Teruaki Sato hit his fifth home run of the spring for the Hanshin Tigers in their 9-6 win at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium over the Yakult Swallows on Tuesday.
Twenty-year-old Swallows outfielder Taiki Hamada hit his fourth. Hamada, a fourth pick in 2018, has hit 19 homers in 609 minor league plate appearances, but little else from his stat profile would suggest he’s actually a prospect, but one never knows.
While players habitually who crush minor league pitching in a large sample size virtually never fail at the top level given enough chances, a number of stars have had great careers after really poor minor league performances. Unless they’ve failed miserably in over 1,000 minor league at-bats, I wouldn’t be too quick too judge.
One of Hamaya’s weaknesses so far has been strikeouts, and he has no whiffed just once in 29 spring plate appearances.
Neftali Soto, the article pointed out, led the preseason with six home runs in 2018, then led the CL in his first season with 41, but he’s the only in the past nine seasons.
Jon Edwards and Robert Suarez each worked an inning of relief for the Tigers, with Edwards allowing a run on two hits and a walk. Robert’s older brother Albert gave up six innings in his three-inning start for the Swallows. He surrendered Jefry Marte’s fourth home run of the spring.
What do preseason homers mean?
Not much, former Lotte Marines catcher Tomoya Satozaki said in a Nikkan Sports story published Tuesday morning about young Mr. Sato’s home run hoopla.
“How many preseason home run champs have gone on to win the home run title? How about batting champs?” Satozaki asked. “It’s different if you’re an established player with a track record, but for a rookie or a new import, those spring numbers don’t tell you much.”
At MetLife Dome, Wataru Matsumoto struck out five and walked two over 6-2/3 innings as the Seibu Lions beat the Hiroshima Carp 1-0. Reed Garrett worked a scoreless ninth for the Lions.
Masato Morishita, the CL’s 2020 rookie of the year, allowed an unearned run over 4-2/3 innings.
In Shizuoka, Steven Moya doubled and singled, and Adam Jones doubled in three trips to the plate for the Orix Buffaloes in their 5-3 win over the Rakuten Eagles. Alan Busenitz worked a scoreless inning of relief for Rakuten.
At Vantelin (Nagoya) Dome, Sawamura Award winner Yudai Ono allowed a run over five innings in a 6-1 win over the Yomiuri Giants. The lefty struck out four, walked one and allowed four hits.
Angel Sanchez started for the Giants. He struck out three, walked two, hit one as he allowed three runs on four hits over 5-1/3 innings. Flame-throwing Brazilian Thyago Vieira struck out two and walked one in the eighth, when Chunichi failed to put the ball in play.
At Sapporo Dome, second-year lefty Ryusei Kawano allowed a run over six innings while striking out four, walking two and hitting a batter and allowing two hits for the Nippon Ham Fighters in their 3-2 win.
At PayPay Dome, a party of five SoftBank Hawks pitchers combined to strike out 12 in a 1-0 win over the DeNA BayStars. The one pitcher we’d have expected to strike out a batter for the Hawks, closer Yuito Mori, didn’t.
Sasaki to start
The Marines announced Tuesday that Roki Sasaki would start Lotte’s final preseason game on Sunday at home against the DeNA BayStars, Sponichi Annex reported.
The 19-year-old Sasaki, who did not pitch at all in a game last year after he turned pro, faced three batters in his first game with the Marines and struck out one batter, while touching 95 mph.
“Next time will be on Sunday and he’ll go two innings,” manager Tadahito Iguchi said. “Going forward, we hope to stretch him out to three innings.”
The news came the same day the team began selling shirts and towels commemorating Sasaki’s debut, with his image and the words “The beginning.”
“I think it would be great if I’m allowed to try out different things,” said Sasaki, who added that the promotion was a surprise.
“I’m really happy to be imagine fans holding up those towels.”
Giants to test fans
As a kid, my favorite ballpark promotion, or at least the one we got taken to every year at Candlestick was Bat Day. Thinking back on those days, it’s hard to imagine having much enthusiasm for the Yomiuri Giants’ new promotion, “Coronavirus Test Day.”
OK, it’s not called that, but according to Sankei Sports, the team announced it will provide testing for the coronavirus to fans attending their April 25 home game at Tokyo Dome against the Hiroshima Carp.
