Kazuki Yabuta made headlines on Thursday when Hiroshima Carp manager Shinji Sasaoka ended the first inning of an intrasquad game because he couldn’t bear to watch any more from the right-hander, Nikkan Sports reported.
Sasaoka sent him back out for the second inning and by the time Yabuta got a reprieve, he’d allowed nine runs in 2-1/3 innings of work… although I’m not sure if they gave him credit for three outs in the first or only counted that as a third of an inning.
“He looked like he was pitching halfheartedly,” the skipper said, which allowed me to learn the word “kotesaki” (小手先) which jisho.org defines as:
“Half-hearted” is my guess, but if Rolling Stones Magazine were ranking starts this spring by Carp pitchers the way they ranked the 500 greatest rock albums, Yabuta’s might rank, like Cheap Trick’s best-selling album “Cheap Trick At Budokan,” as No. 426 on the list.
Sasaoka, said he was in mood to hear explanations from the 28-year-old, so Yabuta might have pause before he breaks into a cover of “I want you to want me.”
“In the final phase of camp, pitchers are each getting one live game apiece to compete for roles,” Sasaoka said. “I wonder what he was thinking. It just looked like halfhearted pitching to me. He wasn’t using his lower body, so his pitches had no late movement, no zip, and were easy to hit.”
“When you’re in the final competition for a spot, excuses won’t do. At this stage, there are no guarantees you will get another chance. If you flame out, there are no more chances.”
Lotte’s Leonys Martin may have gone 0-for-4 at the plate, but he threw a strike when it mattered, gunning down Orix Buffaloes pinch-runner Ryo Ota for the final out in the ninth inning before the game at Kyocera Dome ended in a 5-5, 10-inning tie.
The Marines were headed for a narrow victory thanks to an impressive start from right-hander Mima, but he tired in the seventh and the game went down to the late innings.
Takashi Toritani came in for the Marines at third base in the bottom of the ninth and two hard-hit smashes handcuffed him. The first resulted in the leadoff runner reaching. With two outs, a bad hop struck Toritani and bounced away for an RBI infield double. Adam Jones lined a single to right. Martin’s throw gave catcher Tatsuhiro Tamura a chance at a sweep tag. Ota, who never touched home, was called out.
Orix closer Brandon Dickson survived a scoreless 10th thanks to second baseman Shuhei Fukuda fielding a hard shot for the second out with a runner on third. Dickson then struck out Lotte leadoff man Shuhei Fukuda to send it to the bottom of the ninth. Lotte’s Yuki Karakawa worked a 1-2-3 10th and the game was called.
Mima brought his good stuff and outpitched Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto but it was not enough to the Lotte Marines a win.
With a one-run lead from the get-go, Mima was in total. He was accurate with his bread-and-butter two-seamer that was moving particularly well and was routinely to located on the outside corner and was able to reliably get called strikes there well out of the zone.
Between the two-seamer tailing away from left-handed hitters, his fork change that was dropping well and an occasional slider and fastball to keep guys honest, Mima challenged hitters when he fell behind and missed barrels. As the game went on, he went more and more to the change and got swings and misses.
Yamamoto gave up a run in the first on a fly ball that fell perfectly in the gap in right center for a one-out double and a single from rookie cleanup hitter Hisanori Yasuda, who smashed a fat pitch up the middle.
With one out in the second, Yamamoto hit Tamura and walked Brandon Laird. Light-hitting Yudai Fujioka squared up a 1-1 cutter in the heart of the zone and drove it to the warning track in left over Takahiro Okada for an RBI double. Fukuda, a first-inning strikeout victim, lined a low fastball for a two-run single before getting run out on the bases to end the inning.
Jones opened the Buffaloes second with a line single. With one out after a force at second, Steven Moya nailed a slider up and over the plate and tripled to the gap in right to put the hosts on the board.
Fukuda belted a long home run fourth to make it 5-1 before the Marines rallied against Mima in the seventh. Moya bounced a well-placed grounder up the middle for a leadoff single, and Yuya Oda smashed one of the few straight pitches Mima threw in the zone all night for a double. Ryoichi Adachi swatted a single to make it 5-2 and drive Mima from the mound after his 99th pitch.
