Playing in his first game action since returning to the Rakuten Eagles after seven seasons with the New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka allowed three runs over two innings in a practice game against the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Tanaka allowed four hits in the first, including a three-run home run to Nippon Ham Fighters cleanup hitter Sho Nakata, and worked a 1-2-3 second although he said the quality of his pitches didn’t vary much from one inning to the other.
Probably more interesting than his two innings were his answers to reporters questions below.
Here’s my translation of Tanaka’s postgame Q&A after the game as reported by Sponichi Annex:
–There were no fans in the stands.
Tanaka: “It’s pretty lonely without fans.”
—You said you felt just felt strong today.
Tanaka: “I had more velocity than I thought I would. In regards to that I threw close to 40 pitches over two innings in a game, so it was an extremely good first step.”
–How was your feel for your pitches facing batters for the first time?
Tanaka: “Overall, I think I have a lot to do. There are a lot of specific areas where I have lot of work to do.”
“Going forward in bullpens and so on I want to work on the issues I need to address from today, considering the way I got burned, and make corrections.”
–It was your first time facing Nakata in a long time.
Tanaka: “And he hit a home run off me. Just now I saw him behind the stands and he said, ‘Oh Tanaka, it’s been a long time hasn’t it,’ with a big smile on his face. It was the kind of greeting you can get away with from a position of strength.”
–So you want to face him during the season?
Tanaka: “Of course, yes.”
–Going forward, how are you going to raise your game as you approach Opening Day (March 26).
Tanaka: “I’ve been saying from the start, there’s not just one thing, but today was my first time against hitters, so I’m thinking I need to get better little by little each time.”
–Is one issue the command of your breaking pitches?
Tanaka: “Of course that’s an issue with breaking balls, but that also goes for the fastball. I could sense that I am still in the adjustment-making phase.”
–You got Yuki James Nomura out on a high fastball. Was that according to plan?
Tanaka: “Well that’s one way. That certainly worked well. I was able to put that ball where I wanted it, and if I do that I hope I can get outs. Unfortunately, my command is not really there yet. The biggest issue has to do with my mechanics, but today I was feeling a lot of different things. It’s a question of whether you can resolve some issues in the bullpen. I think the thing is to just keep putting in the work.”
–Did you throw your cutter or two-seamer?
Tanaka: “I did not: curve, slider, split.”
–How was your feel for your pitches?
Tanaka: “It was inconsistent most of the time.”
–You didn’t take the field until it was less than an hour before the start f the game. So you’re doing that the way you did in the States?
Tanaka: “Right. I haven’t changed from that. Today I went out about 12:10 or 12:15 (for a 1 p.m. start). That’s usual. I didn’t do it that way when I was in Japan (before), but it became my routine over there, and I feel like keeping that here.”
–Have you changed where you stand on the rubber?
Tanaka: “No. It’s been the same all along.”
–You looked like you were concerned about your footing on the mound. Was it different from the bullpen mound?
Tanaka: “No. They feel the same. The mound in the bullpen and the mound in the game feel the same, but in a game, you’ve got this game energy and you need to harness it, so that makes it different from the bullpen. No. 1, that was how I threw today, and the big thing was taking in all those different sensations.”
–You touched 148 kph (92 mph). How did that feel?
Tanaka: “In the seven years since I went to America, I’d never thrown anything but bullpens by this time of the year, so taking that into account, I think I did well. Also, because I’ve been itching to soak up so many things as quickly as I can, in that way I faced batters for the first time today, but most of all I wanted to take in all those different sensations of a real game. It meant something to be allowed to take the mound. Everything was a learning experience.”
–Is it your hope that you can pitch in one more game while the team is in Okinawa?
Tanaka: “Looking at the schedule, I suppose it will turn out like that, but you better wait for the skipper to announce that, since what a player says is kind of… you know.”
Chunichi Dragons lefty Yudai Ono (10-5) went the distance for the 10th time on Thursday to win a 1-0 nail-biting Central League win over the DeNA BayStars at Nagoya Dome.
Ono allowed six hits but no walks while striking out six. He also started two double plays, made a slick behind-the-back catch for the second out of the ninth inning and notched a big strikeout to end the eighth inning after the BayStars put two runners in scoring position.
After winning a tough battle to strike out pinch-hitter Taishi Kusumoto with his 111th pitch, the extraordinarily cool Ono slapped his glove and pumped his fist as he returned to the dugout.
The Dragons loaded the bases with no outs in the first against BayStars starter Kentaro Taira (3-5) but only managed to score on a Dayan Viciedo sacrifice fly.
