The Rakuten Eagles’ Hidaki Wakui’s stuff was more inconsistent than it’s been in recent weeks, but he summoned his best stuff when he needed it as the Rakuten Eagles’ right-hander improved to 8-0 thanks to a 12-2 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters on Wednesday at Sapporo Dome.
Wakui may have had more trouble generating misses with his fastball than he has in his last two starts, but he was good enough to allow a run on four hits and a walk over eight innings. The 34-year-old right-hander last won this many games in 2016, when he went 10-7 for the Lotte Marines, who sold him to the Eagles over the winter.
If Wakui was less sharp, Fighters right-hander Toshihiro Sugiura’s game was a disaster. The 28-year-old was coming off three solid starts but just couldn’t execute his pitches as he has so far this year. Fastball after fastball came in high and straight, resulting in extra batting practice for the Eagles hitters, who took a 6-0 lead after the top of the third inning.
Sugiura (4-2) surrendered six runs, four earned, on four hits, two walks and a hit batsman over three innings.
The Fighters’ only run off Wakui came on a lazy slider that Haruki Nishikawa hit into the stands in the bottom of the third for his second homer of the season.
Self-inflicted wounds seal Buffaloes fate in 9th
The Orix Buffaloes allowed the Seibu Lions to steal a 4-3 win in the ninth inning on a series of defensive lapses at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
With the score tied 2-2 after Orix’s Tyler Higgins pitched out of a two-out, bases-loaded pickle in the eighth, closer Brandon Dickson took over for the Buffaloes in the ninth.
Third baseman Yuma Mune failed to make a good play on a chopper to third, dropping the ball on what would have been a tough out at first for an error that put Yuji Kaneko on with no outs. A sacrifice and a groundout put Kaneko on third with two outs.
Shuta Tonosaki, who had singled and doubled earlier in the game, put a good swing on a low curve ball and lined it to center. Center fielder Kodai Sano failed to make a shoe-string grab and the ball rolled to the wall. Right fielder Hayato Nishiura retrieved it as Tonosaki approached third and hit the cutoff man. The relay throw arrived in plenty of time but was offline and not caught.
In kind of a throwback to the days in NPB when groundballs that went through outfielders’ legs were ruled triples, Tonosaki was credited with an inside-the-park home run.
The Buffaloes got three hits and a run against Lions closer Tatsushi Masuda, but it was not enough to keep him from recording his 11th save. Dickson (0-2) was charged with two unearned runs and took the loss.
Lions’ eighth-inning bulldog Reed Garrett (3-0) got the win.
Hawks, Marines scrape out tie
The Lotte Marines’ Ikuhiro Kiyota struck out looking at a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded in the ninth inning to end the game against the SoftBank Hawks in a 10-inning, 2-2 tie at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Marines lefty Kazuya Ojima allowed two runs over 5-2/3 innings, while Hawks lefty Kotaro Otake also allowed two runs over five to set up what was to be an entertaining defensive struggle.
A pair of no-out walks from Rei Takahashi and a sacrifice gave the Marines a scoring opportunity in the sixth, but first baseman Keizo Kawashima threw a runner out at the plate and the submarine right-hander got out of the inning on a comebacker.
Marines rookie Koshiro Wada, who made his first start on Sunday after being used as a pinch-runner, reached base three times and stole two bases, raising his league-leading total to 14. In the top of the eighth, he robbed Kenta Imamiya of a leadoff single, allowing Frank Herrmann to work around a two-out single and preserve the tie.
Hawks closer Yuito Mori walked the leadoff man in the ninth but escaped trouble thanks to a great catch in foul territory by catcher Takuya Kai and a sparkling double play from shortstop Hikaru Kawase and second baseman Ukyo Shuto, part of the Hawks’ seemingly endless supply of reserve middle infielders.
SoftBank first baseman Kenji Akashi saved the game with a diving catch of a liner for the second out with two men on. A walk loaded the bases for Kiyota, who fouled off Yugo Bando’s sixth pitch before looking at the seventh.
Giants’ lose Mercedes shut out Tigers
The Yomiuri Giants lost southpaw starter Cristopher Mercedes after the top of the first inning to what looks like an elbow injury, but their six relievers completed a four-hit shutout in an 8-0 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo Dome.
Kazuma Okamoto drove in two runs with a single and his Central League-best 18th home run, while Yoshihiro Maru, who had a sac fly off Tigers starter Onelki Garcia (1-5) in the first, delivered the kill shot with a seventh-inning grand slam.
The Tigers have now been held scoreless for 27 consecutive innings following their 1-0 loss to Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano on Tuesday.
