Tag Archives: small ball

Japan Series 2019 Game 1

The Hawks and Giants kicked off a revival of their formerly long-running rivalry, meeting in the autumn’s season-ending series for the first time in 19 years. So before the game all the focus was on something that had absolutely nothing to do with the proceedings: reminiscing about former Hall of Fame Giants teammates, Sadaharu Oh and Shigeo Nagashima, who managed against each other in 2000.

If they wanted to reminisce about the “ON” series, perhaps they should have mentioned the neural surgeons, which I’ll get to later.

Senga gets the job done

Making his third straight Game 1 start, Kodai Senga allowed a run — on a second-inning homer by future Hall of Famer Shinnosuke Abe — over seven innings. He earned the wins as SoftBank pulled away against the Giants’ bullpen in a 7-2 win.

The Hawks have now won 13 straight Japan Series home games. On Sunday, the Giants will be going for their first series road win since they beat Masahiro Tanaka in Game 6 in 2013, the only loss Tanaka would suffer in that calendar year.

After Abe’s home run, Yurisbel Gracial turned on a high-but-straight fastball from Shun Yamaguchi and lined it into the field seats just inside the permanent wall at Yafuoku Dome, the Home Run Terrace to put SoftBank up by one.

Senga lacked control, but he could get batters out in the strike zone, while Yamaguchi got hitters to chase out of the zone and flail at a superb splitter. When his control sputtered in the sixth, he surrendered another run. The Hawks might have scored more, but Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo was determined to play small ball.

Hard-hitting shortstop Kenta Imamiya sacrificed to give Yamaguchi the only he could manage until Akira Nakamura‘s bases-loaded sacrifice fly made it 3-1, and helped the Hawks strand two.

In the bottom of the seventh, Kudo pulled pinch-hitter Yuya Hasegawa for pinch-hitter Keizo Kawashima to get a platoon advantage when the Giants flipped to a lefty to face Hasegawa. Both of these hitters are terrific, so there’s really nothing to be gained here, but the guys in the broadcasting booth were going nuts about how actively Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo was pushing buttons.

“We have home run power, but we also can execute a small-ball attack,” Kudo said with pride of a team that tied the Giants for the NPB lead in home runs during the regular season with 183.

Being stupid means being serious

Those of you who watch a lot of Japanese ball have probably caught on to this, but managers who let their players play or who try to be efficient with their resources, can be perceived as not trying hard enough to win. Thus, using one’s best hitters to sacrifice against a bunt shift, when a “successful” sacrifice will cost you runs, is perceived as showing fighting spirit.

Thus Kudo bunted with two-time batting champion Seiichi Uchikawa in the eighth inning, and brought in his ace reliever in the ninth with a six-run leave. There was no advantage to either move except to show you mean business.

And then there were the doctors

The 2000 Japan Series was known for something other than just the first postseason meeting between Oh and Nagashima. It was also the first Japan Series where the first three games were played on consecutive days, with the off day to allow for travel from Tokyo to Fukuoka taking place after the teams played Game 3 in Fukuoka.

This proves that not all Japan Series stupidity actually takes place during the series. NPB rules require all teams to secure their home stadium in case they play in the Japan Series, but some unnamed Daiei Hawks executive decided prior to the team’s pennant in 1999 that there was no chance the PL doormats would be in the 2000 series, and rented out Fukuoka Dome one day for a neural surgeon convention — the day when Game 3 was supposed to take place.

NPB games, news of Aug. 3, 2019

I’ve been working on an analysis of DeNA’s using their pitchers to bat eighth — which a colleague of mine who works in broadcast media said pitching coach Daisuke Miura is opposed to. It’s been maddeningly tricky, and I’m probably going to have to use a run expectancy table to sum up the net gains and losses.

Saturday was Round 2 of the two leagues’ top-of-the-table clashes.

Pacific League

Hawks 6, Fighters 3

At Sappporo Dome, SoftBank won its sixth straight game at Nippon Ham’s home park behind Cuban lefty Ariel Miranda (5-3), while Chihiro Kaneko (4-6) gave up four runs in the first — his first runs allowed in over a month.

