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
Corey Spangenberg and veteran Takumi Kuriyama powered the Seibu Lions as they from behind to beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 5-4 at MetLife Dome on a holiday Tuesday afternoon game to pull into a tie for second-place in the Pacific League with the Lotte Marines.
Spangenberg’s fourth-inning solo homer put the Lions up 3-2, and his sac fly tied it 4-4 in the sixth. Shuta Tonosaki plated Fumikazu Kimura in the seventh with the go-ahead run as the Seibu bullpen locked it down after a rough outing by Kona Takahashi.
The right-hander had trouble from the start but managed a 1-2-3 first thanks to a good play from two-time Golden Glove winning shortstop Sosuke Genda to retire the leadoff man. Takahashi needed all the help he could get as he allowed four runs on four walks and six hits over 4-1/3 innings. He left after Taishi Ota’s lucky RBI single tied it 3-3, but rookie Tetsu Miyagawa’s two walks forced in a run to give the Fighters the lead again.
Kuriyama homered to tie it in the third and led off the sixth and scored on Spangenberg’s sac fly.
Nobuhiro Matsuda’s two-out RBI single broke a 3-3 sixth-inning tie and capped a four-run rally as the SoftBank Hawks came from behind to beat the Lotte Marines 4-3 at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium. The win was the Hawks sixth straight against Lotte after starting the season 4-11-1 against them.
Five Hawks relievers finished the job with Yuito Mori getting his 31st save.
The game was held up for 14 minutes in the bottom of the fifth when brilliant sunshine over the stadium rim blinded those at home plate.
Moya crushes Eagles’ hopes
Steven Moya homered twice scored three runs and drove in four to power the Orix Buffaloes to a 6-3 win at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome over the Rakuten Eagles, who fell 2-1/2 games out of second place with four games to play.
Moya closed the book on Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto (5-7) with his second homer of the game, a two-run seventh-inning shot. D.J. Johnson and J.T. Chargois retired three batters apiece in a solid rear-guard effort for Rakuten.
Kyoda, Kinoshita boost Dragons past ‘Stars
Yota Kyoda snapped a 1-1 tie with a two-run fifth-inning triple in the Chunichi Dragons’ 7-5 win over the DeNA BayStars at Nagoya Dome. Chunichi catcher Takumi Kinoshita had three hits for the hosts. He singled to lead off the fifth, homered in the sixth and singled in an eighth-inning insurance run.
Kikuchi rescues Carp, spoils Togo shutout
Ryosuke Kikuchi homered with two outs and a man on in the bottom of the ninth to break up rookie Shosei Togo‘s shutout and take Hiroshima Carp starter Allen Kuri off the hook in a 10-inning 2-2 tie with the Yomiuri Giants at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Swallows come back
Taishi Hirooka hit a seventh-inning, game-tying homer and Naomichi Nishiura’s three-run 10th-inning shot off Yuta Iwasada (6-3) decided it as the Yakult Swallows came back to beat the Hanshin Tigers 4-1 at Koshien Stadium.
Hirooka tied it off Hanshin’s second pitcher, Suguru Iwazaki, but Jon Edwards and Robert Suarez each worked a scoreless inning, while the Swallows bullpen put up four scoreless innings to force extra innings. Nishimura homered in the 10th and Taichi Ishiyama recorded his 18th save.
Jones ends 1st season in Japan
The Pacific League’s Orix Buffaloes announced that first-year import Adam Jones returned to the United States on Tuesday.
Jones played in 87 games with a .331 on-base percentage with a .417 slugging average with 12 home runs and 43 RBIs. He had been deactivated due to “lack of fitness.”
In Japanese language comments released by the team, Jones called it an amazing year despite the difficulties imposed by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
He said he had learned to alter his approach having learned about Japanese baseball and Japanese culture, and that he was looking forward to come back fit and compete next year for the entire season.
