At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Rakuten closer Yuki Matsui blew a one-run save opportunity, but struck out Yuki Yanagita to end the game with the winning run on third, forcing the game to end in a tie and causing both teams to celebrate not losing at the same time, which is something I’d never seen before.
Softbank southpaw Tsuyoshi Wada deserved to lose this one after allowing five runs over five innings, but Seiji Uebayashi homered and doubled to drive in the Hawks’ first three runs and singled in the tying run in the ninth on a 1-2, two-out pitch from Matsui.
Taichi Suzuki delivered the big blow for the Eagles with a two-out three-run second-inning double in support of Takahiro Norimoto, who allowed four runs over six innings.
Lions 6, Buffaloes 2
At MetLife Dome, Seibu lit up Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto (3-3), who allowed five runs, four earned, in 6-1/3 innings on a career-worst 10 hits. Lions right-hander Tatsuya Imai (2-2), whose biggest issue is walks, issued four, but non until there were two outs in the sixth and he was leading 3-0.
Sosuke Genda powered the Lions offense with a single, double and triple, three runs and an RBI. Imai allowed two runs, but left with two on and two outs in the eighth. Without closer Tatsushi Masuda on the farm due to poor results and Reed Garrett sidelined by a drive off his knee on Tuesday, 2020 PL rookie of the year Kaima Taira struck out Steven Moya to end the eighth and retired the side in order in the ninth to earn his first save.
Swallows 2, Tigers 2
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Yakult’s Norichika Aoki ended what had been a futile 0-for-3 day at the plate by sliding under Hanshin first baseman Jefry Marte’s tag to drive in the tying run with an eighth-inning RBI infield single. After that, Swallows closer Taichi Ishiyama and Tigers closer Robert Suarez ensured the game ended in a tie, the first for the Central League-leading Tigers.
Marte drove in both Tigers’ runs, with a two-out, third-inning bases-loaded single off rookie Yasunobu Okugawa, and made a big blay in the field, throwing out the lead runner on a good bunt by the Swallows pitcher with runners on first and second and no outs in the fifth. The play prevented Kotaro Yamasaki’s two-outs single from scoring two and tying the game.
Tigers side-armer Koyo Aoyagi allowed a run over six innings. Yakult center fielder Yasutaka Shiomi was sidelined with an “injured tooth” from a medicine ball striking him in the face during pregame practice, Nikkan Sports reported.
Dragons 4, BayStars 0
At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, DeNA Opening Day starter Haruhiro Hamaguchi (2-3) allowed three singles and a walk over six innings while striking out eight.
Keita Sano and rookie Shugo Maki reached to set the table in the seventh, and Masayuki Kuwahara delivered two-run pinch-hit single to chase Akiyoshi Katsuno (3-2). Koki Yamashita followed with another two-run pinch-hit single off Keisuke Tanimoto.
Edwin Escobar, Yasuaki Yamasaki and Kazuki Mishima followed Hamaguchi out of the DeNA bullpen for an inning each with Yamasaki providing all the drama and having to strike out Mike Gerber with the bases-loaded to preserve the shutout.
Giants 4, Carp 0
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Yomiuri’s Angel Sanchez (2-2) scattered six hits over seven innings, and four relievers completed the seven-hit, no-walk shutout. Rookie Hiroshima lefty Koya Takahashi (1-1) allowed a run over six innings on four hits and a walk, while striking out six in the tough loss.
A Hayato Sakamoto single and a Zelous Wheeler double to open the fourth set up the first run, with Sakamoto coming home on a Hiroyuki Nakajima sac fly. Pinch-hitter Yoshiyuki Kamei doubled in two runs in the ninth to ice it.
At Koshien Stadium, there was plenty of weirdness in the air in a see-saw game decided when Hanshin’s Jerry Sands hammered a ball out to center for a two-run, tie-breaking seventh-inning homer in Central League-leading Hanshin’s win over last-place DeNA.
Rookie Teruaki Sato gave the Tigers a jump start by plating Sands with a two-run second-inning homer, but the visitors tied it in the fourth with one lucky hit and three hits on good swings from the top of the order against starter Joe Gunkel. The right-hander allowed another run from the same crew in the fifth.