As expected, Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo used closer Yuito Mori with a five-run lead in the ninth, when he allowed two runs. Mori didn’t pitch on Friday and with Monday off. It was probably a useful way to keep him involved.

Game highlights can be found HERE.

Buffaloes 4, Lions 1

At Kyocera Dome, Orix’s Yoshinobu Yamamoto (6-4) showed why he’s one of Japan’s best pitchers this season, with razor-sharp command of his fastball and cutter giving the Seibu hitters fits.

If that weren’t enough, the right-hander seemed able to snap off nasty curves and throw some impressive splitters just to keep the Lions from sitting on either the four-seamer or cutter. The 20-year-old Yamamoto gave up a couple of hits to open the ninth, when he lost his shutout bid, but Brandon Dickson came on and recorded his 10th save with a pair of strikeouts.

Yamamoto, who struck out 10, lowered his ERA to 1.84. In 24-1/3 innings against Seibu this season, he has allowed two runs, one earned.

“He has to be the best pitcher in the league right now,” Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji said. “Since if you go by ERA, you figure you’re not going to score more than two runs off him.”

Steven Moya, acquired in a July trade with the Chunichi Dragons, opened the scoring in the first with the third of three-straight one-out singles. He gave his hero interview in English.

Game highlights can be found HERE.

Marines 0, Eagles 0, 12 innings

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Lotte loaded the bases three times — the last time with one out in the 11th inning — and Rakuten juiced the bags twice before their futile night was put out of its misery by rules ending all games after 12 innings.

In the fifth inning, Eagles second baseman Hideto Asamura, whose strength is his offense, flashed some LEATHER.

Central League

BayStars 6, Giants 5

At Yokohama Stadium, Yomiuri came back from a 5-0 deficit on a three-run Kazuma Okamoto home run and a two-run double from Hayato Sakamoto, only to lose it on a passed ball by rookie catcher Yukinori Kishida, who had come off the bench to make his first-team debut.

Sakamoto began the day tied with DeNA’s Neftali Soto for the CL RBI lead with 71, but Soto finished the game with 75 after a first-inning sacrifice fly and a third-inning, three-run home run.

BayStars lefty Kenta Ishida struck out eight over six innings, and was never really in trouble. He allowed the Giants to tie it when pinch hitter Shingo Ishikawa reached on a “furinige” (literally “swinging and escaping” on an uncaught swinging third strike). After a two-out walk, Ishida threw a high-straight 1-1 fastball to Okamoto, who lined launched it into the stands in left for his 18th home run.

Post-game Rami-chan

DeNA skipper Alex Ramirez might not watch the game more intensely than any other manager, but nobody looks more intense than he does on the bench. Here’s his post-game interview:

“You can tell they are the No. 1 team in the league. They never give up. It was hard at the end. We were able to come back and win the game, but man those last three innings were very tough.”

“He (Ishida) did a tremendous job right from the beginning until the end. Of course, he gave up that three-run home run, but he did a really good job.”

“A couple of runs we got, a two-base hit, a sacrifice fly, bringing the guy in. Small things like that, small baseball, that’s what wins games and that’s what we were able to do today.”

“It’s not going to be any easier for tomorrow’s game. We’ve got to continue and stay focused and come back ready to win tomorrow.”

The announcer, of course had to add an NPB public service announcement: “You heard the manager reconfirm that small baseball wins games. And now to the highlights…”

Tigers 4, Carp 1

At Mazda Stadium, Yuki Nishi (5-7) allowed a run over five innings, rookie Koji Chikamoto broke a 1-1 tie with his eighth home run, and Kyuji Fujikawa saved his fourth straight game as Hanshin kept Hiroshima from moving to within two games of the CL lead.

The four saves are the most for the former Cub since he saved 24 in 2012, the 39-year-old’s last in Japan before Tommy John surgery.


At Jingu Stadium, Nobumasa Fukuda homered for the second-straight day, tying it with a third-inning, two-run home run and leading Chunichi’s comeback against Yakult.

Tetsuto Yamada hit his 26th home run for Yakult, while rookie Munetaka Murakami hit his 22nd.