Kodai Umetsu threw 10 scoreless innings for the Chunichi Dragons on Sunday but had to settle for a tie after Swallows submarine right-hander Hirofumi Yamanaka worked eight innings and Yakult’s bullpen supplied more in their 10-inning tie at Nagoya Dome.
Precise with his lively 93 mph fastball and splitter, while mixing in a big slider and an occasional cutter, the 23-year-old Umetsu missed bats or got called strikes on the outside corner en route to nine strike outs. He gave up five hits, one for a double, and walked two.
The 34-year-old Yamanaka, making his season debut, quickly locked in his command after issuing a first-inning walk to Yohei Oshima, who crushed one mistake just foul. By varying his 61-mph slider with a 71-mph screwball and a 76-mph fastball, he didn’t miss bats but he generated a mountain of weak contact.
The game teetered in the balance with two outs in the ninth, when Norichika Aoki put a good swing on a forkball that hung up slightly on the outside corner and drove it to left for a double and his second hit. The Dragons opted to fill first base with slugger Munetaka Murakami. Umetsu hung a splitter up a little to diminutive left-handed hitter Kotaro Yamasaki, whose liner ended up in the glove of second baseman Toshiki Abe for the third out.
Umetsu looked drained when he went out for the 10th inning, but maintained his concentration, throwing some good fastballs that proved too much for the reserve-filled Swallows lineup.
Rookie right-hander Noboru Shimizu overcame a poor first pitch in the ninth to Nobumasa Fukuda, who drilled it for an opposite-field double, while closer Taishi Ishiyama worked a 1-2-3 10th.
Carp youngster cuts Giants down to size
Lanky 21-year-old right-hander Atsushi Endo (2-1) allowed two runs on five hits over the distance for the Hiroshima Carp in a 9-2 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome.
Seiya Suzuki hit a two-run first-inning homer for the Carp off Toshiki Sakurai (2-2) in the first. Ryoma Nishikawa singled in another run in the second before Sakurai extricated himself from a no-out, bases-loaded situation, and Endo singled in a run in Hiroshima’s two-run third.
Nishikawa put the game on ice in the seventh with a three-run home run, the third homer in four games for the Carp leadoff man.
Oyama gets it done as Tigers pitchers scrape by
Yusuke Oyama’s one-out, two-run single proved to be the big hit on a night when big hits were hard to come by, lifting the Hanshin Tigers to a 3-1 win over the DeNA BayStars at Koshien Stadium.
Tigers lefty Yuta Iwasada surrendered a home run on the game’s first pitch to Takayuki Kajitani for the first of his three hits. No. 2 hitter Toshiro Miyazaki reached base three times, but the three, four, and five spots in the BayStars order went 0-for-12.
With the BayStars still leading 1-0 in the top sixth, the visitors loaded the bases on three walks from excitable right-hander Yusuke Baba to bring up Kajitani, who had yet to make an out. Baba popped him up on a first-pitch fastball on the hands.
BayStars right-hander Kentaro Taira had allowed two hits and hit a batter through the first five innings. But Kojj Chikamoto yanked a 1-0 slider away to right for a leadoff single. Veteran Yoshio Itoi lashed a hanging slider to right to put runners on the corners and pinch-runner Kairi Shimada stole second.
Taira worked away to Oyama, who chased 1-1 slider out of the zone but it off the end of the bat. The ball dropped abruptly in the outfield, giving right fielder Neftali Soto no chance to collect it before Shimada scored the go-ahead run.
Martin, Kakunaka rescue Marines
Leonys Martin and Katsuya Kakunaka each homered in the late innings as the Lotte Marines overcame a big day from Stefen Romero in a 7-6 come-from-behind win over the Lotte Marines at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
With two outs and runners on the corners and Romero at the plate, lefty Toshiya Nakamura bounced a pitch, ran to cover home plate to find the runner on third had come too far down the line. In his eagerness to get the final out, Nakamura rushed his throw and it skipped away, allowing the first run to score.
