Tag Archives: Sho Nakata

NPB 2020 8-22 games and news

Jones ruins Utsumi’s Cinderella comeback

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.

Active roster moves 8/22/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/1

Central League

Activated

BayStarsP12Kousuke Sakaguchi
SwallowsP33Matt Koch

Dectivated

BayStarsOF37Taishi Kusumoto

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP27Tetsuya Utsumi
FightersP59Yuki Yoshida

Dectivated

LionsP23Shogo Noda
FightersP27Nick Martinez

Starting pitchers for Aug. 23, 2020

Pacific League

Fighters vs Eagles: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Drew VerHagen (4-1, 3.72) vs Yuya Fukui (0-2, 5.54)

Marines vs Hawks: Zozo Marine Stadium 5 pm, 4 am EDT

Toshiya Nakamura (1-0, 3.86) vs Shuta Ishikawa (5-0, 2.08)

Buffaloes vs Lions: Kyocera Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT

Andrew Albers (2-5, 4.04) vs Wataru Matsumoto (1-3, 5.10)

Central League

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

Yasuhiro Ogawa (5-2, 3.43) vs Takumi Akiyama (4-1, 3.80)

Dragons vs BayStars: Nagoya Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Yudai Ono (3-3, 3.02) vs Hiromu Ise (0-0, 1.80)

Carp vs Giants: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Atsushi Endo (2-2, 3.77) vs Daisuke Naoe (-)

NPB 2020 8-12 games and news

Eagles’ Ota backs Wakui in win over Lions

The Seibu Lions snapped their former ace’s scoreless-inning streak but that was small consolation in their 6-2 loss to Hideaki Wakui (7-0) and the Rakuten Eagles at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.

Hiroaki Shimauchi doubled with one out in the second and opened the scoring off 21-year-old right-hander Sho Ito (0-1) on a one-out single by Eagles catcher Hikaru Ota. Shimauchi doubled and scored in the fourth on Ota’s second homer of the year.

Coming off a one-hit shutout in his previous start, Wakui had not allowed a run since the first inning of his start on July 29. He was in complete command until a couple of lazy fastballs resulted in seventh-inning solo homers by Tomoya Mori and Ernesto Mejia, who had homered twice on Tuesday. Wakui left the game hurt with two outs and 40-year-old right-hander Yuya Kubo had to finish off pinch-hitter Hotaka Yamakawa for the final out.

Wakui allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out two and started a season 7-0 for the first time in his career.

Ito, the Lions’ third draft pick in 2017, suffered his first pro loss. He allowed three runs on two walks and seven hits over four-plus innings.

J.T. Chargois and Alan Busenitz each worked a scoreless inning for the Eagles, who are locked in a tie for first place in the Pacific League with the SoftBank Hawks.

Buffaloes still can’t solve Wada

Tsuyoshi Wada is 39-years-old and in his 13th season in Japan, but at the speed their going, the Orix Buffaloes may never figure him out. The lefty allowed three singles and no walks while striking out five over 6-2/3 scoreless innings in the SoftBank Hawks’ 6-0 win at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

“This has been going on for a long time,” Buffaloes manager Norifumi Nishimura said of Wada, who shut them out over six innings on July 15. “We have to find a way to hit him.”

Nobuhiro Matsuda, dropped to the No. 9 spot for lack of hits, went 2-for-4 with three RBIs to raise his batting average to .205.

Nakata routs Marines

Nippon Ham Fighters cleanup hitter Sho Nakata hit his 14th and 15th home runs and drove in six runs in a 12-4 rout of the Lotte Marines at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

Nakata opened the scoring in the first inning with a two-out, two-run homer off lefty Kazuya Oda (3-4), who gave up six runs over 6-2/3 innings to take the loss. Leading 4-1 in the seventh, Nakata iced it with a three-run shot.

Side-arm Fighters lefty Naoki Miyanishi (35) reached 350 career holds. No. 2 on the list is former Giants lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi, who had 273.

Sakamoto powers Giants as Sugano wins 7th

Hayato Sakamoto homered twice and Tomoyuki Sugano (7-0 ) allowed a run over x innings for the Yomiuri Giants in an 8-1 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo Dome

The Swallows took the lead on two-out second-inning doubles by Takeshi Miyamoto and Alcides Escobar, but the Giants effectively put the game out of reach in the home half against Juri Hara (2-1).

A leadoff walk, an error, and a sacrifice put two in scoring position and No. 8 hitter Naoki Yoshikawa singled in both of them. With two outs, Sakamoto hit his eighth home run, and Gerardo Parra followed with his fourth to make it 5-1. Prior to his first homer, Sakamoto had been hitless in 20 plate appearances.

Vieira brings the heat

Brazilian flame thrower Thyago Vieira became the second pitcher recorded at 163 kph (101.3 mph). The NPB record is 165 kph, set by Shohei Ohtani.

 

Dragons’ Yanagi shuts down Carp

Yuya Yanagi (2-2) allowed a run over 7-2/3 innings for the Chunichi Dragons in their 4-1 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Yanagi allowed four hits and a walk while striking out four. Lefty Kris Johnson (0-4) gave up four runs, three earned, on five hits and four walks without a strikeout over 5-1/3 innings.

Nobumasa Fukuda drew a leadoff walk in the fourth and opened the scoring on a Dayan Viciedo single and a groundout. Masataka Iryo singled in another run to make it 2-0 Dragons. Fukuda opened the Dragons’ two-run seventh with a single and scored when Iryo drew a bases-loaded walk.

