Yamamoto outduels rookie Kawano
Yoshinobu Yamamoto (3-0) struck out a career-high 13 after getting an early lead and some big plays behind him and needed it all to outlast rookie southpaw Ryusei Kawano (0-2) in the Orix Buffaloes’ 2-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Making less use of his cutter than usual but with that same electric rise in his fastball and a good splitter and generally good location, Yamamoto needed little help from his fielders through the first five innings at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
The Buffaloes had two early chances to score off Kawano, the Fighters’ top draft pick last autumn. After two one-out walks in the first, Adam Jones hit a hard grounder to short for an easy double play.
Some good hitting by Takahiro Okada produced a leadoff single in the second, but after Aderlin Rodriguez struck out and third baseman Christian Villanueva snared a hard liner for the second out, things were not looking up. Reserve infielder Tatsuya Yamaashi, rewarded with a start after coming off the bench on Saturday and singling to lead off Orix’s winning rally, put a good swing on a Kawano changeup and drove it to center for an RBI double.
Buffaloes shortstop Ryoichi Adachi then lined a hanging curve to center to make it 2-0. There wasn’t a lot left in the inning, but Adachi made sure that would be it by wandering off first base and getting tagged out 1-3-4.
Adachi is one of those players who has always had outstanding tools, especially on defense, but who has been dogged by inconsistent play. He has missed time with a serious illness, but he’s also established a reputation as a player whose concentration wanders.
But with the exception of his TOOTBLAN in the second, he had a huge game with three hits and three defensive gems at short that secured the victory. Those became necessary when Kawano hung in and worked more aggressively than he had in his previous starts.
In the sixth, however, it became clear this game was going to be tougher than it appeared as Yamamoto seemed unable to produce the same spin he had earlier and more of his pitches were getting hit hard.
It started with Shingo Usami’s one-out single on a 3-2 fastball that Yamamoto left up. Usami rifled it into center, although Yamamoto waved at it as it whistled over his head. Yamamoto’s next pitch also might have done him bodily harm, but he got his glove on it. Kazunari Ishii’s liner spilled out, but Yamamoto was still able to get a force at second.
After a stolen base, Haruki Nishikawa’s flare to shallow right fell in for an RBI single. The Fighters might have scored again in the seventh, but Adachi and Yamamoto didn’t give them the chance.
Adachi backhanded a grounder deep in the hole to nail the leadoff man. He then ranged to his left and fired across his body for the second out, and Yamamoto dispatched the final batter with a strikeout.
Villanueva, who added another web gem in the fifth inning, led off the Fighters’ eighth with a single. Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama, who used to order more sacrifices than anyone in Japan, slipped back into his old habits and played for a tie on the road. He sent a pinch-hitter up to sacrifice, but Kenshi Sugiya popped his bunt to catcher Kenya Wakatsuki, who caught Takuya Nakashima off first for a double play.
Adachi then finished off the inning when Usami grounded up the middle. Going to his left, Adachi spun and threw in the air to nail the runner for the final out.
Yamamoto allowed four singles but no walks in a 119-pitch effort that was the PL’s first complete-game victory of the season.
Kawano lasted 7-1/3 innings but was fortunate to hold the Buffaloes to two runs after giving up eight hits and three walks. He left after loading the bases for Jones. But when the game was primed to slip out of control, right-hander Kazutomo Iguchi did a superb job. A two-pitch pitcher, Iguchi popped up Jones on the second splitter he threw him, and punched out Okada who watched two-straight fastballs on the outside corner.
Hawks’ Ishikawa mows down Eagles
Right-hander Shuta Ishikawa (2-0) struck out nine of the first 10 batters he faced and didn’t allow a base runner until the fifth inning for the SoftBank Hawks in their 6-1 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Ishikawa allowed a run on two hits without walking a batter. With a 3-0 fifth-inning lead, he gave up a leadoff single to Hideto Asamura and an RBI double to Stefen Romero.
Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi (1-3) struck out nine over six innings. The right-hander surrendered six runs on eight hits and a walk. After retiring the first two batters in the first inning, Yuki Yanagita took him deep to the home run terrace in left for an opposite-field home run and his eighth homer of the season.
Kenji Akashi went 3-for-4 and scored twice, while Takuya Kai had a two-run sixth-inning single and a second-inning sacrifice fly that made it 2-0.
Lions’ Kuriyama rocks Marines again
Takumi Kuriyama went 2-for-2 with an RBI double, a three-run homer and two walks for the Seibu Lions in their 8-5 win over the Lotte Marines at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Kuriyama doubled in the opening run in the second inning for Seibu off Jose Flores (0-1), who was making his first-team debut.
After the Marines scored twice in the second against submarine right-hander Kaito Yoza, Shuta Tonosaki doubled in two runs to retake the lead and scored on Kuriyama’s third home run of the season and second of the series.
Flores, who retired the Lions in order in the first, allowed six runs on seven hits and two walks over three innings. He struck out five. Yoza allowed four runs in 4-2/3 innings, and last year’s bullpen workhorse, Katsunori Hirai (2-0) earned the win in relief for 1-1/3 perfect innings.
Kaima Taira, new import Reed Garrett and closer Tatsushi Masuda wrapped it up. Cory Spangenberg went 2-for-4 for the Lions with his third home run, a two-run shot.
The Marines’ Brandon Laird went 2-for-5 and drove in two runs, on a fifth-inning double and a ninth-inning single.