Two pitches later, Romero tagged a pitch that missed up and away and drove it over the fence in center for his 10th home run and a 3-0 Eagles lead. Martin singled and scored the tying run in Lotte’s two-run sixth.
Veteran Takashi Toritani, making a rare start, nearly gave Lotte the lead, but a leaping grab by former Golden Glove-winning second baseman Kazuya Fujita ended the inning.
Romero restored Rakuten’s lead with a two-run homer in the top of the seventh, but the Eagles’ bullpen couldn’t hold it.
Kakunaka led off the home half with a home run off former Lion and Padre Kazuhisa Makita to make it a one-run game. Former Marines captain Daichi Suzuki, however, singled in a run in the top of the eighth before Martin sparked a three-run eighth with a leadoff home run.
Kakunaka tied it with an RBI single and Yudai Fujioka’s sac fly put the Marines ahead for good. Closer Naoya Masuda worked around a one-out single, striking out pinch-hitter Jabari Blash to end it and earn his 11th save.
Veteran right-hander Kazuki Mishima worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to earn his first career save in place of battered closer Yasuaki Yamasaki on Wednesday as the DeNA BayStars held on to a 3-2 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome.
BayStars lefty Haruhiro Hamaguchi (2-1) was effectively wild at the start, walking four and hitting one threw four hitless and scoreless innings thanks to a pair of inning-ending 4-6-3 double plays. Hamaguchi allowed two runs on three hits over 5-2/3 innings while striking out seven.
Takayuki Kajitani homered with two outs in the third off Giants right-hander Shosei Togo to record the visitors’ first hit, while catcher Shuto Takajo added a two-run homer for the visitors in the fifth.
Togo (3-2) allowed three runs on four hits and a walk while striking out seven over five innings.
The Giants got their first hit in the fifth, Yang Dai-kang’s leadoff single, and their first run in the seventh, when Yoshihiro Maru opened the inning with his eighth home run. With two outs, mid-season acquisition Zelous Wheeler pulled the Giants within one with his fourth home run to drive Hamaguchi from the mound.
With the BayStars leading by a run in the seventh, manager Alex Ramirez called on Yamasaki to see if his struggling closer might regain his stuff in a middle relief role. The right-hander allowed a one-out infield single to speedy pinch-hitter Shinnosuke Shigenobu. A stolen base on a strikeout, and a wild pitch put the tying run on third with two outs, but Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto flied out to end the inning.
Spencer Patton worked the eighth and walked Wheeler with one out. Wheeler was replaced by Daiki Masuda, the flagship of manager Tatsunori Hara’s pinch-running fleet. Patton, however, struck out the next two batters to get the game to Mishima.
The 30-year-old right-hander, who had not allowed a hit or a walk since he was lit up for three runs on July 16, got tough left-handed hitter Takumi Oshiro swinging at a 1-2 splitter out of the zone. Veteran left-handed-hitting grinder Yasuyuki Kamei flied out before Shigenobu went down swinging to end it.
Swallows kiddy corps beats Tigers
Twenty-year-old Munetaka Murakami brought the Yakult Swallows from behind with a two-run fourth-inning home run and 21-year-old lefty Hiroki Hasegawa saved the day out of the bullpen in a 3-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
After allowing the visitors on the scoreboard in the first, Yakult right-hander Juri Hara (2-0) got out of a one-out bases-loaded jam in the first inning with a pair of strikeouts. Hara worked five innings, allowing three hits and five walks while striking out six.
Tigers lefty Onelki Garcia cruised through the first three innings before surrendering a leadoff double to Norichika Aoki in the fourth. Murakami followed with his fifth home run.
Yugo Umeno, a 21-year-old right-hander, followed Hara in the sixth and walked the first batter he faced. He left with one out the bases loaded. Hasegawa, however, popped up leadoff hitter Koji and struck out veteran Yoshio Itoi.
Yakult’s Yasutaka Shiomi, who homered when he returned to action on Tuesday, a month after being injured by a pitch, homered off veteran lefty Atsushi Nomi to open the bottom of the sixth.