Raidel Martinez worked the ninth to earn his seventh save.

Tigers hold off BayStars

Masahiro Nakatani’s three-run fourth-inning home run brought the Hanshin Tigers from behind and they held on for a 7-6 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.

Jerry Sands followed Nakatani with his eighth home run to make it 6-3, while Joe Gunkel pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the Tigers. Robert Suarez allowed a run on three hits in the ninth to nail down his seventh save.

Hawks superstar Yuki Yanagita apparently finds the Orix Buffaloes’ Lucky Seven fight song catchy too.

BayStars Austin diagnosed with concussion

DeNA BayStars outfielder Tyler Austin has been diagnosed with concussion and whiplash the Hochi Shimbun reported Wednesday. The 28-year-old in his first Japanese season, slammed into the outfield wall at Koshien Stadium on July 31.

He was deactivated on Aug. 5 and rules would allow him to return as early as Aug. 15, but BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said he he didn’t expect Austin to return that soon.

The player is now being treated at the club’s farm and rehab facility in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, to return this week.

In 22 games, Austin has posted a .393 on-base percentage and a .627 slugging average.

Murakami joins monthly MVP frequent flyers

Yakult Swallows corner infielder Munetaka Murakami, the Central League’s 2019 Rookie of the year, was named the league’s hitter of the month for June and July–Ok it’s the (position) player of the month–but the selectors don’t seem to understand defense is part of the game.

It was the first monthly award for the 20-year-old, although had some veteran company as Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano was named pitcher of the month for the seventh time. The Pacific League’s awards went to four-time winning pitcher Hideaki Wakui of the Rakuten Eagles and six-time winning center fielder Yuki Yanagita of the SoftBank Hawks.

The awards have traditionally gone to hitters with the best triple crown stats and the starting pitcher with the most wins and no more than one loss.

Murakami led the CL with 37 RBIs, had the league’s second-best on-base-percentage (.441). Sugano went 5-0 to lead the league in wins while throwing two complete games, including a one-hit shutout.

The NPB blurb babbles on about how Sugano was entrusted with starting on Opening Day for the sixth time, and how he was the winning pitcher in the franchise’s 6,000th win which have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not he was the best pitcher in the league.

Wakui became the first PL player to win a monthly award with three teams after winning with Seibu and Lotte, and is the second after current DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez to win with three different clubs (Yakult, Yomiuri, DeNA). The award is his first in four years.

The 34-year-old right-hander, who was sold by the Marines to the Eagles over the winter, had 9.88 strikeouts per nine innings, the highest figure among ERA leader eligible pitchers.

Yanagita scored 38 runs in 37 games, a rare reference in these awards to runs scored and also led the PL in hits, triples, total bases, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging average. Because of a leg injury last season, Yanagita lacked the plate appearances needed to lead the league in on-base percentage and slugging average for the fifth-straight time.

Only Hall of Famer Sadaharu led his league in both categories more than three years straight. Here’s another look at his one-handed home run on Tuesday:

Active roster moves 8/12/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/22

Central League

Activated

GiantsP12Rubby De La Rosa
GiantsIF51Shunta Tanaka
GiantsOF36Shingo Ishikawa
CarpP26Ren Nakata
SwallowsP16Juri Hara
SwallowsIF60Ryusei Takeoka
SwallowsOF51Taiki Hamada

Dectivated

CarpP30Ryuji Ichioka
SwallowsOF9Yasutaka Shiomi

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP23Shogo Noda
FightersP14Takayuki Kato
FightersP31Toru Murata
FightersOF26Daiki Asama

Dectivated

LionsP34Yasuo Sano
FightersIF91Yuto Takahama
FightersOF4Yuya Taniguchi

Starting pitchers for Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020

Pacific League

Lions vs Eagles: MetLife Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kaito Yoza (2-3, 4.79) vs Yuki Matsui (0-1, 5.27)

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

Daiki Iwashita (3-3, 3.48) vs Ryusei Kawano (2-3, 4.05)

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

Kotaro Otake (-) vs Chang Yi (-)

Central League

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

Cristopher Mercedes (2-4, 3.72) vs Hirotoshi Takanashi (1-2, 4.73)

NPB 2020 8-6 games and news

Tigers’ late-comer Takahashi hamstrings Giants

Hanshin Tigers lefty Haruto Takahashi overpowered the Yomiuri Giants hitters en route to an 11-0 demolition of the Central League leaders at Koshien Stadium.

Takahashi, who was unable to start the season with the team due to shoulder issues, made his debut on Thursday. Relying mostly on his four-seamer, a two-seamer and a cutter, the 24-year-old was able to pinpoint the bottom of the zone and jam batters inside.

He struck out 11 over seven innings, gave up three hits on ground balls, a walk. Hayato Sakamoto’s fifth-inning fly out was the only ball the Giants managed to hit into the air.

Leading 1-0 against Cristopher Mercedes (2-4) Ryutaro Umeno walked with one out and Seiya Kinami singled. The pair executed a double steal and reserve utility man Kai Ueda doubled them both in.

Joe Gunkel worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and the Tigers broke the bank with seven runs in the home half, started by a Jerry Sands leadoff single. Justin Bour doubled in one run and Masahiro Nakatani delivered a pinch-hit grand slam to complete the celebrations.