If attendance is limited to 5,000 fans, the tests will be supplied to season ticket holders eligible for admission. If more fans are admitted, some fans using other tickets will be eligible to receive a free antibody test kit in the mail, or if a PCR test is desired, a voucher for a free test.
Kota Futaki (8-3) had one hiccup in his seven-inning stint, Stefen Romero’s ice-breaking three-run fourth-inning home run, but allowed nothing else as the Lotte Marines snapped a four-game losing streak to beat the Rakuten Eagles 6-3 at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium on Saturday.
The win gave the second-place Marines a two-game lead in the fight for the Pacific League’s final playoff spot over the Seibu Lions, who were busted up 11-2 by the SoftBank Hawks. The Eagles, in fourth, are another half-game further back.
Futaki allowed only one base runner before the fourth and retired the last 10 batters he faced after hanging a 2-2 pitch that Romero blasted into the left-field stands for his 24th home run.
Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi (1-6) allowed four runs over 5-1/3 innings. D.J. Johnson got Rakuten out of the five run inning, retiring all five batters he faced, while J.T. Chargois also stamped his initials on the proceedings in a scoreless ninth.
HIrokazu Sawamura, the loser on Friday, worked a scoreless eighth for the Marines, while Naoya Masuda recorded 30 saves for the first time in seven years.
Hawks tattoo Lions
Shuta Ishikawa (10-3) allowed a run over six innings, and Kenji Akashi doubled twice, tripled, singled scored three runs and drove in four in the SoftBank Hawks’ 11-2 win over the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome.
Seibu’s Ernesto Mejia enlivened the game in the seventh inning by scoring after hitting his first triple in six years.
Kawano ends win drought
Nippon Ham Fighters rookie Ryosei Kawano (3-4) allowed a run over six innings in a 6-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes and southpaw Andrew Albers (4-8) at Sapporo Dome. Kawano, who hadn’t won since August, gave up three singles. The lefty struck out three without issuing a walk.
Okamoto powers Sugano to victory
Kazuma Okamoto hit his Central League-leading 29th home run, a three-run shot that bumped his league-best RBI total to 89 as ace Tomoyuki Sugano (14-2) allowed a run over five innings despite giving up five hits, walking two and hitting two in the 6-4 win at Tokyo Dome.
Rubby De La Rosa worked the ninth for his 17th save.
Naomasa Yokawa gave the Hanshin Tigers the early lead with a first-inning grand slam and added a solo shot in a 13-5 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium, although his home runs might not have been as memorable as two of the three hit by the BayStars.
Jose Lopez’s fourth-inning solo shot off Takumi Akiyama (10-3) was his 11th of the season and was his 1,000th hit in Japan. He is the 14th imported player to reach the milestone and only the third player to reach that figure in both NPB and MLB. The other two are Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui.
Lopez is the 14th import to reach 1,000 hits in Japan and the fourth Venezuelan after Alex Ramirez, Bobby Marcano and Alex Cabrera.
Tyler Austin reached 20 homers in the 61st game of his debut season, while Yamato Maeda took former teammate, retiring Tigers reliever Kyuji Fujikawa out in the ninth for two runs.
Jefry Marte and Jerry Sands also helped power the Hanshin onslaught. Marte went 2-for-2 with two runs and three walks, while Sands went 3-for-5 with two doubles, two runs and two RBIs.
Japan’s 1,000-hit foreign imports through Oct. 31, 2020 and the next guy
Note:This table has been updated. It originally omitted Wally Yonamine, Chico Barbon and Matt Murton.
Aizawa, Carp get ‘lucky’
Tsubasa Aizawa’s three-run eighth-inning double brought the Hiroshima Carp from behind against a lefty whose last name means luck in Japanese, Hiroto Fuku (5-5) in a 9-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Nagoya Dome.
Active roster moves 10/31/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/10
Hanshin Tigers lefty Haruto Takahashi overpowered the Yomiuri Giants hitters en route to an 11-0 demolition of the Central League leaders at Koshien Stadium.
Takahashi, who was unable to start the season with the team due to shoulder issues, made his debut on Thursday. Relying mostly on his four-seamer, a two-seamer and a cutter, the 24-year-old was able to pinpoint the bottom of the zone and jam batters inside.
