After merely ticking for much of the spring and summer and again during the Olympics, Hiroshima’s Seiya Suzuki has become the time bomb that goes off on a daily basis. On Thursday, the Carp outfielder, who will likely move to the majors after this season via the posting system, went deep twice.
By homering in his sixth consecutive game, Suzuki is one game shy of the Japan record set by Hall of Famer Sadaharu Oh with the Yomiuri Giants in 1972 and equaled by Hanshin Tigers first baseman Randy Bass in 1986.
In two of the three games featuring pennant contenders, two closers blew leads in the top of the ninth and then watched as their teams wasted scoring opportunities in the bottom of the ninth.
On top of that, we had two wild plays, a runner tagged out at first after beating out an infield single, and a 3-2-5 double play, so all in all, it was a pretty good evening’s worth of baseball.
And if that didn’t whet your appetite, Nick Martinez, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Masahiro Tanaka, Yudai Ono and rookie rocket Roki Sasaki are all set to star for the teams in the weekend series openers.
Buffaloes 2, Marines 2
At Hotto Motto Field, the game between two teams separated at the top of the Pacific League standings by a few winning percentage points, couldn’t have been tighter. After a tremendous pitchers’ duel between Orix lefty Daiki Tajima and returning Lotte right-hander Ayumu Ishikawa, the Marines trailed by two but came back on home runs by Tetsuya Kokubo in the seventh and Takashi Ogino in the ninth.
Ishikawa, in his first game back since having shoulder cleaning surgery in June, was razor-sharp. A couple of good swings resulted in a fifth-inning Orix run. Masahiro Nishino singled off a two-seamer that got up a little too much, and Ishikawa threw one too many of his good changeup-sinkers to Shuhei Fukuda, who lined the fourth straight one he saw into center field for a two-out RBI single. Yutaro Sugimoto belted his 24th homer to lead off the fifth when Ishikawa tried to get a strike with a 3-0 fastball up and away.
Tajima allowed three hits and two walks but was extremely loose and sharp as he struck out 10 over eight innings. He threw a decent 1-1 inside fastball to Kokubo, and the former Carp pinch-hitting specialist, who’d been toiling in independent ball until Lotte signed him last week, hammered it for his first home run in two years.
Orix closer Yoshihisa Hirano, going for his 18th save, threw an 0-1 forkball low and in that Ogino upper-cut just over the fence in left for his eighth home run. In the bottom of the ninth, Lotte closer Naoya Masuda allowed two to reach with no outs and missed taking the loss by a few inches. Rookie Kotaro Kurebayashi hammered a low 1-2 slider toward the left-field corner, but Ryo Miki, an eighth-inning defensive replacement at third, jumped up to make the game-ending catch.
Eagles 4, Fighters 0
At Sapporo Dome, Drew VerHagen (3-7, 4.91) saw his string of solid outings snapped as he allowed four runs over six innings and Rakuten’s Takahiro Norimoto (9-5, 3.49) threw a three-hit shutout in which he struck out 11 and walked one.
Hiroaki Shimauchi’s two-run bases-loaded double opened the scoring in the third. The Eagles manufactured a run in the fifth after a leadoff walk, and Takero Okajima led off the sixth with his eighth home run.
When things go bad, sometimes they go so bad that one is forced to learn a rule to understand how it could possibly get worse.
One of the Fighters’ three singles, a leadoff infield single in the seventh, resulted in the inning’s first out. Yuki James Nomura beat out a grounder to second only to be tagged out. When the throw got past first baseman Daichi Suzuki, Nomura, in foul territory after over-running the bag, glanced at the ball and took a half step toward second before giving up and walking back to first. Before he could get back, Suzuki tagged him out and umpire Atsushi Fukaya ruled Nomura showed his intent to advance to the next base and was eligible to be put out.
BayStars 5, Giants 5
At Yokohama Stadium, Yomiuri rallied for three runs in the ninth off DeNA closer Kazuki Mishima, and then held on to secure the tie without closer Thyago Vieiara, who was deactivated earlier in the day for undisclosed reasons.