Scott McGough pitched a 1-2-3 seventh for the hosts, while impressive 23-year-old rookie Noboru Shimizu worked around a pair of walks in the eighth when he caught Chikamoto looking at Strike 3. Taishi Ishiyama worked the ninth for his sixth save.
The Tigers opened the scoring through Chikamoto. He doubled to open the game when his drive popped out of center fielder Kotaro Yamasaki’s glove, stole third and came home on a Yusuke Oyama infield single. Garcia gave up four hits and a walk, while striking out five.
Carp’s Suzuki decides pitchers’ duel
Seiya Suzuki broke open a scoreless game in the sixth inning, when he homered for the ninth time this year with a two-run shot off lefty Takahiro Matsuba in a 2-0 Hiroshima Carp win over the Chunichi Dragons at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Making his second start of the season, veteran Carp right-hander Yusuke Nomura (1-0) was perfect through five innings. He allowed four hits and no walks over eight innings while striking out two.
Geronimo Franzua struck out the side in the ninth to earn his first save.
Matsuba (2-1) allowed five hits and two walks while striking out five and hitting a batter. He surrendered Jose Pirela’s second hit of the game with one out in the sixth, and with two outs, Suzuki took him deep.
39-year-old Wada shuts down Lions
Veteran southpaw Tsuyoshi Wada (3-0) turned back the clock as he combined his usual guts and finesse with good movement on his fastball to strike out nine over six-plus innings for the SoftBank Hawks in a 4-2 win over the Seibu Lions at Fukuoka’s PayPayDome.
The 39-year-old Wada, who said afterward he wanted to come out with guns blazing after not getting out of the fifth inning in his last start, came out getting swings and misses with his fastball and struck out two batters in a 1-2-3.
Hawks speedster Ukyo Shuto opened the scoring for the Hawks in the bottom of the first, when he tripled and scored on Kenta Imamiya’s sacrifice fly. Three-straight one-out singles made it 2-0 as Ryoya Kurihara drove in Yuki Yanagita.
The Lions got their first runners of the game on in the top of the second, but Wada stranded two, and the Hawks added a third run in the bottom of the inning. Nobuhiro Matsuda singled, took second on a throwing error by the pitcher, went to third on a groundout and scored on a Shuto sac fly.
Seibu’s Fumikazu Kimura, who struck out to end the Lions’ second with two in scoring position, hit a solo home run in the fifth, but Yanagita answered that with his 10th home run, a one-out solo shot in the home half.
Wada gave up a run in the seventh on a leadoff double to Takeya Nakamura and a Takumi Kuriyama RBI single. Lefty Shinya Kayama, however, worked around a one-out single to strand two runners. Another lefty, Livan Moinelo, worked the eighth, while closer Yuito Mori pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his eighth save.
Matsumoto (1-3) gave up all four runs on seven hits and two walks over five innings.
Martinez, Kondo get Fighters past Buffs
Nick Martinez allowed a run over six innings and Kensuke Kondo drove in four runs for the Nippon Ham Fighters in their 6-2 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Sapporo Dome.
Orix right-hander Yu Suzuki struggled but stranded six runners as he held the Fighters to a run over four innings. Taishi Ota drew a leadoff walk in the second and opened the scoring on Kotaro Kiyomiya’s bases-loaded sac fly.
The Buffaloes repeatedly threatened to blow the game open, but Martinez prevailed through tough pitching and some good luck.
Masato Matsui got the Buffaloes’ first hit off Martinez when first baseman Kiyomiya fielded a ball Martinez couldn’t reach, and then neglected to see the pitcher covering first and waiting for his throw that never came.
Orix skipper Norifumi Nishimura’s customary sacrifice when trailing on the road and a Ryo Nishimura single put runners on the corners with one out. A stolen base and a comebacker opened first base with two outs, and after Martinez fell behind Masataka Yoshida 3-0, Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama ordered the left-handed slugger walked. Martinez then won a 10-pitch duel with Adam Jones by getting a routine fly out to center.