Lefty Takahiro Matsunaga took over with one out and two on. He walked the bases loaded before giving up a two-run pinch-hit single to Torai Fushimi. Another walk loaded the bases. Jones came up with a chance to put his team in front, but smashed a low 3-2 pitch to third for an inning-ending double play.
The Marines were denied an insurance run in the top of the eighth, when Oda threw a strike to the plate from center to cut down a runner trying to score from second on a two-out single against Tyler Higgins, the third Buffaloes pitcher.
Frank Herrmann worked a scoreless eighth for the Marines as the game hurtled toward its thrilling but indecisive finish.
Asamura finishes Eagles’ comeback
Hideto Asamura’s two-run home run capped a three-run eighth inning for the Rakuten Eagles and completed a 7-6 comeback win against the SoftBank Hawks at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
The Eagles scored three runs off Hawks ace Kodai Senga over six innings, but then scored four runs off SoftBank’s formidable bullpen. With two outs and one on in the seventh and Rei Takahashi on the mound, back-to-back singles by Hiroaki Shimauchi and Stefen Romero made it a 6-4 game.
Lefty Livan Moinelo (0-1) retired the first two batters. Daichi Suzuki doubled and scored on a Jabari Blash single, Asamura homered and Alan Busenitz worked the ninth for Rakuten to record his third save.
Senga gave up six hits, three walks and hit a batter while striking out six. Hawks lefty Hayato Yuge gave up five runs, three earned, on six hits and three walks over five innings.
Fighters punch out Lions’ Takahashi
Taishi Ota homered twice, walked twice and drove in six runs as the Nippon Ham Fighters hammered the Seibu Lions 11-4 at Sapporo Dome.
Naoki Uwasawa (2-1) allowed four runs over 5-2/3 innings but just one through the first five, during which the Fighters hammered Lions starter Kona Takahashi (2-4) for six runs over 4-1/3 innings. The right-hander, who has struggled with walks his entire career, allowed three hits but issued seven free passes.
Ota broke a 1-1 tie in the third inning with his fourth home run after Sho Nakata drew a two-out walk. Ota drew a bases-loaded walk in Nippon Ham’s three-run fifth, and belted a three-run homer in the sixth.
Fighters leadoff man Haruki Nishikawa singled twice and walked twice and scored three runs.
Giants ace Sugano holds off Tigers
Tomoyuki Sugano (6-0) allowed two runs over seven innings for the Yomiuri Giants in a 7-2 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium.
Sugano went to the mound with a 1-0 lead and was not as sharp as usual. The right-hander allowed six hits and a walk, while striking out three.
The Giants opened the scoring in the first on a two-out solo home run from Hayato Sakamoto. Lefty Onelki Garcia (0-4) thought he had a called third strike on a 1-2 fastball in and above the belt. His 2-2 changeup missed up and Sakamoto drove it over the wall in center.
An even worse pitch ended up in exactly the same spot off the bat of leadoff man Takumi Kitamura in the third. A Takumi Oshiro double and a Yoshihiro Maru single made it 3-0 in the fifth.
The Tigers got two scoreless innings from right-hander Atsushi Mochizuki and a two-run homer from Jerry Sands. Koji Chikamoto reached on a ground single and Sands swung and missed at a fat slider in the heart of the zone before pulling one on the outside corner and driving it 10 rows back in left.
With Mochizuki out of the game, Oshiro singled in two runs in a four-run Giants eighth to seal it. Kosuke Baba allowed four unearned runs and committed one of the Tigers’ two errors in the inning.
Ino, Stars pen silence Dragons
Shoichi Ino allowed six hits without a walk over seven innings, and two relievers provided near-perfect relief in the DeNA BayStars’ 3-0 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Yokohama Stadium.
Dragons starter Koji Fukutani (0-1) allowed all three runs on seven hits and a walk. The BayStars scraped out a run in the fourth on two singles and a double play.
Fukutani was less fortunate in the sixth. A Takayuki Kajitani leadoff single and a Kazuki Kamizato double set the table with no outs, and Neftali Soto hit a comebacker that came off the pitcher’s body for an RBI infield single. Another shot up the middle got through the infield to complete the scoring.
