Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma said Monday that this season will be his last. The 39-year-old turned pro out of high school after being taken in the fifth round of the 1999 draft by the now defunct Kintetsu Buffaloes.
Iwakuma went 107-69 in Japan and 63-39 in six seasons with the Seattle Mariners. He joined the Yomiuri Giants as a free agent in 2019, when he appeared in two Eastern League games. He has not played this year.
When the Buffaloes merged with the Pacific League rival Orix BlueWave in 2004, triggering Japanese baseball’s lone labor action, Iwakuma was sold to the Rakuten Eagles after a long dispute with Orix.
One of the key issues that summer was whether the owners could unilaterally remake NPB’s established format of two six-team leagues after the owners accepted a merger without any plan about how to move forward with 11 teams.
After players went on strike and forced the cancellation of two weekends worth of games, the owners agreed to expedite the creation of an expansion franchise. This was something they originally argued was possible — and in so doing honor an age-old pro baseball tradition of owners telling something is impossible only to turn around and do just that when they have the will to do so.
Another part of the agreement, although not written, but spoken at the Nagoya Castle Hotel press conference, was a statement from Orix’s official representative that no Kintetsu player would be taken by Orix in the merger if they refused to play for the new club.
Iwakuma along with Kintetsu players rep Koichi Isobe was the most vocal of the Buffaloes about refusing to sign with Orix. But when the distribution draft was held to allow the new Rakuten Eagles access to surplus talent on the Orix and Kintetsu rosters, Iwakuma was among those protected from selection.
Orix’s explained its decision “We promised but you can’t expect us to honor it when a player is actually important to us.”
Iwakuma, however, stuck to his guns and refused to go to Orix, eventually forcing the team to sell him to the fledgling Eagles.
After the 2010 season, the Rakuten Eagles posted Iwakuma, but he returned to the Eagles after failing to reach a deal with the Oakland Athletics, who won the sole right to negotiate with him in the bidding.
Ties can be thrillers, too
Although not enjoyable because of its see-saw nature, the Hanshin Tigers’ 10-inning 1-1 tie with the Yakult Swallows on a Monday makeup game at Koshien Stadium was just a terrific game.
It was well pitched, well played, some good swings on tough pitches, a personal speed record by one of Japan’s fastest pitchers, two brothers pitching on opposing sides and both teams seeing their 10th-inning rallies on nice catches.
Joe Gunkel started for the Tigers and went five innings. He did well to allow only a run after allowing four hits in the fourth inning, but a sharply hit grounder to third with the bases jammed was turned for an inning-ending double play.
The game also saw the Tigers’ Justin Bour bunt in attempt to beat the shift before smashing a pitch to the left of second for a single.
Albert Suarez allowed an unearned run over six innings when pinch-hitter Kento Itohara did well to put the bat on the ball for an RBI game-tying single. Shintaro Fujinami hit 162 kph on the radar gun as he struck out the side in the top of the seventh.
Scott McGough answered with a 1-2-3 inning in the home half for the Swallows and so it went. Suarez’s younger brother Robert struck out two in the top of the ninth for the Tigers, while Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama worked around a Jerry Sands single in the home half.
Both teams put the potential go-ahead run on base in the 10th, but the Swallows’ rally died with the runner on second as shortstop Ryuhei Kobata made an outstanding catch to snare a liner. The Swallows returned the favor in the bottom of the inning, when second baseman Tetsuto Yamada caught a one-out liner with the runner going for an easy game-ending double play.
Active roster moves 10/19/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/29
Haruki Nishikawa broke up an eighth-inning tie with a two-out, three-run triple off Reed Garrett (3-2), lifting the Nippon Ham Fighters to a 6-2 win over the Seibu Lions at Sapporo Dome on Saturday afternoon.
Sean Nolin allowed nine base runners but just two runs over six innings in his second start for the Lions, and Kaima Taira walked two in a scoreless seventh before the Lions’ luck ran out in the eighth.
With two outs, Takuya Nakashima fouled off three two-strike pitches before walking on nine pitches. Taishi Ota singled and Garrett hit Go Matsumoto to load the bases. A 1-1 splitter failed to tumble and Nishikawa hit a fly to the warning track. Center fielder Yuji Kaneko, was playing Nishikawa to pull and the ball fell just out of reach.