Born to run or pitch

It’s no secret that Giants manager Tatsunori Hara loves his pinch-runners probably as much as any manager in Japanese baseball history. One year when he managed the CL all-star team, Hara famously rewarded his all-time favorite pinch-runner, Takanori Suzuki, with an undeserved spot on the CL squad.

On Thursday, with one out in the bottom of the eighth and his team now losing by 11 runs, Hara probably figured there was nowhere to make use of his favorite toy except to put him on the mound.

Masuda retired two of the three batters he faced in the heart of the Tigers order with a fastball that maxed out at 85.7 mph.

Since Japanese teams rarely have more than one or two starting pitchers taking up space on their active rosters and since games–in non-pandemic seasons–are limited to 10 innings, and teams typically–although not next week–have Mondays off, this is pretty rare. The last position player to appear in a sanctioned NPB game was Akihito Igarashi on June 3, 2000 for the Orix BlueWave and their iconoclastic skipper Akira Ogi–the same guy who had Ichiro Suzuki pitch in an all-star game.

Onuki, BayStars add to Dragons’ misery

Shinichi Onuki (4-2) worked seven innings and two relievers completed the four-hitter as the DeNA BayStars downed the Chunichi Dragons 3-0 at Yokohama Stadium.

The shutout loss was the sixth of the season for the last-place Dragons, who fell to 0-6 against DeNA this season.

Dragons lefty Takahiro Matsuba (2-2), who has been enjoying a career renaissance this year following his trade from the Orix Buffaloes, allowed three runs over four-plus innings.

BayStars reserve infielder Daisuke Nakai marked a rare start by homering in his first at-bat to lead off the second. Kazuki Kamizato homered to open the third and singled home Takayuki Kajitani in the fifth to complete the scoring.

Kenta Ishida worked a 1-2-3 eighth and Kazuki Mishima did the same in the ninth to record his fourth save since he began filling in for closer Yasuaki Yamasaki on July 29.

One of the bright spots for the Dragons was their top draft pick from 2018, infielder Akira Neo. Although he went 0-for-2 and remains hitless for his career, Neo put the ball in play twice, made a good catch in left and threw a runner out at the plate.

Another tough outing for Carp lefty Johnson

Hiroshima lefty Kris Johnson allowed five runs over three innings in the Carp’s 9-5 loss to the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Johnson, coming off one of his two quality starts this year, gave up seven hits and walked two while striking out four. His teammates took him off the hook on three home runs by Ryuhei Matsuyama, Ryosuke Kikuchi and Hisayoshi Chono and tied it in the seventh on a Seiya Suzuki RBI single.

Swallows lefty Keiji Takahashi started and allowed four runs over five innings in his worst start of the season. Scott McGough (3-0) surrendered a run on two seventh-inning singles but earned the win after Yakult scored three times in the bottom of the inning.

Journeyman reserve catcher Suguru Ino tripled against Kazuki Yabuta (0-2) and scored on a sacrifice fly. Alcides Escobar singled and two more runs came in on back-to-back two-out doubles RBI by Tomotaka Sakaguchi and Yasutaka Shiomi.

Matsui goes 5 in loss to Hawks

One of the big moves this spring for the Rakuten Eagles was taking left-handed closer Yuki Matsui and putting him back in the starting rotation.

Making his first appearance in over a month after two poor outings, Matsui (0-1) allowed three runs on eight hits and a walk in a 3-1 loss to the SoftBank Hawks at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

The diminutive southpaw was victimized by some tough hops in the infield that contributed to two of the Hawks’ runs.

On a bullpen day, Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo shook up his lineup, batting a pair of struggling big hitters, Nobuhiro Matsuda and Wladimir Balentien one, two, respectively, in his order.

The only contribution either made at the plate was when Matsuda made poor contact for an infield single in the third, allowing Yuki Yanagita to drive in the tying run with a single.

Rookie Yugo Bando (1-1) the second of seven Hawks pitchers, worked three scoreless innings to earn his first career win.

Buffaloes’ Yamazaki halts Marines

Sachiya Yamasaki (2-1) worked six scoreless innings for the Orix Buffaloes in their 3-1 win over the Lotte Marines at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Yamasaki allowed three singles and a walk while striking out four. Marines starter Daiki Iwashita (3-3) walked five batters during his six innings on the mound and one of the three runs he allowed was unearned.

With a two-run lead in the eighth, Tyler Higgins worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and Brandon Dickson a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save.

Fighters rookie Kawano earns 2nd win

Lefty Ryusei Kawano got an early three-run lead and allowed two runs over five innings for the Nippon Ham Fighters in their 5-3 win over the Seibu Lions at Seibu Dome.

Kawano (2-3) walked three and allowed four hits, including a solo home run by Ernesto Mejia, his first of the season. The lefty struck out five.

Haruki Nishikawa singled to open the bottom of the first off rookie Lions submariner Kaito Yoza (2-3), who walked Kensuke Kondo with one out. Sho Nakata doubled off the wall in left. Taishi Ota, a huge thorn in the Lions’ paw this season, doubled Nakata home to make it 3-0.

Hawks resume farm team activities

The SoftBank Hawks said Thursday that with the exception of six individuals, baseball activities have resumed at their minor league facility in Chikugo, Fukuoka Prefecture.

Even so, the team’s Western League farm games at Tama Stadium Chikugo against the Chunichi Dragons on Aug. 7 and 8, have been postponed. Following the announcement of Hasegawa’s test result on Saturday, the Pacific League game set for the Seibu Lions and Hawks in Fukuoka was also postponed.