The Buffaloes tied it in the fifth after a walk and two singles, one an infield dribbler, and a Yoshida sac fly.
Once more, Jones came up with a chance to some damage with two outs, but home plate umpire Atsushi Fukuya called him out on a 2-2 pitch that missed badly inside. Martinez tried to hide the disbelief at his good luck behind his glove as he walked off the mound. Jones could do little but express his own disbelief with Fukuya’s perception of the strike zone.
With Suzuki out of the game after 85 pitches, Buffaloes right-hander Kazumasa Yoshida allowed the Fighters to retake the lead. He promptly gave up a Kenshi Sugiya leadoff double. A sacrifice bunt and a Kondo sac fly put the Fighters back in front. That, too, was short-lived.
With Martinez gone, the Buffaloes tied it in the seventh when Aderlin Rodriguez was struck near the wrist with the bases loaded. But that was it for Orix. Sugiya drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning, was sacrificed to second on Takuya Nakashima’s second sac bunt of the game and the 230th of his career. Kondo singled to bring in the go-ahead run and scored on a two-out Ota double.
Fighters lefty Naoki Miyanishi worked the eighth inning and became the 16th pitcher in Japanese pro baseball history to appear in 700 games. The active leader is Ryota Igarashi of the Swallows (822).
Wakui continues remarkable turnaround
After going 3-0 in his first three starts and looking truly mediocre, Hideaki Wakui has been rock solid since and continued that on Tuesday when he allowed a run in seven innings as the Rakuten Eagles beat the Lotte Marines 5-1 at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Wakui (5-0) has allowed three runs, two earned, over his last 20-1/3 innings after giving up tons of hits in his early games. Against the team that sold him in December, the 34-year-old right-hander went to the mound with a two-run lead thanks to Hideto Asamura’s 12th homer of the season.
Leonys Martin touched Wakui for a first-inning home run, but that was about it for the Marines offense as the right-hander continued to spin the ball away from opposing bats and mix his pitches.
Stefen Romero, who hit a pinch-hit grand slam the night before, took lefty Kazuya Odajima (2-3) out to dead center to open the fifth, and then tripled and scored in the seventh.
“I’ve been able to keep leadoff hitters off base, and that was what I was trying to keep up tonight,” said Wakui, who joined the Marines as a free agent from the Seibu Lions in 2014. “It did feel kind of strange tonight since I hadn’t been a visiting player her for so long. I’m just glad I didn’t go back to the wrong dugout.”
The big-hitting Seibu Lions executed some down-and-dirty ninth-inning small ball to earn a 3-2 walk-off win over the Lotte Marines on Friday.
With the score tied 2-2 against Marines closer Naoya Masuda (0-2), Sosuke Genda popped his drag bunt over the mound and slid head-first into the bag for a leadoff single. Slugging catcher Tomoya Mori, the Pacific League’s 2019 MVP sacrificed for the second time in his career. After an intentional walk to two-time home run king Hotaka Yamakawa, Masuda missed up with a 1-0 fastball and Shuta Tonosaki looped it into left to bring home the winning run at MetLife Dome.
The Lions open the scoring in the first inning on a one-out Genda single and a two-out Yamakawa home run. Tonosaki followed with a double, but Ishikawa retired 12 of the next 13 batters, allowing the Marines to draw level and left the game after seven innings.
Leonys Martin doubled and scored on a long single by cleanup hitter Hisanori Yasuda, but the inning ended on a strike-out, caught-stealing double play. The Marines tied it on well-struck two-out singles by Tsuyoshi Sugano, Yoshida and Seiya Inoue.
Frank Herrman struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth for the Marines, while Lions relievers Kaima Taira, Reed Garrett and Tatsushi Masuda kept the Marines off the board through nine, when the hosts were able to pull ahead.