Sho Nakata followed with a drive near the top of the imposing center-field wall to drive in Nishikawa but was held to a single when he stumbled rounding first.
Kohei Arihara (4-6) who started the season 1-5 with three quality starts in his first eight games, has now rolled off four-straight solid outings. Some big plays from Nakashima at shortstop helped Arihara hold Seibu to two runs on six hits over eight innings.
Sean Nolin, making his second start since joining the Lions in the offseason, brought a very good fastball, but inconsistent location cost him. He allowed two runs on six hits, three walks and a hit batsman, while striking out 10.
Kensuke Kondo singled in both of the Fighters early runs, while the Lions answered with Ernesto Mejia’s eighth home run, in the second, and a Hotaka Yamakawa RBI single in the sixth.
Japanese baseball 101: Don’t get high
Nearly every Japanese language description of a good pitching effort will include the phrase, “he was consistently low in the zone,” while the kneejerk reaction to nearly every hit is, “he left that up,” whether the pitch was actually well-located or even up in the zone.
The reason for this is that the Japanese game is so rooted in the way young kids are taught to hit grounders to the left side of the infield. They are taught this way because young children don’t field well and hitting the ball to the left side increases the batter’s chance of reaching on an error.
So instead of trying to launch pitches that miss up, the first instinct of many players trained here is to chop down on those balls and smash through the left side of the infield. The “best” pitchers are those who keep batters from hitting hard ground ball singles.
The Fighters’ first illustrated this. Nolin got slugger Sho Nakata to wave at a high fastball for Strike 3, but three other high pitches were chopped between third and short in textbook fashion: back-to-back one-out singles and a two-out chopper to the hole to bring in a run.
“Forrest Gump” Nakamura stars for Marines
Even when the Lotte Marines can’t get it right, they somehow still manage to compete against the SoftBank Hawks. On Saturday, Marines second baseman had a kind of Forrest Gump box-of-chocolates game, since he seemed to be present at numerous junctures in their 5-4 win at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
The visitors squandered two good scoring chances, and Nakamura had as up and down a day as one can have. He homered to open the scoring, only for a couple of fielding near-misses on defense at second base contribute to two infield singles in the Hawks’ three-run sixth. He also literally knocked out the Hawks’ starting pitcher, and assisted in the final scene.
“The margin of victory was paper thin, because of my mistakes,” Nakamura said. “I played very aggressively even in the field. I messed up in the field so I’m glad I could contribute with my bat.”
The win improved the Marines’ record against the Hawks since the start of last season to 24-11-1. In three seasons as Lotte’s manager, former Hawk Tadahito Iguchi now has a 33-26-2 mark against the three-time defending Japan Series champions.
With two on and no outs in the first, Ikuhiro Kiyota bunted into a force out before a fluke 6-5-4 double play ended the Marines’ inning. Leading 1-0 in the third after Nakamura homered off Shota Takeda, Ikuhiro Kiyota was thrown out easily at the plate trying to score from first on a one-out double. With two on and two outs, rookie Toshiya Sato hammered a hanging breaking ball straight to first baseman Kenji Akashi.
Marines starter Manabu Mima (6-2) allowed four runs, three earned, over seven innings. Takeda was knocked out of the game in the fifth inning, when he was hit in the gut by a Nakamura line drive. Takeda threw him out at first as he collapsed to the turf. Yuta Watanabe, who made his first-team debut the night before, got the final out, and lefty Shunsuke Kasaya worked a perfect sixth.
Mima got three ground balls to open the sixth. Nakamura nearly made a tremendous play to retire the leadoff hitter but the ball stayed in his glove on an attempted flip to first. With one out and one on, he made a good play to pick a grounder up the middle but his throw to first was wide, resulting in another infield single.
Yurisbel Gracial, who’d hit his third home run in two days in the fourth, lined a pitch up the middle to tie it 2-2. With two more runs in the inning, Kasaya was in line for the win. Unfortunately, he only retired one batter in the seventh as the visitors got a run back on a Nobuhiro Matsuda error and two singles.
With one out, right-hander Yuki Matsumoto came on to face Nakamura, who missed his second home run by a few feet, driving in two with a two-out double high off the wall in left.
