Senga makes do with less as Buffaloes stumble
A week after SoftBank Hawks ace Kodai Senga made his belated season debut, his splitter remains a work in progress. But even without any obvious feel for it, Senga was still able to locate his high-velocity fastball, cutter and slider often enough to overcome an Orix Buffaloes team that booted its early opportunities in a 10-3 Hawks win at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Buffaloes lefty Andrew Albers was unable to locate his slider in the first and worked too carefully for his own good and was fortunate not to allow more than two runs. After walking Yuki Yanagita on four pitches to put two on with one out, Wladimir Balentien hit a good two-seam fastball on the outside edge and singled to center fielder Yuma Mune.
The Buffaloes outfielder misplayed the ball, allowing Yanagita to score and Balentien to take second. A walk and a bunt single loaded the bases but Albers struck out Nobuhiro Matsuda with a beauty of a changeup and jammed Kenji Akashi with a fastball inside to end the inning.
The Buffaloes evened it up in the bottom of the inning, thanks to four good two-out at-bats after leadoff man Kojji Oshiro led off with a walk. Singles by Adam Jones and Takahiro Okada, made it 2-1, and walks by Aderlin Rodriguez and Kenya Wakatsuki tied it. Ryoichi Adachi saw some mistakes up in the zone but was unable to do anything with them as Senga got out of the inning with the game tied.
Albers challenged Takuya Kai to open the second and the Hawks’ catcher doubled. Albers then did a poor job covering the bag on Ryoya Kurihara’s grounder to first, slowing as he neared the bag and letting the batter beat him to the base. Albers jammed Kenta Imamiya, but the ball fell in shallow center. It would have been a tough play but neither shortstop Adachi nor center fielder Mune committed to it, and that was, in short, the story of this game.
The Buffaloes looked more confident in their execution against another team that too often failed to execute routine plays, but against the Hawks, they looked just a little tight.
The Hawks batters succeeded in running up Albers’ pitch count, and it seemed that both he and Senga really only got warmed up after they hit the 50-pitch mark. He retired eight-straight hitters after Imamiya’s flare before giving up back-to-back triples in the fourth. Mune got to a ball off Imamiya’s bat and it would have been a heck of a catch, but it hit his glove and bounced away.
Yanagita then hit a ball too high off the left field wall for Okada to have a play on. By the time he got the ball back, Yanagita was on third and Albers was out of the game.
Albers (1-2) allowed four runs, three earned, on two walks and eight hits while striking out six. He doesn’t throw particularly hard, but he commanded his four-seam fastball, his two-seamer and change. The slider was effective after the first inning. It was more a case of lots of little things going wrong.
Once Albers was out of the way, the game was a piece of cake for the Hawks. Balentien singled off his replacement, Kazumasa Yoshida, and the Hawks took Orix’s bullpen to the bank.
Senga (2-0) did throw some good splitters, but more often than not, he could neither locate them or get them to tumble properly. But because Senga throws so hard and was able to locate his fastball and cutter better than he usually does, the absence of a reliable splitter was more an annoyance than a deal-breaker.
Seiji Uebayashi, who came on as a late substitute once the game was out of hand, and Kai, each belted a two-run home run for the Hawks.
Mima fans 7 as Marines beat Fighters
Manabu Mima (2-0) allowed two runs on six hits over seven innings while striking out seven, while Leonys Martin homered and had an RBI single in the Lotte Marines’ 5-2 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.
Leadoff man Takashi Ogino reached base three times, stole two bases and scored two runs, while relievers Frank Herrmann and Naoya Masuda each supplied a scoreless inning to close it out.
The Fighters’ difficulties with execution returned home with them after an ugly week in Osaka as catcher Yushi Shimizu hit his pitcher while throwing to second on one steal attempt and missed third base on another.
Lefty Naoyuki Uwasawa (0-1) gave up five runs, three earned, on six hits and two walks over five innings.
Akiyama, Kinami push Tigers past Swallows
Takumi Akiyama (1-1) allowed three runs over six innings, while Seiya Kinami drove in three runs with a sac fly and a home run as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Yakult Swallows 6-3 at Koshien Stadium.
Akiyama paid the price for a pair of one-out walks in the first as both runners came around to score on a Munetaka Murakami single and a grounder to third.
