After Japan’s long weekend for its respect for the elderly day, there were only three Central League games on the calendar in a kind of interleague competition, with each of the three playoff teams on the road against the three teams who are fighting to avoid finishing last. And like in interleague, these series open the possibility for one team to make up a lot of ground on its two rivals.
Second-place Yakult was poised to gain a half-game on the first-place Tigers until Hanshin broke a ninth-inning tie to keep the the Swallows from closing to within a game.
The Dragons opened the door for analyst Masaji Hiramatsu to open his mouth and insert his foot in his praise of Hanshin’s Jerry Sands, so let’s get to the games.
Swallows 5, BayStars 2
At Yokohama Stadium, there was good news and bad news for DeNA starting pitcher Yuya Sakamoto (4-5, 4.81), who pitched out of a one-out, two-on first-inning jam but only after allowing four straight hits to open the game, culminating in a Munetaka Murakami grand slam, his 36th home run of the season.
Yakult’s Albert Suarez (5-3, 3.80) made things interesting in the third, when DeNA loaded the bases with no outs, and Tyler Austin doubled in two runs. The Swallows scored a sixth-inning run off Kevin Shackelford, who allowed two singles and contributed with an error.
Suarez went five innings. He walked two, struck out three and gave up five hits and one scoreless inning apiece from Tomoya Hoshi, Ryuta Konno, CL holds leader Noboru Shimizu and Scott McGough, who earned his 21st save.
Tigers 3, Dragons 2
At Vantelin Dome Nagoya, Chunichi closer Raidel Martinez (0-3), pitching for the first time in eight days, struggled with his command, surrendered a Kairi Shimada seeing-eye leadoff single. Shimada stole second, took third on a ground out and scored the tie-breaking run on Seiya Kinami’s sacrifice fly.
During his playing career, Chunichi manager Tsuyoshi Yoda was a top reliever and it’s hard to imagine he wanted his closer sitting on the sidelines for a week. This leads me to think that the burden of managing is a little too much for him, if something simple like making sure the guys you count on the most get to pitch at least every five days or so.
CL ERA leader Yuya Yanagi allowed two runs over six innings, all of his troubles coming in the third. A hit batsman, a sacrifice by Tigers starting pitcher Takumi Akiyama, an RBI double by leadoff man Koji Chikamoto and rookie Takumu Nakano’s run-scoring single accounted for the damage.
The Dragons stranded three runners in the fourth and two in the fifth, when leadoff runner Yota Kyoda was picked off first. They tied it in the sixth after Ippei Ogawa retired only one of the three batters he faced.
Kyoda singled in two with two outs against lefty Masaki Oyokawa. The inning could have been worse, but Jefry Marte made a sweet play at first to throw out the lead runner at third with no outs and two on.
Oyokawa stayed in the game to work a scoreless seventh, Suguru Iwazaki (2-3) and closer Robert Suarez, who earned his 33rd save, finished up to keep Hanshin 1-1/2 games ahead of Yakult.
An epilogue to the game was provided on Pro Yakyu News by Masaji Hiramatsu, who praised Jerry Sands for not being like “your typical foreign player” in the ninth inning . Sands swung at a pitch well out of the zone that helped Shimada steal on a run and hit and then hit behind the runner on another ball out of the zone that moved him to third.
“Your foreign hitter understands hits, home runs and RBIs, and typically they don’t care about walks since those don’t help him make more money,” Hiramatsu said.
Carp 2, Giants 0
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Carp lefty Hiroki Tokoda (4-3, 2.71) stranded two runners in the second, third and fourth innings, but struck out nine in a 125-pitch six-hit shutout in which he walked one and hit one.
Yomiuri’s Shun Yamaguchi (2-6, 3.34) walked five hitters, but only the last one cost him, when he walked Ryoma Nishikawa with one out and a man on before surrendering back-to-back RBI singles to Seiya Suzuki and Shogo Sakakura.
New Giant Scott Heineman is showing a knack for making catches at the wall. He saved three runs with a ninth-inning catch last week that set the stage for a huge come-from-behind victory, and saved a run on Tuesday with a tough catch to get the first out in the sixth before the Carp hits shit the fan.
Wednesday starting pitchers
On Wednesday, Kodai Senga will see if it takes more than 14 strikeouts to stop the Lotte Marines. A week ago, he got the Ks but took the L.
Lions vs Eagles: MetLife Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Marines vs Hawks: Zozo Marine Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Buffaloes vs Fighters: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 6 pm, 5 am EDT
BayStars vs Swallows: Yokohama Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Dragons vs Tigers: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Carp vs Giants: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 9/21/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/1