Mima worked a 1-2-3 seventh, and Yuki Karakawa did the same in the eighth. Matsuda earned some redemption with a leadoff single against closer Naoya Masuda. A sacrifice moved pinch-runner Ukyo Shuto to second and he took third on a wild pitch, but with the infield in, Keizo Kawashima hit a bullet to Nakamura at second and he sealed the win by doubling the stunned Shuto off third.
Tanaka, Asamura power Eagles
Kazuki Tanaka homered twice and Hideto Asamura hit his third in two games and the Rakuten Eagles beat the Orix Buffaloes 6-5 at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Tanaka hit a two-run shot in the first off Sachiya Yamasaki (2-4). Adam Jones singled to open the Buffaloes’ three-run second against Takahiro Shiomi (4-5), but Asamura turned the game around again by going deep with two on for his 21st home run.
Yamasaki left after five innings, but not before surrendering Tanaka’s second homer.
Shiomi allowed three runs over five innings. Kazuhisa Makita, the Eagles’ fourth pitcher, threw a scoreless eighth, catching a liner off Jones’ bat for the final out, while Alan Busenitz surrendered two runs in the ninth before locking down his 10th save.
Masataka Yoshida extended his hitting streak to 23 games in the Buffaloes’ third, nine short of Atsushi Nagaike’s Pacific League and franchise record and 10 short of Yoshihiko Takahashi’s NPB record.
Soto slugs Carp as Onuki goes distance
Two-time defending CL home run champ Neftali Soto homered twice and scored three runs as the DeNA BayStars took a hammer to the Hiroshima Carp 10-1 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Carp ace Daichi Osera (5-4) failed to make it through the fourth inning for his second start in a row, surrendering eight runs in 3-1/3 innings on nine hits.
In a season that started on June 19 following weeks of improvised preparations due to the coronavirus pandemic, most teams were talking about easing players into the season. Despite that, the Carp ace was allowed to throw back-to-back complete games in his first two starts. He has been deactivated once already due to lack of fitness after going just two innings in Yokohama on July 24.
Takayuki Kajitani doubled to open the game and scored on a one-out Soto single. A Keita Sano single and a groundout plated Soto with the visitors’ second run.
Shinichi Onuki (6-2) scattered eight hits over the distance while striking out four and walking none in his first career complete-game victory.
Soto made it 3-0 in the third with his 11th home run and his second in two days. He capped DeNA’s six-run fourth with a three-run shot.
Hard to Swallow
For the second time in three days, the key play for the Yakult Swallows was a tie-breaking two-run error as center fielder Kotaro Yamasaki raced to catch a fly in the gap for the final out of the 10th inning, only to have it hit off his glove in a 3-1 extra-inning loss to the Chunichi Dragons.
The Swallows had 15 hits but were being shut out until they tied it in the eighth with three singles off lefty Hiroto Fuku, who was pitching for the third-straight day.
Closer Raidel Martinez (2-0) worked out of a one-out bases-loaded pickle in the ninth by striking out the Swallows’ most productive hitter, Munetaka Murakami, and getting Norichika Aoki to ground out.
The Dragons opened the scoring in the fourth when Nobumasa Fukuda’s opposite-field drive to right went for a triple and he scored on a Dayan Viciedo single.
Fujinami comeback hits 11-run snag
For the first time since he returned to the mound this year, the story about Shintaro Fujinami was why he’s fumbling ground balls. Instead, the one-time elite pitching prospect allowed a career-high 11 runs in the Hanshin Tigers’ 11-2 loss to the Yomiuri Giants at Koshien Stadium.
Giants starter Nobutaka Imamura (3-0) got the win after allowing one run over eight innings.
Fujinami (1-5) allowed nine hits and six walks while striking out six. Fujinami’s career basically slid into the tank when Tomoaki Kanemoto became manager in 2016. The good news was that Tigers manager Akihiro Yano yanked him after he’d thrown 125 instead of letting him labor past 160 like Kanemoto once did when Fujinami displeased him.
The 11 runs was also the most ever allowed in one game by a Tigers pitcher.
Cuban rookie Yariel Rodriguez didn’t bring his best command to Tokyo Dome on Saturday, when the Yomiuri Giants pummeled him in a 12-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons.