Taira allowed four hits and a walk while striking out six over seven innings. Edwin Escobar worked a scoreless ninth for the BayStars.
Okamoto powers Giants past Swallows
Yomiuri Giants cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto homered and drove in three runs while Angel Sanchez (8-3) and three relievers combined on a four-hit 6-0 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Swallows rookie Daiki Yoshida (2-7) took the loss, allowing four runs in two-plus innings. He walked in the game’s first run with a bases-loaded walk to Zelous Wheeler.
Carp’s Yabuta ends victory drought
Kazuki Yabuta (1-2) allowed two runs over six innings to earn his first win in two seasons, and Jose Pirela put the game on ice with his 11th home run, a three-run shot in the ninth as the Hiroshima Carp beat the Hanshin Tigers 9-5 at Koshien Stadium.
Pirela was walked intentionally in the Carp’s two-run first and also doubled and singled. Fumiya Haraguchi hit a three-run pinch-hit homer for the Tigers to make it a 6-5 game in the sixth.
Moore pitches Hawks to 11th straight win
Matt Moore (6-3) struck out 10 over seven scoreless innings to outpitch 19-year-old rookie Kosei Yoshida (0-1) in a 4-2 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.
The win was the Hawks’ 11th straight as the three-time defending Japan Series champs drive toward their first Pacific League pennant in three years. The win, and the Marines’ loss, dropped SoftBank’s magic number to clinch to six.
Yoshida, the standout pitching star of the 2018 national high school championships at Koshien, was the Fighters’ second pick that year. He went 1-3 in four starts last season. On Thursday, he allowed four runs, two earned, in six innings.
Hawks closer Yuito Mori, pitching for the first time in nine days—when the Hawks last had a save opportunity to give him—allowed Sho Nakata’s 30th home run with one out before earning his 28th save with the potential tying runs on base.
Neal, Spangenberg, Tonosaki hold off Marines
Zach Neal (5-7) allowed a run in five innings, and was backed by a two-run Corey Spangenberg home run and a three-run Shuta Tonosaki blast in the Seibu Lions’ 7-4 win over the Lotte Marines at MetLife Dome.
Marines lefty Kazuya Ojima (7-8) allowed six runs over five innings. The Marines came back in a three-run sixth against Reed Garrett, but Tetsu Miyagawa, Ryosuke Moriwaki and Kaima Taira finished up with one scoreless inning apiece. After a couple of shaky outings, regular closer Tatsushi Masuda was given a breather as the rookie Taira earned his first save of the season and the second of his career.
Ernesto Mejia doubled to lead off the eighth to set up a Lions insurance run. In addition to his home run, Sotozaki singled, doubled, was hit by a pitch and contributed to the Marines’ tying the game 1-1 with an error in the outfield.
Romero blasts Buffaloes
Stefen Romero homered twice walked and drove in four runs as the veteran right-hander Takayuki Kishi (5-0) overcame a three-run Adam Jones home run in the Rakuten Eagles’ 6-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Romero’s 22nd home run, a three-run shot off lefty Daiki Tajima (4-6) made it 5-0 in the fifth innings. Adam Jones went deep off Kishi with his 12th homer in the top of the sixth. Romero hit his 23rd in the eighth off Yu Suzuki to complete the scoring.
Nomi joins Fukudome inTigers checkout line
Hanshin Tigers lefty Atsushi Nomi, who was for many years the ace of the iconic Central League club, revealed Thursday that the Tigers do not expect to keep him for next season, Sponichi Annex reported.
The 41-year-old, who in 2004 selected the Tigers when he turned pro the following year out of corporate league club Osaka Gas, has a career record of 103-94. Since 2018, he has been working out of the Tigers bullpen.
In a comment released by the club, Nomi said, “It is true I’ve spoken with the team about the future, but I won’t be the one to repeat the content of that discussion.”
“The one thing I want to say to all the fans is that this year will be last to play before everyone wearing a Tigers uniform.”
The news came a day after sources revealed that Japan’s oldest player, 43-year-old outfielder Kosuke Fukudome was told this week that he is surplus to the team’s needs next year.
Bour, Martin deactivated
Hanshin Tigers first baseman Justin Bour was deactivated on Thursday, as was outfielder Leonys Martin of the Pacific League’s Lotte Marines.
Martin sprained his left ankle running to first base in Wednesday’s game against the Seibu Lions and was unable to leave the field without assistance. The right fielder, who joined the club in the summer of 2019, has 25 home runs this season.