Dragon Viciedo roasts Swallows
Dayan Viciedo homered twice and had an RBI double, while right-hander Koji Fukutani (2-1) allowed two runs over six innings for the Chunichi Dragons in their 12-2 plucking of the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Viciedo now has 12 home runs for the season, while Zoilo Almonte hit his third and Toshiki Abe hit his seventh for the Dragons. Fukutani struck out six without issuing a walk.
Pitching switch fails to do trick for ‘Stars
DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez pulled his starting pitcher after he allowed a sixth-inning homer, only for his new pitcher to surrender another that tied it in their 2-2, 10-inning tie with the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
In what promises to usher in a new wave of complaints about Japan’s only foreign-born manager, Ramirez yanked lefty Haruhiro Hamaguchi after he gave up a one-out solo homer to Shota Dobayashi that cut the BayStars’ lead to a run.
Big right-hander Yuki Kuniyoshi got one out before surrendering Carp shortstop Kosuke Tanaka’s fourth home run of the year.
Thursday brings some interesting matchups in Japan. In Sapporo, Nick Martinez, who has pitched well despite his 1-4 record will take on Yuki Matsui, who has not pitched well but who is 0-1 in four starts.
On Tuesday, the Orix Buffaloes-Seibu Lions was decided by late relievers, but on Thursday, the bullpen door will open early as Buffaloes go with Kazumasa Yoshida against Seibu’s middle-relief warhorse, Katsunori HIrai.
At Tokyo Dome it will be a battle between two pitchers with 5-2 records, 20-yar-old Giants rookie Shosei Togo and 26-year-old Tigers side-armer Koyo Aoyagi.
In Hiroshima, Kris Johnson is still looking for his first win in his eighth start of the season. He has two quality starts under his belt, which is one more than first-year import Michael Peoples, allowed a run over six innings in his Japan debut on June 20, but has pitched just twice since then. After two respectable Eastern League outings in July, Peoples gave up four runs over five innings in EL loss to the Lotte Marines.
Yuki Yanagita has scary power. When he connects, the ball can go a long way to any field. This wasn’t one of those, but rather what happens sometimes when he is fooled. In the spring he hit an opposite field home run when he was fooled by a breaking pitch off balance and with his top hand off the bat.
On Tuesday, he did it again with a three-run shot that powered the SoftBank Hawks to an 8-7 win over the Orix Buffaloes. Here’s the home run. Anyone see a guy fooled on a swing so much that his helmet came off? Anyone ever seen such a swing produce a home run? You have now.
Yanagita hit two home runs and was seen in the dugout cheering up second baseman 22-year-old infielder Hikaru Kawase, whose two sixth-inning errors opened the door for six unearned Orix runs off ace Kodai Senga (4-1).
Asked what he told the youngster in the hero interview, Yanagita said, “I told him, it’s not your fault. It was Senga’s. Just come out tomorrow play baseball like you know you can.”
Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto allowed five runs in five innings, while Akira Nakamura homered for the Hawks, and Takahiro Okada hit a grand slam for the Buffaloes.
Marines Mima, Martin destroy Fighters
Free agent acquisition Manabu Mima (3-2) allowed a run in five innings, and Leonys Martin hit a three-run home run, his fifth homer in four games to lift the Lotte Marines to a 3-1 victory over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Naoyuki Uwasawa (2-2) allowed three runs on four walks and three hits over six innings.
Kobukata saves the day for Eagles
Rakuten rookie Hiroto Kobukata brought the Rakuten Eagles from behind with a two-run seventh-inning double and doubled in another run in the ninth in their 7-5 win over the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.
Ernesto Mejia, a one-time home run champ relegated to reserve status since the ascendance of first baseman Hotaka Yamakawa, started in place of Yamakawa on Tuesday and turned back the clock.
The 34-year-old Mejia hit two home runs, doubled, drove in three runs and made a couple of terrific plays at first. His first homer gave the Lions a 4-3lead in the fifth, but Kobukata doubled in two with two outs in the seventh to put Rakuten ahead for good.
Note: The original story had the Lions winning 7-5.
Tigers’ Garcia, Sands eclipse BayStars
Lefty Onelki Garcia (1-4) allowed a run over seven innings, and Jerry Sands drove in a pair of big runs for the Hanshin Tigers in their 9-2 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.
Garcia allowed four hits and walked four while striking out seven. With the game tied 1-1 in the sixth, Sands delivered an RBI double to break the tie and scored on Ryutaro Umeno’s double.
Leadoff man Koji Chikamoto opened the game with a double and scored the first of his three runs on a sacrifice fly by Sands.
Fukutani, Takahashi lift Dragons over Carp
Right-hander Koji Fukutani (1-1) allowed a run over 5-2/3 innings, and captain Shuhei Takahashi opened the scoring with his second home run of the season, a two-run fourth-inning blast off Yusuke Nomura (2-1) in the Chunichi Dragons’ 8-1 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Although the game was already a rout by the ninth inning, the Dragons had more than just two runs to celebrate in the final frame when Akira Neo, the Dragons’ top draft pick in 2018, had his first hit in the top flight after starting his career 0-for-17 with nine strikeouts.