Yoshiyuki Kamei led off the top of the ninth with a pinch-hit double, but there were two down before Naoki Yoshikawa hit the first of four straight singles. Yoshihiro Maru’s tied it 3-3 before Mishima avoided blowing the lead.
Masayuki Kuwahara doubled to leadoff DeNA’s ninth but the BayStars couldn’t bring him home.
Tyler Austin and Toshiro Miyazaki homered back-to-back in the first inning off Shosei Togo. Austin’s two-run homer was his 23rd and Miyazaki’s his 12th. The Giants made it 3-2 in the fourth on an error, a Zelous Wheeler single, a groundout and an RBI single by rookie reserve catcher Yukinori Kishida.
The Giants loaded the bases with one out in the sixth against reliever Kevin Shackelford, but DeNA held onto the lead. Reliever Yoshiki Sunada served up a smash to first but got out of the inning on a slick play by Neftali Soto, who short-hopped the ball and fired home instead of touching the bag, and poor base running by the Giants allowed Tobashira to complete the 3-2-5 double play.
Tobashira doubled in two runs in the eighth to make it a 5-2 game, with starter Yuya Sakamoto set up to earn the win after allowing two unearned runs over five innings.
Swallows 13, Tigers 3
At Koshien Stadium, Munetaka Murakami had a two-run single, and Domingo Santana a two-run double as Yakult gave Haruto Takahashi (0-1, 11.25) a five-run first-inning baptism of fire in his season debut. The Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the first, but failed to score, and Norichika Aoki singled and scored his second run in the second on a Jose Osuna sac fly.
With two on and two out in the fourth, rookie Dan Onodera batted for the pitcher and singled in a run and Koji Chikamoto added a two-run double against Swallows starter Keiji Takahashi (3-1, 2.79). The lefty allowed three runs over six innings while striking out six to earnhis first pro win at Koshien, where seven years earlier he pitched Kyoto’s Ryukoku University Heian High School to the spring invitational championship.
Osuna singled in two runs in the sixth, and Santana capped a five-run seventh by drawing a bases-loaded walk. The win moved Yakult within a half-game of Yomiuri and 2-1/2 of the Tigers.
Carp 12, Dragons 5
At Mazda Stadium, Ryoma Nishikawa hit a two-run first-inning home run, his ninth, and Seiya Suzuki, the gift that keeps on giving, followed with his 26th. Nishikawa singled to open the Carp third, and Suzuki walked before a bases-loaded groundout made it 4-0.
The Dragons tied it in the fourth when four straight batters reached with one out. Journeyman reserve catcher Iori Katsura tripled in two runs, pinch-hitter Ariel Martinez walked and two more runs scored on a groundout and an error.
Nishikawa walked with two outs in the fourth off lefty Toshiya Okada, and Suzuki belted his 27th home run. The Dragons made it a 6-5 game in the fifth. Dayan Viciedo doubled and Shuhei Takahashi, whose single started the fourth-inning rally, singled him home.
The Carp came back for seconds against Okada in the fifth, with rookie Kota Hayashi singling in two with no outs before Nishikawa and Suzuki reached to open the Carp’s three-run sixth.
Atsuya Horie (4-3) preserved the Carp’s 5-4 lead by getting out of the fifth with a double play on one pitch. Horie was credited with the win by Japan rules that give it to the pitcher who inherits the lead before five innings provided no other pitcher works at least one inning more. He became the 21st CL pitcher to earn a win with one pitch.
I’ll leave you tonight with this catch by 44-year-old Kosuke Fukudome. And if one more person refers to him as an “old guy” this 61-year-old old guy will have some words for them.
Friday’s starting pitchers
Fighters vs Hawks: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Lions vs Buffaloes: MetLife Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Marines vs Eagles: Zozo Marine Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Giants vs Dragons: Tokyo Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Carp vs Tigers: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 9/9/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/19