Active roster moves 11/3/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/13
The SoftBank Hawks won the 21st championship in franchise history on Tuesday with a 5-1 win over their nemeses all season long, the Lotte Marines, at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Tsuyoshi Wada (8-1) struck out eight while allowing three hits and a walk over six innings. Wada, the winning pitcher in the team’s last clinching game, when they won the 2019 Japan Series, came out firing on all cylinders, pumping a fastball that usually sits at 87 mph up to 92. The lefty.
“I think we were all a little nervous today, so for Wada to come out and do what he did, it gave us all courage,” Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said.
“This was a year that we didn’t even know would start, but we hung in there amid all the difficulties and uncertainty. We wanted to win so badly, but I don’t know if we could have done it without the players taking such good care of their conditioning during this very difficult year.”
Tail-end hitter Hikaru Kawase put the hosts on the board in the fifth inning against Ayumu Ishikawa (7-5). He led off with a double, was sacrificed to third and scored on Akira Nakamura’s sacrifice fly. Hawks catcher Takuya Kai made it a 3-0 game in the sixth with his 10th home run, a two-run shot that plated Kenji Akashi.
Reliever Sho Iwasaki won an epic at-bat against pinch-hitter Katsuya Kakunaka to get out of the seventh inning with two men on, and lefty Livan Moinelo worked a 1-2-3 eighth.
Closer Yuito Mori took the mound in the ninth and the Marines held his feet to the fire.
The right-hander allowed one run on Shogo Nakamura’s leadoff walk, and an error by center fielder Yuki Yanagita on Ikuhiro Kiyota’s one-out double. After a two-out walk, Mori appeared to be out of the woods on a bouncer to third, but Taisei Makihara, who entered the game for his speed and defense, fumbled the ball to load the bases.
That brought Shuhei Fukuda to the plate as the potential tying run. For years, the Hawks fourth outfielder, Fukuda moved to the Marines over the winter as a free agent. Mori finally got him on his 39th pitch of the inning.
The Hawks have now won three straight against Lotte but still trail in their season series 7-11 with one tie.
Lions ground Eagles on Mori homer
Tomoya Mori’s three-run home run off Rakuten Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto (5-6) lifted the Seibu Lions to a 4-3 win at MetLife Dome that moved them to within two games of the Pacific League’s final playoff spot.
Mori’s ninth home run made a winner out of Kona Takahashi (8-8), who allowed three runs on four hits and three walks over seven innings. Kaima Taira and Tatsushi Masuda finished up with one scoreless apiece with Masuda earning his 30th save.
Fighters get past Buffaloes
The top two hitters in the Nippon Ham Fighters lineup, Haruki Nishikawa, who reached base five times, and Shota Hiranuma each scored twice in a 5-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Steven Moya tied the game 2-2 in the bottom of the first for the Buffaloes with his 10th home run, while Bryan Rodriguez threw a scoreless inning of relief as the Fighters used seven pitchers on a bullpen day.
Nishikawa, who said last winter that he’d like to move to the majors in 2021 by way of the posting system, made his second costly base running mistake in a few days.
Lopez slams Giants
Jose Lopez, who spent his first two Japanese seasons with the Yomiuri Giants, hit a grand slam off his former team for his 996th career hit in Japan as the DeNA BayStars clobbered rookie Shosei Togo (8-6) in a 9-2 win at Yokohama Stadium.
The Giants’ magic number to clinch their second straight Central League pennant dropped to three thanks to the Chunichi Dragons’ 4-1 loss to the Hanshin Tigers.
Over the weekend, Lopez achieved his 2,000th hit between the majors and NPB, and is now four hits shy of joining his former Seattle Mariners teammate Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui as the third player to achieve 1,000-plus hits in both the majors and Nippon Professional Baseball.
Lopez’s home run was his ninth, while Tyler Austin hit his 19th for the BayStars. Shinichi Onuki (10-5) allowed two runs over six innings to earn the win.