The iconic David Bowie song should have been Kensuke Kondo’s walk-up music against Zach Neal. The Nippon Ham Fighters on-base machine blasted a low changeup for a solo homer and one high and away for a two-run double in a 3-0 win over the Seibu Lions at Sapporo Dome.
Kondo broke up the scoreless game in the fourth with his second home run of the season. With wo on and one out in the sixth, his double made it 3-0 against Neal (2-2), who worked six.
Right-hander Toshihiro Sugiura (4-1) walked four batters but struck out six and allowed just one hit over seven scoreless innings. The moment of truth came in the seventh. After walking the bases loaded, he fell behind Ernesto Mejia before striking him out on a 3-2 splitter.
Side-arm closer Ryo Akiyoshi and left-hander Mizuki Hori nearly blew the game up in the ninth. Hori entered with two on and two outs in a one-run game. He walked two straight batters before getting Cory Spangenberg to strike out swinging at a 3-2 pitch to earn the save.
Romero powers Eagles past Hawks
Stefen Romero hit his 12th and 13th home runs of the season for the Rakuten Eagles and drove in five runs in a 7-4 come-from-behind win over the SoftBank Hawks at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto was all about the fastball in the first inning, and Seiji Uebayashi and Yuki Yanagita treated them like the batting-practice variety with long solo homers to open the game for the visitors. Akira Nakamura made it 3-0 in the third with a double to the warning track that scored Yanagita from first. Norimoto, however, pitched out of tight spots in the fifth and sixth to keep his team in the game.
Romero homered in the sixth after a Daichi Suzuki leadoff single to make it a 3-2 game against the Hawks’ Opening Day starter, Nao Higashihama (2-1). The right-hander issued a pair of walks in the seventh before rookie Hiroto Kobukata put the Eagles in front with a triple and drove Higashihama from the mound. Shinya Kayama hit Suzuki and submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi served up Romero’s 13th homer.
Ishikawa scrapes by for 2nd win
Ayumu Ishikawa scattered 12 hits over seven innings to earn his second win as the Lotte Marines made the most of their early chances in a 6-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Ishikawa (2-2) struck out two, walked none and struck out two while getting two double plays en route to allowing just one run. Buffaloes starter Tsubasa Sakakibara (1-2) gave up four runs over three innings on three walks and six hits.
Seiya Inoue homered to open the scoring for the Marines in the second, when Yudai Fujioka tripled with one out and scored on a Tatsuhiro Tamura single. Two more runs scored in the third after two were down starting with singles by Inoue and Tsuyoshi Sugano, a walk and a two-run Tamura single.
Marines closer Naoya Masuda entered in the ninth with no outs, the bases loaded and a 6-1 lead. He issued a walk and surrendered an RBI single before getting out of the inning. He became the 32nd pitcher to earn 100 saves in Japan.
“Not-very-good” Ono too good for Giants
Lefty Yudai Ono threw his second-straight 10-strikeout complete game victory, and drove in the winning run with his first hit of the season in a 7-1 Chunichi Dragons win over the Yomiuri Giants at Nagoya Dome.
Ono (2-3) had better than usual velocity on his fastball, which looked straight but gave the Giants fits in combination with his two-seamer and slider. He gave up five hits and walked one.
“I’m not a very good pitcher,” he told the fans at Nagoya Dome in the postgame hero interview. “I have to just stick with those things I can do and execute my pitches.”
With two outs and two on in the second, he singled up the middle to open the scoring and went to second on a throwing error.
“I was looking for a slider, but I recognized it was a fastball,” he said.
When asked if he was able to react to the fastball, Ono said, “No. I don’t really have that much ability. It just worked out well.”
Yota Kyoda tripled in two, and Yohei Oshima, who also doubled, walked and scored two runs, followed with another triple off lefty Kazuto Taguchi (2-1) to make it 4-0.
Yoshida shines as Swallows beat Kamichatani
Daiki Yoshida, the Yakult Swallows’ second pick in last Autumn’s draft, produced his third-straight solid start en route to an 8-2 win over the DeNA BayStars at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Yoshida (1-1) allowed two runs over six innings, while the Swallows tagged Taiga Kamichatani (0-1) for four runs, three earned, over three innings. Kamichatani went 7-6 games as a rookie last year but was 3-6 against teams not named the Yakult Swallows.
Takeshi Miyamoto, the 25-year-old reserve infielder who is filling in while superstar second baseman Tetsuto Yamada drove in three runs for the Swallows, while Munetaka Murakami and Yasutaka Shiomi both scored twice.