Hawks’ Higashihama outpitches Arihara
Nao Higashihama (2-0) allowed a run over seven innings while striking out eight, and Akira Nakamura’s two-run third-inning double snapped a 1-1 tie as the SoftBank Hawks pulled away to a 4-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
The visitors took the lead in the first when Higashihama was missing a lot on three well-hit no-out singles by Haruki Nishikawa, Taishi Ota and Kensuke Kondo, but Arihara blew that lead in the third.
The Hawks came back in the third inning, when Ukyo Shuto and Kenta Imamiya both squared up pitches in the zone like they knew what was coming from Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (1-4). Yuki Yanagita, who seems to square up everybody’s pitches, ironically drove in the tying run when he was fooled on a high changeup that fell for a flair single. A passed ball when Arihara and catcher Ryo Ishikawa got their signals crossed put the runners on second and third for Nakamura.
Livan Moinelo struck out three batters in the eighth, and Yuito Mori closed it out in the ninth to earn his seventh save.
Arihara hung in to the end in an eight-inning complete-game loss. He was charged with four runs, three earned, on eight hits, two walks and a hit batsman. The right-hander struck out four.
Ryoya Kurihara accounted for SoftBank’s final run when he opened the sixth with his fifth home run.
Unheralded Buffalo Sakakibara downs Eagles
Tsubasa Sakakibara (1-1), who turned pro on a non-roster developmental contract, outpitched Rakuten Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto (3-2) in a 6-2 Orix Buffaloes win at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Orix scored in the first on a Tatsuya Yamaashi single off Norimoto’s first pitch, a sacrifice and a Masataka Yoshida single. The Eagles ace suffered no further damage after Adam Jones hit a bullet to third for the second out and Aderlin Rodriguez struck out swinging at a slider.
After failing to sneak across a run in the fourth on a delayed double steal, the Eagles helped out with Orix’s second run in the fifth. Center fielder Ryosuke Tatsumi failed to catch Kenya Wakatsuki’s leadoff liner and played a single into a double. No. 9 hitter Hayato Nishiura followed another sacrifice with another run-scoring single. Norimoto missed over the plate with a low 0-2 slider, and Nishiura went down and hammered it up the middle.
Sakakibara scattered four hits and two walks over the first six innings, and Ryoichi Adachi singled home a run in the seventh to make it 3-0 Buffaloes before Stefen Romero put the hosts on the board with a leadoff homer in the home half.
The Buffaloes finally drove Norimoto from the game in the eighth on Aderlin Rodriguez’s two-run double.
The Buffaloes bullpen allowed an unearned run on two walks over three innings as Orix won its third-straight decision.
Giants comeback, tie Swallows
The Yomiuri Giants gave up five early runs in ugly fashion, but came back against the Yakult Swallows bullpen to salvage a 5-5, 10-inning tie at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Giants lefty Nobutaka Imamura walked three of the first six batters he faced before the game blew up on him in the second.
Daiki Yoshida, the Swallows’ starting pitcher and their second draft pick last autumn, singled home two runs after Alcides Escobar’s leadoff walk, Kotaro Yamasaki’s single and a sacrifice. Yoshida went to second when a grounder that struck Imamura’s foot. The Swallows pitcher scored from second on a Tetsuto Yamada single. Yamada scored on a Norichika Aoki fly to left center that fell untouched for a double due to a mixup between left fielder Zelous Wheeler and center fielder Yoshihiro Maru. Munetaka Murakami singled home Aoki to drive Imamura from the game.
The Giants began taking the measure of the Yoshida in the fourth. Takumi Oshiro followed a walk to cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto with his second homer in two games. Back-to-back hard-hit singles from Hiroyuki Nakajima and Wheeler followed. Yoshida, however, snuffed out the rally with a strikeout and a double play.
The Giants mounted another rally in the fifth, but Escobar made a good stop at short on a grounder up the middle and started a sweet double play. That was all for Yoshida, who walked three and gave up six hits while striking out four.
Scott McGough worked a 1-2-3 sixth, but the Giants took a stick to 21-year-old righty Yugo Umeno in the seventh.