Tigers win on grab bag of mistakes
The Chunichi Dragons’ bullpen which has been, after lefty starter Yudai Ono, the team’s biggest story this season, was snake-bit in a three-run, error-filled eighth inning in a 4-1 Hanshin Tigers win at Koshien Stadium.
With two outs and none on in the eighth, first baseman Dayan Viciedo dove to make a stop, and threw to the pitcher, who took his eye off the ball, allowing a runner to reach. On the next play, Fuku threw wide to first to put two on.
Dragons rookie Kaname Takino, whose first career hit over the weekend was unexpectedly greeted by fireworks at Jingu Stadium from a nearby event, made it a trifecta for Tigers fans. He tried to make a shoestring catch on a flare off the bat of Koji Chikamoto but kicked it away. The Tigers leadoff man was credited with a two-run triple before another run scored on a smashed infield single.
Tigers closer Robert Suarez surrendered a Viciedo leadoff double in the ninth before striking out the last three batters to record his 24th save.
Hanshin left fielder Jerry Sands, who was ejected on Sunday for abusive language toward a home plate umpire and fined 100,000 yen ($950) had two hits.
Kuri stuffs Swallows
Allen Kuri (8-5) threw his fifth straight solid start, hurling 7-2/3 innings for the Hiroshima Carp in a 2-0 win over the Yakult Swallows at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Kuri struck out 10 but loaded the bases in the eighth on a single and two walks, forcing lefty Atsuya Horie to come in and strike out Swallows batting star Munetaka Murakami to preserve the two-run lead. Geronimo Franzua worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 16th save.
Over his last five starts, Kuri has allowed three runs, two earned, over 40 innings. During that stretch, he’s walked nine but struck out 38 and allowed no home runs.
Swallows right-hander Hirotoshi Takanashi (3-6) worked seven innings and took the tough loss.
The 26-year-old is 4-4 this season with a 3.10 ERA in 11 games. He will probably will be unable to resume training for at least a month.
Former Red Sox pitcher Tazawa goes undrafted
Junichi Tazawa, the 34-year-old right-hander who made history by snubbing Nippon Professional Baseball’s draft and becoming the first marquee Japanese amateur to turn pro with a major league club, was in turn snubbed by NPB teams in Tuesday’s draft.
As a Japanese citizen, Tazawa is only eligible to sign his first NPB contract after being selected in the draft. For years, he hoped to play for Japan’s national team but was blacklisted because of NPB’s infamous Tazawa Rule, which was recently revoked.
He is currently playing for the Musashino Heat Bears of the independent Baseball Challenge League, Japan’s largest independent circuit. He was not even selected in the developmental draft, from which a team could sign him to a non-roster contract with a 240,000-yen minimum salary (roughly $2,200).
There was some speculation that he was passed over because teams don’t wish to deal with players who are represented by agents.
The SoftBank Hawks turned a pitchers’ duel into a rout with seven runs off the Nippon Ham Fighters’ bullpen in a 9-1 win at Sapporo Dome on Wednesday. The Hawks, looking to win their first Pacific League pennant in three years, lowered their magic number to eight.
The Japanese news on Thursday will be the Hawks HAVE a magic number. But don’t be confused. That’s just the way they do things here.
Hawks ace Kodai Senga (9-6) allowed a run in the second on three ground balls that weren’t particularly well hit. He left after 6-1/3 innings having allowed seven hits and a walk while striking out five.
Drew VerHagen (7-6) allowed three runs over 6-2/3 innings. He gave up eight hits and a walk while striking out six.
Until the bullpen got involved everything revolved around the Hawks’ Ukyo Shuto and the Fighters’ Taishi Ota.
Shuto dropped a ground ball at second, allowing second-inning leadoff hitter Sho Nakata to reach on an error. Ryo Watanabe reached on a grounder to third. Ota smacked a breaking ball up in the zone through the infield, and Nakata just beat the throw home.