Hatsuki makes most of pro debut in Carp win
Ryutaro Hatsuki went 2-for-4 with a triple and three RBIs in his first top-flight game for the Hiroshima Carp, who beat the Hanshin Tigers 11-6 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Side-armer Koyo Aoyagi, one of the Tigers’ more reliable starters this summer, allowed six runs over three innings to fall to 4-2, while Carp rookie Masato Morishita (3-2) gave up four runs, three earned, over six innings to earn the win.
Lotte’s Leonys Martin may have gone 0-for-4 at the plate, but he threw a strike when it mattered, gunning down Orix Buffaloes pinch-runner Ryo Ota for the final out in the ninth inning before the game at Kyocera Dome ended in a 5-5, 10-inning tie.
The Marines were headed for a narrow victory thanks to an impressive start from right-hander Mima, but he tired in the seventh and the game went down to the late innings.
Takashi Toritani came in for the Marines at third base in the bottom of the ninth and two hard-hit smashes handcuffed him. The first resulted in the leadoff runner reaching. With two outs, a bad hop struck Toritani and bounced away for an RBI infield double. Adam Jones lined a single to right. Martin’s throw gave catcher Tatsuhiro Tamura a chance at a sweep tag. Ota, who never touched home, was called out.
Orix closer Brandon Dickson survived a scoreless 10th thanks to second baseman Shuhei Fukuda fielding a hard shot for the second out with a runner on third. Dickson then struck out Lotte leadoff man Shuhei Fukuda to send it to the bottom of the ninth. Lotte’s Yuki Karakawa worked a 1-2-3 10th and the game was called.
Mima brought his good stuff and outpitched Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto but it was not enough to the Lotte Marines a win.
With a one-run lead from the get-go, Mima was in total. He was accurate with his bread-and-butter two-seamer that was moving particularly well and was routinely to located on the outside corner and was able to reliably get called strikes there well out of the zone.
Between the two-seamer tailing away from left-handed hitters, his fork change that was dropping well and an occasional slider and fastball to keep guys honest, Mima challenged hitters when he fell behind and missed barrels. As the game went on, he went more and more to the change and got swings and misses.
Yamamoto gave up a run in the first on a fly ball that fell perfectly in the gap in right center for a one-out double and a single from rookie cleanup hitter Hisanori Yasuda, who smashed a fat pitch up the middle.
With one out in the second, Yamamoto hit Tamura and walked Brandon Laird. Light-hitting Yudai Fujioka squared up a 1-1 cutter in the heart of the zone and drove it to the warning track in left over Takahiro Okada for an RBI double. Fukuda, a first-inning strikeout victim, lined a low fastball for a two-run single before getting run out on the bases to end the inning.
Jones opened the Buffaloes second with a line single. With one out after a force at second, Steven Moya nailed a slider up and over the plate and tripled to the gap in right to put the hosts on the board.
Fukuda belted a long home run fourth to make it 5-1 before the Marines rallied against Mima in the seventh. Moya bounced a well-placed grounder up the middle for a leadoff single, and Yuya Oda smashed one of the few straight pitches Mima threw in the zone all night for a double. Ryoichi Adachi swatted a single to make it 5-2 and drive Mima from the mound after his 99th pitch.
Lefty Takahiro Matsunaga took over with one out and two on. He walked the bases loaded before giving up a two-run pinch-hit single to Torai Fushimi. Another walk loaded the bases. Jones came up with a chance to put his team in front, but smashed a low 3-2 pitch to third for an inning-ending double play.
The Marines were denied an insurance run in the top of the eighth, when Oda threw a strike to the plate from center to cut down a runner trying to score from second on a two-out single against Tyler Higgins, the third Buffaloes pitcher.
Frank Herrmann worked a scoreless eighth for the Marines as the game hurtled toward its thrilling but indecisive finish.
Asamura finishes Eagles’ comeback
Hideto Asamura’s two-run home run capped a three-run eighth inning for the Rakuten Eagles and completed a 7-6 comeback win against the SoftBank Hawks at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
The Eagles scored three runs off Hawks ace Kodai Senga over six innings, but then scored four runs off SoftBank’s formidable bullpen. With two outs and one on in the seventh and Rei Takahashi on the mound, back-to-back singles by Hiroaki Shimauchi and Stefen Romero made it a 6-4 game.
Lefty Livan Moinelo (0-1) retired the first two batters. Daichi Suzuki doubled and scored on a Jabari Blash single, Asamura homered and Alan Busenitz worked the ninth for Rakuten to record his third save.
Senga gave up six hits, three walks and hit a batter while striking out six. Hawks lefty Hayato Yuge gave up five runs, three earned, on six hits and three walks over five innings.
Fighters punch out Lions’ Takahashi
Taishi Ota homered twice, walked twice and drove in six runs as the Nippon Ham Fighters hammered the Seibu Lions 11-4 at Sapporo Dome.