He struck out 11 over seven innings, gave up three hits on ground balls, a walk. Hayato Sakamoto’s fifth-inning fly out was the only ball the Giants managed to hit into the air.
Leading 1-0 against Cristopher Mercedes (2-4) Ryutaro Umeno walked with one out and Seiya Kinami singled. The pair executed a double steal and reserve utility man Kai Ueda doubled them both in.
Joe Gunkel worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and the Tigers broke the bank with seven runs in the home half, started by a Jerry Sands leadoff single. Justin Bour doubled in one run and Masahiro Nakatani delivered a pinch-hit grand slam to complete the celebrations.
Born to run or pitch
It’s no secret that Giants manager Tatsunori Hara loves his pinch-runners probably as much as any manager in Japanese baseball history. One year when he managed the CL all-star team, Hara famously rewarded his all-time favorite pinch-runner, Takanori Suzuki, with an undeserved spot on the CL squad.
On Thursday, with one out in the bottom of the eighth and his team now losing by 11 runs, Hara probably figured there was nowhere to make use of his favorite toy except to put him on the mound.
Masuda retired two of the three batters he faced in the heart of the Tigers order with a fastball that maxed out at 85.7 mph.
Since Japanese teams rarely have more than one or two starting pitchers taking up space on their active rosters and since games–in non-pandemic seasons–are limited to 10 innings, and teams typically–although not next week–have Mondays off, this is pretty rare. The last position player to appear in a sanctioned NPB game was Akihito Igarashi on June 3, 2000 for the Orix BlueWave and their iconoclastic skipper Akira Ogi–the same guy who had Ichiro Suzuki pitch in an all-star game.
Onuki, BayStars add to Dragons’ misery
Shinichi Onuki (4-2) worked seven innings and two relievers completed the four-hitter as the DeNA BayStars downed the Chunichi Dragons 3-0 at Yokohama Stadium.
The shutout loss was the sixth of the season for the last-place Dragons, who fell to 0-6 against DeNA this season.
Dragons lefty Takahiro Matsuba (2-2), who has been enjoying a career renaissance this year following his trade from the Orix Buffaloes, allowed three runs over four-plus innings.
BayStars reserve infielder Daisuke Nakai marked a rare start by homering in his first at-bat to lead off the second. Kazuki Kamizato homered to open the third and singled home Takayuki Kajitani in the fifth to complete the scoring.
Kenta Ishida worked a 1-2-3 eighth and Kazuki Mishima did the same in the ninth to record his fourth save since he began filling in for closer Yasuaki Yamasaki on July 29.
One of the bright spots for the Dragons was their top draft pick from 2018, infielder Akira Neo. Although he went 0-for-2 and remains hitless for his career, Neo put the ball in play twice, made a good catch in left and threw a runner out at the plate.
Another tough outing for Carp lefty Johnson
Hiroshima lefty Kris Johnson allowed five runs over three innings in the Carp’s 9-5 loss to the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Johnson, coming off one of his two quality starts this year, gave up seven hits and walked two while striking out four. His teammates took him off the hook on three home runs by Ryuhei Matsuyama, Ryosuke Kikuchi and Hisayoshi Chono and tied it in the seventh on a Seiya Suzuki RBI single.
Swallows lefty Keiji Takahashi started and allowed four runs over five innings in his worst start of the season. Scott McGough (3-0) surrendered a run on two seventh-inning singles but earned the win after Yakult scored three times in the bottom of the inning.
Journeyman reserve catcher Suguru Ino tripled against Kazuki Yabuta (0-2) and scored on a sacrifice fly. Alcides Escobar singled and two more runs came in on back-to-back two-out doubles RBI by Tomotaka Sakaguchi and Yasutaka Shiomi.
Matsui goes 5 in loss to Hawks
One of the big moves this spring for the Rakuten Eagles was taking left-handed closer Yuki Matsui and putting him back in the starting rotation.
Making his first appearance in over a month after two poor outings, Matsui (0-1) allowed three runs on eight hits and a walk in a 3-1 loss to the SoftBank Hawks at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
The diminutive southpaw was victimized by some tough hops in the infield that contributed to two of the Hawks’ runs.
On a bullpen day, Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo shook up his lineup, batting a pair of struggling big hitters, Nobuhiro Matsuda and Wladimir Balentien one, two, respectively, in his order.
