Japan’s baseball week started on Tuesday, but when the dust cleared, and there was a lot of late-game dust, the only difference in the standings was that the gap between the Central League’s fourth-place club, the Chunichi Dragons, and the third-place team, the Yakult Swallows, had increased to 12 games.
In the Pacific League, the day’s big matchup between the first-place Orix Buffaloes and the second-place Rakuten Eagles was rained out but the other four teams did their best to make up for the action as both turned in the ninth inning, one on the final play.
Live chat with former NPB star Leon Lee
Monday, Aug. 30, 11 am Japan; Sunday, Aug. 29, 7 pm Pacific Daylight Time.
Lee, who played 1,255 games over 10 years in Japan from 1978 to 1987 for the Lotte Orions, the Taiyo Whales, and Yakult Swallows. In addition to his accomplishments, Lee is a keen observer with a knack for explaining complicated things simply.
Bring your questions and enjoy.
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Lions 4, Hawks 4
At MetLife Dome, SoftBank’s ninth-inning relief woes continued as Yugo Bando blew a two-run lead, only for the Lions to prove that the Hawks had no monopoly on ninth-inning ineptitude.
Wu Nien-ting drew a one-out walk and Seibu closed to within a run on a double by rookie Junichiro Kishi and a Seiji Kawagoe infield single. The Hawks failed to nail the tying run at the plate on a tough grounder to third by Shuta Tonosaki. With one out and the bases loaded, Tomoya Mori hit a fly about 100 feet past second base. Kawagoe gambled that Taisei Makihara couldn’t make a good throw, but the one-hopper from the Hawks center fielder beat him by five feet to end the game.
Trailing 2-0 from the first inning, Akira Nakamura put the Hawks on the board in the sixth, when he singled in Ryoya Kurihara off Lions starter Kona Takahashi. Kurihara bunted his way on to open the Hawks’ three-run eighth against Reed Garrett. An Alfredo Despaigne single and a Nakamura double made it 2-2 with the go-ahead run scoring on a fumbled ball in the outfield. Dariel Alvarez tacked on an insurance run with his third hit of the game.
The Lions scored twice in the first against Nao Higashihama (3-2, 3.14) on two singles, a sacrifice, a wild pitch and a passed ball. Shuta Tonosaki singled and Sosuke Genda settled for a sacrifice after trying to bunt his way on. Tomoya Mori singled, and went to third on a run and hit as Tonosaki scored on a wild pitch, and then came home on a passed ball two pitches later.
Fighters 3, Marines 3
At Sapporo Dome, Lotte remained in late-inning comeback scoring three ninth-inning runs for the third time in four games to salvage a tie with Nippon Ham after Naoya Masuda worked a 1-2-3 ninth for nothing.
Fighters starter Drew VerHagen got his second straight quick hook. Nine days after allowing a hit over three innings in a start against the Hawks, he allowed two hits while striking out six batters over four against the Marines without walking a batter in either game and lowering his ERA to 5.33. With VerHagen gone, things got dicey for the home crowd, as three relievers combined to allow seven runners over three scoreless innings.
Bryan Rodriguez steadied the ship with a 1-2-3 eighth to turn it over to closer Toshihiro Sugiura, who gave up a run on two hits before striking out two. Takashi Ogino, who had been instrumental in the Marines’ comebacks against the Hawks lined a fat 2-1 fastball into the gap to make it a 3-2 game. A walk and an 0-1 fastball to Shogo Nakamura and it was tied. The good news for the Fighters was a good catch in foul territory by first baseman Yuto Takahama to end the carnage with the bases loaded and Nippon Ham not trailing.
The Fighters scored in the first against Daiki Iwashita (8-5, 3.98) on Yuki James Nomura’s two-run home run, his fourth, while no-out singles by Takahama and Ronny Rodriguez set up another run in the second. Iwashita lasted six without allowing another run, thanks to catcher Takuma Kato picking Haruki Nishikawa off second in the fifth.
Lotte lefty Toshiya Nakamura worked two scoreless innings despite having a runner on third with one out in each inning to keep the Marines within striking distance.
Eagles vs Buffaloes
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, rained out
Giants 3, Carp 1
At Tokyo Dome, Takumi Oshiro had three hits, including a pair of solo homers, his 10th and 11th, while Hayato Sakamoto hit his third, and the Cristopher Mercedes (7-1, 2.11) allowed a run in seven innings to Masato Morishita (6-6, 2.42).
Sakamoto hit his 12th home run of the season in the third off his Olympic teammate Morishita, before the Carp loaded the bases with one out in the fourth – on a sacrifice – and scored when Sakamoto stumbled at the bag and was unable to complete what should have been an inning-ending double play.
Mercedes, who pitched against Japan in the Olympic opener, allowed three hits and issued three walks while striking out seven. Morishita struck out eight without issuing a walk, but surrendered six hits.
Rubby De La Rosa worked the eighth for the Giants, who completed the three-pitcher import relay with Thyago Vieira. The Brazilian walked the first two batters before retiring the next three.
Swallows 2, Dragons 1
At Shizuoka’s Kusanagi Stadium, Yakult went ahead in the seventh when Yuhei Nakamura doubled and scored on a fluke Shingo Kawabata single on a pitch well out of the zone that bounced near home plate and over third baseman Shuhei Takahashi.
Scott McGough stranded a pair in the ninth by striking out Dayan Viciedo with runners on the corners to end it and record his 18th save.
Koji Fukutani (5-10, 4.26) went eight innings, allowing seven hits but no walks while striking out six.
Yakult starter Keiji Takahashi allowed five hits and a walk over the first three innings but only one run, leaving the bases loaded in the third after Viciedo plated Yota Kyoda with a sacrifice fly. Ryuta Konno (7-0) relieved Takahashi with two out and two on in the seventh and retired Viciedo.
Fukutani, who three seven scoreless innings a week earlier, and retired the last nine Carp batters in that start, followed that by retiring the first nine Swallows hitters before Yasutaka Shiomi muscled a pitch in on the hands into center for a fourth-inning leadoff single. The Swallows tied it when Fukutani hung a 1-1 two-seamer up in the zone and Tetsuto Yamada drove it off the top of the wall for a double.
Tigers 8, BayStars 2
At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Hanshin took a 1-0 lead in the second on a two-out Mel Rojas Jr. singled and a Seiya Kinami double. Tigers leadoff man Koji Chikamoto opened the second with his eighth home run, and the hosts added another on a Takumu Nakano single, a walk a groundout and a wild pitch.
Koyo Aoyagi (10-2, 1.91) kept the BayStars off the board through six before he surrendered two runs in his final inning on a Kazuki Kamizato RBI single. Haruhiro Hamaguchi (5-7, 3.74) gave up six runs on two walks and seven hits while striking out five over four-plus innings. The lefty surrendered back-to-back singles to open the fifth before Jerry Sands chased him with a two-run double.
Yusuke Oyama hit the second pitch from reliever Shuto Sakurai for his 14th home run to stick a fork in the game.
Wednesday’s starting pitchers
Fighters vs Marines: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Eagles vs Buffaloes: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Lions vs Hawks: MetLife Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Giants vs Carp: Tokyo Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Swallows vs Dragons: Kusanagi Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Tigers vs BayStars: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 8/24/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/3