Chono, Tanaka lift Carp past Swallows
Hisayoshi Chono and Kosuke Tanaka each hit a three-run home run for the Hiroshima Carp in their 6-3 come-from-behind win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Swallows right-hander Hirotoshi Takanashi took a 3-0 lead into the seventh inning and left with two out and two on. Scott McGough entered and surrendered Chono’s first homer off the season. Noboru Shimizu (0-2) worked the eighth and gave up Tanaka’s third of the year.
Atsuya Horie (2-1) earned the win in relief for 1-1/3 innings of scoreless relief, and Geronimo Franzua earned his second save in the ninth. Carp starter Allen Kuri gave up three runs in four innings.
Reserve Swallows catcher Akihisa Nishida doubled in two runs in the second and doubled and scored in the fourth.
Carp looking for next manager: more nonsense
Yukan Fuji speculated Tuesday that the Hiroshima Carp may soon be seeking a replacement to take over next year from their first-year skipper Shinji Sasaoka, but as speculation goes, it’s pretty hollow.
These articles are generally a collection of criticisms from former players now working as analysts who would prefer to be coaching and who have ties with one or more of the potential candidates.
Like the propaganda launched recently against DeNA BayStars skipper Alex Ramirez, it includes extravagant projections for individual players and of the team that are given as certainties, thus providing “proof” that the manager’s policies are intolerably bad.
In this case Sasaoka is attacked for the failure of rookie right-hander Masato Morishita, who a former Carp player said should be a strong rookie of the year candidate, but who is floundering.
Morishita may not be taking the league by storm, but there is no reason to think he won’t be good based on what we’ve seen so far.
No mention was made of his peculiar usage of ace Daichi Osera, having him labor through a second-straight complete game to start the season when the buildup to the coronavirus-hit season has been anything but normal and fitness issues were expected.
The Carp have struggled, and the article mentions that since Yoshihiro Maru, the CL’s MVP in 2017 and 2018, left as a free agent to the Yomiuri Giants 1-1/2 years ago, things are in decline. Sasaoka’s failure, it seems has been his ability to make bricks without straw.
The article said that if Sasaoka is replaced it would be rare. It would be more than rare for the Carp. It would be unprecedented. The team has had three managers who lasted a year or less during a stretch from 1973 to 1975, but all three, Kaoru Betto (1973), Katsuya Morinaga (1974) and Joe Lutz (1975) all quit. The family-owned Carp have never fired a manager after one season. I wouldn’t expect Sasaoka to be the first.
The candidates listed were former Carp Hiroki Kuroda, Takahiro Arai and Tomoaki Kanemoto. It’s hard to imagine someone like Kuroda, who stoically bore the weight of his teams’ expectations with every pitch wanting the responsibility for a team on his shoulders.
Kanemoto had to be compelled to manage the Tigers and that didn’t go well. The easy-going Arai might give it a try, but someone would have to twist his arm a lot. A far better choice would be Ryuzo Yamasaki, their longtime former minor league manager or Giants batting coach Takuro Ishii, who finished his career there and then coached for the team.
Dragons activate 2018 top pick Neo
The Chunichi Dragons continue their cycling through their farm team rookies on Tuesday with the activation of Akira Neo, their first pick in the 2018 amateur draft.
Neo was a shortstop at baseball factory Osaka Toin High School (Ryosuke Hirata, Takeya Nakamura, Hideto Asamura, Tomoya Mori, Shintaro Fujinami). Four teams named him as their top draft pick in 2018, the same number that went after Hiroshima’s first-round signee, Kaito Kozono.
The left-handed-hitting Neo’s numbers suggest he was overmatched by Western League pitching last year, striking out in 28 percent of his plate appearances with little power. This year so far, he has have cut down on his strikeouts to about 22 percent of his plate appearances.
After making 24 errors last season, the most by any player in Japan’s two minor leaguers, Neo has spent most of his time this summer at second base, although the word is that the Dragons intend to give him playing time on the first team in the outfield.
Last month, Chunichi called up third baseman Takaya Ishikawa, their top pick last year, and then gave a few plate appearances to 18-year-old outfielder Yuki Okabayashi. Their fifth pick last autumn, Okabayashi, unlike Ishikawa and Neo, had been tearing it up on the farm team.