The only contribution either made at the plate was when Matsuda made poor contact for an infield single in the third, allowing Yuki Yanagita to drive in the tying run with a single.
Rookie Yugo Bando (1-1) the second of seven Hawks pitchers, worked three scoreless innings to earn his first career win.
Buffaloes’ Yamazaki halts Marines
Sachiya Yamasaki (2-1) worked six scoreless innings for the Orix Buffaloes in their 3-1 win over the Lotte Marines at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Yamasaki allowed three singles and a walk while striking out four. Marines starter Daiki Iwashita (3-3) walked five batters during his six innings on the mound and one of the three runs he allowed was unearned.
With a two-run lead in the eighth, Tyler Higgins worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and Brandon Dickson a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save.
Fighters rookie Kawano earns 2nd win
Lefty Ryusei Kawano got an early three-run lead and allowed two runs over five innings for the Nippon Ham Fighters in their 5-3 win over the Seibu Lions at Seibu Dome.
Kawano (2-3) walked three and allowed four hits, including a solo home run by Ernesto Mejia, his first of the season. The lefty struck out five.
Haruki Nishikawa singled to open the bottom of the first off rookie Lions submariner Kaito Yoza (2-3), who walked Kensuke Kondo with one out. Sho Nakata doubled off the wall in left. Taishi Ota, a huge thorn in the Lions’ paw this season, doubled Nakata home to make it 3-0.
Hawks resume farm team activities
The SoftBank Hawks said Thursday that with the exception of six individuals, baseball activities have resumed at their minor league facility in Chikugo, Fukuoka Prefecture.
Even so, the team’s Western League farm games at Tama Stadium Chikugo against the Chunichi Dragons on Aug. 7 and 8, have been postponed. Following the announcement of Hasegawa’s test result on Saturday, the Pacific League game set for the Seibu Lions and Hawks in Fukuoka was also postponed.
Four players who were determined by local health officials to have had close contact with either outfielder Yuya Hasegawa, whose positive test for coronavirus was revealed Saturday, and a rehab staff member, whose result was announced Wednesday, have been ex
The rehab group shares the organization’s minor league facility with the Western League farm team and the Hawks’ third team, and for that reason, minor league activities have been suspended.
Umetsu works out with rehab group
Chunichi Dragons right-hander Kodai Umetsu reported to the team’s rehab group at Nagoya Stadium on Wednesday apparently due to discomfort in his right elbow, the Chunichi Sports reported.
The 23-year-old threw a career-high 10 innings and 127 pitches in his shutout on Sunday at Nagoya Dome in a 0-0 tie with the Yakult Swallows. He has not thrown since.
Although his condition is said not to be serious, it comes at a time when the team is in last place, eight games below .500 and two games into a stretch of nine games in nine days.
The Yakult Swallows deactivated superstar second baseman Tetsuto Yamada on Monday. It was the first time he was dropped since Aug. 10, 2016, after he was hit in the back by a pitch that sent his career into a two-year tailspin.
Yamada had sat out the games from July 15 to 17 and was out again on July 23.
“He’s greatly fatigued, so we’re resting him,” Swallows manager Shingo Takatsu said according to Kyodo News in Japanese.
The Swallows also dropped veteran outfielder Yuhei Takai.
Following his least effective outing as a pro on Sunday, the Nippon Ham Fighters deactivated rookie left-hander Ryusei Kawano.
For the second-straight week, journeyman right-hander Akira Niho got the job done, allowing a run in five-plus innings, while the SoftBank Hawks bullpen provided four-plus innings of solid relief in a 6-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters and their rookie lefty Ryusei Kawano.
Niho was not nearly as sharp as a week ago, but made enough good pitches to scatter six hits and three walks.
For the first time since his debut, Kawano (1-3) had a worse outing then the one before. His stuff has been fairly solid, but his first games looked like they were more about the confidence needed to go after good hitters in the strike zone.
Against the Hawks, it was more a case of lousy command, as he struggled to hit targets and ended up throwing a few poor pitches in the zone and then he had some poor luck in terms of poorly hit balls finding holes.
