Niho outduels Buffs ace Yamamoto
There were quips made when Hawks manager named Akira Niho to be the last man in his six-man starting pitching rotation. When the 30-year-old right-hander did as well as expected out of the gate, Kudo stuck with him, and on Sunday, Niho did what he was capable of walked away with a win after matching up with one of Japan’s best, Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Niho (2-2) threw six scoreless innings, and the SoftBank Hawks took advantage of their one chance against Yamamoto to leave Osaka’s Kyocera Dome with 3-2 win.
Niho escaped a two-out bases-loaded jam in the third when Adam Jones grounded into the final out.
After starting the Buffaloes cleanup hitter on the outside edge with his two-seam fastball, he left a slider up in the heart of the zone and then missed with a fastball inside. Jones fouled off the fat slider and was jammed by the 89-mph fastball on the hands.
Niho then retired eight of the last nine batters he faced before three good swings changed the game in the seventh.
Left-handed-hitting Seiji Uebayashi hit a high fastball away and sliced it into the left field corner for a leadoff double and the Hawks’ second hit of the game. Yuki Yanagita, who struggled against Yamamoto’s splitter in his second at-bat made some headway against it his third time up.
Yanagita survived a narrow escape when he grounded a splitter to first (again) only for it to bounce foul by inches. The next pitch, Yamamoto’s seventh to him, hung up and the left-handed-hitting slugger slammed it to the warning track in right for a tie-breaking double.
Akira Nakamura followed, and somehow pulled a fastball up and over the outside part of the plate and his drive just cleared the wall in right for his first home run of the year.
“I was waiting for something fast. It’s a confidence boost to be able to hit one of the best pitchers in baseball,” Nakamura said.
Submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi, the PL’s 2019 rookie of the year, whose been in relief this season, worked a scoreless seventh against the bottom of the Buffaloes order, but dependable lefty Livan Moinelo couldn’t locate in the eighth and ran into trouble.
The Cuban reliever surrendered a leadoff single before issuing three walks, forcing in a run, and bringing Jones to the plate with a chance to turn the game around.
Jones, who has seen precious few fastballs in the strike zone this season, fouled off an 0-1 heater and then chased and fouled off a curve out of the zone. Moinelo missed up high with a change up and Jones got under it, flying out to center to bring home a run.
The play resulted in the second out when Ryoichi Adachi took off for third and was tagged out on the throw from Yanagita in center when he over-slid the bag.
Hawks closer Yuito Mori worked a 1-2-3 ninth to record his fifth save.
Orix manager Norifumi Nishimura blamed the loss on failure to execute, pointing to a failed sacrifice in the third inning after Ryo Ota opened with a leadoff single.
“We had the failed bunt,” he said. “There are times when things will take a wrong turn if you don’t execute properly.”
Rookie Kawano earns 1st win
Rookie lefty Ryusei Kawano allowed two runs over eight innings to win his first game as a pro in the Nippon Ham Fighters’ 9-2 win over the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.
Sho Nakata’s three-run, third-inning home run capped a four-run outburst against right-hander Yuki Ariyoshi (1-1).
Kawano, who has shown good stuff since Day 1, has become more and more assertive in the strike zone with each passing day, and Sunday’s start was another step in that direction.
Through the early innings, Kawano, the Fighters’ top pick last autumn in NPB’s draft, tried to hit corners but was less hesitant about challenging hitters in the zone with his fastball and then making them look bad against his changeup.
With a 4-0 lead in the fourth, catcher Shingo Usami began setting his target squarely in the zone and Kawano responded to the encouragement.
Through seven innings, he allowed three base runners. He finished with seven strikeouts, two walks and four hits after allowing two eighth-inning runs on a Leonys Martin double. Brandon Laird went 2-for-4 in his old home park.
Former Lion Asamura flies with Eagles
HIdeto Asamura bounced back from two hitless games with two days worth of hits and four RBIs to lead the Rakuten Eagles’ comeback in a 9-5 win over his old team, the Seibu Lions, at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Stefen Romero opened the scoring with a solo homer off lefty Daiki Enokida, making his first start of the season, but Hotaka Yamakawa’s third home run in three days, a three-run third-inning shot off former Lions ace Takayuki Kishi made it 5-1 Seibu.