Four players who were determined by local health officials to have had close contact with either outfielder Yuya Hasegawa, whose positive test for coronavirus was revealed Saturday, and a rehab staff member, whose result was announced Wednesday, have been ex

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.

Umetsu works out with rehab group

Chunichi Dragons right-hander Kodai Umetsu reported to the team’s rehab group at Nagoya Stadium on Wednesday apparently due to discomfort in his right elbow, the Chunichi Sports reported.

The 23-year-old threw a career-high 10 innings and 127 pitches in his shutout on Sunday at Nagoya Dome in a 0-0 tie with the Yakult Swallows. He has not thrown since.

Although his condition is said not to be serious, it comes at a time when the team is in last place, eight games below .500 and two games into a stretch of nine games in nine days.

Active roster moves 8/6/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/16

Central League

Activated

TigersP29Haruto Takahashi

Dectivated

DragonsP28Kodai Umetsu

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesP1Yuki Matsui
EaglesP72Shun Ikeda
FightersP28Ryusei Kawano
BuffaloesP39Keisuke Kobayashi
BuffaloesP49Keisuke Sawada

Dectivated

HawksP29Shuta Ishikawa
EaglesP12Hiroki Kondo
EaglesP58Wataru Karashima
FightersP59Yuki Yoshida
BuffaloesP60Yu Hidarisawa
BuffaloesP68Yu Suzuki
BuffaloesIF9Koji Oshiro

Starting pitchers for Friday, Aug. 7, 2020

Pacific League

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

Toshihiro Sugiura (3-1, 2.28) vs Zach Neal (2-1, 4.46)

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

Takahiro Norimoto (3-3, 3.55) vs Nao Higashihama (2-0, 2.35)

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

Tsubasa Sakakibara (1-1, 3.20) vs Ayumu Ishikawa (1-2, 4.23)

Central League

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

Daiki Yoshida (0-1, 6.57) vs Taiga Kamichatani (0-0, 5.25)

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

Yudai Ono (1-3, 3.83) vs Kazuto Taguchi (2-0, 2.25)

Carp vs Tigers: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Masato Morishita (2-2, 2.56) vs Koyo Aoyagi (4-1, 2.23)

NPB 2020 7-25 games and news

Professional baseball 2020: Day 105

Dragons win high school style

The Chunichi Dragons beat the Hanshin Tigers in a 1-0 pitchers’ duel on Saturday afternoon at Nagoya Dome, but the real story was not the tight pitching but the seventh-inning high school-style offense that produced the winning run.

Masataka Iryo, 30-year-old reserve outfielder, drove in the run off Yuki Nishi (2-2) who took the loss for his strong seven-inning effort.

Dragons right-hander Akiyoshi Katsuno allowed four hits, two by Jerry Sands, and two walks. After he was gone, lefty Hiroto Fuku, and right-handers Daisuke Sobue and Raidel Martinez were all lights out. But the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was that seventh inning.

Nobumasa Fukuda did the hard work with a leadoff single and was replaced by a pinch-hitter. That’s when the story really really began. Takaya Ishikawa, the Dragons’ 19-year-old slugging rookie infielder sacrificed.

“There it is, his first career sacrifice bunt,” the TV announcer crowed. Ishikawa hasn’t homered yet, and as excited as he was, it seemed like a sacrifice was the next best thing. Ishikawa admitted that he hadn’t bunted in a game since elementary school although he does practice bunting.

Dragons captain Shuhei Takahashi, who rejoined the team earlier than expected after suffering a hamstring strain two weeks earlier, hit behind the runner to advance him to third.

Iryo’s sharp grounder into the hole was grabbed by shortstop Seiya Kinami, who had no play at first, but Iryo did what Japanese players with a surplus of fighting spirit are expected to do: he went into the bag head first in a “spirited slide.”

New import Joe Gunkel, who entered the season in the Tigers starting rotation, returned to the team after suffering back stiffness and pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.

The ultimate sacrifice

Thirty years or so back, no Japanese baseball broadcast was complete without a bizarre liturgy regarding the sacrifice bunt. Whenever a bunting situation came up, the analyst and announcer would talk about how extremely difficult it is to get a bunt down, about the skill required and the challenges one needs to overcome.

This was a setup, of course, and similar to the kind of things former first baseman say whenever someone refers to their old position as less challenging.

The purpose is to heap praise on bunters. The irony is that whenever a player failed to execute a routine bunt–which seconds before had been treated as baseball’s ultimate challenge–the former player serving as an analyst would attack the hitter for his inability to execute the simplest of tasks.

It was a wonderful time to be a fan of Japanese baseball.

BayStars continue to rock

The DeNA BayStars continued to play like they are on a mission on Saturday in a 6-2 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Yokohama Stadium.

Following widespread criticism of manager Alex Ramirez for his willingness to keep Jose Lopez in the lineup and Keita Sano in the cleanup spot, the BayStars’s offense has been dynamite, scoring 21 runs over the last three games with Lopez and Sano doing much of the heavy lifting.

Sano and Lopez each had two hits and an RBI, while Tyler Austin doubled twice, walked and scored two runs for the BayStars.

Lefty Shota Imanaga (3-2) allowed two runs, one earned over six innings. Lefty Edwin Escobar struck out four over two scoreless innings and struggling closer Yasuaki Yamasaki worked a 1-2-3 ninth after not pitching the last two days.

