Tag Archives: Shintaro Fujinami

NPB 2020 8-5 Games and news

Wakui dominates Hawks in 1-hitter

Hideaki Wakui continued to look like the best pitcher in either league this year in an impressive one-hit eight-strikeout 6-0 win over the Rakuten Eagles over the SoftBank Hawks on Wednesday.

Wakui (6-0) retired the Hawks in order in the first but labored through it. Although the visitors were unable to hit his rising fastball, Kenta Imamiya and Yuki Yanagita fouled off a total of 10 of them before they went down swinging at his slider. Although Wakui walked two batters and allowed a ninth-inning single, that first inning represented the Hawks’ best effort against him.

Tsuyoshi Wada (3-1) gave up a couple of quick no-out singles and caught a break when Hideto Asamura lined a pitch away off the end of the bat that was caught on a leap by first baseman Kenji Akashi for an out instead of going for a single.

Wakui tightened up his command from the second to keep his pitch count under control, while Wada issued leadoff walks in the third and fourth. The lefty, however, could not work around a one-out double in the fifth by Kazuki Tanaka.

Wada got ahead of Tanaka 0-2 but the PL’s 2018 rookie of the year pulled a straight fastball in the heart of the zone down the line in left. After a wild pitch put Tanaka on third, rookie Hiroto Kobukata put a good swing on a 3-1 slider that got too much of the plate and lined it into center for an RBI single.

Daichi Suzuki did a good job to get the bat head on a pitch low and away with Kobukata on the go and hit a little fly into left to put runners on the corners. Wada left a pitch up in the zone tailor-made for a sacrifice fly, and Jabari Blash did his duty with a fly to deep center. Back-to-back singles by Hideto Asamura and Hiroaki Shimauchi made it 3-0.

Wada allowed three runs on seven hits and three walks over five innings. He struck out one.

The Eagles added two more runs in the sixth off right-hander Arata Shiino and an unearned run in the eighth. Tanaka walked twice, doubled twice and scored three of the Eagles’ six runs.

Wakui did not allow a base runner until a one-out walk to catcher Hiroaki Takaya in the sixth. He retired the next seven hitters, but with two outs in the eighth, he seemed to lose his rhythm. Retiring Wladimir Balentien on one pitch when his check swing produced and easy grounder to first, seemed to surprise the right-hander. He walked the next batter before notching his first strikeout since the second.

Wakui, who appears to have practiced jokes for use in postgame hero interviews, said it wasn’t the pressure that threw him off but player coach Naoto Watanabe.

“Nobody would look me in the eye, so I guess they were all conscious of it (the no-hit bid), then after the seventh inning, I made contact with Naoto, and he started grinning at me. I started laughing and I think that threw off my concentration a bit,” Wakui said.

Whatever it was, Wakui showed no signs of it in the ninth. Athough a few of his fastballs lacked their earlier pop, the only hit the Hawks managed was Keizo Kawashima’s broken-bat one-out looper between second and short. After a meeting on the mound, Wakui struck out the last two batters, Imamiya and Yanagita to end it.

Spangenberg, Yamakawa power Lions

Cory Spangenberg and Hotaka Yamakawa each hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning as the Seibu Lions came from behind to beat Nick Martinez (1-4) on his 30th birthday and the Nippon Ham Fighters 7-2 at Sapporo Dome.

A day after he drove in six runs, Taishi Ota got the Fighters started in the second against 21-year-old Lions right-hander Sho Ito. Ota singled, took second on a wild pitch and scored on a Toshitake Yokoo single.

After managing just two hits against Martinez through five innings, the Lions took the lead with one down in the sixth. Sosuke Genda singled off a hanging knuckle curve, and Spangenberg punished a poor cutter that came in high and over the plate for his sixth homer of the season. Yamakawa followed a Tomoya Mori single with his 13th home run.

Shuta Tonosaki completed the scoring in the inning when he reached on an error, stole second and scored from third on a Fumikazu Kimura single.

Martinez allowed five runs, four earned, on six hits over 5-1/3 innings.

Ito allowed a run on one walk and five hits while striking out four.

Katsunori Hirai (4-2) earned the win in by striking out cleanup hitter Sho Nakata to end the Fighters fifth and strand two runners. Kaima Taira worked 1-2/3 innings but allowed an inherited runner to score although all five outs he recorded were on strikeouts. Reed Garrett and Tatsushi Masuda finished up with one scoreless frame each.

