I’ve written before about how Japanese baseball’s ultimate mantra is “prepare and execute,” so when things go south, things must be done. At the very least, there must be “hansei” — self reflection — on one’s failures.
The big issues on Friday were the inadequacy of the current replay system. A string of challenges at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium held up the Marines-Eagles game for nearly half an hour. They were a string of close plays that were not obviously wrong although one was overturned.
The rule in Japan is for the umps to uphold decisions on the field without clear evidence to the contrary. The most egregious mistake came when Akira Nakamura of the Hawks was granted a decisive tie-breaking home run on a foul ball because the poor quality of the monitor afforded the officials at Kyocera Dome made it look as if it had passed on the fair side of the foul pole.
When the umps saw it on a better quality monitor after the game, they realized it was obviously foul.
Osamu Ino, the director of NPB’s umpiring technical committee has in the past blamed the cheapskate owners for not making the umps job easier and then blasting the officials for not being able to make better decisions.
On Thursday, Haruki Nishikawa was called safe at second base on a stolen base attempt despite a fairly clear image of him being tagged before his foot hit the bag.
The DeNA BayStars made up for their failure to cash in early scoring opportunities by coming from a run down in the eighth inning in their 2-1 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Yokohama Stadium.
Keita Sano tied the franchise record by homering in his fifth straight game, while tying the game 1-1 with his 20th home run. Jose Lopez singled with one out off Brazilian flame thrower Thyago Vieira (0-1), pinch-runner Tomo Otosaka stole second and Yamato Maeda doubled him home.
Closer Kazuki Mishima surrendered a leadoff triple before striking out the next three batters to lock down his 15th save.
While right-hander Shoichi Ino kept the Giants on-base and the visitors wasted their best chance through seven innings, a second-inning Takumi Oshiro leadoff double, the BayStars hitters got on base but couldn’t score, stranding seven runners from the third to the fifth against lefty Nobutaka Imamura.
The Giants broke through for a run against Spencer Patton (3-2) on a double, a single and a Hayato Sakamoto sac fly. Patton walked Kazuma Okamoto to put two on with one out but then foreshadowed Mishima’s big finish by striking out the next to batters to set the stage for the final fireworks.
Dragons survive Suzuki’s wrecking ball
Seiya Suzuki hit his 22nd and 23rd home runs and drove in five runs, but the Hiroshima Carp bullpen failed to keep it close enough for him to make a difference in an 8-6 loss to the Chunichi Dragons at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Yariel Rodriguez (3-4) allowed three runs over 5-1/3 innings on seven hits and a walk while striking out six. The Dragons took a comfortable 8-3 lead into the ninth but Kento Fujishima faced three hitters, and all scored on Suzuki’s second home run. Raidel Martinez came in and earned his 20th save.
Nishi shuts out Swallows
Yuki Nishi (10-4) threw a five-hitter for his second shutout of the season and catcher Ryutaro Umeno homered and had an RBI double in the Hanshin Tigers’ 5-0 win over the Yakult Swallows at Koshien Stadium.
Hawks pour it on early
Matt Moore (5-3) allowed three runs, two earned, over seven innings in the SoftBank Hawks’ 7-3 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Moore struck out eight and walked one while giving up six hits. After facing just three batters in the first, his teammates scored four runs on six straight one-out hits in off Takahiro Shiomi (4-8). Shiomi got ahead in counts and executed most of his pitches, but it didn’t matter.
He took the first step down a slippery slope with a fat 1-2 pitch to Keizo Kawashima, who smashed it into left to start the hit parade.
Yuki Yanagita was fooled on a 1-2 pitch away but got it off the end of the bat for an opposite-field single. Yurisbel Gracial chased an 0-2 forkball at the knees but got the barrel on the ball and singled to left. Ryoya Kurihara hit a tricky inside 1-2 pitch for a single, and on and on it went until the third-place Eagles were nearly out of the game from the get-go.
Marines overcome errors
Kota Futaki (7-2) allowed an unearned run over six innings and Leonys Martin hit a tie-breaking two-run home run as the Lotte Marines overcame four errors to beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 5-1 at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Futaki allowed three hits and a walk while striking out one. For the second time this week, rookie Kyota Fujiwara opened the Marines’ first with a home run, only for the Fighters to tie it in the third with the help of an error by first baseman Seiya Inoue.
Fujiwara singled with two outs in the third and scored on Martin’s 25th home run.
Kuriyama lifts Lions past Buffaloes
Takumi Kuriyama’s two-run two-out sixth-inning double brought the Seibu Lions from a run down against Taisuke Yamaoka (2-5) in a 2-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes at MetLIfe Dome.