Gunkel, however, opened the Tigers’ fifth with a booming double and scored from third on a wild pitch, with BayStars starter Kosuke Sakaguchi hurting his non-pitching wrist when he and Gunkel collided at home. A double, a walk and and an uncaught pop fly near the mound put the Tigers back in front 4-3.
With Gunkel gone after 5-2/3 innings, the weirdness shifted to right field. After a leadoff walk to Tomo Otosaka, who scored three of the DeNA runs, rookie Sato, a novice outfielder, took a bad route to a sinking liner in right and came up empty. Tyler Austin, who had singled and walked so far, then got some revenge on Koshien Stadium.
A year ago, Austin was hurt running into the padded outfield wall in right, and on Sunday he launched a drive to the same spot that Sato couldn’t catch off the screen for an RBI double and a 4-4 tie. Keita Sano, who had two RBI singles so far, hit a foul sacrifice fly to put DeNA up a run.
The Tigers then clinched it in the seventh. A single, a wild pitch, a walk and a sacrifice put two in scoring position. Koji Chikamoto challenged Otosaka’s arm in center on a medium-deep fly and scored on the wide throw.
Tigers captain Kento Itohara took third when BayStars catcher Shuto Takajo turned his back on the infield. The Pro Yakyu News guys attributed what happened next to Itohara’s base running, that it so unnerved the DeNA battery that they threw a 1-0 fastball down the pipe. It was just above the knees, but it ran onto the barrel and Sands didn’t miss.
Tigers lefty Suguru Iwazaki pitched out of a two-on one-out pickle in the eighth, and Robert Suarez surrendered singles to Austin and Sano before getting his sixth save with three straight outs.
Swallows 4, Dragons 3
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, where balls were really flying, Yakult out-homered Chunichi 4-2 and held on to give Opening Day starter Yasuhiro Ogawa (2-1) the win after he gave up three runs on eight hits but no walks over seven innings.
Shinnosuke Ogasawara (1-2) allowed solo homers to Yuhei Nakamura in the first and to Munetaka Murakami and newcomers Domingo Santana and Jose Osuna in the fourth, and Chunichi was unable to catch up against the Swallows’ steady bullpen. Noboru Shimizu, who led the CL with 30 holds last season, recorded his CL-best 11th, and Taichi Ishiyama tied Kuribayashi for the CL lead with his eighth save.
Dayan Viciedo doubled to drive in the Dragons’ third run, the only one not to score on a ball over the wall.
Carp 9, Giants 8
At Tokyo Dome, Hiroshima’s new cleanup hitter, the relatively powerless (at least for a No. 4 hitter) Ryoma Nishikawa with one home run in every 40 at-bats over his career, had four singles and a walk, scored a run and drove in three. Kevin Cron belted a two-run homer, his second in Japan, for the Carp, who led 8-2 before the Yomiuri Giants tested their young bullpen.
And they are young, with their three top draft picks from last autumn all contributing. ON Sunday, they sent Robert Corniel (25), 22-year-old lefty Daisuke Moriura (No. 2), 22-year-old Haruki Omichi (No. 3), 24-year-old lefty Atsuya Horie, and 24-year-old top draft pick Ryoji Kuribayashi to the mound.
Corniel worked two scoreless innings, but Moriura, Omichi and Horie allowed six between them. Another rookie, 21-year-old Shohei Nakamura, Hiroshima’s top pick in 2017 out of high school, doubled off Giants lefty Kota Nakagawa (1-1) to open the ninth, and leadoff man Ryosuke Kikuchi, who had three hits and scored twice delivered the sac fly. Horie (1-1), who allowed a run in two-thirds of an inning, got the win, and Kuribayashi struck out the meat of the Giants order in the ninth to get his eighth save.
Yusuke Nomura, who extended his Japan record for consecutive starts without a relief appearance to 189 after spending a week on the farm because No. 188 on April 11 was such a dud, allowed two runs over five innings and was out of the game in the sixth with Hiroshima leading by six.