Marines take no prisoners in Osaka

A two-out Hisanori Yasuda double opened the scoring in the fourth and the Lotte Marines didn’t let up in a 12-1 butt-kicking of the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

The Marines opened the scoring when Shogo Nakamura singled, Leonys Martin walked and both came home on Yasuda’s no-out double to the gap in right. Although he’s not among the league leaders in hard-hit ball percentage on Delta Graphs, it seems like every ball he hits is HARD. With one out, Tsuyoshi Sugano took Yu Suzuki out for his second home run of the year and a 4-0 Lotte lead.

Suzuki (1-3) allowed eight runs over 4-2/3 runs. Marines starter Kazuya Ojima (3-3) gave up a run over six innings.

Togo beats Fujinami, defenseless Tigers

Shosei Togo (4-2) struck out 10 as he allowed a run over seven-plus innings to earn the win as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Hanshin Tigers 4-1 at Koshien Stadium.

Tigers right-hander Shintaro Fujinami (0-3) was overpowering when he could put his fastball and cutter in the zone and get hitters to chase his splitter out of the zone, but he missed often enough to allow four runs, one earned, on four hits and a walk over eight innings

Akihiro Wakabayashi made a good catch in right to end the Tigers’ second, and then singled in the game’s first run in the third against Shintaro Fujinami. Naoki Yoshikawa drew a leadoff walk and went to second on pitcher Shosei Togo’s one-out sacrifice and scored easily on Wakabayashi’s single.

The Giants padded their lead in a three-run sixth when Togo reached because Fujinami misjudged his chopper in front of the mound for an error. With one out, he made a mistake to Hayato Sakamoto, who ripped it to right for a single. A miss-hit high fastball was good for the second out, but cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto did well to launch a fastball away to the right field corner for an RBI double that came close to being caught.

Left fielder Jerry Sands then misjudged a fly to shallow left from Takumi Oshiro that fell for an RBI single and a four-run lead.

The Tigers had a chance to come back in the eighth after back-to-back singles drove Togo from the game, but Yusuke Oyama missed a fat pitch with two outs and the bases loaded to end the inning.

Hamaguchi, Sano skewer Dragons

Haruhiro Hamaguchi allowed a run over five innings and Keita Sano drove in three runs in the DeNA BayStars’ 8-2 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Yokohama Stadium.

Hamaguchi got out of a bases-loaded pickle in a scoreless first inning with the first of his eight strikeouts as Yota Kyoda couldn’t hold up on a ball in the dirt. The BayStars then opened the scoring against Yuya Yanagi, pitching on the first team for the first time in a month after suffering an oblique muscle injury.

Jose Lopez singled off the wall in left with one out and the bases loaded to score Kazuki Kamizato and Neftali Soto, who had doubled on a ball that right fielder Masataka Iryo misjudged.

The visitors got on the board in the third through Iryo’s leadoff infield single and a Yohei Oshima double but the hosts were unstoppable.

Kyoda opened the door for the BayStars to score again in the bottom of the third, when he dropped a fly at shortstop to allow the leadoff man on. After a groundout, Kamizato scored from second on a Keita Sano single.

Nomura, Carp bullpen hold off Swallows

Yusuke Nomura (2-0) allowed a run over seven innings and Shota Dobayashi scored twice in the Hiroshima Carp’s 4-1 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Rookie right-hander Hiroki Onishi (0-1), Yakult’s fourth-round pick last autumn, gave up three first-inning singles, with Ryuhei Matsuyama bringing home Dobayashi to make it 1-0 Carp, who left the bases loaded.

Takeshi Miyamoto, a reserve infielder playing while superstar Tetsuto Yamada regains fitness, homered to tie it off Nomura in the second.

Onishi pitched out of a tough spot in the third and struck out the side in the fourth, but a hard-hit infield single and a Hisayoshi Chono double put the Carp in front in the fifth. The Carp added two runs off the bullpen from Dobayashi’s eighth home run and Tsubasa Aizawa’s third.

Yakult loaded the bases in the in the eighth, but lefty Atsuya Horie pitched left the bags juiced, and Geronimo Franzua notched his third save in the ninth.

Hawks rehab group staff member tests positive

The SoftBank Hawks reported Wednesday that one staff member with the organization’s rehab group in Chikugo, Fukuoka Prefecture, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The rehab group shares the organization’s minor league facility with the Western League farm team and the Hawks’ third team, and for that reason, minor league activities have been suspended.

The Hawks tested around 200 people on Sunday the day after veteran outfielder Yuya Hasegawa, who is currently with the minor league team, tested positive. One member of the first-team staff, who was asymptomatic, has also tested positive and those who were deemed to have been in close contact with him have been sent home.

BayStars’ Austin, Marines’ Laird dropped

DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said Wednesday the team will deactivate outfielder Tyler Austin following his crash against Koshien Stadium’s right field wall on July 31 according to the Daily Sports, while the Pacific League’s Lotte Marines have deactivated third baseman Brandon Laird.

