Hawks release, Moore, van den Hurk, Uchikawa, Colas on cut day
The Pacific League’s SoftBank Hawks parted company, at least technically with pitchers Matt Moore and Rick van den Hurk, while making longtime captain Seiichi Uchikawa free to complete a deal with the Central League’s Yakult Swallows on Wednesday.
Nippon Professsional Baseball’s teams are required to submit their reserve lists for the 2021 season on Dec. 2, the big day for releases across Japan. The moves don’t necessarily mean that neither Moore nor van den Hurk will be back with the four-time defending Japan Series champions, but it does mean they were unable to or unwilling to exercise an option to keep them.
Cuban two-way player Oscar Colas, who has been on the restricted list since Feb. 19, was released by not being placed on the Hawks’ 2021 reserve list, meaning he will be free to sign with an MLB club as an international amateur when the next international signing period opens in June.
Cuts throw import market wide open
The winter NPB market for import players heated up considerably with Tuesday’s cuts when a number of experienced players with established value were left off their clubs’ reserves list. Here’s a brief rundown:
A rare home run from Yudai Fujioka broke a 2-2 tie, and Yuki Karakawa preserved the lead with a big sixth-inning strikeout as the Lotte Marines exploited some Seibul Lions defensive lapses in a n 8-2 win that sent them into the playoffs for the first time in four years.
The Marines surrendered the lead in the second inning, when Kazuya Ojima walked a batter and the Lions put good swings on three pitches in the heart of the zone to go up 2-0. Ojima was pulled after two frames, beginning an impressive daylong bullpen car rally for the Marines.
After a great start to the game in which his fastball was absolutely hopping, Wataru Matsumoto couldn’t get out of a jam with one out and runners on the corners. Cory Spangenberg, whose RBI single opened the scoring, lost a smash to third base, by dropping it between his feet and then fell victim to Lindsey Nelson’s Law — which dictates that a player typically looks the wrong way first whenever a ball is dropped.
Spangenberg looked everywhere but down, allowing the runner from third to score and leaving him with no play at first. Tsuyoshi Sugano tied it with a two-out RBI single.
Fujioka put the Marines in front in the fourth when Matsumoto (6-7) hung a fastball. The Marines shortstop stayed back on it and smacked it over the fence in right and into the Home Run Lagoon seats.
Daiki Iwashita (7-7) normally a starter, came on from the top of the fourth and left after walking two in the top of the sixth. With two outs and the bases packed, Yuki Karakawa entered to strike out No. 9 hitter Wu Nien-ting.
After a tenuous outing from Lions reliever Reed Garrett, a pair of misplays in the bottom of the inning helped score three runs. all charged to Katsunori Hirai. The Marines then committed their bullpen cavalry to chase the Lions out of pennant contention, as Frank Herrman, Hirokazu Sawamura and closer Naoya Masuda worked one scoreless inning apiece.
Sakamoto milestone highlights loss
Hayato Sakamoto only needed one at-bat against Albert Suarez to become the second-youngest player with 2,000 hits in Nippon Professional Baseball, but he tacked on a two-run home run, an infield single and a walk before the Yomiuri Giants were sunk 5-4 by the Yakult Swallows.
With teams permitted now to admit up to 80 percent of capacity, the Giants welcomed Japan’s biggest crowd of the season, 31,735, to Tokyo Dome, where Yakult’s Kotaro Yamasaki put only the slightest damper on the day with an eighth-inning grand slam.
Sakamoto is the 53rd player with 2,000 hits in Japan, a list that includes neither Ichiro Suzuki or Hideki Matsui, who moved to the majors before they could get that many hits in their homeland.
The Giants captain is the seventh player whose career has been spent primarily at shortstop to reach the milestone, since the position tends to be filled in Japan with light-hitting sacrifice bunters who rarely play regularly past the age of 30.