Tomo Otosaka, batting for Imanaga in the sixth, hit a three-run pinch-hit home run.

Kawabata saves Swallows’ blushes

Shingo Kawabata, the injury-prone veteran infielder who won the Central League’s batting title in 2015, came off the bench in the ninth inning to stroke a sayonara single, lifting the Yakult Swallows to a 6-5 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Swallows right-hander Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa allowed three runs over seven innings, but rookie setup man Noboru Shimizu surrendered a run in the eighth, and closer Taishi Ishiyama blew the one-run save before stranding three Giants base runners.

Norichika Aoki hit a two-run homer in the first off former Giants closer Hirokazu Sawamura, drew three walks and doubled to open the ninth, when he was pulled for a pinch-runner.

Sawamura was an emergency starter in place of Angel Sanchez, who complained of discomfort in his right shoulder prior to the game.

Had the game ended 5-5, it would have been the Swallows third 5-5 tie in four games.

Yoshihiro Maru homered twice for the Giants

Nakata blast completes Fighters comeback

Sho Nakata’s three-run home run broke a 6-6 seventh-inning tie as the Nippon Ham Fighters came back from an early 6-0 deficit to beat the SoftBank Hawks at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Ryoya Kurihara belted a first-inning grand slam off former Cleveland Indians farmhand Toru Murata, and Hawks starter Shuta Ishikawa allowed three runs over six innings, but the Hawks bullpen proved uncharacteristically vulnerable.

Taneichi blanks Lions for 1st career shutout

Lotte Marines right-hander Atsuki Taneichi (3-1) struck out 10, while walking four in a four-hit shutout in a 5-0 win over the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome that was a scoreless game through six innings.

Lions starter Keisuke Honda (0-2) allowed a run in six-plus innings to take the loss. A walk and a stolen base by pinch-runner Hiromi Oka set up Lotte’s Hisanori Yasuda to drive in the opening run.

Yasuda, a 21-year-old left-handed-hitting corner infielder, was the Marines’ top draft pick in 2018. The rookie seems to hit one or two rockets every game. The Marines broke the game open in a four-run eighth off right-hander Tetsu Miyagawa, the Lions’ top draft pick last autumn.

Mune’s inside the parker sparks Buffs in 9th

Yuma Mune’s ninth-inning drive to the fence in right went for an inside-the-park home run, snapping a 3-3 tie for the Orix Buffaloes, who finished the night with a 6-3 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Eagles right fielder Jabari Blash leaped to try and catch Mune’s drive off Eagles closer Kohei Morihara, but hit the wall awkwardly and was unable to give chase immediately while the speedy Buffalo circled the bases.

Buffaloes lefty Daiki Tajima allowed three runs over seven innings, while Eagles southpaw Takahiro Shiomi held the Buffaloes to a run over six innings.

The visitors took a 3-2 lead in the seventh against former Lion and Padre submariner Kazuhisa Makita. Aderlin Rodriguez opened with a home run to tie it.

With two outs and runners on the corners, the Buffaloes finally executed a play that has backfired on them twice over the past few games, the delayed double steal, with Mune scoring the go-ahead run on what might have been the biggest home plate collision in Japanese baseball since they were outlawed in 2016.

Catcher Yuichi Adachi crossed into Mune’s path to catch the ball, which struck the runner. Mune was ruled safe, and would have been ruled safe even if a tag had been made since NPB prohibits players from obstructing the baseline even with the ball in hand.

Tajima, however, surrendered the tying run in the bottom of the inning, setting up the thrilling finish. Brandon Dickson worked the ninth for Orix, earning his fifth save.

Dragons recall Takahashi, Carp drop Osera

The Chunichi Dragons activated their captain, Shuhei Takahashi on Saturday, while the Hiroshima Carp have deactivated ace right-hander Daichi Osera.

Takahashi suffered a mild left hamstring strain on July 11.

The 29-year-old was pulled after two innings from the Carp’s game on Friday in Yokohama due to an “accident” a catch-all phrase that could include any kind of incident or injury.

The Carp said later only that his “condition was not good.”

Osera threw a 116-pitch complete game on Opening Day and a 132-pitch complete game seven days later in a lop-sided win. Since then, he has surrendered 10 runs on 24 hits and six walks over 19 innings.

Meanwhile, the Seibu Lions have activated Venezuelan slugger Ernesto Mejia for the first time this season.

Active roster moves 7/25/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/4

Central League

Activated

GiantsOF59Seiya Matsubara
TigersOF53Kairi Shimada
CarpP26Ren Nakata
CarpC22Shosei Nakamura
DragonsIF3Shuhei Takahashi

Dectivated

GiantsP45Nobutaka Imamura
TigersP67Suguru Iwazaki
CarpP14Daichi Osera
CarpIF4Tetsuya Kokubo

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP45Keisuke Honda
LionsIF99Ernesto Mejia

Dectivated

LionsIF39Wu Nien-ting
LionsOF68Junichiro Kishi

NPB 2020 7-17 games and news

Inside story

Is it just me, or are NPB umps beginning to adopt the old major league standard of shifting the strike zone one ball width away from the batter? This was done in the States, I understand, to decrease hit batsmen. As long as I can remember, Japanese umps have called the vertical edges of the zone by the rules as well as their talents allowed.