Austin hurt his neck trying to catch a fly at the wall, and it has been stiff ever since.

Laird has been serving as the Marines’ DH recently with rookie cleanup hitter Hisanori Yasuda starting in his place at third base. On Tuesday, he was pinch-hit for in the sixth inning due to a stiff back.

Active roster moves 8/5/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/15

Central League

Activated

BayStarsOF37Taishi Kusumoto
DragonsP17Yuya Yanagi
SwallowsP44Hiroki Onishi

Dectivated

BayStarsIF23Tyler Austin

Pacific League

Activated

MarinesIF68Kenji Nishimaki
BuffaloesIF64Shinya Hirosawa

Dectivated

MarinesIF54Brandon Laird
BuffaloesP26Daiki Tomei

Starting pitchers for Aug. 6, 2020

Pacific League

Fighters vs Lions: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Ryusei Kawano (1-3, 4.13) vs Kaito Yoza (2-2, 4.18)

Eagles vs Hawks: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yuki Matsui (0-0, 5.19) vs Shunsuke Kasaya (1-2, 6.94)

Buffaloes vs Marines: Kyocera Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Sachiya Yamasaki (1-1, 5.47) vs Daiki Iwashita (3-2, 3.58)

Central League

Swallows vs Carp: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Keiji Takahashi (1-1, 2.28) vs Kris Johnson (0-3, 5.14)

BayStars vs Dragons: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shinichi Onuki (3-2, 2.42) vs Takahiro Matsuba (2-1, 1.47)

Tigers vs Giants: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Haruto Takahashi (-) vs Cristopher Mercedes (2-3, 3.09)

NPB 2020 7-30 GAMES AND NEWS

Simplified Takahashi outduels Fujinami

“Simple is best” poster boy Keiji Takahashi continued his mound turnaround on Thursday with eight impressive scoreless innings as he outdueled Shintaro Fujinami in the Yakult Swallows’ 6-0 Central League win over the Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

The lefty, whose old leg kick, arm raise, double-pump leg raise delivery used to look like one of those sci-fi movie transformers morphing into a car, has been precisely commanding his fastball, slider, changeup package with his new, very orthodox looking delivery this year.

After three starts in which he allowed six earned runs over 15-2/3 combined innings, Takahashi struck out six, walked one and hit one, while giving up three singles. After giving up a leadoff single in the first, he recorded two assists on a tricky force at second and a pickoff-throw caught stealing in a three-batter inning.

Fujinami brought his good stuff and was on target, walking just one batter over eight innings. The Swallows bunched their hits against him to score a run in the second, and added three more in the seventh, when shortstop Fumiya Hojo had a night to forget.

Hojo fumbled a grounder to allow the leadoff man to reach. With two outs and runners on the corners, Tomotaka Sakaguchi reached on an infield single and Fujinami’s throwing error allowed the runner on first to scoot over to third. Hojo then dropped a pop fly in shallow center when he ran into center fielder Koji Chikamoto, allowing two runs to score.

The Swallows opened the scoring in the second through a trio of their less-heralded players. Kotaro Yamasaki opened with a single, was sacrificed to second by reserve infielder Takeshi Miyamoto and scored on a double by another reserve infielder, rookie shorstsop Taisei Yoshida.

Fujinami pitched around a leadoff double in the sixth, but Takahashi followed with his third straight 1-2-3 inning–thanks to Norichika Aoki’s good catch in left to rob Jerry Sands of a leadoff single in the seventh.

BayStars make out like bandits against Giants

There’s an expression in Japanese baseball “breaking open the safe” that is used when the first run in a scoreless game finally crosses the plate. Gerardo Parra may have cracked open the safe on Thursday at Tokyo Dome, but the DeNA BayStars made off with the cash in a 4-2 win over the Yomiuri Giants.

For five scoreless innings, Giants lefty Cristopher Mercedes (2-3) dueled it out with BayStars right-hander Shinichi Onuki (3-2). Parra got the Giants on the board in the bottom of the sixth. He tripled with two outs and scored when Naoki Yoshikawa beat out an infield single, sliding head-first into the bag.

Mercedes, who had retired 19 of the first 21 batters he faced ran into trouble with two outs in the top of the seventh. Jose Lopez, a former Giants, singled, and Toshiro Miyazaki walked. Pinch-hitter Hiroki Minei singled in the tying run and Toshihiko Kuramoto singled home Miyazaki to put the visitors in front.

As he had the day before with a one-run lead in the seventh, DeNA closer Yasuaki Yamasaki came on in the seventh. He gave up a one-out single to Hayato Sakamoto. Yamasaki, whose splitter has been poor this year, threw two of his best to get ahead of Yoshihiro Maru, before striking him out looking at a 1-2 splitter low in the zone that failed to tumble.