Bour’s deactivation is his first since he joined the Tigers over the winter. He took part in Thursday’s pregame practice as usual.
Hideto Asamura homered three times, walked, hit an RBI single and drove in seven to power the Rakuten Eagles to 12-4 come-from behind win over the Lotte Marines at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Asamura homered to lead off the Eagles’ third against Ayumu Ishikawa (6-3) and trim Lotte’s lead to a run. Daichi Suzuki’s RBI single tied it in the fifth, and Asamura followed with a two-run shot.
His RBI single opened the scoring in the Eagles’ three-run seventh, and his three-run shot in the eighth capped the scoring.
Johnson gets Sendai hero’s welcome
One day after he was acquired by the Eagles K.J. “Bearded Thunder” Johnson walked off the mound after one inning of relief to the kind of reception teammates normally reserve for pitchers throwing complete-game victories.
Perhaps, the Eagles players knew something the rest of us didn’t. Johnson (1-0) worked a 1-2-3 fifth to keep the game tied and ended up the winning pitcher one day after he moved over from the Central League’s Hiroshima Carp on a cash deal.
The last three Eagles relievers kept the Marines off the board as the game turned into a rout. Kazuhisa Makita worked a scoreless seventh. Journeyman right-hander Hiroaki Fukuyama, signed from the developmental roster following his release last winter, worked a scoreless eighth to protect a four-run lead.
Yamamoto beats Senga in 4th matchup
In a pitchers’ duel worthy of the hype Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto (6-3) beat SoftBank Hawks ace Kodai Senga (6-5) 1-0 at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
The only run came, fittingly on a home run by the Buffaloes’ best hitter, Masataka Yoshida in the second inning. Senga allowed five hits without a walk while striking out nine over eight innings.
Yoshida, who now has 12 homers, had three of the Buffaloes’ six hits in the game.
Yamamoto allowed three singles and two walks over seven innings and struck out seven. Tyler Higgins got out of a tight spot in the eighth after a leadoff double and a sacrifice put the tying run at third with one out. Pinch-hitter Keizo Kawashima lined out to first and pinch-runner Taisei Makihara was doubled off third to end the inning.
Closer Brandon Dickson retired the heart of the Hawks order–thanks to a nice catch by shortstop Ryoichi Adachi to rob Akira Nakamura of a hit — and earn his 10th save.
Uwasawa tames Lions
Two inning-ending double plays helped Naoyuki Uwasawa (7-3) hold the Seibu Lions to a run over seven innings in the Nippon Ham Fighters’ 5-1 win at MetLife Dome.
Uwasawa scattered six hits and two walks while striking out seven. Sho Nakata hit a two-run first-inning homer off Kona Takahashi (5-7) and Fighters catcher Yushi Shimizu, who helped give away a Fighters victory on Sunday, hit a two-run home run in the second.
Ono throws 3rd shutout, 7th complete game
Yudai Ono (6-5) responded to the end of his complete-game streak last week by starting another, striking out 11 in a two-hitter as the Chunichi Dragons beat the Yakult Swallows 3-0 at Nagoya Dome.
In his previous start, the lefty got the hook after allowing four runs over four innings. He allowed a two-out singled and a walk in the first, and a two-out single in the second before retiring the last 22 batters he face in a 122-pitch effort.
Forty-year-old lefty Masanori Ishikawa (0-5) hung in for six innings, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk. Matt Koch, pitching for the first time since Aug. 29, allowed a run in the seventh, before Scott McGough finished up for the visitors.
For the second day in a row, Zoilo Almonte drove in Chunichi’s first run with a home run, making it 1-0 in the fourth.
Itoi wrecks BayStars
Yoshio Itoi swung a hot bat for the second straight day with three hits and three RBIs to lead the Hanshin Tigers to a 6-3 win over the DeNA BayStars at Koshien Stadium on Tuesday.
Although the 39-year-old’s power numbers dropped off precipitously last season, he continues to walk a lot and rarely strike out, so even when he’s batting an unusually low .256, he has an on-base percentage over .360. His two-run double broke a 3-3 eighth-inning tie when both teams were trying their best to play for one-run and failed.
After a leadoff single, Koji Chikamoto, who had homered and singled so far, sacrificed. Normally reliable lefty Kenta Ishida (1-2) failed to get the force at second. The ensuing sacrifice put runners on second and third. With the BayStars outfield pulled in, Itoi easily found the gap for a two-run double.