Yomiuri lefty Nobutaka Imamura, who entered the game with a 0.92 ERA, allowed three runs over four-plus innings, but things got worse after he left the mound.
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Lotte rookie Shota Suzuki (1-1) finally got the gift of run support. Pitching for a team that had scored 4.96 runs a game through their first 26, the Marines had scored 1.96 per nine this season when Suzuki was the pitcher of record. The rookie hazing stopped on Sunday, when Lotte staked him to an eight-run lead through six.
Suzuki allowed two runs over 6-1/3 innings, both in the seventh, and looked poised with runners on base. Yuki Matsumoto (1-1) kept the game scoreless through four innings, only to get lit up after two were out. With one on, Leonys Martin singled, Shogo Nakamura doubled in both runners and scored on Hisanori Yasuda’s fifth homer. The Hawks tormented Lotte’s bullpen but the game was out of reach.
Fighters 4, Buffaloes 4
At Sapporo Dome, Nippon Ham’s Chihiro Kaneko turned in a solid effort against his former club, allowing a run on seven hits and a walk over five innings, but middle relief ace Naoki Miyanishi blew a 3-1 Fighters lead in the eighth.
The lefty allowed four hits to the six batters he faced. Adam Jones tied it with a flare pinch-hit single, and Takahiro Okada’s second sac fly of the game plated Kodai Kurebayashi with the go-ahead run.
The Fighters scored three, two earned, off Daichi Takeyasu in the first inning, but then stalled. After a second-inning leadoff single, 16 straight batters were retired before Ronny Rodriguez walked with one out in the seventh. Five straight outs followed before Kensuke tied it in the ninth. Kondo led off and put a quality swing on a low Tyler Higgins fastball and drove it out to left for his fourth home run.
Steven Moya doubled and scored in the second on Okada’s first sac fly, and Orix twice wasted scoring opportunities, once when Ryo Ota was picked off second after Ryo Adachi whiffed on an attempted bunt. Adachi struck out and Masataka Yoshida, back in a more conventional role as the No. 3 hitter after Orix manager had put the light-hitting Adachi there for a few games, singled over third baseman Takuya Kori, who was playing in shallow right.
Shifting on Yoshida
The Fighters have tried numerous different shifts against Masataka Yoshida the past three seasons, but gave up three hits to the left-handed-hitting pocket battleship on Sunday, when Kori would return to third after two strikes.
In the first inning, Yoshida’s launched a two-strike pitch off the right-field wall for a single. In the third he hit it over Kori’s head into shallow left with two strikes. In the fifth that Yoshida lined a 1-0 changeup through the shift. I’m guessing from the way both Kaneko and Yoshida were smiling and laughing after his hit, neither of them are fans of the shift.
Yoshida didn’t get another crack at the shift after hurting his knee in left field making a good catch in the bottom of the sixth. He went back out in the sixth inning but eventually left to have it iced.
Fighters lefty Mizuki Hori and right-hander Bryan Rodriguez worked a 1-2-3 inning in relief before that lead evaporated in the eighth.
Eagles 8, Lions 4
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, Seibu’s Katsunori Hirai (3-1) suffered his first setback in his move from bullpen workhorse to rotation starter, surrendering seven runs over 5-1/3 innings as the Lions lost their sixth straight decision.
Rakuten rookie Takahisa Hayakawa (3-2) gave up three runs over six innings on six hits and a walk while striking out seven. The bottom two hitters in the Eagles’ lineup reached base five times and scored five runs, while No. 2 hitter Hiroto Kobukata and No. 3 hitter Hiroaki Shimauchi combined to drive in six.
Cory Spangenberg had a hit and a walk for the Lions as he provides a much needed bat at second base with Shuta Tonosaki out hurt. Wu Nien-ting continued to play big with a single and a homer
At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin’s Joe Gunkel (4-0) allowed a run over six innings while he struck out six and singled to lead off the Tigers’ five-run third inning that chased Yakult’s Yasuhiro Ogawa (1-1). The Tigers’ win was their seventh straight.
Ogawa surrendered three straight no-out singles in the first but allowed only one run and worked a 1-2-3 second but couldn’t retire another batter. Kento Itohara doubled home Gunkel and leadoff man Koji Chikamoto. Jefry Marte, who hit a two-run homer in the fourth, walked and three more RBI singles appeared to put the game on ice.