With numerous supporters urging Sakamoto to aim for 3,000, one could apply Bill James career assessment formula to get an idea of his chances. The formula gives him a 35 percent chance of reaching 3,000, and a 28 percent chance of surpassing Isao Harimoto’s NPB record of 3,085
Active roster moves 11/8/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/18
Kodai Senga (11-6) got a late start to the season but qualified for the Pacific League’s ERA title with eight innings in the SoftBank Hawks’ 2-0 win on Wednesday at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, over the Lotte Marines, who fell into third place, a game behind the Seibu Lions for the final playoff spot.
The Hawks’ win left them tied in their season series against Lotte after the three-time defending Japan Series champs starting the season 4-11-1 against the Marines.
With nine strikeouts over eight innings, Senga now leads the league with a 2.16 ERA and is tied with Orix’s Yoshinobu Yamamoto for the strikeout lead with 149 and tied with Hideaki Wakui for the lead in wins.
The Hawks scored on solo homers by Alfredo Despaigne, his sixth, and Ryoya Kurihara, his 17th, off former major leaguer Chen Wei-yin (0-3), and have now beaten the Marines in seven straight games. Yuito Mori notched his 32nd save.
Spangenberg, Lions feast on rookie Yoshida
Corey Spangenberg homered for the second straight night and drove in four runs as the Seibu Lions tattooed rookie Kosei Yoshida (0-2) for eight runs over two innings in a 10-3 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at MetLife Dome.
Zach Neal (6-8) allowed three runs over five innings to pick up the win. Shuta Tonosaki homered, drove in two runs and scored three, and Reed Garrett worked a scorless inning of relief for the Lions.
Buffaloes bounce Eagles
The Orix Buffaloes broke an eighth-inning tie with two runs off Alan Busenitz (1-4) in an 8-7 win at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome over the Rakuten Eagles, who fell 3-1/2 games out of the final playoff spot with four games left to play.
Orix lit up Hideaki Wakui for six runs over five innings before the visitors came back to tie it.
Endo goes distance for Carp
Atsushi Endo (5-6) threw a four-hitter for the Hiroshima Carp in a 5-1 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Hisayoshi Chono went 2-for-3 with two walks a homer three RBIs and his first stolen base since he was with the Giants two years ago, while Jose Pirela had three hits for the Carp.
Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto went 0-for-4 to remain three hits shy of 2,000 in his career.
Fujinami goes 6 scoreless innings in Tigers’ win
Shintaro Fujinami overcame three two-out walks to go six scoreless innings in the Hanshin Tigers’ 3-2 walkoff win over the Yakult Swallows at Koshien Stadium.
Yusuke Oyama homered in the ninth off Yugo Umeno (4-2) to end it and make a winner out of closer Robert Suarez (3-1) after the Swallows tied it with single runs in the seventh, off Suguru Iwazaki, and in the eighth, off Jon Edwards.
Takahashi lifts Dragons over ‘Stars
Dragons captain Shuhei Takahashi scored twice and hit a tie-breaking eighth-inning home run in a 5-4 win at Nagoya Dome after the DeNA BayStars tied it on home runs by Neftali Soto and Jose Lopez.
Soto’s 25th made it a 4-1 game in the fifth and Lopez’s 12th, with two on, tied it in the sixth.
Kodai Senga fastest NPB starter to 1,000 Ks
SoftBank Hawks right-hander Kodai Senga, whose family name literally means “1,000 celebrations,” notched his 1,000th strikeout in his 855-1/3 inning on Wednesday night at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Only Kyuji Fujikawa, the longtime former closer of the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers, who will retire this year, reached 1,000 in fewer innings. Fujikawa notched 92 of his strikeouts in 102 career innings as a starter, but he was primarily used as a reliever whose 243 saves are fourth-most in NPB history.