Tigers starter Haruto Takahashi allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out eight over six innings. He pitched out of a two-on, one-out jam in the fifth after Austin’s home run, and the BayStars managed just two infield singles over the final four innings.
Giants walk off against Carp
Geronimo Franzua (2-3) allowed the winning run to score in the ninth on two singles and an errant pickoff throw as the Yomiuri Giants took a 5-4 see-saw game against the Hiroshima Carp at Tokyo Dome.
Giants starter Tomoyuki Sugano’s streak for consecutive winning decisions from Opening Day remained at 11 after he allowed three runs over eight innings.
Hisayoshi Chono, taken by the Carp last year from Yomiuri as free agent compensation for the Giants signing two-time Central League MVP Yoshihiro Maru, belted a three-run homer in the fourth off his former teammate.
Giants cleanup hitter, Kazuma Okamoto, however, put the hosts ahead 4-3 in the fifth with his 22nd home run.
Giants closer Rubby De La Rosa (2-0) allowed the Carp to tie it. A leadoff single set the table and Ryuhei Matsuyama singled home pinch-runner Kaisei Sone, who had been running with the pitch.
A leadoff single and a wild two-out pickoff throw by Franzua in the bottom of the inning set the table for Naoki Yoshikawa to win it with a single.
Tetsuya Utsumi (1-1) worked five scoreless innings to earn his first win since August 2018 as the Seibu Lions beat the Lotte Marines 4-2 at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium on Wednesday.
The 38-year-old lefty, acquired by Seibu as part of the compensation they received after the Yomiuri Giants signed free agent catcher Ginjiro Sumitani, allowed two hits and two walks while striking out six with a fastball that doesn’t touch 87 mph.
“Frankly, I’m happy with this,” Utsumi said. “I was only able to pitch five innings, and I am grateful to the batters for getting me some runs and to the relievers who picked up the slack for me.”
Marines lefty Kazuya Odajima (4-5) allowed two runs, one earned, on four hits and three walks over seven innings. He struck out six.
One inning after left fielder Tsuyoshi Sugano prevented the Lions from taking the lead in the top of the fifth inning with a one-hop strike to the plate, the visitors opened the scoring on a throwing error.
Shuta Tonosaki set up the run with a bunt single and a stolen base. With one out and two on, Tonosaki tagged up on a fly to right and Leonys Martin ended up in the camera pit beyond the third-base dugout.
The Marines got both of their hits off Utsumi with two outs in the fifth before the lefty made his exit. Ryosuke Moriwake struck out the side for the Lions in the sixth, and Fumikazu Kimura homered to lead off the seventh.
From that point, the game became a walkathon, with the Marines making the most charitable contributions. Seibu’s Kaima Taira allowed a run in the seventh on a single and three walks.
He was no match, however, for Marines right-hander Yusuke Azuma in the eighth. After Takumi Kuriyama’s leadoff walk and a sacrifice, the Marines ordered first base filled with an intentional walk. Three walks later it was 4-1. The Marines tacked on one run against closer Tatsushi Masuda in the ninth before he nailed down his 15th save.
Buffaloes come back to tie Hawks
SoftBank Hawks closer Yuito Mori blew a two-run ninth-inning lead as the Orix Buffaloes tied it on Ryoichi Adachi’s two-out two-run single and closer Brandon Dickson worked a scoreless 10th before the teams finished in a 10-inning 2-2 tie at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Trailing 3-1 in the ninth, Mori surrendered back-to-back no-out singles by Shuhei Fukuda and Yutaro Sugimoto. A stolen bases by Fukuda and pinch-runner Kodai Sano, and an intentional walk to Masataka Yoshida, gave Adam Jones a chance to win it with one out. He popped out to short before Adachi’s sharp ground single to left tied it.
The Hawks got the leadoff hitter on in the 10th but he was doubled off first by Buffaloes closer Brandon Dickson after he caught Nobuhiro Matsuda’s bunt attempt on the fly.
Tsuyoshi Wada allowed a run on four hits over six-plus innings for the Hawks, Yurisbel Gracial cracked a tie-breaking two-run home run, and reliever Yuki Matsumoto bailed Wada out of a seventh inning jam after entering with two on and no outs. Livan Moinelo worked a 1-2-3 eighth before the Buffaloes came back.
The Hawks opened the scoring on the second pitch of the game as Keizo Kawashima homered off lefty Daiki Tajima. The Buffaloes, however, tied it after Fukuda’s flare dropped for a leadoff single. A groundout put him on second and when Wada left a 3-2 pitch up in the zone, Yoshida smashed it for a two-out RBI single. The hit extended Yoshida’s batting streak to 20 games.