But Friday’s games got me to wondering. Looking at the pitches that were called strikes and balls in Sendai’s game between the Lions and Eagles, and in Osaka between the Hawks and Buffaloes and at Koshien between the Dragons and Tigers, it sure seemed like inside strikes meant getting the ball entirely over the plate, while pitchers tended to get more leeway outside.

It may just be me, but a narrow strike zone definitely impacted at least one game.

Neal outpitches Norimoto in Sendai

Rakuten Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto has been very tough this season and he was pretty darn good on Friday, but sometimes things just have a way of going south. And while things didn’t go his way, Seibu Lions right-hander Zach Neal had his best outing in three weeks and picked up the win in a 10-2 victory in Sendai.

After both pitchers were rock solid in the first, Norimoto ran into trouble in the second. He hit the leadoff man, and pitched carefully to 2019 Pacific League MVP Tomoya Mori and ended up walking him. After that, he pretty much made his pitches but didn’t get the results he might have.

OK, he threw a straight fastball down and in to Takeya Nakamura that the slugger lined to left. The opening run scored on the play when left fielder Hiroaki Shimauchi failed to gather in the ball on a hop.

After that it was back-to-back singles off good pitches. An inside fastball jammed Takumi Kuriyama but resulted in a flair to left that fell in for an RBI single. Cory Spangenberg did a super job to go down and get a splitter and single to load the bases.

Norimoto had thrown 22 pitches in the inning at that point the wheels kind of fell off. But oddly enough, the Lions had pretty much done all the damage they were going to do in the inning.

He threw three straight pitches down the pipe, a first-pitch fastball resulted in an RBI single. A hanging first-pitch slider would have brought in another run had Shimauchi not made a good sliding catch in left. Sosuke Genda then watched a fat first-pitch fastball go by before offering at a splitter out of the zone that let the Eagles get a force at the plate.

The Lions added two more runs in the third when he REALLY missed to dangerous hitters, resulting in a Hotaka Yamakawa home run and a hanging curve that missed being a two-run homer by a few feet.

Neal — remember Zach Neal? — gave up a couple of hard-hit balls to his fielders in the second, and had trouble with the strike zone, see above, in the third, when he issued two, two-out walks — credit to Daichi Suzuki for the second — before Eigoro Mogi lined a pitch to center that went for a two-run double when center fielder Shohei Suzuki failed to make a shoe-string catch.

That brought league RBI leader Hideto Asamura to the plate. Neal got a 1-0 strike on the outside corner, and Asamura missed a fastball up and in before flailing at a changeup low and well out of the zone. You could see that changeup coming a mile away, and it was poetry.

Neal walked just those two batters, while striking out five and allowing five hits. With the win, he was able to extend his streak of consecutive winning decisions to 13.

Hawks take advantage of Buffaloes youngster

As happens a lot, walks opened the door for the SoftBank Hawks offense and they never looked back in their 9-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Hard-throwing 21-year-old Tsubasa Sakakibara (0-1) went into the fourth inning with the game tied 1-1, but four walks in the inning proved his undoing.

Sometimes pitchers walk hitters because they can’t locate their pitches and sometimes because they have a poor approach, and in Sakakibara’s case it seemed more of an inability to adjust to umpire Fumihiro Yoshimoto’s narrow strike zone.

A leadoff walk on four borderline pitches to Yuki Yanagita was a case of his trying to hit the edge of the zone and locating, but not getting the calls. Another walk followed before a three-pitch strikeout of Wladimir Balentien. But at that point, Sakakibara’s ability to execute began to slip. He missed all over the place to Nobuhiro Matsuda to load the bases before Takuya Kai ground out a walk that broke the tie.

Sakakibara, whose fastball was sitting at 150 kph but was pretty straight, got the grounder he needed to keep it a 2-1 game but the ball went for an infield single and he was yanked after four.

Orix rookie Ryo Ota, whose first pro hit was a home run on Thursday, had a home run for his second hit as well, when he tied it in the second off Nao Higashihama. The Hawks starter, who was in the leg by a batted ball early in the game, left after three innings.

Arihara earns 1st win for Fighters

Nippon Ham Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (1-3) allowed two runs over six innings, scattering eight hits and three walks in a 7-4 win over the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.

Arihara allowed just a run in the first despite a leadoff single and a Leonys Martin double and didn’t have a stress-free inning until his 1-2-3 sixth. Marines starter Ayumu Ishikawa (0-2) had three 1-2-3 innings through six but surrendered six runs on 10 hits and a walk to take the loss.

Fighters cleanup hitter doubled in a run in the hosts’ two-run first, and put the game out of reach with a seventh-inning grand slam.

Aoyagi, Sands pace Tigers past Dragons

Right-handed side-armer Koyo Aoyagi had the Chunichi Dragons pounding the ball into the dirt, grounding out 16 times over seven innings in a 4-1 Hanshin Tigers victory at Koshien Stadium.

The Dragons managed four hits and a walk off Aoyagi (3-1), who struck out two. The Tigers broke out for three runs in a fortunate third inning against Dragons lefty Yudai Ono (0-3).

Ono sawed off Seiya Kinami’s bat at the handle with a 1-1 slider on the hands but the ball looped over the mound for a leadoff infield single. After the pitcher sacrificed, failed to get a called first strike and sort of gave up on trying to get Yoshio Itoi and walked him on four pitches. Kento Itohara lucked into an infield single hitting an 0-2 pitch well out of the zone off the end of the bat for a perfect swinging bunt down the third base line. A throwing error by third baseman Hayato Mizowaki advanced all three runners and let in a run.