Naoki Uwasawa (2-1) allowed four runs over 5-2/3 innings but just one through the first five, during which the Fighters hammered Lions starter Kona Takahashi (2-4) for six runs over 4-1/3 innings. The right-hander, who has struggled with walks his entire career, allowed three hits but issued seven free passes.
Ota broke a 1-1 tie in the third inning with his fourth home run after Sho Nakata drew a two-out walk. Ota drew a bases-loaded walk in Nippon Ham’s three-run fifth, and belted a three-run homer in the sixth.
Fighters leadoff man Haruki Nishikawa singled twice and walked twice and scored three runs.
Giants ace Sugano holds off Tigers
Tomoyuki Sugano (6-0) allowed two runs over seven innings for the Yomiuri Giants in a 7-2 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium.
Sugano went to the mound with a 1-0 lead and was not as sharp as usual. The right-hander allowed six hits and a walk, while striking out three.
The Giants opened the scoring in the first on a two-out solo home run from Hayato Sakamoto. Lefty Onelki Garcia (0-4) thought he had a called third strike on a 1-2 fastball in and above the belt. His 2-2 changeup missed up and Sakamoto drove it over the wall in center.
An even worse pitch ended up in exactly the same spot off the bat of leadoff man Takumi Kitamura in the third. A Takumi Oshiro double and a Yoshihiro Maru single made it 3-0 in the fifth.
The Tigers got two scoreless innings from right-hander Atsushi Mochizuki and a two-run homer from Jerry Sands. Koji Chikamoto reached on a ground single and Sands swung and missed at a fat slider in the heart of the zone before pulling one on the outside corner and driving it 10 rows back in left.
With Mochizuki out of the game, Oshiro singled in two runs in a four-run Giants eighth to seal it. Kosuke Baba allowed four unearned runs and committed one of the Tigers’ two errors in the inning.
Ino, Stars pen silence Dragons
Shoichi Ino allowed six hits without a walk over seven innings, and two relievers provided near-perfect relief in the DeNA BayStars’ 3-0 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Yokohama Stadium.
Dragons starter Koji Fukutani (0-1) allowed all three runs on seven hits and a walk. The BayStars scraped out a run in the fourth on two singles and a double play.
Fukutani was less fortunate in the sixth. A Takayuki Kajitani leadoff single and a Kazuki Kamizato double set the table with no outs, and Neftali Soto hit a comebacker that came off the pitcher’s body for an RBI infield single. Another shot up the middle got through the infield to complete the scoring.
Chono, Tanaka lift Carp past Swallows
Hisayoshi Chono and Kosuke Tanaka each hit a three-run home run for the Hiroshima Carp in their 6-3 come-from-behind win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Swallows right-hander Hirotoshi Takanashi took a 3-0 lead into the seventh inning and left with two out and two on. Scott McGough entered and surrendered Chono’s first homer off the season. Noboru Shimizu (0-2) worked the eighth and gave up Tanaka’s third of the year.
Atsuya Horie (2-1) earned the win in relief for 1-1/3 innings of scoreless relief, and Geronimo Franzua earned his second save in the ninth. Carp starter Allen Kuri gave up three runs in four innings.
Reserve Swallows catcher Akihisa Nishida doubled in two runs in the second and doubled and scored in the fourth.
Carp looking for next manager: more nonsense
Yukan Fuji speculated Tuesday that the Hiroshima Carp may soon be seeking a replacement to take over next year from their first-year skipper Shinji Sasaoka, but as speculation goes, it’s pretty hollow.
These articles are generally a collection of criticisms from former players now working as analysts who would prefer to be coaching and who have ties with one or more of the potential candidates.
Like the propaganda launched recently against DeNA BayStars skipper Alex Ramirez, it includes extravagant projections for individual players and of the team that are given as certainties, thus providing “proof” that the manager’s policies are intolerably bad.
In this case Sasaoka is attacked for the failure of rookie right-hander Masato Morishita, who a former Carp player said should be a strong rookie of the year candidate, but who is floundering.
Morishita may not be taking the league by storm, but there is no reason to think he won’t be good based on what we’ve seen so far.
No mention was made of his peculiar usage of ace Daichi Osera, having him labor through a second-straight complete game to start the season when the buildup to the coronavirus-hit season has been anything but normal and fitness issues were expected.
The Carp have struggled, and the article mentions that since Yoshihiro Maru, the CL’s MVP in 2017 and 2018, left as a free agent to the Yomiuri Giants 1-1/2 years ago, things are in decline. Sasaoka’s failure, it seems has been his ability to make bricks without straw.
The article said that if Sasaoka is replaced it would be rare. It would be more than rare for the Carp. It would be unprecedented. The team has had three managers who lasted a year or less during a stretch from 1973 to 1975, but all three, Kaoru Betto (1973), Katsuya Morinaga (1974) and Joe Lutz (1975) all quit. The family-owned Carp have never fired a manager after one season. I wouldn’t expect Sasaoka to be the first.