Gunkel left after throwing 92 pitches, allowing the bullpen to make a mess of things. Tetsuto Yamada’s fifth home run, a three-run shot in the seventh, made it an 8-5 game. With a three-run ninth-inning lead, the Tigers called on their closer, Robert Suarez, who struck out two of the three batters he faced to notch his fifth save.
Carp 4, Dragons 2
At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, Kevin Cron returned to duty for the Hiroshima Carp for the first time since April 3, and singled, doubled, walked and drove in three runs to beat Chunichi.
Rookie Carp lefty Koya Takahashi worked five impressive innings, only for the Carp bullpen to blow a 2-1 lead in the sixth. Setup man Daisuke Sobue (0-2) who did yeoman work as the closer prior to Raidel Martinez’s arrival, loaded the bases in the eight with two walks and a single before Cron doubled in two runs.
Hiroshima lefty Atsuya Horie worked his seventh scoreless outing of the season to set up rookie Ryoji Kuribayashi for his sixth save.
Giants 2, BayStars 2
At Yokohama Stadium, the Yomiuri Giants got yet another strong starting pitching effort as Nobutaka Imamura allowed a run over 6-1/3 innings. The run he allowed, Neftali Soto’s first home run of the year for DeNA, trimmed the Giants’ lead to 2-1.
The BayStars scratched out the tying run in the eighth against lefty Kota Nakagawa on a hit batsman, a sacrifice, a groundout behind the runner and a Tyler Austin smash that third baseman Kazuma Okamoto couldn’t handle that was ruled an RBI infield single.
Flame-throwing Brazilian Thyago Vieira, who definitely looks more polished this season, touched 100.6 mph in a 1-2-3 ninth.
Hawks 4, Lions 4
At MetLife Dome, Seibu closer Tatsushi Masuda blew a two-run save opportunity by walking Alfredo Despaigne and surrendering Akira Nakamura’s first home run of the year before SoftBank closer Yuito Mori retired the Lions’ tail-end of the order to end the game in a nine-inning tie.
In a game without a marquee pitching matchup, the suddenly bunt-happy Lions still played for one run with a straight steal but got two to take a 2-1 first-inning lead against Yuki Matsumoto. Rookie Gakuto Wakabayashi singled, stole second, and scored on No. 2 hitter Sosuke Genda’s double.
Tomoya Mori tripled in the third on a perfectly placed high fly between right and center, but was thrown out by 10 feet at home trying to score on a fly to Yuki Yanagita in medium deep center. The Hawks tied it in the sixth. Singles by Ukyo Shuto and Yangita, who went 4-for-4 with a double, set up a run-scoring wild pitch by Seibu starter Katsunori Hirai.
With the scored tied in the seventh after Reed Garrett worked a scoreless inning of relief for Seibu, Brandon Tyson Tysinger singled, and once more the Lions went for one run and got two. A sacrifice and back-to-back doubles gave manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji more than he bargained for.
Kaima Taira worked around a one-out Yanagita double in the eighth, but Masuda walked Alfredo Despaigne and hung a first-pitch slider that Nakamura pulled for his first home run.
Eagles 4, Fighters 1
At Tokyo Dome, Rakuten rookie Takahisa Hayakawa (2-2) struck out seven without a walk while allowing a run over eight innings in a win over another Nippon Ham short-starter tag-team match.
Lefty Robbie Erlin allowed a run over two innings in his Japan debut. Kensuke Kondo gave the newcomer the lead with a first-inning homer before he gave it back in the second. Daichi Suzuki singled and scored on a sac fly after the visitors loaded the bases with no outs. Hideto Asamura scored the first of his two runs in the third off Chihiro Kaneko (0-1) on a walk, a wild pitch and an Eigoro Mogi single. Mogi, however, was thrown out trying to steal right before Daichi Suzuki tripled.
Suzuki also had an RBI single while rookie Fumiya Kurokawa doubled in another run. Lefty Yuki Matsui retired the side in order in the ninth for his fifth save.
