Old dog teaches pup new tricks
Hawks 4, Buffaloes 1
At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, 40-year-old SoftBank southpaw Tsuyoshi Wada (1-1) pitched really well for the first time this season, missing bats and striking out five while allowing a walk and four hits over 6-2/3 innings. Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto (2-2) came could only muster his “C” game, allowing three runs on eight hits and three walks over 5-1/3 innings.
Alfredo Despaigne singled and scored the opening run in the second on a Nobuhiro Matsuda broken-bat single. Yamamoto appeared to be back in control after stranding two runners in the third, but some good hitting by Yurisbel Gracial opened the sixth. Despaigne walked with one out and three straight singles chased Yamamoto.
Wada left one on in the seventh. Gracial made a good catch in left for the second out, and Wada was gone after suffering a cramp. Sho Iwasaki allowed Orix’s only run in the eighth, and Yuito Mori earned his fourth save with a perfect ninth against the heart of the Buffaloes’ order.
Lions 2, Fighters 1
At MetLife Dome, Seibu Lions right-hander Tatsuya Imai (1-2) survived his customary lack of command to hold the Nippon Ham Fighters to an unearned run over six innings. He walked four and hit one, but allowed only three singles while striking out seven to outpitch rookie Hiromi Ito (0-2). Imai has been mediocre this year except in his two starts against Nippon Ham.
Ito continued to be a strikeout machine. He fanned nine over six innings, to raise his season total to 28 strikeouts in 19 innings. He surrendered the lead in the first inning after surrendering a leadoff double to Lions rookie Gakuto Wakabayashi, his former high school teammate.
Wakabayashi scored on a Tomoya Mori flare single after the Lions wasted Sosuke Genda’s turn at bat by having him bunt the runner to third. Mori singled and scored a third-inning insurance run on a Wu Nien-ting RBI single.
After Matsumoto left, the Lions’ bullpen turned on the heat. Reed Garrett struck out the bottom of the Fighters’ order in the seventh. Kaima Taira struck out two of the four batters he faced in the eighth, and Tatsushi Masuda worked around a leadoff walk with three straight strikeouts to notch his fifth save.
Marines 2, Eagles 2
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, Rakuten right-hander Takahiro Norimoto finally began striking out batters, whiffing nine over six innings after recording just seven over his first 13-1/3. He gave up one run on six hits and a walk, while Lotte lefty Kazuya Ojima bounced back from getting hammered by the Eagles on March 30 to hold them to an unearned run over six innings.
The Marines took the lead in the seventh on a Shogo Nakamura RBI single off Sung Chih-hao, but the Eagles relievers retired the last seven batters they faced. The Marines got perfect innings from Frank Herrmann and Yuki Karakawa before Naoya Masuda blew a chance to record his third save, allowing a run on a Hideto Asamura double, a single and a Daichi Suzuki sac fly.
Tigers 6, Carp 0
At Koshien Stadium, Tigers rookie Teruaki Sato homered, scored two and drove in three runs as the Central League-leading Hanshin Tigers took a stick to Hiroshima’s Masato Morishita (1-2), hammering the CL’s 2020 rookie of the year for five runs, four earned, on two walks and five hits over five innings, while Yuki Nishi (2-1) struck out seven over eight scoreless innings.
Tigers rookie Takumu Nakano, Hanshin’s sixth pick last autumn, drove in the first run of the season after Sato walked with two outs and an error, when shortstop Kosuke Tanaka fumbled a grounder.
Jerry Sands drew a leadoff walk in the third and Sato put a perfect swing on a curve that came in waist high. In the fifth, it was Jefry Marte, who put a ferocious swing on a high pitch with a bat flip matching his tremendous blast.
Marte drew the first of two one-out walks in the seventh, with Sato singling in a run to close the scoring.
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Giants 5, Dragons 1
At Tokyo Dome, Seishu Hatake (1-1) turned in the Yomiuri Giants’ third straight stellar starting pitching performance, following Nobutaka Imamura’s complete game shutout on Sunday and Angel Sanchez’s 7-1/3-inning effort on Tuesday.
Hatake allowed a run on seven hits while striking out nine, walking one and hitting one over 8-1/3 innings. Ariel Martinez opened the ninth with his first homer of the season for the Dragons, Rubby De La Rosa took over with two on in the ninth and recorded his fifth save.
Dragons right-hander Akiyoshi Katsuno (1-1), who dodged bullets for five scoreless innings a week ago, only faced one tough inning, but it was a doozy. Takayuki Kajitani capped a five-run inning with his second homer as a Giant.
Kosuke Fukudome may be 43 with an arm that no longer inspires awe, but he’s a gamer. With one out and one on in the fifth inning of a 5-0 Japanese pro baseball’s elder statesman laid it out to rob Kazuma Okamoto of a flare single.
Swallows 7, BayStars 3
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Rookie right-hander Yuto Kanakubo (1-0) surrendered rookie Shugo Maki’s two-run, two-out double that opened the score in the first before Yakult jumped on rookie right-hander Taisei Irie (0-3) for five runs, chasing him with one out in the fifth.
With one out and two on in the bottom of the third, Munetaka Murakami halved the visitors’ lead with a sac fly and Yasutaka Shiomi belted his second homer, a two-run shot for a 3-2 lead. The Swallows made it 6-2 in the fifth.
Kotaro Yamasaki led off with a single, and No. 2 hitter Yudai Koga, bunted him over after singling in his first two at-bats. Tetsuto Yamada hit his third homer of the season. Murakami chased Irie with a double and scored when Shiomi tripled off reliever Kenta Ishida.
Maki belted his fifth home run to lead off the sixth against Kanakubo, who turned pro after being taken in the fifth round of the 2017 draft. Maki’s 17 RBIs lead the CL with Murakami one back. With a 6-3 lead, Scott McGough worked a perfect seventh, and Yamada homered to open the bottom of the inning. With the tying run on deck in the ninth, closer Taichi Ishiyama got an easy two-out save.
Irie, who allowed five runs in 4-1/3 innings, has faced the Swallows twice this season and allowed 10 runs in 9-1/3.
Tanaka to start Saturday
Masahiro Tanaka will make his season debut on Saturday when he starts against the Nippon Ham Fighters at Tokyo Dome, Kyodo News (Japanese) reported. Tanaka returned this season to the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles after going 24-0 in 2013 and pitching them to their first pennant and Japan Series title.
“He’s coming along with no issues, and if he continues on that path in the time being, he’ll pitch on the 17th,” manager Kazuhisa Ishii told reporters about the right-hander who damaged the calf muscle in his right calf.
Last Saturday, Tanaka threw 97 pitches in the bullpen.
Eagles vs Marines: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Hawks vs Buffaloes: PayPay Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Giants vs Dragons: Tokyo Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Swallows vs BayStars: Jingu Stadium 5:30 pm, 4:30 am EDT
Tigers vs Carp: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT