Hawks release, Moore, van den Hurk, Uchikawa, Colas on cut day
The Pacific League’s SoftBank Hawks parted company, at least technically with pitchers Matt Moore and Rick van den Hurk, while making longtime captain Seiichi Uchikawa free to complete a deal with the Central League’s Yakult Swallows on Wednesday.
Nippon Professsional Baseball’s teams are required to submit their reserve lists for the 2021 season on Dec. 2, the big day for releases across Japan. The moves don’t necessarily mean that neither Moore nor van den Hurk will be back with the four-time defending Japan Series champions, but it does mean they were unable to or unwilling to exercise an option to keep them.
Cuban two-way player Oscar Colas, who has been on the restricted list since Feb. 19, was released by not being placed on the Hawks’ 2021 reserve list, meaning he will be free to sign with an MLB club as an international amateur when the next international signing period opens in June.
Cuts throw import market wide open
The winter NPB market for import players heated up considerably with Tuesday’s cuts when a number of experienced players with established value were left off their clubs’ reserves list. Here’s a brief rundown:
Ukyo Shuto made up for a dropped ball that contributed to a loss the night before by driving in four runs to help lift the SoftBank Hawks to a 7-3 win over their nemeses, the Lotte Marines, at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
With two outs in the second and runners on second and third, Shuto singled off Toshiya Nakamura (2-4) to put the Hawks up by two. The speedster took second when the ball got past center fielder Takashi Ogino and scored on a Keizo Kawashima single.
Shuto then capped a three-run third with his second RBI single of the game to make it 6-2. He added to his day with a good play at second base to deny the Marines a fifth-inning leadoff single.
Nao Higashihama (5-1) allowed three runs over six innings, retiring 10 of the last 11 batters he faced after Leonys Martin hit his 23rd home run of the year in the third to make it 6-3 Hawks.
The Hawks win improves their record against Lotte this season to a dismal 4-9-1.
Kiyomiya saves day for Fighters
Kotaro Kiyomiya’s three-run double tied it in the ninth off Buffaloes closer Brandon Dickson. Taishi Ota drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th and scored an insurance run for Nippon Ham Fighters in their 6-5 win over Orix at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Four of Orix’s runs came on solo homers. Two by Takahiro Okada, one by Steven Moya and one by Hayato Nishiura in the bottom of the 10th, when Katsuhiko Kumon stranded two runners to earn his first save.
Lefty Andrew Albers started for the Buffaloes and allowed a run on six hits and no walks over 5-1/3 innings. He struck out six.
Fighters ace Kohei Arihara allowed three runs over six innings, and though neither bullpen was lights out, the Fighters scored five late runs to come from behind. Dickson got one out before loading the bases on a singled and two walks for Kiyomiya, who went down for a low pitch and found the gap to tie it.
Steven Moya drew a leadoff walk in the ninth from veteran lefty Naoki Miyanishi (2-1), He was pulled for a pinch-runner but the Buffs left the bases loaded in the eighth.
Trailing by a run in the 10th, Moya, who’d hit four homers in the last six games, was out of the game when his spot came up with one out and one on against Kumon.
Lions survive loss of starter
Seven relivers picked up after the Seibu Lions lost starter Sean Nolin after one inning in a 5-1 win over the Rakuten Eagles at MetLife Dome with Sosuke Genda tripling in two runs to break a 1-1 seventh-inning tie.
Nolin worked a 1-2-3 first but left due to severe tightness in his left shoulder. The Eagles took the lead in the second on a Stefen Romero RBI single. With the game tied 1-1 in the fifth, Lions center fielder Fumikazu Kimura threw out a runner trying to score from second on a two-out single.
Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi allowed a run over five innings, and D.J. Johnson worked a 1-2-3 sixth before the roof caved collapsed in the seventh with Tomohito Sakai on the mound. Corey Spangenberg, who reached base three times, singled in Genda to make it 4-1.
Swallows hold off Tigers
Munetaka Murakami singled in one run and broke a 1-1 tie with his 18th home run, making a winner out of Albert Suarez (4-0) in a 2-1 win over the virus-hit Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
The Swallows loaded the bases from the get-go against Joe Gunkel with a hit batsman, a Norichika Aoki double and a walk to Tetsuto Yamada. Murakami singled in one run. Gunkel, however, caught a break on a line out to second before striking out the next two hitters.
Suarez issued a walk in the first but it could have been a disaster as the first two balls were squared up bit hit straight to Swallows defenders. The right-hander gave up the tying run in the third.
Gunkel was pulled for a pinch hitter after allowing a run over four innings, and Murakami homered off Shintaro Fujinami in ( 1-6) in the sixth.
The Tigers came within a hair of scoring the tying run in the seventh but were thwarted when left fielder Norichika Aoki reacted well to a ball coming off a teammate’s glove and reserve catcher Akihisa Nishida made a good tag for the third out at the plate.
Relievers Nobuhiro Shimizu held Hanshin scoreless in the eighth and closer Taichi Ishiyama did the same in the ninth to earn his 13th save.
More Tiger trouble
A day after the Tigers dropped nine players from the active roster after four of them tested positive for the coronavirus, Hanshin’s Western League farm team, played Saturday’s game with just 17 players.
On Saturday evening, the team said Naomasa Yokawa, one of the infected players, had been admitted to a Tokyo hospital with a high fever. This is the most serious symptom yet reported by an NPB player. The worst symptoms reported so far was in March when pitcher Shintaro Fujinami lost his sense of taste.
Kinoshita lifts Dragons over Giants
Dragons catcher Takuya Kinoshita homered to break a 2-2 eighth-inning tie off reliever Kan Otake (1-2), lifting the Chunichi Dragons to a 3-2 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome.
Yota Kyoda hit a two-run homer for the Dragons in the fifth, but Chunichi starter Koji Fukutani allowed the hosts to tie it in the seventh.
Hayato Sakamoto drew his second walk, Kazuma Okamoto doubled, and both scored on a single by the rejuvenated Hiroyuki Nakajima to chase Fukutani. Daisuke Sobue (1-0) retired both batters he faced to close out the seventh and earn the win.
Hiroto Fuku worked the eighth and Raidel Martinez earned his 14th save in the ninth, when he got an assist from Kinoshita, who gunned down pinch-runner Daisuke Masuda trying to steal second.
Toshiro Miyazaki went 4-for-5 with a homer, a triple an RBI and three runs to lead the DeNA BayStars attack against Hiroshima Carp rookie Masato Morishita (6-3) in a 5-2 win at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Haruhiro Hamaguchi (6-4) allowed two runs over six innings to earn the wins. Edwin Escobar, Kenta Ishida and Kazuki Mishima picked up the pieces over the final three innings. Mishima collected his 10th save.
Jose Lopez had four hits scored a run and drove in one, while Tyler Austin hit his ninth home run for the BayStars.