The right-hander walked slugger Kazuma Okamoto. Lefty Edwin Escobar came in to face tough left-handed-hitting Takumi Oshiro, but Giants manager Tatsunori Hara sent in light-hitting right-handed hitter Shingo Ishikawa up to pinch-hit, and Ishikawa grounded out of the inning.

One of the things Hara was famous for in his first decade as Giants manager, along with going through second basemen like Kleenex and his fondness for pinch-runners, was in going with every platoon advantage regardless of the gap in quality of the hitters involved. Glad to see he hasn’t changed much with age.

BayStars right-hander Spencer Patton surrendered Zelous Wheeler’s eighth-inning leadoff single. Para’s single off lefty Kenta Ishida put runners on the corners with no out. But the lefty somehow gutted it out.

Ishida struck out veteran Hiroyuki Nakajima on six pitches, and a delayed double steal saw pinch-runner Daiki Masuda out at the plate. With first base open, Ishida walked Yang Dai-kang to face tough lefty Yasuyuki Kamei. On the eighth pitch after three two-strike fouls, Kamei grounded out to end the inning.

Miyazaki homered with a man on in the top of the ninth, and Okamoto blasted his 13th homer of the year in the home half off of Kazuki Mishima, who earned his second career save after collecting his first on Wednesday.

Johnson back with Carp, but Dragons craft tie

Hiroshima Carp lefty Kris Johnson returned to active duty and looked like his old self through two innings, retiring the first five Chunichi Dragons hitters on grounders in their 4-4, 10-inning tie at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

The lefty allowed two runs over six innings, which made it his best start of the season, but reliever Yasunori Kikuchi allowed Chunichi to tie it 4-4 in the seventh.

The Dragons opened the scoring in the third inning on a one-out single by Kengo Takeda, a sacrifice by the pitcher and a single by unlikely leadoff hitter Nobumasa Fukuda. Ryoma Nishikawa, however, tied it in the bottom of the second against Yuichiro Okano with his second homer of the year.

Dayan Viciedo doubled and scored the go-ahead run for the Dragons in the fourth on a single by catcher Takuya Kinoshita.

Again, the Carp had an answer. No-out singles by Seiya Suzuki and Ryuhei Matsuyama set the table for Shota Dobayashi’s seventh home run.

With two outs and the bases loaded after back-to-back pinch-hit singles and a walk to Fukuda, Viciedo singled in two runs and was declared a tie after this season’s coronavirus 10-inning limit.

Romero, Kubo clinch win for Eagles

Stefen Romero broke up a seventh-inning tie with an RBI single and 40-year-old Yuya Kubo (1-0) retired the only batter he faced in relief to win his season debut as the Rakuten Eagles came from behind to beat the Lotte Marines at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

Former Marines captain Daichi Suzuki homered off Lotte right-hander Daiki Iwashita in the first, but Eagles southpaw Hayato Yuge surrendered the lead on single runs in the first and second on one hit, two walks and an error. Leonys Martin homered for the second-straight day with a towering blast to make it 3-1 before Hideto Asamura slammed a high-straight pitch from Yamashita into the stands for his 13th of the year and a 3-2 game.

With one on and two down in the fifth, right-hander Kubo came in to face the left-handed-hitting Martin and got him to tap back to the mound on the ninth pitch to end the inning.

Suzuki tied it against his former team when he singled to open the sixth and came home on a groundout after Iwashita walked Eigoro Mogi and Asamura to load the bases with no outs. Romero, who had homered in each of the last two games, singled in the go-ahead run.

Kazuhisa Makita worked the eighth for the Eagles, and former Eagle Frank Herrmann worked a 1-2-3 ninth for the Marines, but the hosts were unable to score against Alan Busenitz, who recorded his second save.

Fighters’ Sugiura corrals Buffaloes

Right-hander Toshihiro Sugiura (3-1) was happy to win but less so to allow a run over his eight innings in the Nippon Ham Fighters’ 7-3 victory over the Orix Buffaloes at Sapporo Dome.

With a 7-0 lead in the fifth, Sugiura took his foot off the gas, failed to execute his pitches and was fortunate to only allow a run before he recovered his composure.

“You have a big lead like that, you’re supposed to go all the way and give the relievers a rest. I failed to do that as well as I should have,” said the right-hander, surrendered a hit on his first pitch but still faced the minimum through four. He allowed four hits and a walk while striking out four.

Taishi Ota singled, drove in a run and scored in the Fighters’ four-run first off lefty Sachiya Yamasaki (1-1His two-run homer in the third made it 6-0

Sho Nakata, who struck out in the first, singled and scored on Ota’s third homer of the year. Nakata added the Fighters’ seventh run on a fourth-inning sacrifice fly. The Fighters might have had more but Kensuke Kondo was doubled off first on the play.

