Buffaloes from suffering a six-game sweep.

Yamakawa decides Lions-Hawks slugfest

Takeya Nakamura, with six PL home run titles under his belt, and Hotaka Yamakawa, who owns the last two, each homered for the Seibu Lions in an 8-7 victory over the SoftBank Hawks at MetLife Dome.

The Hawks’ Yuki Yanagita set the tone early with a first-inning shot off Lions starter Wataru Matsumoto.

The Lions bullpen, which has been inconsistent to say the least, worked six scoreless innings, while allowing two walks and three hits.

Trailing 7-5 in the seventh, Sosuke Genda and Shuta Tonosaki singled off Sho Iwasaki (0-2) before Yamakawa hit his fourth homer of the season to put Seibu in front.

Reed Garrett, who struck out the side on Friday night to earn the win, retired all three batters he faced in the eighth, while closer Tatsushi Masuda survived a two-out triple to nail down his third save.

Asamura wrecks Fighters

Hideto Asamura took a hammer to the Nippon Ham Fighters, scoring twice and driving in seven runs in the Rakuten Eagles’ 18-4 blood-letting at Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Jabari Blash drove in three runs, scored twice, walked twice and singled for Rakuten, whose starter, former southpaw closer Yuki Matsui, surrendered four runs in four-plus innings.

Six Fighters pitchers combined to issue 10 walks.

Buffaloes call up Higgins

The Orix Buffaloes activated right-hander Tyler Higgins on Saturday to take the spot of Opening Day starter Taisuke Yamaoka, who strained an internal oblique tendon in the first inning of Friday’s start against the Lotte Marines in Chiba.

In two farm outings this season, the 29-year-old allowed a run on one hits and a walk, while striking out three. Higgins spent nine seasons in the minor leagues, mostly with the Miami Marlins. Last year, he pitched in 33 games for Triple-A El Paso, where the Padres assigned Japanese pitching coach Akinori Otsuka.

In his Japan first-team debut, Higgins came on with two on and no outs in the bottom of the ninth of a 1-1 game. After issuing an intentional walk, he retired the next three batters to send the game to an extra inning.

Tigers bring up KBO RBI king Sands

Outfielder Jerry Sands, who led the Korea Baseball Organization in RBIs last season, was called up for the first time this season by the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League on Saturday.

Since Opening Day, the Tigers have deactivated three imported pitchers, Onelki Garcia, Joe Gunkel and Jon Edwards. Their four active imports now are Sands, first baseman Justin Bour, third baseman Jefry Marte and reliever Robert Suarez.

“Hit it hard and make it fly Jerry. Home runs to left, home runs to right Jerry Jerry Sands Lets go! Jerry Sands Lets go!”

Jerry Sands cheer, as displayed on the big screen at Koshien Stadium this spring.

Sands has played in two games for the Tigers’ Western League farm club this summer and has one hit and three walks in seven plate appearances.

The Tigers started the season 1-6.