In his two previous starts against the Giants, Rodriguez (2-1) allowed three runs over 13-1/3 innings. But this time, the right-hander missed too many pitches, Giants hitters put good swings on what they saw, and seven-time Golden Glove-winning center fielder Yohei Oshima made a huge error in a five-run second inning.
“Today’s opposing pitcher has tremendous stuff, so our focus was on trying not to do too much, basically try and hit it back up the middle. He did miss a little and we handled some of those well,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.
“We were trying to get one run and things went our way in a hurry.”
Lefty Nobutaka Imamura (2-0) allowed the Dragons to open the scoring in the top of the second on a Dayan Viciedo single and a walk. A force at second set up a possible double play on a comebacker. Imamura went for it instead of checking Viciedo, who scored when the Giants failed to turn two.
But after a five-run fifth, in which he drove in the tying run, Imamura executed pitches. He allowed a run over seven innings on six hits and two walks while striking out eight.
Taking a 1-0 lead into the second, Rodriguez struck Yoshihiro Maru out swinging on a slider in the dirt. But four-straight balls put a man on, and Takumi Oshiro did well to get the head on a 2-2 low inside fastball and hit a flare to left. Akihro Wakabayashi fouled off a pair of 2-2 pitches before lashing a hanging slider for a single to load the bases.
With the pitcher up, Rodriguez had a chance to get out of the inning, but Imamura fouled off a couple of fastballs before knocking a straight 1-2 heater down the pipe between third and short to tie it 1-1. Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto chased a slider high and away, but the ball hit off the end of the bat and landed in shallow center for a single. Oshima charged the ball to set up a throw to the plate but came up empty and by the time left fielder Zoilo Almonte retrieved it and got the ball back, Sakamoto was on second with a two-run single and three runs had scored.
“There were some anxious early moments for him (Imamura),” Hara said. “But with the big rally, and his getting a hit in that, he began establish his fastball. He mixed in his secondary pitches, and pitched up to his abilities.”
Rodriguez hit Zelous Wheeler with a pitch before Kazuma Okamoto singled in Sakamoto with two outs. The right-hander then retired the last seven batters he faced before making his exit and the Giants exploded for seven runs over the final four innings, including two on Wheeler’s eighth home run.
Fujinami fails to earn 2nd win
Right-hander Shintaro Fujinami nearly squandered a five-run lead, exiting in the fifth inning in the Hanshin Tigers’ 6-5 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda stadium.
Jerry Sands opened the Tigers’ three-run third with a single and and singled their two-run third off ace Daichi Osera (5-3). But Shota Dobayashi scored three runs for the hosts and Ryohei Matsuyama continued to hit the ball hard when it counts, delivering one-run singles in each of the fourth and fifth innings.
Jose Pirela also reached base three times for the Carp and drove in a run.
Tigers lefty Yuta Iwasada (3-2) earned the win for 1-1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Joe Gunkel worked a scoreless seventh for the Tigers.
Soto, ‘Stars pen stops Swallows
Neftali Soto singled in a run in the DeNA BayStars’ two-run first, and was credited with three more in their 9-3 come-from-behind win over the Yakult Swallows at Yokohama Stadium.
Five DeNA relievers allowed three hits but no walks or runs over the final five innings to seal the win.
BayStars right-hander Shinichi Onuki was yanked after blowing a 2-1 lead in the fourth. Yuki Kuniyoshi (3-2) took over in the fifth and struck out the side. He then led off the BayStars’ five-inning fifth with a single en route to earning the win.
Nominal BayStars closer Yasuaki Yamasaki allowed single and a double with one out in the eighth but no runs came across. The fourth of five reliei
Swallows starter Matt Koch (2-0) allowed seven run, two earned, on 10 hits. He struck out two but did not walk a batter in his 4-2/3-inning stint.
Moore returns, earns 1st Japan win
Matt Moore survived a scary swing from Sho Nakata to work five scoreless innings,while Nippon Ham Fighters ace Kohei Arihara was victimized by a pair of errors as the SoftBank Hawks won 3-0 at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Moore (1-1) was pitching for the first time since he was scratched from a July 7 start due to a left calf muscle injury. With two on and one out in the first, he left a knuckle curve up and away to Nakata. The Fighters cleanup hitter got under it a tiny bit too much and only managed a towering fly to the warning track in left.