Naoki Yoshikawa led off with a home run, and Shinnosuke Shigenobu doubled – his ball passed through a small hole in the fence over Jingu Stadium’s right field wall – and scored on a Hayato Sakamoto sac fly before Maru homered to tie it.
Sano slam lifts BayStars to walk-off win
Keita Sano continued his torrid streak since criticism of skipper Alex Ramirez emerged over the weekend, blasting a walk-off grand slam that boosted the DeNA BayStars to a 9-6 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Yokohama Stadium.
Ramirez, who was criticized for everything from not ordering a bunt to putting on his socks in the wrong order, was also widely slammed in the Japanese media this week for giving key offensive roles to Sano and veteran first baseman Jose Lopez.
Sano’s home run was his third in three games, while Lopez had two doubles and his second home run in three games.
The BayStars came from a run down in the first against Carp ace Daichi Osera on a Takayuki Kajitani leadoff single, back-to-back doubles from Tyler Austin and Lopez and a groundout.
DeNA starter Taiga Kamichatani, who allowed two hits in the first, gave up two more in the second and two more in the third, when he added a walk and allowed another run.
Osera was pulled after two innings of work. Right-hander Makoto Kemna seven of the first eight batters he faced before Kajitani walked with one out in the fifth and scored on Lopez’s second double.
The lead was short-lived, however. Kamichatani fell behind 3-1 to Seiya Suzuki who hit the ball so hard off the wall in left he was easily held to a single. With one out, Jose Pirela hammered a hanging 2-1 splitter into the seats in left for his second home run in two nights.
The Carp widened the lead with two more runs off Spencer Patton in the eighth, but Hiroshima’s bullpen couldn’t hold it. Lopez homered to make it a 6-4 game in the eighth and Kajitani singled in another run in the ninth before Sano underlined the victory.
Ono misses out again in loss to Tigers
A week after suffering a tough loss to the Hanshin Tigers, Yudai Ono allowed a run over five innings only for the Chunichi Dragons bullpen to blow up in a 5-2 loss at Nagoya Dome.
Ono, who is looking for his first win of the season, surrendered a solo home run to Yusuke Oyama in the fourth. The lefty allowed four hits and two walks while striking out nine.
Tigers starter Koyo Aoyagi (4-1) gave up two runs in the second and lasted six innings to earn the win after Hanshin scored four runs in the top of the seventh. Fumiya Hojo doubled in three and scored on a Jerry Sands single.
Robert Suarez worked the ninth to earn his fifth save.
Tigers’ Gunkel rejoins top team
Right-hander Joe Gunkel worked out with the Hanshin Tigers’ first team on Friday according to Sponichi Annex and was activated. The 28-year-old first-year import pitched in a simulated game on Thursday and ostensibly showed no ill effects.
Gunkel was deactivated on July 14 due to lower back stiffness.
Meanwhile, the Yomiuri Giants have deactivated Brazilian pitcher Thyago Vieira while the Hiroshima Carp have dropped infielder Alejandro Mejia.
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.
Is it just me, or are NPB umps beginning to adopt the old major league standard of shifting the strike zone one ball width away from the batter? This was done in the States, I understand, to decrease hit batsmen. As long as I can remember, Japanese umps have called the vertical edges of the zone by the rules as well as their talents allowed.
But Friday’s games got me to wondering. Looking at the pitches that were called strikes and balls in Sendai’s game between the Lions and Eagles, and in Osaka between the Hawks and Buffaloes and at Koshien between the Dragons and Tigers, it sure seemed like inside strikes meant getting the ball entirely over the plate, while pitchers tended to get more leeway outside.
It may just be me, but a narrow strike zone definitely impacted at least one game.
Neal outpitches Norimoto in Sendai
Rakuten Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto has been very tough this season and he was pretty darn good on Friday, but sometimes things just have a way of going south. And while things didn’t go his way, Seibu Lions right-hander Zach Neal had his best outing in three weeks and picked up the win in a 10-2 victory in Sendai.