Marines 3, Buffaloes 2
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Lotte’s Leonys Martin doubled in one run, and drew a bases-loaded ninth-inning walk off Tyler Higgins (0-1) to push across the go-ahead run against the Orix Buffaloes.
Rookie lefty Hiroya Miyagi allowed a run over 6-2/3 innings and left with a lead afterAdam Jones doubled to break a 1-1 sixth-inning tie against Marines rookie Shota Suzuki.
Higgins, the Buffaloes’ fourth pitcher, lost leadoff hitter Brandon Laird on seven pitches, before walking Koki Yamaguchi. After a sacrifice and a fly out, Higgins was one strike away from earning the save before Hiromi Oka hit a nasty bouncer into the hole at short to plate the tying run.
Higgins proved unable to find the strike zone after that, and Naoya Masuda earned his third save in the ninth.
At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin Tigers righty Shintaro Fujinami (2-0) gave the Yakult Swallows a blast from the past, homering at spacious Koshien Stadium for the first time since he was a high schooler playing there in Japan’s prestigious national invitational and national championships.
The two-run blast, the third of Fujinami’s career, sealed a battle between youth and age, velocity and finesse that could easily have gone to 41-year-old lefty Masanori Ishikawa (0-1) in his season debut.
Ishikawa walked and beat out an infield single and owned rookie Teruaki Sato, needing six pitches to strike the young slugger out twice.
Fujinami allowed three hits and three walks while hitting two batters, but was yanked with two on and two outs in the sixth after plunking Yasutaka Shiomi. A quartet of relievers finished what Fujinami started with Robert Suarez earning his fourth save.
Giants 7, BayStars 0
At Yokohama Stadium, Yomiuri ace Tomoyuki Sugano (1-1) located his fastball well as he manhandled the DeNA BayStars from the mound and contributed to the offense by singling and scoring a sixth-inning insurance run.
Lefty Yuya Sakamoto, DeNA’s second pick in 2019, allowed three runs over five innings in his season debut. Sakamoto, who went 4-1 with a 5.67 ERA last season in 10 starts, threw some good pitches, but his command was inconsistent and the Giants put good swings on pitches in the zone.
The Giants’ top two hitters, Seiya Matsubara and Hayato Sakamoto, playing in an NPB record 1,778th game at shortstop, set the table with no-out singles and Kazuma Okamoto broke the ice with a two-run double. Sakamoto homered to lead off the fifth, although the BayStars’ Sakamoto ended the inning without further damage and the bases jammed with Giants.
Sugano reached on a one-out infield single in the sixth and scored on former BayStar Takayuki Kajitani’s two-run double, a flare that dropped and rolled away from the DeNA fielders.
Carp 7, Dragons 3
At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, Ryosuke Kikuchi ended Hiroshima’s scoreless streak at 31 innings and one pitch, hitting the second delivery from Chunichi lefty Taiki Matsuba (0-2) out for a leadoff home run.
Atsushi Endo, making his season debut for the Carp after some weak results in the Western League (15 runs in 1-2/3 innings), made a wild pickoff throw with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the first and the Carp were back to Square 1.
Seiya Suzuki’s fourth home run, a three-run shot, put Hiroshima back on top but the Dragons answered with two in the fourth, when manager Shinji Sasaoka ran out of patience with his starter. With a two-run lead in the fifth, 22-year-old rookie lefty Daisuke Moriura came out of the pen with the bases loaded to retire 43-year-old pinch-hitter to end the Dragons’ last threat.
OK, Moriura took a smash off his body that bounced to the catcher who threw Fukudome out, but it looks good in the box score.
Lions 2, Hawks 1
At MetLife Dome, Tomoya Mori, the Seibu Lions’ 2019 PL MVP reached base four times and decided a pitchers’ duel with a sixth-inning home run in a battle between Opening Day starters, hammering a 2-1 fastball down the pipe from Shuta Ishikawa (1-2) out to right for his third home run.
Kona Takahashi (3-0) was coming off a poor start against Lotte last week when he gave up four runs on five walks over six innings. He retired the first two batters he faced before Yurisbel Gracial took him deep for his second home run.