Senga, however, took over the Pacific League record from Hall of Famer Hideo Nomo. Senga started his career as a reliever and has pitched 82 career innings out of the bullpen. Signed after being taken in the developmental draft, Senga notched his first strikeout on April 30, 2012, fanning Lotte catcher Tomoya Satozaki, who was working the game as an analyst on TV Tokyo.
Active roster moves 11/4/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/14
A trio of SoftBank Hawks relievers pitched out of late-inning jams to preserve a 4-4 10-inning tie after the Seibu Lions’ Hotaka Yamakawa leveled the scores with a three-run seventh-inning home run at MetLife Dome.
Shuta Ishikawa worked seven innings and allowed seven hits and three walks. The Hawks battered Lions starter Tatsuya Imai for four runs on eight hits and a walk over three innings, but six Lions relievers allowed just four base runners the rest of the way.
Ernesto Mejia doubled to open Seibu’s second inning and scored the tying run on a Takumi Kuriyama single.
Ishikawa nearly got out of the seventh unscathed after a Tomoya Mori leadoff single. He struck out Mejia and survived a blast from Kuriyama that fell short of the warning track. But Corey Spangenberg singled and Ishikawa hung a curve to Yamakawa that he hit well back among the fans in left field.
Livan Moinelo worked around a leadoff single in the eighth. Closer Yuito Mori came on in the ninth and surrendered a leadoff double to Kuriyama. A sacrifice put the go-ahead run on third and the Hawks loaded the bases intentionally. Mori fell behind Fumikazu Kimura 2-0 but struck him out before ending the inning on a fly to right.
Lions closer Tatsushi Masuda worked a scoreless ninth and Reed Garrett pitched the 10th to snuff out the Hawks’ chance of victory.
Submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi walked the first two hitters in the 10th but struck out Mejia for the first out before preventing the Lions from walking off.
Kishi pitches Eagles to victory
Takayuki Kishi (3-0) worked into the seventh inning for the first time this season and Hideto Asamura had a two-run single in the Rakuten Eagles’ 4-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.
Kishi allowed four hits and two walks while striking out seven. Yuki Matsui struck out three of the four batters he faced in relief in 1-1/3 perfect innings before handing it over to Alan Busenitz, who did the same in the ninth for his 17th save.
Nick Martinez (1-6) got out of a first-inning jam but had less luck in the fourth when the Eagles scored on three straight hits to set up a four-run inning. Martinez, who allowed six hits and four walks, walked Daichi Suzuki with the bases loaded before Asamura capped the rally with a two-run single.
Giants survive late onslaught
Angel Sanchez (7-3) allowed two runs over seven innings for the Yomiuri Giants, who survived a late challenge to hold off the DeNa BayStars 9-7 at Tokyo Dome.
Kazuma Okamoto and Yoshihiro Maru each hit two-run home runs as the Giants built a 9-1 lead by the fourth inning. Okamoto’s was his league-leading 25th, while Maru’s was his 21st.
BayStars right-hander Shoichi Ino (6-6) allowed four runs over two innings to take the loss, although his teammates nearly took him off the hook in a five-run eighth inning.
Tyler Austin and Jose Lopez each hit two-run homers. Austin’s was his 15th in just his 43rd game, while Lopez’s was his third two-run shot of his old team in the series. Daisuke Nakai, another former Giant, capped the rally with an RBI single.
Spencer Patton worked the eighth to keep it close but Giants closer Rubby De La Rosa ended the game with the tying runs on to secure his 16th save.
Gerardo Parra returned to duty for the first time since July 22, but went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts for the Giants.
Yuki Nishi (9-4) struck out 12 over eight innings for the Hanshin Tigers in a 9-1 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Nishi allowed a run on four hits and a walk, while his teammates took batting practice against finesse right-hander Yusuke Nomura (6-3).
Nomura allowed eight runs over five-plus innings. Fumiya Hojo put the visitors up for good with a two-run first-inning homer, while Jerry Sands and Justin Bour homered back-to-back to open the Tigers’ six-run sixth.