The candidates listed were former Carp Hiroki Kuroda, Takahiro Arai and Tomoaki Kanemoto. It’s hard to imagine someone like Kuroda, who stoically bore the weight of his teams’ expectations with every pitch wanting the responsibility for a team on his shoulders.
Kanemoto had to be compelled to manage the Tigers and that didn’t go well. The easy-going Arai might give it a try, but someone would have to twist his arm a lot. A far better choice would be Ryuzo Yamasaki, their longtime former minor league manager or Giants batting coach Takuro Ishii, who finished his career there and then coached for the team.
Dragons activate 2018 top pick Neo
The Chunichi Dragons continue their cycling through their farm team rookies on Tuesday with the activation of Akira Neo, their first pick in the 2018 amateur draft.
Neo was a shortstop at baseball factory Osaka Toin High School (Ryosuke Hirata, Takeya Nakamura, Hideto Asamura, Tomoya Mori, Shintaro Fujinami). Four teams named him as their top draft pick in 2018, the same number that went after Hiroshima’s first-round signee, Kaito Kozono.
The left-handed-hitting Neo’s numbers suggest he was overmatched by Western League pitching last year, striking out in 28 percent of his plate appearances with little power. This year so far, he has have cut down on his strikeouts to about 22 percent of his plate appearances.
After making 24 errors last season, the most by any player in Japan’s two minor leaguers, Neo has spent most of his time this summer at second base, although the word is that the Dragons intend to give him playing time on the first team in the outfield.
Last month, Chunichi called up third baseman Takaya Ishikawa, their top pick last year, and then gave a few plate appearances to 18-year-old outfielder Yuki Okabayashi. Their fifth pick last autumn, Okabayashi, unlike Ishikawa and Neo, had been tearing it up on the farm team.
Kenji Akashi now has one home run for each of his 17 pro seasons. His sixth-inning solo shot broke a 4-4 tie and helped end Zach Neal’s string of winning decisions at 13 on Friday, when the SoftBank Hawks beat the Seibu Lions 5-4 at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Hawks right-hander Nao Higashihama survived two no-out walks to open the second inning but not a center-cut 3-1 two-seam fastball to Hotaka Yamakawa, who opened the scoring with his 12th homer of the year. Shuta Tonosaki followed with Seibu’s second hit, and Takeya Nakamura capped the inning with a two-run home run with a flat-straight fastball down the pipe that the six-time home run champ got off the end of the barrel but still drove 10 rows back in left field.
Neal (2-1), however, gave away the lead in the home half of the third.
After Takuya Kai’s one-out miss-hit infield single, Ukyo Shuto barreled up a low first-pitch two-seamer and nearly took off Neal’s head with his single. Neal then hung a 1-0 two-seamer up in the zone to Kenta Imamiya, who drove it off the center field wall for a two-run triple.
With Akira Nakamura at the plate, Yuki Yanagita walked and stole second and Nakamura singled in one run to tie it. Neal made a decent 1-2 pitch to the next hitter, but Ryoya Kurihara put a prototypical inside-out, left-handed swing on the low two-seamer and knocked it between third and short for an RBI single and a 4-3 Hawks lead. Yanagita’s run was his 32nd of the month, tying an NPB record.
Corey Spangenberg, who’d doubled, tripled and homered the night before, homered off reliever Shinya Kayama to tie it in the sixth. Higashihama struck out Nakamura with his 95th pitch to open the inning, and with two left-handed hitters due up, the Hawks turned to a south paw.
Kayama got veteran Takumi Kuriyama to fly out on his first slider, and then threw five-straight to Spangenberg. The last one missed down and in and Spangenberg bounced it off the top of the permanent wall in right for his fifth homer.
Again, the Hawks struck back. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Neal missed with a straight two-seam fastball up and over the plate, and Akashi drilled it into the “home run terrace,” the Casa de Pepe’s outfield field seats.
Kayama (1-0) earned the in relief for two-thirds of an inning of work, while Rei Takahashi, Livan Moinelo and Yuito Mori each supplied another scoreless inning, with Mori earning his ninth save.
Smells like team spirit in Sapporo
The Orix Buffaloes laid a big seventh inning on Nippon Ham Fighters ace Kohei Arihara to snap a tie game and earn a 7-2 win at Sapporo Dome.
Prior to the game, the Buffaloes activated infielder Shuhei Fukuda, who emerged as their regular second baseman in 2019, and outfielder Steven Moya. Both played key roles in what can only be described as a team win. Fukuda was the only Buffalo to score more than one run, while seven different players drove in one each, and five relievers combined for five scoreless innings in support of starter Tsubasa Sakakibara.