Yuya Iida acquired over the weekend in a trade from the Hanshin Tigers, worked a scoreless eighth for the Buffaloes against the Hawks, his first pro team.
Eagles claw back against Akiyoshi
The Rakuten Eagles left it till late, scoring five runs in the ninth off Nippon Ham Fighters closer Ryo Akiyoshi (1-2) in their 5-3 win at Sapporo Dome.
The victory took starter Hideaki Wakui off the hook for the loss. The 34-year-old right-hander had allowed three runs, all on Sho Nakata’s Japan-best 22nd home run in the fifth. Fighters starter Kenta Uehara worked five innings, while right-hander Nick Martinez relieved him in the sixth in a one-inning relief cameo.
Alan Busenitz worked a scoreless ninth for the Eagles to earn his eighth save.
Sanchez, Giants hold off BayStars
Angel Sanchez (4-2), pitching for the first time since being sidelined on July 25 for shoulder discomfort, allowed a run over six innings in the Yomiuri Giants’ 3-1 win over the DeNA BayStars at Tokyo Dome.
The 30-year-old right-hander allowed one hit and three walks while striking out six in a 91-pitch outing.
The Giants scored all their runs off lefty Haruhiro Hamaguchi (3-4) in the second inning. Yoshihiro Maru, who went 2-for-2 with two walks, hit his 14th home run with one out and none on. Hiroyuki Nakajima walked, Naoki Yoshikawa tripled him home and scored on a groundout.
Giants manager Tatsunori Hara used four relievers to cover two innings before Rubby De La Rosa pitched a perfect ninth to earn his eighth save.
Tetsuto Yamada drove in two runs, including one on a 10th-inning sacrifice fly as the Yakult Swallows eked out a 3-2 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium.
Hanshin’s Jerry Sands homered for the second-straight night. His two-run homer tied it in the seventh against submarine righty Fumihiro Yamanaka, who struck out six and allowed four hits over six-plus innings.
Aizawa slams Carp past Dragons
Hiroshima Carp catcher Tsubasa Aizawa hit a fourth-inning grand slam in a 9-5 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Nagoya Dome.
The Carp opened the scoring in the first on back-to-back home runs by Jose Pirela and Ryosuke Kikuchi. Aizawa’s homer made it 6-0, before the hosts chased Carp starter Yusuke Nomura (4-1) in a five-run sixth. Dragons lefty Shinnosuke Ogasawara (1-3) took the loss.
Andrew Albers allowed seven base runners over seven innings, and Adam Jones hit a game-breaking three-run homer as the Orix Buffaloes snapped a five-game losing streak with a 5-0 win over the Lotte Marines on Sunday at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Through the first three innings, both teams caught breaks on defense, but that ended in the bottom of the fourth, when an error contributed to two runs against Lotte lefty Toshiya Nakamura (1-2). With two on and no outs, shortstop Yudai Fujioka’s errant throw on a potential double play resulted scored one and left men on the corners, from where another could score on a hard-to-field come-backer.
Albers, whose last win came on July 21, escaped a jam in the top of the fifth when a liner to short that was turned into an inning-ending double play, and the Buffaloes put the game away in the home half on Jones’ 10th home run.
“That was a huge homer,” said Albers, who allowed six hits and a walk while striking out six. “It gives you a little cushion and allows you to be a little more aggressive on the mound and the way the defense was playing behind me tonight that was a huge turning point.”
Singles in the bottom of the fifth by Shuhei Fukuda and Masataka Yoshida off pitches up in the zone brought Jones up with two outs. Nakamura had jammed him his first time up and he’d rolled over a pitch that sank on him in the fourth. But when Nakamura hung a 1-0 two-seamer, Jones hit it out to left.
“I was just trying to drive the ball,” Jones said. “I was pulling off on his forkball early and rolled over on it. I wanted to get something in the air and stayed back on it and was able to hit it out of the ballpark.”
“I’m just trying to get adapted to the Japanese style of pitching. I’m making the adjustments. Early on I was just stubborn and thinking one way was going to do it, but sometimes you just have to make the adjustment and make the adjustment day by day to the new style of pitching I’m facing.”
Albers needed two final gifts from his outfielders to keep the Marines from scoring in the seventh. With one and one out, center fielder Keita Nakagawa robbed Ikuhiro Kiyota of extra bases in a kind of tit for tat after Kiyota had robbed him of an RBI double off the left-field wall in the first inning. Yoshida then made a good running catch in left to send Albers out with a clean sheet.