The Buffaloes broke up a scoreless game in the sixth against Lions starter Tatsuya Imai on an error, a one-out Masataka Yoshida single and a Steven Moya RBI single off rookie Tetsu Miyagawa (2-1).
Sosuke Genda, who was charged with the costly error in the top of the inning, started the Lions’ fightback with his second hit of the game. Tomoya Mori followed with a one-out walk, and both scored on Kuriyama’s second hit of the game.
Lions closer Tatsushi Masuda struck out the first two batters in the ninth, but the Buffaloes made things interesting by loading the bases before he escaped with his 27th save.
Active roster moves 10/16/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/26
Kona Takahashi (5-6) got three quick outs after losing his no-hit bid in the top of the ninth to throw a one-hit shutout Tuesday in the Seibu Lions’ 2-0 win over the Orix Buffaloes and their ace, Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
On a night when he rarely missed catcher Masatoshi Okada’s glove, the 23-year-old right-hander painted with his fastball and got swinging strikes with his splitter en route to seven strikeouts. Takahashi walked one and allowed one hit, although he needed a couple of good plays from first baseman Ernesto Mejia and shortstop Sosuke Genda to hold the Buffaloes hitless through eight.
Yamamoto (4-3) struck out nine and walked two while allowing two runs on five hits over seven innings. Corey Spangenberg singled and scored the first run in the fifth after a Mejia walk, a sacrifice and a ground ball off the bat of reserve Lions catcher Masatoshi Okada.
“Against one of the best pitchers in Japan, I thought I’d need to keep them from scoring first. I’m grateful to Okada for his quality hitting,” Takahashi said of his catcher, who moments earlier had said he was just happy to get the bat on the ball since his batting average was “on the verge of disappearing.”
Genda, who back-handed a ball in the hole at shortstop to rob Orix catcher Torai Fushimi of a two-out single and end the sixth, singled with one out in the home half, stole second and scored on a Hotaka Yamakawa single.
In his previous start, Takahashi threw seven scoreless innings against the Lotte Marines.
“At that time, I knew I had to make my next outing a good one,” he said. “I was able to establish a good rhythm today.”
Acting Buffaloes manager Satoshi Nakajima said Takahashi proved too hard for his hitters to solve.
“We came into the game with plans in mind, but his quality tonight did not allow us to execute them,” Nakajima said. “I think it shows that we still have a way to go in making adjustments.”
When Buffaloes pinch-hitter Masahiro Nishino lashed a high fastball up the middle for a ninth-inning leadoff single, Lions pitching coach Fumiya Nishiguchi rushed to the mound to check on the right-hander.
Nishiguchi, who knows as much about losing no-hitters as anyone, having lost one perfect game with two outs in the ninth and another with two outs in the 10th, and whose No. 13 Takahashi inherited, must have said the right thing, because Takahashi went back to work and took out the next three hitters with little fanfare, ending the game on an easy comebacker.
Before Takahashi took the mound in the ninth, Nishiguchi had some encouragement.
“I said, ‘Pitch the same way I did until I had two outs,'” Nishiguchi said.
Yamamoto’s loss was the 22-year-old’s first against the Lions.
“Because my opponent pitched so well, I was the one who gave up the first run,” said Yamamoto, Japan’s hardest-throwing starting pitcher. “I have to take hard look in the mirror.”
Senga goes 8 as Hawks shut out Eagles
Softbank Hawks ace Kodai Senga (6-3) struck out 13 over eight innings and Yurisbel Gracial hit his seventh home run and his fifth in six games in a 2-0 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Veteran Eagles lefty Wataru Karashima (2-1) made his second-straight start after beginning the season in the bullpen. He allowed both runs on five hits and two walks while striking out three.
Senga allowed three hits and three walks in a 108-pitch outing, and closer Yuito Mori allowed one hit in the ninth before recording his 19th save.
Martin,Sawamura star against Fighters
Leonys Martin hit another massive bomb, off the façade high above the right-field stands at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium and singled in two runs in the fifth inning to lift the Lotte Marines to a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Martin opened the scoring in the first with his 20th home run, off right-hander Naoyuki Uwasawa (5-3), although he had to share the spotlight with reliever Hirokazu Sawamura. Acquired in a trade from the Yomiuri Giants the same day, Sawamura went to the mound in the sixth and struck out all three batters he faced in his Pacific League debut.
Fumiya Ono (2-2) earned the win for a scoreless fifth in relief of Yuta Omine. Yuki Karakawa, Frank Herrmann and Naoya Masuda each worked one scoreless inning to preserve the slim lead with Masuda earning his 21st save.