The infield came in, and Jerry Sands, whose eighth-inning home run tied Thursday’s game against Yakult and set the stage for a Tigers comeback, hit Ono’s pitch. The lefty spotted a 3-0 two-seamer low and away only for Sands to reach for it and launch it the other way into the right field gap for a two-run double.

Dayan Viciedo got a run back for the Drgons with his eighth home run of the year in the fourth.

Maru makes difference in rainy Yokohama

Yoshihiro Maru launched a third-inning tie-breaking home run at rainy Yokohama Stadium and the Yomiuri Giants earned a 2-1 win over the DeNA BayStars when their game was called after six innings.

The Giants opened the scoring in the second thanks to some quality swings from Takumi Oshiro, Gerardo Parra and Zelous Wheeler as three singles loaded the bases with no outs against Shoichi Ino (2-1). Oshiro scored on a double play.

Ino struck out six and walked one, while allowing six hits. Giants lefty Nobutaka Imamura (1-0) won his season debut. He allowed six hits and a walk while striking out two, and served up a pair of groundball double plays as the base cutouts at Yokohama Stadium began to resemble mud wrestling venues.

Maru broke the tie with two outs in the third, when Ino hung a curve ball that he launched off the end of his bat and just into the outfield seats atop their high wall in left.

Carp spoil Swallows rookie’s debut

Shota Dobayashi, long a favorite of the Hiroshima media, made his debut in the Carp No. 3 spot and went 4-for-5 with three runs, while Seiya Suzuki and Ryuhei Matsuyama combined to drive in eight in a 9-2 win over the Yakult Swallows.

Right-hander Daiki Yoshida, Yakult’s second draft pick last autumn, allowed five runs on nine hits over 2-1/3 innings to take the loss in his first-team debut.

Carp ace Daichi Osera (3-1) allowed two runs over six innings, while striking out five and walking two. New import D. J. Johnson had his best outing yet for Hiroshima as he struck out the side in the eighth inning.

Alcides Escobar drove in both Yakult runs with a sixth-inning double that missed the top of the wall at Mazda Stadium by a few feet.

Hawks drop van den Hurk, Carp call on Scott

A day after the briefest start of his career in Japan, right-hander Rick van den Hurk was deactivated by the SoftBank Hawks on Friday. The 35-year-old who opened his season with a dominating win over the Seibu Lions on June 25, is now 1-2 with 7.29 ERA in his sixth Japanese season.

Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said van den Hurk was feeling tightness in his back according to the Nikkan Sports.

“We’re going to give it a little time,” Kudo said at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome prior to Friday’s game against the Orix Buffaloes. “We want to know a little bit more about his condition, so he’ll be staying with the team for a bit.”

Meanwhile, a day after a Hiroshima Carp bullpen game imploded, the Central League club called up reliever Tayler Scott. The first-year right-hander has allowed seven runs over three innings and is 0-2 in five games. He has since pitched in two farm games and retired all six batters he faced for the Carp’s Western League team.

Active roster moves 7/17/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/27

Central League

Activated

GiantsP45Nobutaka Imamura
TigersC12Seishiro Sakamoto
TigersOF60Masahiro Nakatani
CarpP70Tayler Scott
SwallowsP28Daiki Yoshida
SwallowsP64Ren Kazahari

Dectivated

GiantsP46Takuya Kuwahara
BayStarsP93Ko Nakagawa
TigersP20Kenichi Nakata
TigersIF00Hiroki Uemoto
TigersOF9Shun Takayama
SwallowsP20Kazuki Kondo

Pacific League

Activated

HawksP34Arata Shiino

Dectivated

HawksP44Rick van den Hurk

NPB 2020 7-9 games and News

Bour opens Koshien account with home run

Justin Bour may have been typecast as the second coming of Randy Bass because of his left-handed power to left and center, but on Thursday, he looked the part in his first regular-season game at Koshien Stadium.

Bour ruined what had been a terrific start by Yomiuri Giants lefty Cristopher Mercedes (0-2) by blasting a high 1-0 slider well past the center field fence with a man on. Bour’s third home run made it 2-0, and the Hanshin Tigers went on to win their home opener 2-1.

Tigers starter Onelki Garcia dodged his share of bullets after walking six over six scoreless innings, but it was Mercedes, who struck out eight while allowing five hits and a walk over 6-2/3 innings who was left holding the bag.

Suguru Iwazaki (1-0) earned the win with a scoreless inning of relief, a feat duplicated by Robert Suarez in the eighth. Kyuji Fujikawa, who has been shaky this season after a remarkable 2019 campaign, allowed a run on a walk and two, two-out singles to cut it close before securing his second save.

Here’s Bour’s hero interview:

Intentional walk costs Dragons again

For the second time in three games, a late-inning intentional walk came back to bite Chunichi Dragons manager Tsuyoshi Yoda in the butt in an 8-6 loss to the Yakult Swallows at Nagoya Dome.

Leading 5-4 after the Dragons scored twice against right-hander Scott McGough in the eighth, Dragons lefty Toshiya Okada surrendered a one-out double to Norichika Aoki and issued a walk to Swallows’ on-base machine Tomotaka Sakaguchi. A 1-2 wild pitch to superstar Tetsuto Yamada opened first base, and Yoda ordered the free pass.