Adam Jones drove in two in the ninth with his fifth home run of the year for the Buffaloes.

Mori breaks out of funk against Hawks

Tomoya Mori, moved to second in the order from third due to his poor run of form, doubled, homered twice, scored three and drove in three for the Seibu Lions in their 6-0 win over the SoftBank Hawks at Fukuoka’s PayPayDome.

Rookie Hawks right-hander Yugo Bando (0-1), making his first career start after three long relief appearances, gave up a Mori double and a Hotaka Yamakawa single that put the Lions on the board in the first.

Corey Spangenberg homered with one out in the second, and Mori did likewise in the third. Sosuke Genda, batting in the No. 9 spot due to poor form, singled to open the fifth and Mori homered in his second-straight at-bat to make it 5-0.

Submarine right-hander Kaito Yoza (2-2) threw five scoreless innings for the Lions to earn the win, the first time this season that SoftBank has been shut out.

Lions to re-sign 2015 top pick Tawata

The Pacific League’s Seibu Lions announced Thursday that they have re-signed pitcher Shinsaburo Tawata. Their top pick in the 2015 draft, Tawata was not extended a contract after he was diagnosed with dysautonomia, an autonomic nerve disorder.

Although not under contract, Tawata began working out with the club’s third team on March 24 according to website Full Count.

Tawata is the second prominent Japanese player to be sidetracked by dysautonomia. It also struck popular former major leaguer Munenori Kawasaki prior to the 2018 season. Kawasaki spent last winter as a player-coach for Taiwan’s Wei Chuan Dragons.

Fighters’ Villanueva, Buffs’ Rodriguez dropped

The Nippon Ham Fighters deactivated third baseman Christian Villanueva on Thursday after he fouled a ball off his foot in Wednesday’s game against the Orix Buffaloes at Sapporo Dome.

He was joined on the deactivated list by Orix’s Aderlin Rodriguez, who was hit by a pitch to force in the tying run in the same game. Rodriguez was diagnosed with a contusion on his left forearm, according to Hochi Shimbun.

Fighters reliever Katsuhiko Kumon, who hit Rodriguez and blew the Fighters’ one-run lead was also sent down due to a strained adductor muscle in his left leg. He is expected to miss four weeks, Full Count reports.

Active roster moves 7/30/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/9

Central League

Activated

CarpP42Kris Johnson
SwallowsP61Takuma Kubo

Dectivated

CarpP26Ren Nakata
SwallowsP16Juri Hara

Pacific League

Activated

FightersP34Mizuki Hori
FightersP35Takahiro Nishimura
FightersOF4Yuya Taniguchi
BuffaloesP60Yu Hidarisawa

Dectivated

EaglesP60Ryota Ishibashi
FightersP49Katsuhiko Kumon
FightersIF44Christian Villanueva
BuffaloesIF42Aderlin Rodriguez

Starting pitchers for Friday, July 31

Pacific League

p>Fighters vs Buffaloes: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kohei Arihara (1-4, 3.51) vs Tsubasa Sakakibara (1-1, 2.95)

Marines vs Eagles: Zozo Marine Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Ayumu Ishikawa (0-2, 4.42) vs Takahiro Norimoto (3-2, 2.93)

Hawks vs Lions: PayPay Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Nao Higashihama (2-0, 1.91) vs Zach Neal (2-0, 3.96)

Central League

Giants vs Carp: Tokyo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Seishu Hatake (-) vs Masato Morishita (2-1, 2.36)

Dragons vs Swallows: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yudai Ono (0-3, 4.04) vs Daiki Yoshida (0-1, 8.59)

Tigers vs BayStars: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Koyo Aoyagi (4-1, 1.80) vs Taiga Kamichatani (0-0, 6.00)

NPB 2020 7-23 games and news

Giants ride Mercedes in win over Dragons

Cristopher Mercedes (2-2) allowed a run over seven innings and Kazuma Okamoto’s two-run eighth-inning double broke up a tie game in for the Yomiuri Giants’ 6-1 win over the Chunichi Dragons on Thursday at Nagoya Dome.

Lefty Hiroto Fuku (1-1), who has been solid for the Dragons all season, surrendered a leadoff single thanks to some good hitting by Yoshiyuki Kamei.

Although home plate ump Fumihiro Yoshimoto had been giving away wide outside strikes like Halloween candy all game, Fuku couldn’t buy one against Hayato Sakamoto, who smacked a 3-2 cutter in the heart of the zone for a double. Yoshihiro Maru walked to load the bases for Okamoto.