Kenta Imamiya, dropped into the leadoff spot, singled, doubled and walked against the rookie, scored three runs and drove in two. His two-run second-inning double off the first pitch from Kawano broke a 1-1 tie. Imamiya scored on a Yuki Yanagita sacrifice fly.
With two out and two on in the Fighters third, Niho got out of the inning by throwing an 0-2 ball in the zone that he might have wanted lower. Taishi Ota tagged it but it went for an out on the warning track.
Eagles salvage win against Buffaloes’ ace
The Rakuten Eagles salvaged a victory from their six-game home series against the Orix Buffaloes and their ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto in a 5-4 come-from-behind win at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Yamamoto had neither good command nor his best stuff, and the Rakuten Eagles scored four runs off him over six innings by taking their walks and by not trying to do too much when he came into the zone. All but two of the nine hits off him were to the pull field. Yamamoto gave up two walks, hit a batter and struck out six.
The Eagles lost their starter, Shoma Fujihira, when his seventh pitch hit Koji Oshiro in the head and he was automatically ejected. Both runners scored and Tomohiro Anraku allowed another in the first but kept the game from slipping away and left after three innings with the score 3-0. Sung Chia-hao allowed one run over two innings, during which time the Eagles tied it against Yamamoto.
Yamamoto loaded the bases in the sixth with two outs but did not allow a run. In the seventh, former closer Hirotoshi Masui walked the bases loaded in the sixth with one out, but Yudai Aranishi got out of it.
First-year import Tyler Higgins (1-1), who has been very effective this season, allowed the Eagles to grab their first lead on a leadoff walk to rookie Hiroto Kobukata, and a triple by veteran Eigoro Mogi.
The Buffaloes got the leadoff runner aboard in the ninth, when Alan Busenitz walked Ryoicihi Adachi. Manager Norifumi Nishimura who absolutely loves to sacrifice when he’s trailing on the road, did so. With two outs and first base open, tough left-handed-hitting slugger Masataka Yoshida was walked, and Busenitz got Adam Jones to groundout to short to earn his first save.
Lions pen proves too deadly for Marines
Takumi Kuriyama twice put the Seibu Lions in front with an RBI double, and four relievers each threw a perfect inning in a 4-2 come-from-behind win over the Lotte Marines at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.
The starters, a pair of journeymen lefties, Lotte’s Toshiya Nakamura and Seibu lefty Daiki Enokida pitched to a virtual stalemate over five innings.
Nakamura allowed only one run thanks to shortstop Kenta Chatani making a great play that prevented the fourth inning from getting out of hand.
Enokida allowed two runs before making his exit after a leadoff single in the sixth, but surrendered no more thanks to Katsunori Hirai (3-1) coming on and retiring all three batters he faced. He was followed by Kaima Taira, Reed Garrett and Tatsushi Masuda, who each worked 1-2-3 innings. Masuda recorded his ninth save.
Lotte’s 23-year-old right-hander Fumiya Ono (1-2) retired the first batter in the sixth, but a single and a Takeya Nakamura double tied it. Kuriyama, whose first double was the 350th of his career, followed with his second to make it 3-2.
Carp feast on BayStars relievers
Tsubasa Aizawa hit a pair of late home runs, including a ninth-inning tie-breaker off closer Yasuaki Yamasaki in the Hiroshima Carp’s 10-6 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.
It’s been a tough week for the BayStars, whose manager, Alex Ramirez, appeared to be the target of an organized media smear campaign. But since that nonsense started, the BayStars had lost one, tied one, and won two in convincing fashion. But on Sunday, Kentaro Taira worked seven scoreless innings and led 6-0 before things started to awry in the seventh.
The BayStars bullpen allowed two inherited runners to score in the eighth to make it a 6-3 game before coughing up another seven on their own.
Kenta Ishida gave up a sacrifice fly for the second out in the eighth, and Spencer Patton surrendered back-to-back home runs to Shota Dobayashi and Aizawa to make it a one-run game.
Yamasaki’s pitches didn’t look good. His sinking pitch he calls a two-seamer–that looks and acts like a splitter–was not dropping much, and his fastball looked straight.
A single and a walk was followed by a Seiya Suzuki putting a punishing swing on a center-cut fastball that probably damaged the padding in the center field wall and resulted in an RBI single. With one out and first base open, Dobayashi was intentionally walked and Aizawa smoked a “two-seamer” out to right.