Active roster moves 10/8/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/18
Three-run homers by Shuhei Fukuda and Hisanori Yasuda lifted the Lotte Marines to a 6-3 win over the Seibu Lions on Saturday at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Fukuda’s homer canceled out two by the Lions, a Takumi Kuriyama solo shot and two-run homer by Fumikazu Kimura. After Friday’s game was decided 1-0 by Ernesto Mejia’s solo homer, all10 runs scored in two game have crossed the plate on home runs.
Reed Garrett made his first start for the Lions after beginning the season with some success as their setup man. The right-hander was pulled after issuing his first walk, leaving two on with two outs in the third inning. The next pitcher issued a walk to load the bases, but retired Yasuda to end the inning.
Marines closer Naoya Masuda allowed the tying run to come to the plate in the ninth but held on to record his Japan-best 27th save.
Snappy answers to stupid questions
The loss meant the Lions, the two-time defending Pacific League champions, can no longer win the league under their own power. Asked the obligatory questions about the significance of this event that nobody seems to care about except Japanese sports editors, Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji said, “We don’t care about things like that.”
Yanagita homers in Hawks’ cleanup battle
A day after the SoftBank Hawks employed light-hitting utility infielder Keizo Kawashima in the No. 4 spot, Yuki Yanagita, the Pacific League’s premier hitter, took over the cleanup duties and homered in a 2-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Instead of Kawashima, with a career .254/.335/.363 slash line, Yanagita took over. Easily Japanese ball’s most productive hitter over the last seven seasons, opened the scoring in the second with his 25th home run, this one to the opposite field off Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (5-8) who took the complete-game loss.
Yanagita is one of only two players in Japanese pro baseball history to lead his league in on-base percentage and slugging average in four straight years (2015-2018).
This led to another memorable Hawks hero interview as Yanagita deadpanned about his competition with Kawashima for the No. 4 spot, although it probably doesn’t match the time Seiichi Uchikawa and Tsuyoshi Wada suggested a powerful God lived in the restroom behind the Hawks’ bench.
Q: How did you feel going up to bat in the second inning?
Yanagita: “Keizo batted fourth yesterday, and even though he got results, I usurped his spot. Because of that, I felt I had to do more to make up for his production we lost.”
Q: Kawashima was the hero yesterday, and now you’re the cleanup hitter and your a hero, too. Is there something special about being the Hawks’ cleanup hitter?
Yanagita: “To be honest, my only feeling was one of anxiety about whether I could compare favorably with Keizo.”
Kudo: “Cut that shit out”
Veteran Hawks outfielder Akira Nakamura was hurt sliding head-first into second legging out a double and was taken out of the game. He’s one of the hardest players in Japan to get a swinging strike against, and skipper Kimiyasu Kudo spoke about the incident afterward.
“He wanted the extra-base and thought he could get it, but from my point of view, I want him to be more careful, so I told him to forget about doing that stuff,” Kudo said.
Asamura hits 29th HR in Eagles’ win
The Rakuten Eagles shook off the loss of slugger Stefen Romero in the first inning as Hideto Asamura hit his Japan-best 29th home run to tie it en route to a 5-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Romero was hit in the head by a pitch in the first inning to load the bases with two outs, but reliever Koki Saito (1-1) retired veteran Ginji Akaminai to end the inning.
Steven Moya hit a two-run homer for the Buffaloes in the bottom of the first, but Asamura tied it in the third, when Akaminai singled in the go-ahead run.
Alan Busenitz allowed a run in the ninth but held on to earn his 16th save for the third-place Eagles.
Hatake, Oshiro lead Giants pastTigers
Seishu Hatake (2-3) worked 5-1/3 scoreless innings in the Yomiuri Giants’ 7-4 win over the Hanshin Tigers, who were held scoreless for eight innings at Koshien Stadium.
Takumi Oshiro’s three-run sixth-inning homer was the big hit for the Giants, who needed three pitchers to close ut the bottom of the ninth.