Swallows luck into 1st place
The Yakult Swallows moved into first place in the Central League with a 3-2 win over the Yomiuri Giants made possible when Gerardo Parra’s unfamiliarity with Japan’s rules turned a run-scoring groundout into an inning-ending double play.
Double play, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo
Trailing 3-2 in the sixth with one out and runners on the corners, Ginjiro Sumitani grounded to short. Alcides Escobar threw to second baseman Tetsuto Yamada for the force on Parra at second.
Parra slid to the bag and upended Yamada and tipped him over when he rose out of his slide. Yamada, who had virtually no chance of throwing out Sumitani at first was knocked over as the run scored.
Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu requested a video review of Parra’s slide to determine whether it was legal or not. The result of the review was an inning-ending double play.
“When the batter hits a possible double play ball, runners who appear to intentionally interfere with a fielder trying to make a throw by the manner in which they slide will be ruled out as will the batter.”–Official Baseball Rules 6.01
Former second baseman Yutaka Takagi, speaking as an analyst on Fuji TV’s “Pro Yakyu News” said, “Parra went straight to the bag. Maybe he over-slid a little. What sold that (umpire’s) decision was Yamada’s performance. That’s an awfully difficult double play to make but by tumbling he get’s a double play. That’s a good defensive play.”
Swallows starter Hirotoshi Takanashi (1-1) earned the win after allowing two runs over five innings. He got a huge out in the third, when he caught one of Japan’s most disciplined hitters, Yoshihiro Maru looking at a called third strike with two on and two out to protect a 2-0 lead.
Munetaka Murakami doubled in Norichika Aoki in the first off Giants starter Toshiki Sakurai. Aoki homered for the second-straight day to make it 2-0 in the third.
After Hiroyuki Nakajima homered to trim the Swallows’ lead to a run in the fourth, Takanashi singled for the second time and scored on a Murakami single.
Oyama, Iwasada lead Tigers past BayStars
Cleanup hitter Yusuke Oyama went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs, while starter Yuta Iwasada (2-1) worked eight scoreless innings in a 2-1 win over the DeNA BayStars at Koshien Stadium.
Iwasada struck out eight and walked two, while allowing three hits. BayStars starter Kentaro Taira (2-1) allowed a run over six innings on one walk and six hits. He struck out six.
Edwin Escobar worked a scoreless seventh for the BayStars but Spencer Patton surrendered an insurance run on two hits and a walk in the eighth.
The Tigers, who had deactivated closer Kyuji Fujikawa earlier in the day, turned to Robert Suarez, who had last saved a game in 2016 when he was with the Pacific League’s SoftBank Hawks.
A walk and an RBI single by Jose Lopez made it a one-run game again, but Suarez retired former batting champ Toshiro Miyazaki on a fly to center to end it.
Endo fans 9 as Carp hammer Dragons
Right-hander Atsushi Endo struck out nine while allowing a run over six innings as the Hiroshima Carp beat the Chunichi Dragons 7-2 at Nagoya Dome.
The 21-year-old Endo (1-2) walked two and gave up five hits after allowing 16 runs over 13 innings in his first three starts. The Dragons’ starter, 23-year-old Kodai Umetsu (2-2) allowed four runs over six innings.
Jose Pirela, who opened Saturday’s game with a home run for Hiroshima, singled and scored in the first and third, and walked and scored in the seventh. Carp right fielder Seiya Suzuki went 2-for-4 with a double a run and three RBIs.
Tigers deactivate Fujikawa
The Hanshin Tigers deactivated 39-year-old right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa on Sunday, a day after the closer saying his right arm is not fit. On Saturday, the former Cub and Ranger surrendered three ninth-inning runs in a 4-2 loss to the DeNA BayStars.
“I’v been asked to hold down an important role, and in my current condition cannot contribute to the team,” he said in a statement released by the team.
Meanwhile, the Yakult Swallows have deactivated veteran catcher Motohiro Shima due to a fracture of the navicular bone in his right foot. The longtime captain of the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles, Shima moved to the Swallows over the winter.
Shima suffered a broken bone in his right hand in March when he was hit by a pitch.
Matsuzaka has back surgery
Daisuke Matsuzaka has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his back and was discharged from an Ibaraki Prefecture hospital on Sunday the Nikkan Sports reported. The 39-year-old two-time World Baseball Classic MVP this season rejoined his first pro club, the Seibu Lions of Japan’s Pacific League, for the first time in 14 years.
He started the season on the Lions’ Eastern League farm club, and as his innings and pitch counts increased, he began to feel numbness in his right hand and the decision was made to have surgery. He is expected to be out two to three months, and is aiming toward returning to action this season.
Tazawa signs with independent club
Right-hander Junichi Tazawa has joined the Musashino Heat Bears of the independent Baseball Challenge league, the Hochi Shimbun reported Sunday. Nippon Professional Baseball’s 12 teams have reached an ungentlemanly agreement to not sign Tazawa for a period of two years after he leaves the U.S. because he declined to enter NPB’s draft and instead chose to sign with the Boston Red Sox.
The “Tazawa Rule” is not in fact a rule but an agreement, and nothing prevents teams from ignoring it. It was quickly written after Tazawa indicated he would sign overseas and just days before he finalized his deal with the Red Sox. Because Japan’s national team, Samurai Japan, is organized not by Japan’s national federation but by NPB, Tazawa has been blacklisted from playing for his country because he exercised his right to work where he chose.
Tazawa entered this season on a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds, but was released in March.