“That’s part of the game. There’s nothing we can do about that,” Ramirez said afterward. “Taira did a tremendous job today. The relievers tried to do the best they could. The Hiroshima Carp hitters are very good.”
“They (Patton and Yamasaki) threw a lot of strikes. They’re good hitters. We lost the game with our best two guys on the mound. There’s nothing we can do about it.”
Yamasaki might be one of their best, but he has not been himself this year. He’s not getting guys to chase out of the zone, he’s not getting nearly as many swings and misses and is instead giving away much harder contact.
Quien es mas malo?
Anyone remember the Saturday Night Live game show parody in which Bill Murray hosted a latin-oriented program called “Quien es mas macho?” Well the bottom of the ninth made this game look like another version called “Quien es mas malo?” or “Who is the worst?” or rather whose bullpen is worst.
Ryuji Ichioka came in for the Carp and loaded the bases with one out, but a BayStars comeback was not to be.
Relief Dragons awaken sleeping Tigers
My podcast partner will no doubt be talking about this when we record our program for Monday, but since the first time Dragons lefty Hiroto Fuku gave up runs this season — on a second-straight day of work — John E. Gibson has been telling me that he hasn’t been good after pitching the day before.
Fuku, the loser on Sunday, when he blew a 3-2 lead by surrendering three runs, has allowed eight runs in his last two games when he pitched the day before. The previous four times he didn’t allow any runs.
Here are his results pitching after no game the previous day and on the second-straight day. On Saturday, the stocky lefty was lights out in a 1-0 Dragons win, but Sunday was a different story.
Fuku bukuro (grab bag)
Pitching after no game the day before
Pitching on the second-straight day
Tigers lefty Yuta Iwasada surrendered three runs, though only two were earned due to his throwing error, over four innings.
Dragons right-hander Kodai Umetsu had his second-best start of the season, giving up two runs, one earned, over six innings while striking out eight.
The Dragons broke through in the third after Umetsu singled to open the inning. A groundout and a throwing error put two on with one out. Toshiki Abe and Dayan Viciedo followed with back-to-back singles. Nobumasa Fukuda homered to make it 3-0 in the fourth.
The Tigers got on the board after rookie third baseman Takaya Ishikawa misjudged a hop for a two-out, two-base error. With two on, Koji Chickamoto singled in a run. Justin Bour’s sixth homer, a two-run shot off the left field fair pole made it a one-run game.
Fuku came on to face Chikamoto in the seventh with two outs and a runner on second. He surrendered a single up the middle. Tigers catcher Ryutaro Umeno, who singled to open the inning, has decent speed and runs the bases well, but was gunned down by a throw from center fielder Yohei Oshima on a good tag by catcher Ariel Martinez.
Unlike Mr. Gibson, I don’t see enough Dragons games to say what’s up with Fuku on second-straight games, but he was not locating today.
After getting a reprieve from the fielders, Fuku stayed in to pitch the eighth. Four of the five batters he faced reached, and even with a double play in the middle of that string, three of them scored in the five-run inning.
Chikamoto finished 4-for-5, while Umeno had three hits, and Yusuke Oyama blew out the candles on this one with a two-run, ninth-inning home run.
Giant Yoshikawa clubs Swallows
Naoki Yoshikawa capped a five-run first inning with his third home run in three games for the Yomiuri Giants in a 9-4 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Swallows starter Hirotoshi Takanashi (1-2) allowed six runs in 2-2/3 innings, while Giants starter Toshiki Sakurai (2-1) worked into the eighth inning to earn the win.
Four of the first seven Giants hitters reached base and the one who didn’t delivered a sacrifice fly.
Giants sign former Fighter Tanaka
The Yomiuri Giants on Sunday signed 26-year-old right-handed pitcher Toyoki Tanaka, who had been with the club on a non-roster developmental contract since the Giants saw him in a tryout last November.
The club was in need of pitchers after Saturday’s scheduled starter, Angel Sanchez, was scratched with discomfort in his right shoulder. Sanchez, and his replacement, former closer Hirokazu Sawamura, were both deactivated Sunday, while Tanaka was added to the active roster.
Tanaka was the fifth draft pick of the Fighters in 2015 and appeared in 31 first-team games for them from 2016 to 2018.