First-year Tigers right-hander Joe Gunkel (1-3) made his second start in Japan and trailed 2-0 through five innings. The Giants denied a Tigers run in the bottom of the fifth when Koji Chikamoto tried to score from first on a double to the gap. The relay from center fielder Yoshihiro Maru to shortstop Hayato Sakamoto got the ball to Oshiro, who applied a good tag.
Chikamoto capped the Tigers’ ninth with a three-run homer before Rubby De La Rosa came on to get the final out.
Dragons hold off feisty BayStars
The Chunichi Dragons came close to blowing an eight-run lead but held on for a 9-7 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.
Closer Raidel Martinez allowed a run in the ninth but stranded the potential tying run to earn his 16th save, lifting Chunichi into third place ahead of the BayStars.
Dragons catcher Takumi Kinoshita drove in five runs with a homer and a two-run first-inning single, but the BayStars scored six runs over the final four innings to make a game out of it.
DeNA starter Haruhiro Hamaguchi (6-5) allowed eight runs over 1-1/3 innings.
Carp slaughter Swallows
Rookie Masato Morishita (7-3) allowed six hits and a walk while striking out five in the Hiroshima Carp’s 13-2 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
With the Carp leading 13-0 in the bottom of the eighth, reliever Yasunori Kikuchi lost control of a ball that went behind Norichika Aoki, knocking him to the ground and out of the game.
As Tetsuto Yamada took his spot in the batter’s box, first base coach Ryosuke Morioka approached home plate, benches emptied and pushing and shoving ensued. Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu then informed the umpires he was playing the game under protest. It was NPB’s first protest of the season.
Swallows starter Albert Suarez (4-1) allowed four runs on 10 hits and a walk over 6-1/3 innings to take the loss.
Romero stretchered off field
Rakuten Eagles outfielder Stefen Romero was carried off the field in the top of the first inning on Saturday at Kyocera Dome after being struck on the helmet by a 145-kph pitch from Taiwan right-hander Chang Yi, who earned the automatic ejection for a “dangerous pitch.”
Chang, known here by the Japanese reading of his name’s Chinese characters, “Cho Yaku,” was the fifth pitcher ejected this season for hitting a batter in the head and the third in the Pacific League.
Despaigne to miss 2-3 weeks
The SoftBank Hawks announced Saturday that Best Nine-winning designated hitter Alfredo Despaigne will miss two to three weeks due to a bone bruise on his right tibia.
The 34-year-old Cuban complained of pain in his right knee on Thursday.
“Once the inflammation goes down, he should quickly be able to move again,” Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said.
Active roster moves 10/3/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/13
Haruki Nishikawa broke up an eighth-inning tie with a two-out, three-run triple off Reed Garrett (3-2), lifting the Nippon Ham Fighters to a 6-2 win over the Seibu Lions at Sapporo Dome on Saturday afternoon.
Sean Nolin allowed nine base runners but just two runs over six innings in his second start for the Lions, and Kaima Taira walked two in a scoreless seventh before the Lions’ luck ran out in the eighth.
With two outs, Takuya Nakashima fouled off three two-strike pitches before walking on nine pitches. Taishi Ota singled and Garrett hit Go Matsumoto to load the bases. A 1-1 splitter failed to tumble and Nishikawa hit a fly to the warning track. Center fielder Yuji Kaneko, was playing Nishikawa to pull and the ball fell just out of reach.
Sho Nakata followed with a drive near the top of the imposing center-field wall to drive in Nishikawa but was held to a single when he stumbled rounding first.
Kohei Arihara (4-6) who started the season 1-5 with three quality starts in his first eight games, has now rolled off four-straight solid outings. Some big plays from Nakashima at shortstop helped Arihara hold Seibu to two runs on six hits over eight innings.