Okada, who walked in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning of Tuesday’s 2-1 loss after an intentional walk had loaded the bases, fell behind 2-0 to Kotaro Yamasaki, who has led a charmed existence this season, where seemingly every ball coming off his bat finds a hole.

He put a good swing on a high pitch for a two-run single, and slugger Munetaka Murakami piled on with a two-run double through the drawn-in outfield.

Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama surrendered a run in the ninth but earned his third save.

Swallows lefty Keishi Takahashi allowed two runs through five innings, and was barely recognizable, without his transformer-like leg-kick, arm-raise, leg-lower, leg-raise delivery. He looked like an ordinary lefty with a longer-than-usual leg lift. Takahashi located a fastball that had a lot of spin on it and combined that with a slider he kept at the bottom of the zone.

Martinez unstoppable

Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez came off the bench as a pinch-hitter and tied the game with an RBI single. He lined out to second to end the game, keeping his average at .500.

BayStars’ Austin, Ino fillet Carp

Tyler Austin singled to with one out to help set the table in a two-run first inning, doubled and homered in the eighth to put the game out of reach in the DeNA BayStars’ 5-1 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Shoichi Ino (2-0) allowed a run in six innings as he scattered four hits and two walks while striking out four. The BayStars bullpen was solid, allowing four hits over the final three innings.

Rookie Carp right-hander Masato Morishita struggled with hanging breaking balls and straight fastballs in the heart of the zone, but never lost his composure in driving rain and allowed just two runs on four walks and eight hits over five innings.

Sharp Shiomi slices up Hawks

Right-hander Takahiro Shiomi (1-2) survived a first-inning scrape with just a run scored and cruised through the next six innings for the Rakuten Eagles in a 9-1 hammering of the SoftBank Hawks at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Shiomi was able to command his slider and splitter and locate his fastball as he struck out seven, walked one while allowing four hits.

Hawks starter Rick van den Hurk (1-1) allowed a run through four innings but his stuff deserted him in the fifth. Straight fastballs, floating changeups and hanging sliders set the visitors up for a four-run inning. The Eagles scored four more in the sixth after Yuya Ogo reached on a two-out bunt single.

Jabari Blash delivered a first-inning sacrifice fly and had a two-run fifth-inning single and drew a bases-loaded walk in the sixth.

Fighters blow late lead in tie with Buffaloes

Nippon Ham Fighters cleanup hitter Sho Nakata did his utmost to give his team the lead, but the bullpen and defense gave it away under pressure from pinch-runner Kodai Sano in a 4-4, 10-inning tie with the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Takahiro Okada, who has been hitting the ball hard a lot this year, homered with Masataka Yoshida on in the fourth off Fighters’ starter Drew VerHagen to put Orix in front in the fourth inning.

Buffaloes lefty Sachiya Yamasaki was on thin ice through five innings with five walks but no runs allowed. He was yanked after a leadoff walk and two singles in the sixth and right-handed slugger Sho Nakata coming up.

Nakata was rewarded for a great at-bat against righty Keisuke Sawada with a three-run homer. After missing high with a 1-2 splitter on his seventh pitch, Sawada tried again with another splitter but left it in the zone. Nakata saw it coming and launched it well back into the second deck at Kyocera Dome.

Hijinks ensued in the eighth when veteran Fighters lefty Naoki “I got an MVP vote in 2016” Miyanishi issued two two-out walks. Sano, running for Okada, stole second and then third. Aderlin Rodriguez walked, and tried to draw a throw on a delayed steal. Fighters catcher Yushi Shimizu wasn’t fooled and tried to throw behind Sano at third. His throw, however, sailed into left field, and the game was tied.

Two scoreless innings from Hirotoshi Masui and one each from Brandon Dickson and Tyler Higgins kept the Fighters quiet and paved the way for the Buffaloes comeback.

Jackson leaves Lotte

Right-handed reliever Jay Jackson will be released by the Lotte Marines, with the team saying Thursday it received a request from the pitcher to be let out of his contract the day before.

The team has declined to explain the situation at the current time. The 32-year-old pitched with the Hiroshima Carp from 2016 to 2018. When he was not offered an extension for 2019, Jackson wound up with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019.

“We can’t elaborate at this time,” the Marines’ director of baseball operations Naoki Matsumoto said according to the Daily Sports.

This season, Jackson has allowed three runs over seven innings. He has struck out 12 of the 29 batters he’s faced.

Swallows’ Suarez, Dragons’ Yanagi dropped

The Yakult Swallows deactivated right-handed starting pitcher Albert Suarez on Thursday, with the team saying he needed to makes adjustments.

The 30-year-old Suarez is 2-0 with a 0.53 ERA in three starts, although he walked seven batters in Tuesday’s game against the Chunichi Dragons. The Swallows won the game 2-1 in 10 innings.

The Swallows replaced Suarez on the active roster with Keiji Suzuki, who may have Japan’s funkiest left-handed delivery.

The Dragons starter on Tuesday, Yuya Yanagi, was also deactivated. Yanagi, who struck out 10 but allowed a run in six innings, complained of stiffness in his right obliques during practice on Wednesday.

The 26-year-old right-hander led the Dragons in wins last year, when he posted an 11-7 mark with a 3.53 ERA. This season, he’s allowed four runs in 20 innings, while striking out 25.

As expected, the Yomiuri Giants activated flame-throwing Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira to take the roster spot opened when closer Rubby De La Rosa, who suffered a left oblique strain on Sunday.