The Hawks took the lead in the fifth. Takuya Kai singled and scored when Shuto burned around the bases on a triple to the gap in left center. The Hawks’ speedster then scored on Akira Nakamura’s fly to right, barely beating the tag after a strong throw from Ota arrived on the first-base side of the plate.
With one out and two on in the bottom of the sixth, Ota hit a fly to medium deep right field, Nakata barreled home, but Ryoya Kurihara’s throw was on the third-base side of the plate, and lacking Shuto’s speed, Nakata was out. Shuto sparked a three-run seventh with a two-out walk that chased VerHagen. Reliever Mizuki Hori walked Nakamura and surrendered an RBI single to Yuki Yanagita. Takahiro Nishimura came in and gave up a two-run double to Yurisbel Gracial.
Déjà vu all over again
For the second straight night, Shuta Tonosaki led off the bottom of the ninth against Lotte Marines closer Naoya Masuda (3-4) and scored the winning run on a ball hit by Kakeru Yamanobe to lift the Seibu Lions to a 2-1 win at MetLife Dome.
For the second straight night, Lions closer Tatsushi Masuda (5-0) worked dangerously. A night after he blew a one-run save, he pitched out of trouble to keep the game tied. Tonosaki drew a leadoff walk and instead of scoring on a dropped fly ball as he did on Tuesday, scored on a Yamanobe single.
Ernesto Mejia’s fourth-inning RBI single opened the scoring, and the Marines tied it in the seventh on a double play after Ikuhiro Kiyota and Hisanori Yasuda singled to open the inning.
Oshiro HR lifts Buffaloes
Koji Oshiro homered in the ninth inning off Yuki Matsui (4-5) to lift the Orix Buffaloes to a 6-5 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Buffaloes setup man Tyler Higgins (3-3) earned the win after he surrendered the tying run in the bottom of the eighth. Brandon Dickson loaded the bases in the ninth but allowed no runs to notch his 15th save.
The Eagles’ Stefen Romero capped a four-run first inning with a three-run home run, his 21st.
Swallows win battle for the ages
Forty-year-old Masanori Ishikawa (2-7) allowed a run over six innings and Munetaka Murakami, who is 20 years, 11 days younger, brought the Yakult Swallows from a run down with his 24th home run to beat the Central League-leading Yomiuri Giants 2-1 at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto broke up the scoreless game with a fourth-inning home run, his 17th. The visitors blew a chance for a fifth-inning insurance run when Yoshihiro Maru was put out trying to score from third when Takumi Oshiro failed to bunt a breaking ball in the strike zone.
With Norichika Aoki aboard in the sixth, Murakami hit an improbably low pitch from Giants lefty Yuki Takahashi and hit a nine-iron into the left-field stands for an opposite-field home run.
Dragons centurian Viciedo beats BayStars
Dayan Viciedo’s three-run home run, his 16th of the season and the 100th of his Japan career, overturned a 2-1 deficit and lifted the Chunichi Dragons to a 4-2 win over the DeNA BayStars at Nagoya Dome.
Tyler Austin singled in both of DeNA’s runs in the first and third, but Edwin Escobar surrendered one-out hits to Yohei Oshima and Yota Kyoda before Viciedo took him deep with two outs. The Dragons bullpen, weakened by the loss of closer Raidel Martinez, allowed six of the BayStars’ final 13 batters to reach but no runs.
Marte returns, homers in Tigers’ win
Jefry Marte returned after a 3-1/2 month absence to smash a two-run homer that lifted the Hanshin Tigers to a 2-0 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Koshien Stadium.
Koyo Aoyagi (7-8) worked 5-1/3 innings. He gave up a hit, two walks and hit a batter while striking out eight. Closer Robert Suarez, the Tigers’ fifth pitcher, worked a 1-2-3 ninth to take over the CL saves lead with his 22nd.
Carp starter Atsushi Endo (3-6) allowed two runs over six innings. He struck out nine.