After both pitchers were rock solid in the first, Norimoto ran into trouble in the second. He hit the leadoff man, and pitched carefully to 2019 Pacific League MVP Tomoya Mori and ended up walking him. After that, he pretty much made his pitches but didn’t get the results he might have.
OK, he threw a straight fastball down and in to Takeya Nakamura that the slugger lined to left. The opening run scored on the play when left fielder Hiroaki Shimauchi failed to gather in the ball on a hop.
After that it was back-to-back singles off good pitches. An inside fastball jammed Takumi Kuriyama but resulted in a flair to left that fell in for an RBI single. Cory Spangenberg did a super job to go down and get a splitter and single to load the bases.
Norimoto had thrown 22 pitches in the inning at that point the wheels kind of fell off. But oddly enough, the Lions had pretty much done all the damage they were going to do in the inning.
He threw three straight pitches down the pipe, a first-pitch fastball resulted in an RBI single. A hanging first-pitch slider would have brought in another run had Shimauchi not made a good sliding catch in left. Sosuke Genda then watched a fat first-pitch fastball go by before offering at a splitter out of the zone that let the Eagles get a force at the plate.
The Lions added two more runs in the third when he REALLY missed to dangerous hitters, resulting in a Hotaka Yamakawa home run and a hanging curve that missed being a two-run homer by a few feet.
Neal — remember Zach Neal? — gave up a couple of hard-hit balls to his fielders in the second, and had trouble with the strike zone, see above, in the third, when he issued two, two-out walks — credit to Daichi Suzuki for the second — before Eigoro Mogi lined a pitch to center that went for a two-run double when center fielder Shohei Suzuki failed to make a shoe-string catch.
That brought league RBI leader Hideto Asamura to the plate. Neal got a 1-0 strike on the outside corner, and Asamura missed a fastball up and in before flailing at a changeup low and well out of the zone. You could see that changeup coming a mile away, and it was poetry.
Neal walked just those two batters, while striking out five and allowing five hits. With the win, he was able to extend his streak of consecutive winning decisions to 13.
Hawks take advantage of Buffaloes youngster
As happens a lot, walks opened the door for the SoftBank Hawks offense and they never looked back in their 9-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Hard-throwing 21-year-old Tsubasa Sakakibara (0-1) went into the fourth inning with the game tied 1-1, but four walks in the inning proved his undoing.
Sometimes pitchers walk hitters because they can’t locate their pitches and sometimes because they have a poor approach, and in Sakakibara’s case it seemed more of an inability to adjust to umpire Fumihiro Yoshimoto’s narrow strike zone.
A leadoff walk on four borderline pitches to Yuki Yanagita was a case of his trying to hit the edge of the zone and locating, but not getting the calls. Another walk followed before a three-pitch strikeout of Wladimir Balentien. But at that point, Sakakibara’s ability to execute began to slip. He missed all over the place to Nobuhiro Matsuda to load the bases before Takuya Kai ground out a walk that broke the tie.
Sakakibara, whose fastball was sitting at 150 kph but was pretty straight, got the grounder he needed to keep it a 2-1 game but the ball went for an infield single and he was yanked after four.
Orix rookie Ryo Ota, whose first pro hit was a home run on Thursday, had a home run for his second hit as well, when he tied it in the second off Nao Higashihama. The Hawks starter, who was in the leg by a batted ball early in the game, left after three innings.
Arihara earns 1st win for Fighters
Nippon Ham Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (1-3) allowed two runs over six innings, scattering eight hits and three walks in a 7-4 win over the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.
Arihara allowed just a run in the first despite a leadoff single and a Leonys Martin double and didn’t have a stress-free inning until his 1-2-3 sixth. Marines starter Ayumu Ishikawa (0-2) had three 1-2-3 innings through six but surrendered six runs on 10 hits and a walk to take the loss.
Fighters cleanup hitter doubled in a run in the hosts’ two-run first, and put the game out of reach with a seventh-inning grand slam.