Moya who was 14-for-39 with eight walks in the pitcher-friendly Western League drove in Orix’s first run with a smash off the glove of first baseman Sho Nakata that he legged out for a fourth-inning RBI double. Buffaloes catcher Kenya Wakatsuki homered to tie it 2-2 in the fifth.
Singles by Masataka Yoshida and Moya put runners on the corners with two outs, but one of manager Norifumi Nishimura’s favorite plays, the delayed double steal of home backfired when catcher Shingo Usami faked a throw to second and caught Yoshida off third base.
Sakakibara’s trouble with the walk this season haunted him again. Two of the seven runners he handed free passes to in his four-plus innings scored to give the Fighters a 2-0 lead. A first-inning leadoff walk, a sacrifice and a Kensuke Kondo single opened the scoring. Taishi Ota cashed in a run with a single in the third following a pair of two-out walks.
After six serviceable innings from Arihara (1-5) things went sideways in the seventh.
Mune opened with a single and Wakatsuki doubled him to third. Ryoichi Adachi singled to break the tie, and No. 9 hitter Hayato Nishiura doubled in Wakatsuki from third. Arihara was yanked afte getting his first out on a liner to third, and Fukuda singled in a run. Yoshida delivered a sac fly, and Adam Jones doubled in Fukuda off Kazutomo Iguchi, the third Fighters pitcher of the inning. Moya walked before Mune made the final out.
Tyler Higgins and Brandon Dickson each worked around a single to pitch a scoreless inning and close it out.
Arihara, who had aspired to pitch in the majors next year, allowed six runs on 10 hits. He struck out six without issuing a walk.
Tamura, Marines get Ishikawa his 1st win
Tatsuhiro Tamura twice put Lotte in front, the second time for good with a two-out, two-run bases-loaded single that made a winner out of the Marines’ Opening Day starter, Ayumu Ishikawa (1-2), in a 5-4 come-from-behind victory over the Rakuten Eagles at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Eagles right-hander Takahiro Norimoto (3-3), who also pitched on Opening Day for his club, had his splitter working better than it has all season when he struck out two in a 1-2-3 first, but after that he stopped missing bats and what started as a blitzkrieg became a war of attrition between the two starters.
Tamura’s second-inning double plated the game’s first run, but Ryosuke Tatsumi’s third-inning leadoff homer tied it, and back-to-back doubles by former Marines captain Daichi Suzuki and Eigoro Mori put the Eagles in front. It stayed that way until the roof caved in on Norimoto in the sixth.
Hiromi Oka drew a leadoff walk, and Leonys Martin was hit by a pitch. Some poor base running cost the Marines an out and a run when Oka was gunned down trying to score from second on a drive to the wall in right. A sac fly from Seiya Inoue, however, tied it. A single and a walk loaded the bases for Tamura. A 3-2 fastball down the pipe was shot back through the box and into center to put the Marines in front.
Yudai Fujioka followed with an RBI single off lefty Wataru Karashima. Former Eagle Frank Herrmann surrendered two runs in the eighth on a Yasuhito Uchida home run, but Naoya Masuda earned his 10th save with a scoreless ninth.
Norimoto allowed five runs on six hits, three walks and a hit batsman over six innings. He struck out six.
Rookie Marines cleanup hitter Hisanori Yasuda continued to do what he’s done all season, hit rockets. He went 3-for-3 with a double and a walk.
Enter the ‘Sands Man’ as Jerry saves Tigers
Tigers left fielder Jerry Sands made a game-saving catch in the 10th-inning to start an inning-ending double play, depriving the DeNA BayStars of their chance to win as Hanshin held on for a 3-3 tie at Koshien Stadium.
With two on and one out in the 10th, the final inning allowed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Tigers outfield was playing in as is customarily done in Japan to cut off the run at the plate, when Yamato Maeda drove a ball that looked like it would get over Sands’ head for at least a one-run double.
But the former Dodger, who came within a foot of denying the BayStars the tying run with a diving catch in the seventh, hauled it in. The relay throw was on the money to double the runner off second.
Tigers catcher Ryutaro Umeno opened the scoring with a three-run home run in a fourth inning in which BayStars pitcher Taiga Kamichatani gave his outfielders a workout.
Sands’ drive was caught off the wall by center fielder Takayuki Kajitani for the second out, while right fielder Tyler Austin leaped for a long drive but failed to haul in a double off the bat of Yusuke Oyama. After Justin Bour walked, Kamichatani missed up with a cutter away and Umeno hit it off the end of the bat to right center. Kajitani gave chase but he would have needed a ticket to catch this one.
Austin became the second BayStar with a hit off side-armer Koyo Aoyagi when he smoked a grounder past first to open the sixth with a double. He went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout to put the visitors on the board.