A pair of rookie relievers, righty Taisei Urushihara in the eighth, and lefty Ryoga Tomiyama in the ninth closed it out.
Yanagita, Nakamura power Hawks comeback
Yuki Yanagita hit his 20th home run and Akira Nakamura hit his fourth, a two-run tie-breaking shot in the fourth inning as the SoftBank Hawks overcame a four-run first-inning deficit to beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 8-5 at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
With Shuta Ishikawa going for the Hawks against the Fighters’ Drew VerHagen, this game should have been a pitchers’ duel but Ishikawa’s inability to locate cost him and VerHagen (5-2) ran into a buzz saw.
Nakamura is arguably the best player in Japan at making contact. He virtually never chases until he has two strikes on him, fouled off four-straight two-strike pitches around the zone before he got one fair between third and short for a one-out single.
He is followed in the Hawks lineup by Yanagita, who swings harder than anyone in Japan. VerHagen missed up a bit with a two-seamer and Yanagita met it perfectly, propelling it off the top of the left-field fence to halve the Fighters’ lead. Ryoya Kurihara tripled with two outs and scored on a wild pitch to cut the Fighters’ lead to one.
Kensuke Kondo doubled in a run in the second for the Fighters after Sho Nakata failed to bring the runner home from third. Nakata, who stood and stared at his bat in the first inning after he was late on a high-straight fastball, returned to the dugout after the third out and took out his frustration on the offending piece of wood.
VerHagen hit Nakamura in the toe to open the third, Yanagita doubled and the Hawks tied it after a Yurisbel Gracial single and a well-executed Kurihara sac fly. On another two-seamer away, Yanagita again went the other way on a liner to the gap in left.
With two outs in the fourth, VerHagen was yanked after he hit speedster Ukyo Shuto with Nakamura on deck. Rookie left-hander Suguru Fukuda came in and Nakamura drilled a low liner off the dome’s permanent wall that rattled around in the right-field home run terrace for a two-run shot.
Submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi (3-1) earned the win in relief after Ishikawa was charged with five runs, four earned, over four innings. Closer Yuito Mori, in stark relief to his previous two outings, worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 17th save as the Hawks bullpen retired the last 11 Fighters hitters they faced.
Gracial completed the scoring by leading off the fifth with his second homer.
9th-inning Mejia blast stuns Eagles
Ernesto Mejia hit a three-run ninth-inning home run off Alan Busenitz (1-1), boosting the Seibu Lions to a 3-2 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Hotaka Yamakawa walked with one out to get things started against Busenitz, who got too much of the plate with a 1-2 fastball to Tomoya Mori, who kept the Lions alive with a two-out single.
Mejia, who had struck out in each of his first three at-bats, looked at a breaking ball down the pipe for a strike, swung and missed at a low one, but got enough of Busenitz’s third to reach the short porch in left for his seventh home run and his sixth against the Eagles. The home run was the first Busenitz has allowed this year and his second in two seasons.
“We’ve still got games left to play (against Seibu), I’d like to think we can come up with some kind of countermeasure,” Eagles skipper Hajime Miki said.
De La Rosa gets out of jail in Giants win
Rubby De La Rosa bailed himself and the Yomiuri Giants out of ninth-inning trouble on one pitch, escaping a bases-loaded jam to seal a 3-2 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Tokyo Dome.
De La Rossa earned his seventh save after striking out the first batter he faced and then loading the bases on two walks and a hit batsman he struck with a 3-2 pitch. But on the next pitch, Yohei Oshima ended it by hitting a tailor-made double play ball to short.
Dragons starter Akiyoshi Katsuno (1-3) allowed five hits and a walk in the Giants’ three-run first inning, but gave them little else before leaving the mound trailing 3-2 after six. Lefty Ryusei Oe (2-0) faced one batter, striking out Yota Kyoda to end the Dragons’ fourth with the bases loaded and earned the win in relief.
Two weeks after his first career no-hitter, Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa (7-2) returned to Yokohama Stadium, where he allowed two runs over seven innings in the Yakult Swallows’ 6-4 win over the DeNA BayStars.
Ogawa gave up eight hits and a walk while striking out four, and Tetsuto Yamada had four hits, including an RBI single, a double, and a second-inning grand slam.
The BayStars came back to score two runs in the ninth and bring the tying run to the plate before Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama put an end to the proceedings by striking out pinch-hitter Toshiro Miyazaki.
