The Hanshin Tigers have been promoting their games against the Yomiuri Giants this season as “The classic” (“dentetsu no issen” — 伝統の一戦).The Giants broadcast crew jumped on that, repeating the phrase numerous times in each inning. The game was the 1,999th between the historic rivals who were Japan’s dominant pre-war teams, so I get it. But enough is enough.
When rookie Teruaki Sato batted, the announcer said, “He has no home runs yet against the Giants. Against the other four CL teams but not the Giants, not in “the classic.” And it just never stopped. Everything was, “Here’s this big game, the 1,999th Classic.”
If it weren’t for the pandemic keeping Japan’s hospitals from admitting people with just nausea, I suspect there might have been a surge in emergency room visits.
Tigers 2, Giants 1
At Tokyo Dome, the Hanshin Tigers won 2-1 for the second straight night behind right-handed side-armer Koyo Aoyagi (3-2), who faced only one jam in his seven innings. Jefry Marte tied it with his eighth home run, a fourth-inning “Tokyo Dome Special”* off Seishu Hatake (2-2). Teruaki Sato doubled – “In the 1,999th Classic no less!” – and scored after singles by Jerry Sands and Ryutaro Umeno.
Aoyagi followed by retiring 12 of the last 13 batters. Suguru Iwazaki and Robert Suarez each threw a scoreless inning, with Suarez saving his 11th game. Justin Smoak singled twice for the Giants, while Marte doubled with one out in the eighth for the Tigers. He has homered four times in four games at Tokyo Dome this season.
*- “Tokyo Dome Special” – a high fly to the opposite field, typically hit off a high straight fastball, with a mortar-round trajectory that takes advantage of the Dome’s short distances to left and center to land in the first few rows of the outfield seats.
Swallows 4, Dragons 1
At Nagoya‘s Vantelin Dome, new Yakult import Jose Osuna doubled in the second and fourth and scored each time on singles by Domingo Santana. The Swallows lost rookie starter Yuto Kanakubo with one out in the second, when a line drive left a mark on his left pectoral muscle, but six relievers combined to allow one run while stranding 11 Chunichi runners in addition to the two Kanakubo left on.
The 13 runners left on tied the Dragons high for the season, and that was despite having reserve Swallows catcher Yudai Koga erase two runners on the bases. Mike Gerber went 1-for-5 but scored Chunichi’s only run on a seventh-inning Shuhei Takahashi single.
Dragons starter Akiyoshi Katsuno (3-3) allowed two runs on five hits over four innings, although both of Osuna’s doubles would have been caught by left fielder more experienced than young Akira Neo, who is new to the outfield, and Santana’s second RBI was a jam shot. Stuff happens.
Carp 9, BayStars 2
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Fernando Romero‘s second start was torpedoed by a pair of poor second-inning throws that put runners on second and third with no outs. A ground single brought home one run with another out at the plate. A walk and another grounder past first drove in two more. Romero stayed in the game and singled to lead off DeNA’s two-run third, but didn’t make it out of the fourth inning when he allowed two more runs and fell to 0-2.
Hiroshima starter Koya Takahashi (2-1) was nearly perfect, however, from the fourth to the sixth, retiring 12 of the last 13 batters he faced, while the Carp tacked on three more runs against the BayStars bullpen.
The worst thing about this game for the BayStars was not the loss itself, but the fact that Japanese baseball media math forced every news outlet in the country to write about how lousy this team is because it lost its “jiriki-V” mojo.
Hawks 5, Fighters 2
At Sapporo Dome, Shuta Ishikawa (2-2) allowed two runs over 6-2/3 innings, three relievers retired the final seven batters, striking out four of them and Seiji Uebayashi homered, singled twice and drove in two runs for the SoftBank Hawks. Ishikawa struck out six, but walked two and hit two in winning for the first time since Opening Day. Livan Moinelo worked the ninth for his fourth save.
Nippon Ham rookie Hiromi Ito (1-3) allowed four runs in 5-1/3 innings on six hits and a walk while striking out six.
Marines 4, Lions 4
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Brandon Laird tied the game with a two-run ninth-inning home run off Seibu’s Reed Garrett, his seventh of the season and his fourth in three games. The Marines loaded the bases with two outs, but Ryosuke Moriwaki retired Leonys Martin to prevent the hosts from coming behind and winning it.
The late meltdown wasted a good juggling act from starter Kona Takahashi, who scattered seven hits, two walks and a hit batsman but allowed just two runs over seven innings. Both runs he gave up came on Hisanori Yasuda’s sixth home run, a two-run shot that gave him a PL-best 32 RBIs for the season. Lotte starter Ayumu Ishikawa had a similar kind of game, but surrendered Takeya Nakamura’s two-run two-out bases-loaded single in the fifth that broke the 2-2 tie.
Garrett opened the Marines ninth by becoming the first Lions pitcher to retire Yasuda all night, striking him out, before Katsuya Kakunaka’s sharp grounder struck the first-base bag for a fluke double. There was nothing fluky about Laird’s homer, however. The sushi man drove a knuckle-curve well back into the left-field stands.
Buffaloes 9, Eagles 4
At Kobe’s Hotto Motto Field, the Orix Buffaloes had a lot of good swings against Rakuten’s Hideaki Wakui (4-2), who gave up five runs, four earned, over three innings in his shortest start since the Eagles purchased him from Lotte after the 2019 season.
Taisuke Yamaoka (2-3) allowed three runs over eight innings. He gave up five hits and a walk while striking out five. Yuma Mune doubled in Orix’s first run, tripled in another in the second and scored twice.
Saturday has some interesting pitching matchups other than the weekly appearance from Masahiro Tanaka, starting with the Fighters-Hawks game where Drew VerHagen will go for Nippon Ham against his 2020 teammate, Nick Martinez, who moved to SoftBank over the winter.
In the Central League, Hanshin Tigers rookie Masashi Ito will go against the Giants’ Angel Sanchez in their top-of-the-table clash at Tokyo Dome, while Michael Peoples will make his third start for the DeNA BayStars at Hiroshima against the Carp’s Allen Kuri.
Fighters vs Hawks: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Marines vs Lions: Zozo Marine Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Buffaloes vs Eagles: Hotto Motto Field 3:30 pm, 2:30 am EDT
Giants vs Tigers: Tokyo Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Dragons vs Swallows: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Carp vs BayStars: Mazda Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Active roster moves 5/14/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 5/24