Rookie Lions leadoff man Gakuto Wakabayashi tied it in the home half, with some help from Gracial. Thinking Wakabayashi’s deep fly was going out, the Hawks’ left fielder stopped short of the wall only for the ball to strike off the padding and roll away from him. The Lions bunted the rookie to third from where he scored on a wild pitch.
Still, that didn’t stop Ishikawa from getting some blame for it, that allowing the first run demonstrated a lack of sufficient will power on his part.
Kaima Taira, the 2020 PL rookie of the year worked around a pinch-hit leadoff single in the eighth before Tatsushi Masuda nailed down his sixth save with a game-ending double play.
Eagles 4, Fighters 1
At Tokyo Dome, a week after going full contact mode with one K over eight innings in his previous start, Rakuten Eagles right-hander Hideaki Wakui’s strikeout train resumed normal service with 10 strikeouts over seven innings. Drew VerHagen, who went 8-6 with a 3.22 ERA in his 2020 debut season, had a kind of cold opening, making a three-inning start in his season debut after no spring training and no tune-ups with the farm team.
VerHagen allowed a run over three innings, as the Fighters temporarily jumped back into the short starter routine that was their M.O. in 2019. Ryusei Kawano, who has been really ineffective in his starts this season, was, however, in his element. The second-year side-arm lefty struck out four of the nine batters he faced over three perfect innings.
The Eagles tied the game 1-1 in the third on back-to-back two-out doubles by Hiroto Kobukata and Hiroaki Shimauchi. In keeping with the Fighters’ flash back night at their former home park, Mizuki Hori (1-1), Nippon Ham’s ace opener from 2019, made an appearance, but the seventh inning was not as kind to him as first innings used to be. He surrendered back-to-back leadoff doubles to Daichi Suzuki and rookie Fumiya Kurokawa, who untied the score for good.
Kobukata tripled and scored in the eighth on a Shimauchi sac fly, and Suzuki led off the ninth with a single and scored his second run to make it 4-1. Lefty closer Yuki Matsui closed the door with two on in the bottom of the ninth to earn his fourth save.
Buffaloes 3, Marines 3
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, the Orix Buffaloes wasted an outstanding start from Taisuke Yamaoka, who struck out nine over seven scoreless innings, when rookie reliever Taisei Urushihara surrendered a three-run eighth-inning home run to Hisanori Yasuda.
The home run took Kota Futaki, the Marines’ Opening Day starter off the hook after he allowed three runs, one earned, over seven innings. The unearned runs came in the seventh after Yasuda fumbled a grounder at third to open the inning.
Yasuhiro Tanaka pitched out of trouble in the bottom of the eighth, while the Buffaloes’ Tyler Higgins and Lotte closer Naoya Masuda shut the doors to ensure a share of the points – or rather a non-event, since ties count for nothing.
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, 19-year-old Hiroya Miyagi (2-0) won a rookie southpaw showdown with Takahisa Hayakawa (1-1) Sunday in the Orix Buffaloes’ 4-0 Pacific League win over the Rakuten Eagles.
Miyagi struck out five over eight innings. He pinpointed his pitches when he needed to as in his masterful three-pitch strikeout of right-handed slugger Hideto Asamura in the fourth with a runner on.
Leadoff man Ryo Ota, Masataka Yoshida and Steven Moya each had three hits for the Buffaloes. Yoshida’s second homer, with Ota aboard, opened the scoring in the third.
Yoshida set the table with one of two singles in the sixth before Moya singled both home.
Unlike Hayakawa, whom four teams named as their first choice in last year’s draft, Miyagi was the Buffaloes’ second alternate pick after they lost a lottery pick for slugging infielder Shoya Ishikawa (Chunichi) and left-handed pitcher (Ryusei Kawano) Nippon Ham.
Miyagi struck out 16 batters in 16 innings last season, as he retained his rookie status for 2021.
At Sapporo Dome, lefty Takayuki Kato allowed a run on one hit and two walks over eight innings, and Toshihiro Sugiura completed the one-hitter for the Nippon Ham Fighters, who came from behind to tie the Lotte Marines 1-1 on Haruki Nishikawa’s eighth-inning RBI single.