Speedster Ukyo Shuto put the Hawks on the board by beating out a one-out bunt in the third and going to second on the errant throw to first. Arihara followed a walk by getting a double play grounder, but second baseman Ryo Watanabe’s throw to his shortstop missed and Shuto scored. With runners on second and third, Yurisbel Gracial squared up an 0-1 fastball down the pipe, but hit a bullet to short for the second out. Arihara got out of the inning by getting Friday’s hero for the Hawks, Ryoya Kurihara, to go down swinging at a good changeup in the dirt.
Moore (1-1) allowed four hits and walked three while striking out seven in a 95-pitch effort. Yuki Matsumoto retired all six Fighters he faced in the sixth and seven, while Livan Moinelo retired Nakata to escape the eighth with one on.
For the second-straight game, closer Yuito Mori allowed three hits in the ninth but a base-running error helped him record his 16th save.
Arihara (3-6) worked seven innings, allowing an unearned run on three walks and four hits while striking out seven in his third-straight solid outing.
Asked about the errors behind him, Arihara said, “They helped me out a lot of times today.”
Martin again provides Marines’ firepower
Leonys Martin’s 17th home run did not reach the third deck at Kyocera Dome as each of his two home runs had the day before, but his two-run fourth-inning home run off Chang Yi (1-2) overturned a 1-0 deficit in the Lotte Marines’ 5-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes.
Here’s a collection of Martin’s latest blasts:
Kota Futaki (2-2) allowed a first-inning run on back-to-back one-out doubles by Masahiro Nishino and Keita Nakagawa but retired Masataka Yoshida and Adam Jones to end the inning and left the game with 2-1 lead after seven. He scattered six hits but walked none and struck out eight.
The Buffaloes threatened to tie in the fifth, but with two outs and a runner on second, rookie center fielder Koshiro Wada made a diving catch in the gap to rob Shuhei Fukuda an RBI double.
The Marines got to Chang for two more runs in the eighth. Martin scored the third run of the inning after being intentionally walked.
Spangenberg rakes as Nolin wins debut
Corey Spangenberg went 4-for-4 with a home run, three RBIs and two runs, while Sean Nolin (1-0) allowed three runs over six innings to earn the win in the Seibu Lions’ 6-3 victory over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Rookie Sena Tsuge, Seibu’s fifth pick in last autumn’s draft, homered for the second-straight game to make it 2-0 in the third against Takahiro Shiomi (3-5).
Nolin did not allow a base runner until the fourth, when he led 5-0. Eigoro Mogi singled with two outs and scored on former Lion Hideto Asamura’s 18th homer. Stefen Romero opened the Eagles’ fifth with this 17th.
J.T. Chargois walked a pair of batters in the top of the sixth, and Spangenberg completed the scoring with an RBI single.
The Eagles loaded the bases against Lions closer Reed Garrett with one out in the eighth, but he struck out Romero and ended the inning on a grounder to the pitcher. Lions closer Tatsushi Masuda worked the ninth for his 13th save.
Nolin, a first-year-import, allowed five hits but no walks while striking out six in a 100-pitch effort.
Adam Jones results have mirrored those of his Orix Buffaloes this season. But on Friday, their first day after manager Norifumi Nishimura stepped down and was replaced by farm skipper Satoshi Nakajima, things clicked for Jones and his teammates in a 3-1 win over the Seibu Lions at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Jones tied it 1-1 in the seventh inning off Zach Neal (2-3) with his sixth home run of the season. Neal left with two on and one out in the eighth. Rookie Tetsu Miyagawa walked the bases loaded on four pitches to bring up Jones.
“I have not been swinging the bat too well, but that’s the game of baseball. You have to continue to play the game hard, and be prepared,” he told the fans in the on-field postgame interview. “Underneath the stands in the tunnels, I’ve been getting my work in and trying to be as professional as possible. I’m glad the hard work paid off tonight.”
Buffaloes lefty Sachiya Yamasaki allowed a run on two hits, including Hotaka Yamakawa’s 16th home run in the fourth, and one walk while striking out seven over seven innings.