The Giants cleanup hitter pulled an inside pitch past the third-base bag for a two-run double. Maru scored on a groundout before Zelous Wheeler crushed a fat first-pitch fastball for his second home run.

Mercedes struck out eight while allowing six hits, a walk and a hit batsman. He got a 1-0 lead in the fourth on catcher Takumi Oshiro’s fourth home run only for the Dragons to tie it in the sixth.

Dragonst starter Yuichiro Okano allowed a run over five innings on three hits and a walk. The right-hander struck out seven.

Dayan Viciedo, who missed Wednesday’s game after being hit by a pitch on Tuesday, had the third of three-straight singles to bring in Yohei Oshima. The right-handed hitter adjusted to Yoshimoto calling strikes well off the outside corner by diving into those and collecting two hits.

Onuki pitches BayStars past Swallows

Shinichi Onuki (2-2) allowed a hit and two walks over seven innings, and the DeNA BayStars hammered lefty Keiji Takahashi (0-1) for three runs in the first inning in a 6-0 win over the Yakult Swallows at Yokohama Stadium.

Keita Sano, a 25-year-old with fewer than 400 career plate appearances was promoted to team captain and dropped into the cleanup spot following the departure of Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. Manager Alex Ramirez has come under fire for batting him fourth. The youngster has been raking, except with runners in scoring position and had no home runs through July 21.

On Wednesday, Sano homered in the first inning to open the scoring, and on Thursday, he singled in the game’s first run and added a late two-run homer.

Takahashi (0-1) lacked some of the explosive movement he’s had on his pitches in his good outings and was missing the strike zone more than he missed bats.

Morishita wins Fujinami comeback game

Masato Morishita, the Hiroshima Carp’s first draft pick last autumn, allowed two runs on a first-inning homer but struck out 10 over six innings and earned his first win in a 4-2 victory over the Hanshin Tigers.

The rookie right-hander matched up at historic Koshien Stadium with Shintaro Fujinami, the Tigers’ top pick in the 2012 draft, whose career has been on a steady downward slide for four years. This spring, he contracted COVID-19 and was also banished to the farm team for coming late to one practice too many.

With hopes always high in Tigers land that at any moment he might regain the quality of his first few seasons and become a plus in the rotation, his return to Koshien turned Thursday’s game into a highly anticipated matchup.

Fujinami pitched out of a first-inning jam before Yusuke Oyama’s two-run homer in the first gave him the lead. The game remained 2-0 until a single and a pair of one-out walks in the sixth, which Jose Pirela converted with a two-out grand slam. The opposite-field fly just landed fair inside the right field foul pole. It was the Venezuelan’s fourth home run of the year.

“I don’t know if it was going to be a home run, but I hit it hard. At least if it fell it was going to be a double. I was always looking for fastballs. He threw me a lot of fastballs and that’s what I hit for the homer,” Pirela said.

Yoza earns 1st win as Lions clip Marines

The Seibu Lions hitters made the most of their limited opportunities and the fielders preserved a slim lead in a 3-2 win over the Lotte Marines at MetLife Dome.

Rookie submariner Kaito Yoza (1-2) allowed two runs on six hits, two walks and a hit batsman over five innings, and clutch pitching and defense kept the Marines from catching up.

Yoza surrendered a booming two-out RBI double in the first to rookie Hisanori Yasuda, who scored on a Shogo Nakamura single. Although the Marines had numerous chances, they would be unable to add on.

Rookie Shohei Suzuki led off the first with a hustling double off Daiki Iwashita (3-1) and scored when Sosuke Genda stroked a fat first-pitch fastball up the middle.

The Lions were unable to bring Genda home from second, but a Corey Spangenberg triple and a long home run, the first of rookie Seiji Kawagoe’s career, made it 3-2.

The Marines should have tied it or taken the lead in the fourth. WIth two outs and runners on second and third, Yoza somehow snared Shuhei Fukuda’s line drive for the third out. Perfect innings from Katsunori Hirai and Kaima Taira got the game to the eighth, where Reed Garrett took over for the Lions.

With two outs and pinch-runner Hiromi Oka on first, Seiay Inoue launched a drive that Suzuki tracked down and caught with a leaping grab before it struck the fence in dead center. Tatsushi Masuda then worked a scoreless ninth for his eighth save.

Fighters’ VerHagen stops Hawks

Drew VerHagen (2-1) allowed two runs over six innings, and catcher Shingo Usami belted a three-run second-inning homer in the Nippon Ham Fighters’ 3-2 win over the SoftBank Hawks at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

VerHagen surrendered a run in the bottom of the first on a leadoff walk and a Yuki Yanagita triple. But after a walk, VerHagen recorded two of his eight strikeouts to hold the Hawks to a run.