Tigers may be done with Fukudome
Kosuke Fukudome, who at 43 is the oldest player in Nippon Professional Baseball, has been notified by the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers that he is not in their plans for next year, the Nikkan Sports reported Wednesday.
Such notices usually mean a player will be released or sold, but that is not always the case. It is noteworthy that when the Tigers became a novel coronavirus cluster in September, Fukudome had been one of those who had broken team protocols by dining out in a group of eight — twice the team’s limit.
As happens in Japan, at least one head had to role when a problem occurred in conjunction with rulebreaking and team president Kenji Ageshio announced on Oct. 9 that he would step down.
Another thing that happens in Japan is that the punishment and blame handed to athletes who break the rules is in inverse proportion to their competitiveness.
When a number of Japanese badminton players were found to have visited a casino–which are illegal in Japan–the most lenient treatment was reserved for world No. 2 Kento Momota, who missed the 2016 Olympics but has since returned to competition.
When a number of Yomiuri Giants pitchers were found to have bet on baseball, the lightest punishment was reserved for the only one who was any good. And after sitting out for one year and showing remorse, lefty Kyosuke Takagi resumed his career.
In 2019, Fukudome posted a .347 on-base-percentage, his worst as a regular in Japan. This year, his struggles have intensified, making him vulnerable to pay a price for his failure to follow the rules.
A former CL MVP, Fukudome spent five seasons in the United States, where he may have had the worst NPB-to-MLB translated value in history.
An on-base machine with good power (career .383 OBP .495 slug), who was killed by his first pro home park, Nagoya Dome, Fukudome’s offensive numbers in the majors (.359 .395) fell off considerably despite playing in excellent hitters’ parks.
Using Bill James Win Shares, most Japanese players lose some value going to the States, and after coming back past their prime, regain a little or stay about where they were in terms of value. Fukudome dropped sharply when he left and rebounded sharply when he returned.
I haven’t had a chance to speak with him about it, but MLB’s more challenging travel requirements and training routines may have been particularly hard on him. These differences can be very tough on Japanese players–regardless of Hideki Okajima‘s assertion that it was easy for him and “if it’s hard to adjust, you don’t belong in MLB.”
He was deactivated on Aug. 5 and traveled to the States 11 days later. He has played in 39 games this year with six home runs, giving him 169 in Japan. Laird was instrumental in the Nippon Ham Fighters winning the 2016 PL pennant and Japan Series, and is well known in Japan for his “sushi-making” home run celebration.
Buffaloes drop ace Yamamoto
A day after yet another sharp outing in which he allowed two runs over seven innings, the Orix Buffaloes dropped ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto on Wednesday.
Yamamoto was taken off the hook for the loss when Orix came back to tie it 2-2 in the ninth inning. The 22-year-old leads both leagues with 149 strikeouts and tops the Pacific League with a 2.20 ERA and 126-2/3 innings. The move, according to the Daily Sports, was made out of consideration for his lower-body fitness and overall fatigue.
The Chunichi Dragons also made a move, dropping closer Raidel Martinez, who has struck out over 11 batters per nine innings and is tied for the league saves lead with Robert Suarez of the Hanshin Tigers.
As usual, the Dragons failed to specify any reason for Martinez’s move other than saying it was due to a lack of lower-body fitness.”
Active roster moves 10/21/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/31
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma said Monday that this season will be his last. The 39-year-old turned pro out of high school after being taken in the fifth round of the 1999 draft by the now defunct Kintetsu Buffaloes.
Iwakuma went 107-69 in Japan and 63-39 in six seasons with the Seattle Mariners. He joined the Yomiuri Giants as a free agent in 2019, when he appeared in two Eastern League games. He has not played this year.
When the Buffaloes merged with the Pacific League rival Orix BlueWave in 2004, triggering Japanese baseball’s lone labor action, Iwakuma was sold to the Rakuten Eagles after a long dispute with Orix.