Neal allowed 10 hits and a walk while striking out one. With the lead in the bag, Orix’s back-of-the bullpen one-two punch of first-year import Tyler Higgins and eight-year Japan veteran Brandon Dickson each worked a 1-2-3 inning. Higgins struck out the tail-end of the Lions order. Dickson got help on a good catch from left fielder Yuya Oda for the second out before recording his seventh save.
Marines march past Hawks into 1st place
Ayumu Ishikawa (4-2) allowed three runs over seven innings, and the SoftBank Hawks pitchers served up a seven-walk, three hit-batsmen, 14-hit parade in the Lotte Marines’ 7-3 win at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium that moved them past the Hawks into first place.
The Marines won 10 of the 12 games the teams played there last year, and now are 3-0 with one tie in this year’s four games on the shores of Tokyo Bay.
Alfredo Despaigne, playing in his first game since returning from Cuba in July, went 0-for-3 with one walk. He was activated Friday, taking the place of Wladimir Balentien, who was deactivated.
Norimoto finds stuff as Eagles’ beat Fighters
Rakuten Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto (4-3) had better consistent pitches than he has for much of the year as he carried a shutout bid into the ninth inning in a 4-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.
The right-hander’s fastball and splitter were both effective as he struck out nine in eight-plus innings, while allowing no walks and six hits, including three no-out singles in the ninth as he ended a six-start winless streak.
Alan Busenitz came on and nailed down his sixth save on seven pitches.
Hiroaki Shimauchi, whose three-run homer tied Thursday’s game in the ninth inning when the Eagles were down to their last strike, doubled in Hideto Asamura to break a scoreless tie in the sixth. Asamura iced the game in the ninth with a two-run home run.
Carp rookie Morishita slays Giants
Rookie right-hander Masato Morishita (5-2) allowed a run over eight innings for the Hiroshima Carp in their 7-5 win at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium that snapped the Yomiuri Giants’ three-game all-shutout win streak.
Morishita allowed five hits and a walk while striking out five after the Carp broke the game open in the bottom of the first with a five-run inning against lefty Kazuto Taguchi (2-3).
Bour thunders as Fujinami, Tigers end droughts
Justin Bour hit two home runs, scored three runs and drove in three, while Shintaro Fujinami (1-4) won for the first time since September 2018 as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Yakult Swallows 7-4 at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Fujinami’s one-out RBI infield single in the first opened the flood gates on a four-run inning that snapped a streak of 37-consecutive scoreless innings for the Tigers. To be nit-picky it was a single because third baseman Munetaka Murakami couldn’t get it out of his glove but wasn’t charged with an error.
At that point it was like the fates that had been spurning the Tigers for days suddenly decided their practical joke had run its course. Koji Chikamoto, who’d doubled in the first when he missed a home run by a few feet, got another double on a hard chopper to first that took a fluke bounce and drove in two.
Fujinami pitched out of a two-out bases-loaded jam in the second inning after the Swallows scored two unearned runs and threatened to turn the game around. But Bour made it a 6-2 game in the third with his eighth home run in Japan.
Joe Gunkel and Robert Suarez threw scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth to close it down with Suarez recording his eighth save.
Swallows rookie Daiki Yoshida (1-3) allowed six runs on seven hits and two walks over four innings. He struck out five.
Dragons burn BayStars bullpen
Takahiro Matsuba allowed a run over seven innings, and the Chunichi Dragons broke up a gie game in the eighth to beat the DeNA BayStars 3-1 at Nagoya Dome.
BayStars starter Shinichi Onuki allowed a run over six innings, and closer Yasuaki Yamasaki, currently the seventh-inning guy, extricated himself from a no-out bases-loaded pickle to keep it tied. The Dragons again loaded the bases with one out in the eighth against lefty Kenta Ishida (1-1). Ishida hadn’t allowed an earned run since his first game of the season on June 20, but Issei Endo’s sac fly scored Toshiki Abe, and Yohei Oshima plated Yota Kyoda with his second RBI single of the game.
Onuki made a spectacular escape in the third. After Oshima’s one-out single opened the scoring, the Dragons loaded the bases with two outs. Shuhei Takahashi hit a bullet back through the box that Onuki somehow knocked down and picked up, and still managed to nail the runner at first.
Dragons lefty Hiroto Fuku (4-2) earned the win in relief after pitching the eighth, while Cuban right-hander Raidel Martinez notched his eighth save.
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.
“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.