Hawks lefty Shunsuke Kasaya (0-1) retired the first five batters he faced before a walk and a Christian Villanueva single brought the light-hitting Fighters catcher to the plate. Kasaya missed with a 1-1 slider and Usami drilled it well back in the seats for his first home run since he hit for for the Yomiuri Giants in 2017.

VerHagen didn’t need much help from his defense but he did get a gem from second baseman Kenshi Sugiya to catch a flare for the third out of the third inning and rob Yanagita of a single.

The Hawks narrowed the gap in the fifth on a walk, a double and a Ryoya Kurihara sac fly, but neither team would record a hit after that as three Fighters relievers closed it out and Ryo Akiyoshi earned his sixth save.

Kasaya was pulled after three innings, but the Hawks got four stellar innings of long relief from Yugo Bando, who struck out five while allowing a walk and a single.

Mission accomplished as Buffs play for tie

For the second straight night, Orix Buffaloes skipper Norifumi turned to the sacrifice bunt when trailing in the late innings on the road. Although the Buffaloes scored six runs in the ninth on Wednesday and did better than tie, Nishimura got what he paid for this time.

Adam Jones singled in two runs as Orix came from behind to finish in a 2-2 tie with the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Lefties Hayato Yuge of the Eagles and Sachiya Yamasaki of the Buffaloes each threw five scoreless innings. Yuge worked around a leadoff single in the sixth before the Eagles scored in the home half.

Hiroto Kobukata, Rakuten’s top draft pick last autumn, and Eigoro Mogi singled to open the inning. After a Daichi Suzuki sacrifice, Kobukata did well to score around the tag at the plate after Stefen Romero’s fly to medium deep right field.

Hideto Asamura singled in a second run, but the Buffaloes got to Yuge in the eighth.

After a walk and a hit batsman, No. 2 hitter Koji Oshiro sacrificed and slugger Masataka Yoshida walked. Jones then ripped a game-tying single off Alan Busenitz and was replaced by a pinch-runner. Both teams wasted scoring opportunities before the game was called at the conclusion of the 10th inning.

NPB finally backs down on bigger crowds

Nearly a week after Japan’s government asked event promotors not to expand the sizes of their audiences from Aug. 1, Nippon Professional Baseball on Thursday said it would follow suit.

Prior to Thursday’s announcement, only two teams had said they would back from their plans to admit crowds up to half of their venues’ capacity. Since July 10, NPB and pro soccer’s J-League have limited their audiences to a maximum of 5,000 fans.

See the Kyodo News story here.

jballallen.com’s NPB coronavirus timeline.

Tigers lose Itohara with broken hand

Kento Itohara, the Hanshin Tigers’ 27-year-old second baseman broke the hamate bone in his right hand during Wednesday’s game against the Hiroshima Carp. He was deactivated on Thursday, snapping his string of playing in 312 consecutive games since Opening Day 2018.

Active roster moves 7/23/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/2

Central League

Activated

BayStarsIF23Tyler Austin
TigersP19Shintaro Fujinami
TigersP22Kyuji Fujikawa
CarpP18Masato Morishita
CarpIF4Tetsuya Kokubo

Dectivated

TigersIF33Kento Itohara
CarpP46Mikiya Takahashi
CarpOF50Hiroki Takahashi

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP44Kaito Yoza
MarinesOF7Shuhei Fukuda

Dectivated

LionsP13Kona Takahashi
MarinesOF0Takashi Ogino

Ramping up: 22 days to go

With Nippon Professional Baseball due to open its season behind closed doors on June 19, teams have begun playing intrasquad games to prepare, and will begin playing practice games against other teams from Tuesday.

Here’s the schedule for the practice games starting from June 2.

NPB preparing strict virus guidelines

As Opening Day rapidly approaches, NPB executives are hard at work developing countermeasures to promote the safety of not just players but those who work with them or at ballparks and those peoples’ families.

According to Kyodo News in Japanese, proposed measures for these guidelines include:

  • Quarantines for those testing positive that will last until 14 days AFTER they produce a negative test result.
  • Immediate isolation of those deemed to have come in close contacted with infected people.
  • 7 days self-quarantine if someone or a family member feels unwell — even if no tests are deemed necessary or tests come back negative.
  • Fixed 5-man umpiring crews.
  • Home plate umpires wearing surgical masks at all times.
  • An end to spitting, high-fives, hand shaking and “enjin” — the practice of huddling up before games and before a team’s at-bats when someone says something to get everyone fired up.
  • Media to be barred from the field and dugouts.
  • Media to observe social distancing in those areas they are allowed to occupy.
  • Media to no longer walk alongside players.