One of the key issues that summer was whether the owners could unilaterally remake NPB’s established format of two six-team leagues after the owners accepted a merger without any plan about how to move forward with 11 teams.
After players went on strike and forced the cancellation of two weekends worth of games, the owners agreed to expedite the creation of an expansion franchise. This was something they originally argued was possible — and in so doing honor an age-old pro baseball tradition of owners telling something is impossible only to turn around and do just that when they have the will to do so.
Another part of the agreement, although not written, but spoken at the Nagoya Castle Hotel press conference, was a statement from Orix’s official representative that no Kintetsu player would be taken by Orix in the merger if they refused to play for the new club.
Iwakuma along with Kintetsu players rep Koichi Isobe was the most vocal of the Buffaloes about refusing to sign with Orix. But when the distribution draft was held to allow the new Rakuten Eagles access to surplus talent on the Orix and Kintetsu rosters, Iwakuma was among those protected from selection.
Orix’s explained its decision “We promised but you can’t expect us to honor it when a player is actually important to us.”
Iwakuma, however, stuck to his guns and refused to go to Orix, eventually forcing the team to sell him to the fledgling Eagles.
After the 2010 season, the Rakuten Eagles posted Iwakuma, but he returned to the Eagles after failing to reach a deal with the Oakland Athletics, who won the sole right to negotiate with him in the bidding.
Ties can be thrillers, too
Although not enjoyable because of its see-saw nature, the Hanshin Tigers’ 10-inning 1-1 tie with the Yakult Swallows on a Monday makeup game at Koshien Stadium was just a terrific game.
It was well pitched, well played, some good swings on tough pitches, a personal speed record by one of Japan’s fastest pitchers, two brothers pitching on opposing sides and both teams seeing their 10th-inning rallies on nice catches.
Joe Gunkel started for the Tigers and went five innings. He did well to allow only a run after allowing four hits in the fourth inning, but a sharply hit grounder to third with the bases jammed was turned for an inning-ending double play.
The game also saw the Tigers’ Justin Bour bunt in attempt to beat the shift before smashing a pitch to the left of second for a single.
Albert Suarez allowed an unearned run over six innings when pinch-hitter Kento Itohara did well to put the bat on the ball for an RBI game-tying single. Shintaro Fujinami hit 162 kph on the radar gun as he struck out the side in the top of the seventh.
Scott McGough answered with a 1-2-3 inning in the home half for the Swallows and so it went. Suarez’s younger brother Robert struck out two in the top of the ninth for the Tigers, while Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama worked around a Jerry Sands single in the home half.
Both teams put the potential go-ahead run on base in the 10th, but the Swallows’ rally died with the runner on second as shortstop Ryuhei Kobata made an outstanding catch to snare a liner. The Swallows returned the favor in the bottom of the inning, when second baseman Tetsuto Yamada caught a one-out liner with the runner going for an easy game-ending double play.
Active roster moves 10/19/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/29
The SoftBank Hawks inched closer to their first Pacific League pennant in three years on Sunday, when a seven-run eighth inning lifted them to an 11-4 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Leadoff man Ukyo Shuto energized the Hawks attack with a double, a triple, two singles, three steals, three runs and two RBIs.
Both starters, the Eagles’ Ryota Takinaka and the Hawks’ Tsuyoshi Wada looked really good at times, but both were too inconsistent. Neither made it through the fifth inning, which ended in a 4-4 tie after D.J. Johnson surrendered two runs in the fifth.
The only consolation in Johnson’s outing was the lone out he recorded, when Yuki Yanagita’s bat broke and landed at the edge of the outfield on his groundout to first.
Nobuhiro Matsuda’s leadoff walk in the eighth started the winning rally, and pinch-hitter Kenji Akashi’s one-out double plated a pinch-runner with the go-ahead run off Kazuhisa Makita (1-2).