Sean Nolin, making his second start since joining the Lions in the offseason, brought a very good fastball, but inconsistent location cost him. He allowed two runs on six hits, three walks and a hit batsman, while striking out 10.
Kensuke Kondo singled in both of the Fighters early runs, while the Lions answered with Ernesto Mejia’s eighth home run, in the second, and a Hotaka Yamakawa RBI single in the sixth.
Japanese baseball 101: Don’t get high
Nearly every Japanese language description of a good pitching effort will include the phrase, “he was consistently low in the zone,” while the kneejerk reaction to nearly every hit is, “he left that up,” whether the pitch was actually well-located or even up in the zone.
The reason for this is that the Japanese game is so rooted in the way young kids are taught to hit grounders to the left side of the infield. They are taught this way because young children don’t field well and hitting the ball to the left side increases the batter’s chance of reaching on an error.
So instead of trying to launch pitches that miss up, the first instinct of many players trained here is to chop down on those balls and smash through the left side of the infield. The “best” pitchers are those who keep batters from hitting hard ground ball singles.
The Fighters’ first illustrated this. Nolin got slugger Sho Nakata to wave at a high fastball for Strike 3, but three other high pitches were chopped between third and short in textbook fashion: back-to-back one-out singles and a two-out chopper to the hole to bring in a run.
“Forrest Gump” Nakamura stars for Marines
Even when the Lotte Marines can’t get it right, they somehow still manage to compete against the SoftBank Hawks. On Saturday, Marines second baseman had a kind of Forrest Gump box-of-chocolates game, since he seemed to be present at numerous junctures in their 5-4 win at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
The visitors squandered two good scoring chances, and Nakamura had as up and down a day as one can have. He homered to open the scoring, only for a couple of fielding near-misses on defense at second base contribute to two infield singles in the Hawks’ three-run sixth. He also literally knocked out the Hawks’ starting pitcher, and assisted in the final scene.
“The margin of victory was paper thin, because of my mistakes,” Nakamura said. “I played very aggressively even in the field. I messed up in the field so I’m glad I could contribute with my bat.”
The win improved the Marines’ record against the Hawks since the start of last season to 24-11-1. In three seasons as Lotte’s manager, former Hawk Tadahito Iguchi now has a 33-26-2 mark against the three-time defending Japan Series champions.
With two on and no outs in the first, Ikuhiro Kiyota bunted into a force out before a fluke 6-5-4 double play ended the Marines’ inning. Leading 1-0 in the third after Nakamura homered off Shota Takeda, Ikuhiro Kiyota was thrown out easily at the plate trying to score from first on a one-out double. With two on and two outs, rookie Toshiya Sato hammered a hanging breaking ball straight to first baseman Kenji Akashi.
Marines starter Manabu Mima (6-2) allowed four runs, three earned, over seven innings. Takeda was knocked out of the game in the fifth inning, when he was hit in the gut by a Nakamura line drive. Takeda threw him out at first as he collapsed to the turf. Yuta Watanabe, who made his first-team debut the night before, got the final out, and lefty Shunsuke Kasaya worked a perfect sixth.
Mima got three ground balls to open the sixth. Nakamura nearly made a tremendous play to retire the leadoff hitter but the ball stayed in his glove on an attempted flip to first. With one out and one on, he made a good play to pick a grounder up the middle but his throw to first was wide, resulting in another infield single.
Yurisbel Gracial, who’d hit his third home run in two days in the fourth, lined a pitch up the middle to tie it 2-2. With two more runs in the inning, Kasaya was in line for the win. Unfortunately, he only retired one batter in the seventh as the visitors got a run back on a Nobuhiro Matsuda error and two singles.
With one out, right-hander Yuki Matsumoto came on to face Nakamura, who missed his second home run by a few feet, driving in two with a two-out double high off the wall in left.