The Tigers got to 40-year-old Swallows lefty for three runs in the fourth. Yoshio Itoi doubled, Justin Bour singled with one out and Jerry Sands walked. Catcher Ryutaro Umeno doubled in two, and Kinami’s sac fly made it 3-2.
The Swallows, who are without their top two catchers, Yuhei Nakamura and Motohiro Shima, got a game-tying home run from reserve catcher Akihisa Nishida in the top of the fifth, but Itoi singled home Koji Chikamoto with the tie-breaking run in the home half.
After Sands singled to open the sixth, Kinami then homered off right-hander Tomoya Hoshi, and three Tigers relievers, Yusuke Baba, lefty Suguru Iwazaki and Robert Suarez kept Yakult off the board the rest of the way. Suarez earned his second save.
Tiger pitcher asks fans for quiet
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, teams are only allowed to admit up to 5,000 fans and those have been instructed not to shout or engage in organized cheering. One hears lots of clapping, and when Tigers batters come to the plate at Koshien Stadium, one can distinctly hear thousands of fans chanting together softly.
But Koshien being Koshien and Tigers fans being enthusiastic, the hecklers, who are normally hard to hear above the constant white noise background produced by the cheering groups, were too audible for Tigers pitcher Iwazaki’s comfort according to a Daily Sports story.
During the eighth inning, the pitcher called time and informed umpire Tomiji Iizuka, who, according to the Hochi Shimbun, asked them to be quiet by saying, “You can’t speak in a loud voice.”
Sugano, Okamoto lead Giants win over Carp
Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano (3-0) tossed five shutout innings, and Kazuma Okamoto hit his sixth home run, a three-run, third-inning shot in Yomiuri’s 7-2 win over the Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Carp right-hander Allen Kuri (1-1) escaped a one-out bases-loaded jam in the second, but issued a four-pitch leadoff walk to Sugano to open the third. A one-out walk and a Yoshihiro Maru double at his old home park put the Giants up by a run. Okamoto followed with a homer.
Gerardo Parra singled in a run for the Giants against new Carp D.J. Johnson in a two-error, three-run sixth.
Hara surpasses Nagashima’s win total
The win was the 1,035th of Giants manager Tatsunori Hara’s career. It moved him out of a tie with his mentor, Shigeo Nagashima, and into sole possession of second place in franchise history behind Tetsuharu Kawakami, who managed the “V-9” Giants — winners of nine-straight Japan Series championships from 1965 to 1973.
Hara, who barely failed to win election to the Hall of Fame for his playing career, sprinted in once voters were allowed to consider his other accomplishments during his three-year hiatus as Giants skipper from 2016 to 2018.
BayStars’ Onuki shuts down Dragons
Shinichi Onuki (1-2) allowed two runs over eight innings, while his teammates sent 10 men to the plate in a five-run fourth inning as the DeNA BayStars beat the Chunichi Dragons 5-3 at Nagoya Dome.
Onuki struck out six without a walk. He allowed an unearned run in the first, and surrendered 24-year-old Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez’s first home run for the top team. Martinez also singled in a run in the ninth to keep his average at .500.
Dragons right-hander Takumi Yamamoto (1-2) gave up five runs, three earned, over 3-2/3 innings on six hits and three walks. The Dragons had a golden opportunity to get out of the inning on a double play. Unfortunately with the in-the-neighborhood double play a thing of the past, second baseman Shun Ishikawa’s failure to touch second on the pivot allowed a run to score and the bleeding to continue.
Lots of little ups and downs
With the win, the BayStars have now become the first NPB team to have alternated wins and losses over a 15-game stretch, according to the Nikkan Sports.
Giants, Eagles swap pitchers
The Central League’s Yomiuri Giants and the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles announced a trade on Tuesday, with the Giants acquiring 28-year-old lefty Yuhei Takanashi in exchange for 22-year-old right-hander Hosei Takata.
The Daily Sports reported that Eagles general manager Kazuhisa Ishii is high on Takata’s potential, while noting Takanashi, a side-armer, will have an opportunity for more playing time with the Giants, who since their last trade have lost closer Rubby De La Rosa.
Takata led the Eastern league in wins and ERA in 2018.
Tigers’ Gunkel deactivated
The Hanshin Tigers deactivated right-hander Joe Gunkel on Tuesday after he felt lower back stiffness during pregame practice, Sponichi reported. A first-year-import, the 28-year-old Gunkel is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA after his only start for the Tigers.
Active roster moves 7/14/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/24