Austin ran full speed into the right field wall in the bottom of the inning trying to catch a Justin Bour drive that went for a double but stayed in the game as Kamichatani stranded two to keep it close and allow the BayStars to tie it in the seventh.
Toshihiro Miyazaki opened with a double, and with one out and two on, Koki Yamashita batted for Kamichatani and singled in a run when Sands dove but fell just short of making the catch in left. Aoyagi was pulled after 90 pitches and exciteable right-hander Kosuke Baba took over. Baba retired Kajitani for the first time all night by fanning him on six pitches.
With two outs, Austin lined a good 3-2 fastball past third to tie it.
Tigers pitcher Joe Gunkel nearly gave the game away in the eighth, when he surrendered three singles, but he made a terrific catch on a line drive and was able to shot put the ball to first to complete a double play that allowed him to strand two runners.
Giants get past Carp rookie
After a wild but hitless three innings against the Yomiuri Giants, Hiroshima Carp rookie Masato Morishita decided to focus on throwing strikes and it proved to be his downfall in a 2-1 loss at Tokyo Dome.
Morishita (2-2) survived five walks and a hit batsman over three scoreless innings. With a one-run lead in the fourth after Ryoma Nishikawa’s second home run in two nights, the rookie threw strikes, and the Giants hit them.
Naoki Yoshikawa’s compact swing on a 1-2 fastball opened the door with one out. After a sacrifice by starting pitcher Seishu Hatake, Yoshiyuki Kamei also stayed compact and smashed an 0-1 fastball away up the middle for an RBI single.
Hayato Sakamoto mashed an 0-2 inside fastball for another single. Yoshihiro Maru turned on a 2-1 cutter and lashed it for a single and a 2-1 lead.
Hatake was ejected in the fifth for a dangerous pitch, when Carp catcher Tsubasa Aizawa failed to duck a fastball and it glanced off the top of his helmet.
These ejections are automatic, but he nearly got out of the way, leading one to wonder that if the hitter had better reflexes, Hatake’s pitch would not have struck the batter in the head, and thus wouldn’t have been classified as a “kikenkyu” and he wouldn’t have been ejected.
Viciedo rescues Dragons, Ono
Dayan Viciedo made it a one-run game with a two-run fourth-inning double, and singled in the tying run in a two-run sixth as the Chunichi Dragons came from behind to beat the Yakult Swallows 5-3 at Nagoya Dome.
Dragons lefty Yudai Ono (1-3) allowed one base runner through three innings, a one-out solo home run to Yasutaka Shiomi. But a one-out walk in the fourth was followed by a straight high fastball to 20-year-old slugger Munetaka Murakami, who belted his sixth home run.
With one out and two on in the bottom of the inning, Viciedo drove a ball to the wall in center that Kotaro Yamasaki leaped for but missed to make it a 3-2 game.
Swallows rookie Daiki Yoshida allowed two runs on two walks and three hits over five innings but did not figure in the decision. Thirty-five-year-old lefty Masato Nakazawa entered in the sixth and allowed both batters he faced to reach. After Viciedo tied it, Toshiki Abe drove in the go-ahead run.
Ono completed the game, striking out 10, walking two and allowing five hits.
Free-agent eligible Ono claims not to think
Chunichi Dragons lefty Yudai Ono on Friday amassed the necessary service time to file for domestic free agency this autumn and played his part in the accompanying media ritual to perfection.
When NPB informs news outlets that a player earns the right to file durning the next filing period, reporters due their duty and ask the individual about his plans for the future.
Ono then read his lines to perfection: “I haven’t given any thought to things happening down the road. My priority is to concentrate on the season.”
The famous exception to this ritual, Koji Uehara, who three days after securing his rights to international free agency told the media he would leave for the major leagues at the end of the season, lost his next three starts to start the 2008 season 0-4.
To be fair, Uehara’s body was not up to being a starter anymore. He had saved 32 games the year before but disliked being a reliever. It was only out of consideration for his service to the team that he was allowed another shot at the rotation. But after three more poor starts, he was not given another opportunity to start for four months.
Buffaloes call up Moya, Dragons drop Ishikawa
The Orix Buffaloes activated outfielder Steven Moya on Friday, a day after first baseman Aderlin Rodriguez was deactivated after being hit by a pitch.
Moya is in his third season. He played in 64 games for the Buffaloes last season after a trade brought him over from the Chunichi Dragons. The Buffaloes also activated Shuhei Fukuda, who became their regular second baseman last season. Fukuda has yet to play on the first team this year but was dynamite at the plate in his four Western League games.
Meanwhile, the Dragons have deactivated third baseman Takaya Ishikawa. He was with the first team while captain Shuhei Takahashi was deactivated due to pain in his left hamstring.
Although the 19-year-old Ishikawa has begun to look confident and assertive at the plate, Takahashi’s return means he is being sent down to amass playing time