Mima worked a 1-2-3 seventh, and Yuki Karakawa did the same in the eighth. Matsuda earned some redemption with a leadoff single against closer Naoya Masuda. A sacrifice moved pinch-runner Ukyo Shuto to second and he took third on a wild pitch, but with the infield in, Keizo Kawashima hit a bullet to Nakamura at second and he sealed the win by doubling the stunned Shuto off third.
Tanaka, Asamura power Eagles
Kazuki Tanaka homered twice and Hideto Asamura hit his third in two games and the Rakuten Eagles beat the Orix Buffaloes 6-5 at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Tanaka hit a two-run shot in the first off Sachiya Yamasaki (2-4). Adam Jones singled to open the Buffaloes’ three-run second against Takahiro Shiomi (4-5), but Asamura turned the game around again by going deep with two on for his 21st home run.
Yamasaki left after five innings, but not before surrendering Tanaka’s second homer.
Shiomi allowed three runs over five innings. Kazuhisa Makita, the Eagles’ fourth pitcher, threw a scoreless eighth, catching a liner off Jones’ bat for the final out, while Alan Busenitz surrendered two runs in the ninth before locking down his 10th save.
Masataka Yoshida extended his hitting streak to 23 games in the Buffaloes’ third, nine short of Atsushi Nagaike’s Pacific League and franchise record and 10 short of Yoshihiko Takahashi’s NPB record.
Soto slugs Carp as Onuki goes distance
Two-time defending CL home run champ Neftali Soto homered twice and scored three runs as the DeNA BayStars took a hammer to the Hiroshima Carp 10-1 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Carp ace Daichi Osera (5-4) failed to make it through the fourth inning for his second start in a row, surrendering eight runs in 3-1/3 innings on nine hits.
In a season that started on June 19 following weeks of improvised preparations due to the coronavirus pandemic, most teams were talking about easing players into the season. Despite that, the Carp ace was allowed to throw back-to-back complete games in his first two starts. He has been deactivated once already due to lack of fitness after going just two innings in Yokohama on July 24.
Takayuki Kajitani doubled to open the game and scored on a one-out Soto single. A Keita Sano single and a groundout plated Soto with the visitors’ second run.
Shinichi Onuki (6-2) scattered eight hits over the distance while striking out four and walking none in his first career complete-game victory.
Soto made it 3-0 in the third with his 11th home run and his second in two days. He capped DeNA’s six-run fourth with a three-run shot.
Hard to Swallow
For the second time in three days, the key play for the Yakult Swallows was a tie-breaking two-run error as center fielder Kotaro Yamasaki raced to catch a fly in the gap for the final out of the 10th inning, only to have it hit off his glove in a 3-1 extra-inning loss to the Chunichi Dragons.
The Swallows had 15 hits but were being shut out until they tied it in the eighth with three singles off lefty Hiroto Fuku, who was pitching for the third-straight day.
Closer Raidel Martinez (2-0) worked out of a one-out bases-loaded pickle in the ninth by striking out the Swallows’ most productive hitter, Munetaka Murakami, and getting Norichika Aoki to ground out.
The Dragons opened the scoring in the fourth when Nobumasa Fukuda’s opposite-field drive to right went for a triple and he scored on a Dayan Viciedo single.
Fujinami comeback hits 11-run snag
For the first time since he returned to the mound this year, the story about Shintaro Fujinami was why he’s fumbling ground balls. Instead, the one-time elite pitching prospect allowed a career-high 11 runs in the Hanshin Tigers’ 11-2 loss to the Yomiuri Giants at Koshien Stadium.
Giants starter Nobutaka Imamura (3-0) got the win after allowing one run over eight innings.
Fujinami (1-5) allowed nine hits and six walks while striking out six. Fujinami’s career basically slid into the tank when Tomoaki Kanemoto became manager in 2016. The good news was that Tigers manager Akihiro Yano yanked him after he’d thrown 125 instead of letting him labor past 160 like Kanemoto once did when Fujinami displeased him.
The 11 runs was also the most ever allowed in one game by a Tigers pitcher.