Oyama ruins Carp comeback story
Yusuke Oyama tripled just beyond the grasp of right fielder Seiya Suzuki with two outs in the 10th inning to lift the Hanshin Tigers over the HIroshima Carp 5-3 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
The Carp started out in a hole after Jerry Sands teed off on a high pitch from Atsushi Endo in the first for his 10th home run and a three-run Tigers lead.
The hosts tied it in the fifth when Ryosuke Kikuchi hit his sixth, also with two men on.
Carp closer Geronimo Franzua (1-2) opened the 10th by walking Koji Chikamoto. With two outs and first base open after a sacrifice and a strikeout, the Carp walked Sands intentionally to pitch to Oyama, whose ball to the gap in right missed being caught by inches.
Robert Suarez finished the fish off in the home half, striking out two in a 1-2-3 inning for his 12th save.
Adam Jones homered twice, taking a bat to Tetsuya Utsumi’s hopes of winning his first game in two years, by driving in four runs in the Orix Buffaloes’ 5-2 Pacific League victory on Saturday afternoon.
Jones, who homered and drove in all of Orix’s runs on Friday, when they won their first game under acting skipper Satoshi Nakajima, broke open a scoreless pitching duel between the 38-year-old Utsumi (0-1) and unheralded 26-year-old Taiwan right-hander Chang Yi (1-1).
Chang, who went to school in Japan following in the footsteps of his cousin, Yang Dai-kang, joined Orix in 2017 on a non-roster developmental contract. Since he went to school here, he is still known by how the Chinese characters in his Mandarin name are read in Japanese “Cho Yaku.” After a tough start in his season debut nine days before, Chang’s fastball was crisp and hard for the Lions to handle.
The right-hander pitched out of jams in the third and fourth innings, and he left after allowing five hits, a walk and a hit batsman.
“Honestly, I was resigned to giving up runs (in the fourth inning), but even so I was going to fight them,” Chang said.
Nakajima, who has seen a lot of Chang during his time as the Buffaloes’ farm manager said Saturday’s performance is in line with his skill level.
“You saw what he does well,” Nakajima said. “He had late life on his fastball and attacked hitters. He had an elbow issue that delayed him getting to this point, but he’s going to contribute.”
Never a flame-thrower, Utsumi long thrived on precision and movement, getting foul strikes and soft contact. He retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced. With one out in the fourth, Buffaloes slugger Masataka Yoshida miss-hit a fastball and chopped it through the infield for a one-out single, Orix’s first hit.
Utsumi nearly got himself out of trouble, but instead set himself up for a fall. He fielded a one-hop comebacker but his uncatchable throw to second spoiled any chance for an out, let alone a double play. Utsumi’s next throw also missed by the smallest of margins, a first-pitch changeup to Jones just above the knees, that he lofted over the left-field wall.
“I just wanted in that situation to get a ball up and drive the runner in and I was fortunate enough to drive the ball out of the ballpark,” Jones said.
Seibu’s Takeya Nakamura, a six-time PL home run champ, hit his sixth of the year in the top of the sixth off reliever Keisuke Sawada.
Jones struck again in the sixth. With two outs and none on, Utsumi missed up just a little with a slider and Jones lined it into the second deck.
“The second one, that was a little more fun. I tried to be aggressive and not let the pitcher get ahead with a strike and just try to be aggressive in the zone. And I didn’t miss it at all,” Jones said.
After three home runs and seven RBIs in two games following a slow start to the season, Jones was asked the obligatory question about whether he was seeing the ball better or not.
‘I’ve been seeing the ball the same,” Jones said. “I am just trying to play the game the way I know how to play.”
“Our pitchers were terrific. Cho battled his butt off and gave us a great opportunity to win the game. And when the opportunity arose to drive some runners in, we did a good job.”
“Home runs are always fun to hit. The bench was going crazy. There’s been a lot of energy the last couple of days. We want to continue to play the game hard and have fun.”
The Lions added a run in the seventh against lefty Nobuyoshi Yamada, forcing setup man Tyler Higgins into the game with two outs and two on to preserve Orix’s lead. Nakamura lined a shot over short, but Koji Oshiro leaped to make a catch, end the inning and save at least a run.
After Higgins worked a scoreless eighth, defensive substitute Yuya Oda doubled in the Buffaloes’ fifth run. Oda, who made a big catch in the ninth on Friday, made another big play on Saturday.
After a Tomoya Mori single to lead off against closer Brandon Dickson, Hotaka Yamakawa drilled a liner to left that Oda short. Mori assumed the ball would be caught and was retreating to first when Oda forced him at second for 7-4 force. A double play followed and it was over.