There were quips made when Hawks manager named Akira Niho to be the last man in his six-man starting pitching rotation. When the 30-year-old right-hander did as well as expected out of the gate, Kudo stuck with him, and on Sunday, Niho did what he was capable of walked away with a win after matching up with one of Japan’s best, Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Niho (2-2) threw six scoreless innings, and the SoftBank Hawks took advantage of their one chance against Yamamoto to leave Osaka’s Kyocera Dome with 3-2 win.
Niho escaped a two-out bases-loaded jam in the third when Adam Jones grounded into the final out.
After starting the Buffaloes cleanup hitter on the outside edge with his two-seam fastball, he left a slider up in the heart of the zone and then missed with a fastball inside. Jones fouled off the fat slider and was jammed by the 89-mph fastball on the hands.
Niho then retired eight of the last nine batters he faced before three good swings changed the game in the seventh.
Left-handed-hitting Seiji Uebayashi hit a high fastball away and sliced it into the left field corner for a leadoff double and the Hawks’ second hit of the game. Yuki Yanagita, who struggled against Yamamoto’s splitter in his second at-bat made some headway against it his third time up.
Yanagita survived a narrow escape when he grounded a splitter to first (again) only for it to bounce foul by inches. The next pitch, Yamamoto’s seventh to him, hung up and the left-handed-hitting slugger slammed it to the warning track in right for a tie-breaking double.
Akira Nakamura followed, and somehow pulled a fastball up and over the outside part of the plate and his drive just cleared the wall in right for his first home run of the year.
“I was waiting for something fast. It’s a confidence boost to be able to hit one of the best pitchers in baseball,” Nakamura said.
Submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi, the PL’s 2019 rookie of the year, whose been in relief this season, worked a scoreless seventh against the bottom of the Buffaloes order, but dependable lefty Livan Moinelo couldn’t locate in the eighth and ran into trouble.
The Cuban reliever surrendered a leadoff single before issuing three walks, forcing in a run, and bringing Jones to the plate with a chance to turn the game around.
Jones, who has seen precious few fastballs in the strike zone this season, fouled off an 0-1 heater and then chased and fouled off a curve out of the zone. Moinelo missed up high with a change up and Jones got under it, flying out to center to bring home a run.
The play resulted in the second out when Ryoichi Adachi took off for third and was tagged out on the throw from Yanagita in center when he over-slid the bag.
Hawks closer Yuito Mori worked a 1-2-3 ninth to record his fifth save.
Orix manager Norifumi Nishimura blamed the loss on failure to execute, pointing to a failed sacrifice in the third inning after Ryo Ota opened with a leadoff single.
“We had the failed bunt,” he said. “There are times when things will take a wrong turn if you don’t execute properly.”
Rookie Kawano earns 1st win
Rookie lefty Ryusei Kawano allowed two runs over eight innings to win his first game as a pro in the Nippon Ham Fighters’ 9-2 win over the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.
Sho Nakata’s three-run, third-inning home run capped a four-run outburst against right-hander Yuki Ariyoshi (1-1).
Kawano, who has shown good stuff since Day 1, has become more and more assertive in the strike zone with each passing day, and Sunday’s start was another step in that direction.
Through the early innings, Kawano, the Fighters’ top pick last autumn in NPB’s draft, tried to hit corners but was less hesitant about challenging hitters in the zone with his fastball and then making them look bad against his changeup.
With a 4-0 lead in the fourth, catcher Shingo Usami began setting his target squarely in the zone and Kawano responded to the encouragement.
Through seven innings, he allowed three base runners. He finished with seven strikeouts, two walks and four hits after allowing two eighth-inning runs on a Leonys Martin double. Brandon Laird went 2-for-4 in his old home park.
Former Lion Asamura flies with Eagles
HIdeto Asamura bounced back from two hitless games with two days worth of hits and four RBIs to lead the Rakuten Eagles’ comeback in a 9-5 win over his old team, the Seibu Lions, at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Stefen Romero opened the scoring with a solo homer off lefty Daiki Enokida, making his first start of the season, but Hotaka Yamakawa’s third home run in three days, a three-run third-inning shot off former Lions ace Takayuki Kishi made it 5-1 Seibu.