Aoyagi, Sands pace Tigers past Dragons
Right-handed side-armer Koyo Aoyagi had the Chunichi Dragons pounding the ball into the dirt, grounding out 16 times over seven innings in a 4-1 Hanshin Tigers victory at Koshien Stadium.
The Dragons managed four hits and a walk off Aoyagi (3-1), who struck out two. The Tigers broke out for three runs in a fortunate third inning against Dragons lefty Yudai Ono (0-3).
Ono sawed off Seiya Kinami’s bat at the handle with a 1-1 slider on the hands but the ball looped over the mound for a leadoff infield single. After the pitcher sacrificed, failed to get a called first strike and sort of gave up on trying to get Yoshio Itoi and walked him on four pitches. Kento Itohara lucked into an infield single hitting an 0-2 pitch well out of the zone off the end of the bat for a perfect swinging bunt down the third base line. A throwing error by third baseman Hayato Mizowaki advanced all three runners and let in a run.
The infield came in, and Jerry Sands, whose eighth-inning home run tied Thursday’s game against Yakult and set the stage for a Tigers comeback, hit Ono’s pitch. The lefty spotted a 3-0 two-seamer low and away only for Sands to reach for it and launch it the other way into the right field gap for a two-run double.
Dayan Viciedo got a run back for the Drgons with his eighth home run of the year in the fourth.
Maru makes difference in rainy Yokohama
Yoshihiro Maru launched a third-inning tie-breaking home run at rainy Yokohama Stadium and the Yomiuri Giants earned a 2-1 win over the DeNA BayStars when their game was called after six innings.
The Giants opened the scoring in the second thanks to some quality swings from Takumi Oshiro, Gerardo Parra and Zelous Wheeler as three singles loaded the bases with no outs against Shoichi Ino (2-1). Oshiro scored on a double play.
Ino struck out six and walked one, while allowing six hits. Giants lefty Nobutaka Imamura (1-0) won his season debut. He allowed six hits and a walk while striking out two, and served up a pair of groundball double plays as the base cutouts at Yokohama Stadium began to resemble mud wrestling venues.
Maru broke the tie with two outs in the third, when Ino hung a curve ball that he launched off the end of his bat and just into the outfield seats atop their high wall in left.
Carp spoil Swallows rookie’s debut
Shota Dobayashi, long a favorite of the Hiroshima media, made his debut in the Carp No. 3 spot and went 4-for-5 with three runs, while Seiya Suzuki and Ryuhei Matsuyama combined to drive in eight in a 9-2 win over the Yakult Swallows.
Right-hander Daiki Yoshida, Yakult’s second draft pick last autumn, allowed five runs on nine hits over 2-1/3 innings to take the loss in his first-team debut.
Carp ace Daichi Osera (3-1) allowed two runs over six innings, while striking out five and walking two. New import D. J. Johnson had his best outing yet for Hiroshima as he struck out the side in the eighth inning.
Alcides Escobar drove in both Yakult runs with a sixth-inning double that missed the top of the wall at Mazda Stadium by a few feet.
Hawks drop van den Hurk, Carp call on Scott
A day after the briefest start of his career in Japan, right-hander Rick van den Hurk was deactivated by the SoftBank Hawks on Friday. The 35-year-old who opened his season with a dominating win over the Seibu Lions on June 25, is now 1-2 with 7.29 ERA in his sixth Japanese season.
Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said van den Hurk was feeling tightness in his back according to the Nikkan Sports.
“We’re going to give it a little time,” Kudo said at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome prior to Friday’s game against the Orix Buffaloes. “We want to know a little bit more about his condition, so he’ll be staying with the team for a bit.”
Meanwhile, a day after a Hiroshima Carp bullpen game imploded, the Central League club called up reliever Tayler Scott. The first-year right-hander has allowed seven runs over three innings and is 0-2 in five games. He has since pitched in two farm games and retired all six batters he faced for the Carp’s Western League team.
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.