Livan Moinelo (2-2), SoftBank’ fifth pitcher, earned the win in relief, while Cuban compatriot Yurisbel Gracial had a pair of RBI singles.
The win moved the Hawks 5-1/2 games ahead of the Lotte Marines, 5-2 losers in Chiba to the Nippon Ham Fighters, and 11 games ahead of the Eagles, who are struggling to reach the PL playoffs, limited this year to two teams.
Arihara repels Marines
Kohei Arihara (7-8) allowed a run over seven innings, and the Nippon Ham Fighters scored four fifth-inning runs off Manabu Mima (9-4) in their 5-2 win over the Lotte Marines at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Kotaro Kiyomiya walked twice and scored twice for the Fighters, while Shingo Usami and Kensuke Kondo each drove in two.
Teenager Miyagi impresses in loss
Nineteen-year-old lefty Hiroya Miyagi suffered a three-run second-inning hiccup in an otherwise solid six-inning starting debut for the Orix Buffaloes in a 3-2 loss to the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Seibu Lions leadoff hitter Yuji Kaneko chased a 1-2 pitch just before it bounced and lined it to left with an Ichiro-caliber swing for a two-run single.
Sosuke Genda hit the next pitch, a high straight fastball into left to complete the damage. Miyagi (0-1) then retired the last 13 batters he faced before leaving after six.
“I allowed runs when I left pitches up,” Miyagi said, showing he has already mastered the Japanese excuse to the media that every bad pitch is “up.”
“After I gave up the two-run single, I had to shut them down, and I have to address that (one pitch that actually was up).”
Miyagi was taken in the first round of last year’s autumn draft although he was actually Orix’s third pick after they lost draft-day lotteries for slugging high school third baseman Takaya Ishikawa (Chunichi) and corporate league lefty Ryusei Kawano (Nippon Ham).
“He pitched plenty well,” Buffaloes acting manager Satoshi Nakajima said. “He’s going to contribute to wins.”
The Buffaloes nearly came back in the ninth, when Lions closer Tatsushi Masuda allowed one run and got the last two outs with tying run on third and the go-ahead run on first. Masuda earned his 28th save, while Wataru Matsumoto (5-5) earned the win after allowing a run over six innings.
Kajitani KOs Giants
Takayuki Kajitani’s seventh-inning grand slam brought the DeNA BayStars from behind and his two-run eighth-inning blast turned the game into a rout in a 10-6 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Yokohama Stadium.
Kajitani’s two home runs give him 19 for the season, two shy of the career-high 21 he hit in 2017.
It was the second-straight come-from behind win for the BayStars.
Despite their loss, the Giants retained their 11-game lead over the Chunichi Dragons, while their magic number to clinch their second straight pennant dropped to seven.
Tigers survive Murakami onslaught
Munetaka Murakami hit his 23rd home run, hit three doubles and drove in all of the Yakult Swallows’ runs but it wasn’t enough as the Hanshin Tigers scored early and often against Yasuhiro Ogawa (9-6) to outlast the visitors 6-5 at Koshien Stadium.
Justin Bour capped a four-run Tigers first with his a two-run homer, his 17th, while Jon Edwards worked a scoreless inning of relief for the Tigers. Closer Robert Suarez allowed a run in the ninth but held on for his 21st save when Murakami was unable to score on Akihisa Nishida’s two-out single.
Scott McGough worked a scoreless eighth for the Swallows.
Carp emerge from bullpen hell
After surrendering four late runs in each of their previous two games, the Hiroshima Carp bullpen locked out the Chunichi Dragons in a 5-0 win at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium behind a three-run Seiya Suzuki homer and a pair of Ryoma Nishikawa solo shots.
Yuta Nakamura (3-2) allowed seven hits, two walks and hit a batter but pitched out of four tight spots in his seven innings to earn the win. Makoto Kemna worked the eighth to protect a 4-0 lead and Geronimo Franzua worked around a pair of singles in the ninth.
Active roster moves 10/18/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/28