Former Lion (one can say that A LOT in Sendai) Asamura made it a 5-2 game in the third with his second hit, an RBI single that plated Daichi Suzuki.
Kishi was pulled after 2-13 innings, but the bullpen picked up the slack and Asamura hit his Japan-best 11th home run to lead off the sixth against Enokida. The Lions lefty was yanked after allowing three runs over five-plus innings.
Seibu’s bullpen workhorse Katsunori Hirai took over and worked around a hit batsman to keep it 5-3 through six. Eagles right-hander Alan Busenitz (1-0) worked a scoreless seventh, and Asamura tied it with a two-run single in the bottom of the inning.
Hirai (2-1), who led both leagues in games pitched last season with 81, allowed three runs on two walks, a hit batsman and six hits over one-plus inning of work. He was replaced by stocky Kaima Taira.
The right-hander, who struck out Romero on a 99.4 mph fastball after entering with no outs and the bases loaded, went into Asamura’s kitchen with a 1-2, 98 mph heater that brushed him back. Asamura, however, brushed that off and stroked a cutter away into right for a two-run single that tied it.
With two outs and the bases reloaded, Yasuhito Uchida homered off Taira to complete the Eagles’ comeback.
Okamoto, Giants burn BayStars closer in 9th
Pinch-runner Daiki Masuda stole second with one out in the ninth inning and scored the tying run from second on an infield singe before Kazuma Okamoto blasted a two-run home run in the Yomiuri Giants’ 5-3 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.
With a one-run lead in the ninth, Yasuaki Yamasaki (0-2) took the mound for the BayStars and surrendered a one-out single to Hayato Sakamoto. Pinch-runner Daiki Masuda stole second and with two outs, he gambled and was safe at home on Yoshihiro Maru’s grounder deep into the hold behind first.
BayStars manager Alex Ramirez yanked his closer, and Yuki Kuniyoshi served up an 0-1 fastball to Okamoto who drove it out well beyond the wall in right center for his ninth home run.
The BayStars’ Neftali Soto scored three runs and homered to tie it 2-2 in the third inning. Soto was hit by a pitch in the fifth and scored on a Jose Lopez double.
The Hiroshima Carp bullpen proved able to solve the Yakult Swallows once the game was tied and the bases loaded, which they did in both the ninth and 10th innings to finish in a 3-3 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
The visitors took a 2-0 lead into the seventh, but the heart of the Hiroshima attack found their third look at right-hander Hirotoshi Takanashi to their liking. After allowing just two hits and a walk through six innings, Takanashi gave up a single to Shota Dobayashi and back-to-back doubles by Seiya Suzuki and Ryuhei Matsuyama that tied it up.
Yugo Umeno got out of the inning but not before Tsubasa Aizawa singled in the go-ahead run. In the eighth, 23-year-old Noboru Shimizu loaded the bases on two one-out walks and a single but struck out Matsuyama and Hisayoshi Chono to prevent the game from getting away.
Norichika Aoki singled in the tying run in the ninth and the Swallows loaded the bases with one out for Munetaka Murakami. But journeyman right-hander Yasunori Kikuchi got the easiest double play imaginable, when the 20-year-old slugger tipped a low forkball into the dirt in front of home plate. Aizawa collected it, stepped on the plate and threw to first to end the inning.
New Carp D.J. Johnson loaded the bases in the 10th — the last inning allowed in NPB this season — but ended the inning with a strikeout. Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama then pitched out of a two-on, one-out pickle in the bottom of the 10th to ensure the tie.
Tigers blow out Dragons
On a night when hard-hitting first baseman Justin Bour was out of the Hanshin lineup, the Tigers still erupted for 11 runs on 14 hits and eight walks in an 11-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons and a sweep of their three-game series at Koshien Stadium outside Osaka.
Jerry Sands, batting third in manager Akihiro Yano’s lineup singled in the game’s first run and scored on Kosuke Fukudome’s sacrifice fly in the Tigers’ three-run first.
The 43-year-old Fukudome, who came off the bench to wreak havoc on the Swallows on Thursday, was in the starting lineup and responded with two singles, a double, two sacrifice flies and four RBIs.
Sands also doubled and drew one of the Tigers’ two bases-loaded walks in their three-run fourth inning.
The Dragons’ Dayan Viciedo continued to rip it up at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a walk and a home run.
Active roster moves 7/19/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/29