Fujinami sent down for tardiness

Hanshin Tigers pitcher Shintaro Fujinami has been demoted to the farm team for being late to practice, the Daily Sports reported Friday. It’s kind of an unusual story for two reasons. The first is that Japanese players tend to be punctual. The second is that the Tigers are one of those teams that do things like boot camp, where you are told to be 15 minutes early for everything.

Current Tigers scout Jeff Williams once talked about this custom known as “Tiger time.” Players would be told when to arrive, but because the team occupies two different parallel time universes, normal time and Tiger time, it got so confusing to Williams that he had to perpetually ask, “Is that real time or Tiger time.”

So it could have been that Fujinami was late because he was operating on the wrong clock. When he showed up after the expected time for a 10:30 am (time mode unknown) practice on Thursday, the pitcher was not permitted to take the field.

“This is not the first time for him,” manager Akihiro Yano said. “It’s up to Shintaro to make what he will of this. I made my decision based on the fact that being a responsible member of society comes before being a baseball player.”

The other confusing side to the story is that the Japanese word for late is often used in conjunction with players who are delayed in achieving game fitness. So when reading that Fujinami was late and knowing he was hospitalized after testing positive for the novel coronavirus in March, at first glance it seemed like a fitness issue, when maybe it was just a Tiger time issue.

Lotte’s Sasaki ‘not ready yet’: Iguchi

The Nikkan Sports reported Friday that fireballing Lotte Marines 18-year-old is still not close to being used in a game according to manager Tadahito Iguchi.

Sasaki, who twice hit 160 kilometers (99.4 miles) per hour in a simulated game on Tuesday, is not in line to be used during the Marines’ 12 practice games next month.

“He’s on track but I don’t think he’ll make those,” Iguchi said, sticking to the team’s roadmap not to overwork the lanky right-hander with the smooth fluid delivery.

Women’s league to start June 23

The Japan Women’s Baseball League announced Friday it will open its 2020 season on June 23 with a game between the Kyoto Flora and the Saitama Astria, four days after NPB pops the cork on its regular season. The league will adopt special rules in order to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Games will be limited to 90 minutes and seven innings for single games, and five innings when two games are played at the same venue.

The three-team circuit was founded in 2009 when, according to the league, there were five women’s hardball high school clubs in Japan. By last year there were 40. During that time, the number of registered women ballplayers has gone from 600 to 20,000.

NPB has not offered any concrete rule changes for its games other than discussing possibly changing its active roster limits.

2 infected women in Osaka linked to dinner with Tigers pitcher Fujinami

Two of the 15 newly discovered coronavirus infections announced by the Osaka government on Saturday, were recently in contact with Hanshin Tigers pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, Sankei Sports reported Saturday night.

The two women in their 20s were among 12 people who dined together on March 14 at the home of one of Fujinami’s friends. The dinner took place after Hanshin’s practice game that afternoon with the Orix Buffaloes and seven of those present were Tigers players.

Here is a link to my coronavirus-NPB timeline

The women reported similar symptoms to Fujinami, who reported a diminished sense of smell to one of the Tigers trainers. Because Fujinami allowed his name to be reported, the women were able to be tested and diagnosed.

Two of Fujinami’s Tigers teammates, outfielder Hayata Ito and catcher Kenya Saka also tested positive for the new coronavirus. Like Fujinami and the two women, they did not develop any of the symptoms Japan health authorities have used as a guideline for testing: a fever of 37.5 C or higher, coughing, difficulty breathing or extreme fatigue.

3 Tigers players hospitalized

The Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League on Friday revealed that three players, pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, outfielder Hayata Ito and catcher Kenya Nagasaka have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

According to the Hochi Shimbun, all three have been hospitalized. All have complained of a diminished sense of taste and smell, but have not developed fevers or coughs.

Last week, Nippon Professional Baseball’s teams agreed to announce whenever a player was tested or tested positive, and the three are the first pro ballplayers in Japan known to have been infected.

Here is a link to my coronavirus-NPB timeline

On Thursday the team announced that Fujinami had been tested for the virus, had all its facilities sanitized by people wearing hazmat suits and canceled a farm-team practice game scheduled that day.

The Central and Pacific leagues were originally scheduled to open for business on March 20, but Opening Day has been pushed back twice on account of the pandemic, first to April 10 and now to April 24, although that latter date seems as unrealistic as the first.

The 25-year-old Fujinami was having a promising spring after four seasons in a tailspin that started when Tomoaki Kanemoto took over as Tigers manager in 2016 for three years. Prior to that he had been a reliable starting pitcher after being the 2012 draft’s top pitching prize. Shohei Ohtani also went in that draft in the second round, because he had announced he would turn pro with a big league club.