Former Lion (one can say that A LOT in Sendai) Asamura made it a 5-2 game in the third with his second hit, an RBI single that plated Daichi Suzuki.
Kishi was pulled after 2-13 innings, but the bullpen picked up the slack and Asamura hit his Japan-best 11th home run to lead off the sixth against Enokida. The Lions lefty was yanked after allowing three runs over five-plus innings.
Seibu’s bullpen workhorse Katsunori Hirai took over and worked around a hit batsman to keep it 5-3 through six. Eagles right-hander Alan Busenitz (1-0) worked a scoreless seventh, and Asamura tied it with a two-run single in the bottom of the inning.
Hirai (2-1), who led both leagues in games pitched last season with 81, allowed three runs on two walks, a hit batsman and six hits over one-plus inning of work. He was replaced by stocky Kaima Taira.
The right-hander, who struck out Romero on a 99.4 mph fastball after entering with no outs and the bases loaded, went into Asamura’s kitchen with a 1-2, 98 mph heater that brushed him back. Asamura, however, brushed that off and stroked a cutter away into right for a two-run single that tied it.
With two outs and the bases reloaded, Yasuhito Uchida homered off Taira to complete the Eagles’ comeback.
Okamoto, Giants burn BayStars closer in 9th
Pinch-runner Daiki Masuda stole second with one out in the ninth inning and scored the tying run from second on an infield singe before Kazuma Okamoto blasted a two-run home run in the Yomiuri Giants’ 5-3 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.
With a one-run lead in the ninth, Yasuaki Yamasaki (0-2) took the mound for the BayStars and surrendered a one-out single to Hayato Sakamoto. Pinch-runner Daiki Masuda stole second and with two outs, he gambled and was safe at home on Yoshihiro Maru’s grounder deep into the hold behind first.
BayStars manager Alex Ramirez yanked his closer, and Yuki Kuniyoshi served up an 0-1 fastball to Okamoto who drove it out well beyond the wall in right center for his ninth home run.
The BayStars’ Neftali Soto scored three runs and homered to tie it 2-2 in the third inning. Soto was hit by a pitch in the fifth and scored on a Jose Lopez double.
The Hiroshima Carp bullpen proved able to solve the Yakult Swallows once the game was tied and the bases loaded, which they did in both the ninth and 10th innings to finish in a 3-3 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
The visitors took a 2-0 lead into the seventh, but the heart of the Hiroshima attack found their third look at right-hander Hirotoshi Takanashi to their liking. After allowing just two hits and a walk through six innings, Takanashi gave up a single to Shota Dobayashi and back-to-back doubles by Seiya Suzuki and Ryuhei Matsuyama that tied it up.
Yugo Umeno got out of the inning but not before Tsubasa Aizawa singled in the go-ahead run. In the eighth, 23-year-old Noboru Shimizu loaded the bases on two one-out walks and a single but struck out Matsuyama and Hisayoshi Chono to prevent the game from getting away.
Norichika Aoki singled in the tying run in the ninth and the Swallows loaded the bases with one out for Munetaka Murakami. But journeyman right-hander Yasunori Kikuchi got the easiest double play imaginable, when the 20-year-old slugger tipped a low forkball into the dirt in front of home plate. Aizawa collected it, stepped on the plate and threw to first to end the inning.
New Carp D.J. Johnson loaded the bases in the 10th — the last inning allowed in NPB this season — but ended the inning with a strikeout. Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama then pitched out of a two-on, one-out pickle in the bottom of the 10th to ensure the tie.
Tigers blow out Dragons
On a night when hard-hitting first baseman Justin Bour was out of the Hanshin lineup, the Tigers still erupted for 11 runs on 14 hits and eight walks in an 11-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons and a sweep of their three-game series at Koshien Stadium outside Osaka.
Jerry Sands, batting third in manager Akihiro Yano’s lineup singled in the game’s first run and scored on Kosuke Fukudome’s sacrifice fly in the Tigers’ three-run first.
The 43-year-old Fukudome, who came off the bench to wreak havoc on the Swallows on Thursday, was in the starting lineup and responded with two singles, a double, two sacrifice flies and four RBIs.
Sands also doubled and drew one of the Tigers’ two bases-loaded walks in their three-run fourth inning.
The Dragons’ Dayan Viciedo continued to rip it up at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a walk and a home run.