Marines starter, rookie lefty Shota Suzuki allowed two hits and two walks and struck out 11 over seven scoreless innings.
At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Wu Nien-ting and top draft pick Kento Watanabe each homered for the Seibu Lions in their 4-2 win over the SoftBank Hawks, who lost their fifth straight.
Katsunori Hirai (2-0) allowed two runs over 5-2/3 innings in which he struck out eight, while the bullpen allowed three runners the rest of the way. Reed Garrett retired the heart of the Hawks’ order 1-2-3 in the ninth for his first save. Tsuyoshi Wada (0-1) gave up four runs on four walks and six hits over six innings.
BayStars win a game
At Yokohama Stadium, Kazuki Kamizato and Toshiro Miyazaki homered in support of rookie Kosuke Sakaguchi (1-0) who won his season debut and the DeNA BayStars’ first victory under new manager Daisuke Miura, 3-1 over the Hiroshima Carp.
The right-hander scattered three walks and three hits over five scoreless innings, and the BayStars’ pen held on for four innings, despite some danger from both former closer Yasuaki Yamasaki and his current closer Kazuki Mishima.
Gunkel wins 2nd for Tigers
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Joe Gunkel (2-0) allowed a run in 6-1/3 innings as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Chunichi Dragons 3-1 with Robert Suarez getting his second save.
Jerry Sands had two hits and a walk for the Tigers, who opened the scoring on Koji Chikamoto’s leadoff homer in the first, and broke a 1-1 sixth-inning tie on a walk and singles from Sands and Yosuke Yokawa.
Giants win virus bowl
At Tokyo Dome, the Yomiuri Giants responded to a string of coronavirus infections with a come-from-behind 2-1 Central League win against the Yakult Swallows, who are also without infected players.
Swallows rookie Yuto Kanekubo worked five scoreless innings, but the game unraveled in the eighth, when the tying run scored on a passed ball, and the go-ahead run came in on a routine two-out fly at the wall that was not caught after left fielder Kotaro Yamasaki and center fielder Yasutaka Shiomi nearly collided.
Taishi Hirooka, traded to the Giants in March for southpaw Kazuto Taguchi, was credited with an RBI triple on the play.
“He’s a player with many unseen talents,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said when asked about Hirooka without elaborating that one of those talents might be luck.
In-form Zelous Wheeler was scratched from his start in left field immediately before the start of the game and replaced by base-running adventurer Soichiro Tateoka.
Tateoka saved the game with a two-out bases-loaded catch in the second that held Yakult to a run. Hara declined to say anything about Wheeler’s situation, saying, “I’ll let the team announce that.” It was no surprise when the club then said Wheeler had tested positive, too.
Less than 10 days into the 2021 season, and Japan has already had two outbreaks among it’s top 12 teams, following positive tests by Yomiuri Giants players, Hochi Shimbun reported Sunday.
Positive tests were revealed Sunday for center fielder and two-time Central League MVP Yoshihiro Maru, and infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima. Both started Saturday’s game against the Yakult Swallows, who announced the league’s first outbreak, on Wednesday.
In addition to Swallows catcher Akihisa Nishida, who tested positive, the team sent five other players home out of concern for their contact with infected players and staff.
The Giants have also re-tested infielder Akihiro Wakabayashi, whose ninth-inning pinch-hit RBI double secured the hosts a tie against Yakult at Tokyo Dome.
Last season, when Nippon Professional Baseball played a 120-game regular season, one game was postponed out of concern for the virus, while two outbreaks were reported.
The Hanshin Tigers’ president resigned over his team’s infections, while Lotte Marines outfielder Ikuhiro Kiyota has been indefinitely suspended for breaking protocols on the road and becoming infected during an outbreak that caused the team to deactivate a third of its roster.
Players sidelined specifically for concern due to coronavirus infections can be re-activated in less than the usual 10 days when they are declared virus-free.
Active roster moves 4/4/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/14, unless marked with an asterisk. Those players are being deactivated under coronavirus protocol rules and may be reactivated when declared safe.
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