It was a decent start for Utsumi, if not a winning one for the former ace of the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants. Utsumi joined Seibu after the 2018 season as part of the compensation package for the Giants signing free agent catcher Ginjiro Sumitani. The loss saw Utsumi’s career record against Orix to 2-3 with the previous four games coming in interleague play.
Ironically, Utsumi’s PL debut came against Orix, who drafted him first in 2000 out of high school. Utsumi turned them down out of desire to play for his grandfather’s old team, the Giants. After three seasons in corporate league ball, he turned pro with the Giants.
Yanagita puts on show against Marines
Yuki Yanagita hit a mammoth two-run homer to open the scoring and doubled in the tie-breaking run as the SoftBank Hawks moved back into a tie for first place in the Pacific League with the Lotte Marines, who they beat 3-2.
The camera’s at Zozo Marine Stadium were not prepared for the lunar launch trajectory of Yanagita’s 17th home run, and viewers on TV could only see it drop down and strike the top of the center-field fence, ostensibly after hitting high up on the scoreboard.
Akira Nakamura slashed a leadoff single in the eighth against Frank Herrmann (3-1) for his third hit of the game. Yanagita followed by finding the gap in left center for an RBI double.
Imamiya could be out for up to 2 months
SoftBank Hawks shortstop Kenta Imamiya is expected to miss between six to eight weeks due to a left calf injury. The club announced Saturday that an MRI revealed damage to the soleus muscle in his left leg.
Imamiya, a two-time Best Nine shortstop with five Golden Gloves, complained of pain in the leg on Aug. 19.
Arihara sharp again for Fighters
Nippon Ham Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (3-5) produced his second-straight solid start, allowing a run over six innings, while Sho Nakata homered and drove in three runs in a 5-1 over the Rakuten Eagles at Sapporo Dome.
Arihara gave up six singles and a walk while striking out six, and he quickly had three runs to work with after his teammates opened the scoring in the bottom of the first off Takahiro Shiomi (3-4).
Haruki Nishikawa’s single, the third straight to open the inning, made it 1-0, and Nakata followed with a two-run double. Shiomi allowed four runs over five innings, and Nakata hit his Japan-best 20th home run in the fifth.
Dragons rookie Rodriguez blots out ‘Stars
Cuban rookie Yariel Rodriguez improved to 2-0 in three impressive starts for the Chunichi Dragons, who beat the DeNA BayStars 5-0 at Nagoya Dome.
Rodriguez allowed two singles and two walks over six innings, while striking out just three batters over six innings. The 23-year-old, who is eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award, has now allowed three runs over 19-1/3 innings.
Dragons captain Shuhei Takahashi opened the scoring in the first against DeNA rookie Kosuke Sakaguchi (0-1) with a one-out bases-loaded single. Takahashi added a two-run home run in the fifth.
Osera goes 8 as Carp walk past Giants
Hiroshima Carp ace Daichi Osera (5-2) allowed two runs over eight innings in a 10-4 win over the Yomiuri Giants, who issued nine walks in the game at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Osera allowed former Carp teammate Yoshihiro Maru to tie it 1-1 in the second with his 12th home run.
But Giants starter Seishu Hatake (0-3) didn’t survive the third inning. He opened it by walking Osera, and by the time the dust had settled, six runs were in and 12 batters had come to the plate.
Israel Mota, who the Giants signed this year from their developmental roster, had his first hit in Japan, a two-run ninth-inning home run.
Tigers survive Swallows ambush
Robert Suarez got Norichika Aoki to fly out with two on and two outs in the ninth to nail down his ninth save as the Hanshin Tigers held on to beat the Yakult Swallows 7-5 at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Aoki, whose eighth-inning grand slam brought the Swallows within two runs. Facing Suarez, he did his best to elevate a low 1-0 pitch but his high fly to center was held up by a stiff wind and died at the warning track along with the Swallows’ chances of a come-from-behind win.
Yusuke Oyama belted a three-run first-inning homer off Matt Koch (0-1), who allowed six runs over four innings in his Japan debut for the Swallows.
Tigers starter Yuki Nishi (4-3) allowed a run over seven innings and doubled in a run in Hanshin’s three-run fourth inning only for relievers Yuya Nakao and Yuta Iwasada to let the hosts get back in the game.
Setup man Joe Gunkel allowed a hit and a walk before getting the final out in the inning and turning it over to Suarez in the ninth.