Giants ace Sugano runs win streak to 10
In the Central League’s marquee matchup, Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano (10-0) failed to match his previous results against the Chunichi Dragons, but still managed to best lefty Yudai Ono (5-4) in a 2-0 win at Nagoya Dome.
Ironically, this was Sugano’s worst result of the season against the Dragons, his first two starts having produced complete-game shutouts. Sugano allowed five hits and a walk, and hit a batter while striking out six.
Ono, who entered having won five-straight complete games, including two against the Giants, went the distance again, allowing six hits and a walk while striking out five. His six complete games matches his career high.
The Giants opened the scoring in the third. With one out, Naoki Yoshikawa lined a high 2-0 fastball to center, was sacrificed to second and scored on a Hayato Sakamoto double. Ono hung a 2-0 splitter up and over the outside corner and Sakamoto put a great swing on it, missing a home run by a few feet, but easily bringing Yoshikawa home from second.
Yoshikawa doubled to lead off the eighth with his third hit. A pinch-hitter sacrificed in place of Sugano, and Yoshikawa scored on a Yoshiyuki Kamei’s sacrifice fly.
Giants lefty Kota Nakagawa worked a 1-2-3 eighth, while Rubby De La Rosa pitched the ninth to earn his 10th save.
BayStars ambush Tigers in 7-7 tie
Yusuke Oyama hit a grand slam and a two-run home run, and Jerry Sands added a solo shot to give the Hanshin Tigers a seven-run lead before the DeNA BayStars came back to earn a 10-inning 7-7 tie at Yokohama Stadium.
Tigers starter Onelki Garcia took a 7-0 lead into the sixth inning, but couldn’t limit the damage after Keita Sano’s three-run homer made it 7-4. The southpaw left with no outs and two runners on. Veteran lefty Atsushi Nomi allowed both to score and allowed one run of his own.
Kuri stops Swallows
Allen Kuri (3-4) walked five over six innings but allowed no runs in the Hiroshima Carp’s 5-1 victory over the Yakult Swallows at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Veteran Swallows lefty Masanori Ishikawa (0-3) allowed four runs, two earned, to take the loss.
The big-hitting Seibu Lions executed some down-and-dirty ninth-inning small ball to earn a 3-2 walk-off win over the Lotte Marines on Friday.
With the score tied 2-2 against Marines closer Naoya Masuda (0-2), Sosuke Genda popped his drag bunt over the mound and slid head-first into the bag for a leadoff single. Slugging catcher Tomoya Mori, the Pacific League’s 2019 MVP sacrificed for the second time in his career. After an intentional walk to two-time home run king Hotaka Yamakawa, Masuda missed up with a 1-0 fastball and Shuta Tonosaki looped it into left to bring home the winning run at MetLife Dome.
The Lions open the scoring in the first inning on a one-out Genda single and a two-out Yamakawa home run. Tonosaki followed with a double, but Ishikawa retired 12 of the next 13 batters, allowing the Marines to draw level and left the game after seven innings.
Leonys Martin doubled and scored on a long single by cleanup hitter Hisanori Yasuda, but the inning ended on a strike-out, caught-stealing double play. The Marines tied it on well-struck two-out singles by Tsuyoshi Sugano, Yoshida and Seiya Inoue.
Frank Herrman struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth for the Marines, while Lions relievers Kaima Taira, Reed Garrett and Tatsushi Masuda kept the Marines off the board through nine, when the hosts were able to pull ahead.
Hawks’ Higashihama outpitches Arihara
Nao Higashihama (2-0) allowed a run over seven innings while striking out eight, and Akira Nakamura’s two-run third-inning double snapped a 1-1 tie as the SoftBank Hawks pulled away to a 4-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
The visitors took the lead in the first when Higashihama was missing a lot on three well-hit no-out singles by Haruki Nishikawa, Taishi Ota and Kensuke Kondo, but Arihara blew that lead in the third.
The Hawks came back in the third inning, when Ukyo Shuto and Kenta Imamiya both squared up pitches in the zone like they knew what was coming from Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (1-4). Yuki Yanagita, who seems to square up everybody’s pitches, ironically drove in the tying run when he was fooled on a high changeup that fell for a flair single. A passed ball when Arihara and catcher Ryo Ishikawa got their signals crossed put the runners on second and third for Nakamura.
Livan Moinelo struck out three batters in the eighth, and Yuito Mori closed it out in the ninth to earn his seventh save.
Arihara hung in to the end in an eight-inning complete-game loss. He was charged with four runs, three earned, on eight hits, two walks and a hit batsman. The right-hander struck out four.
Ryoya Kurihara accounted for SoftBank’s final run when he opened the sixth with his fifth home run.
Unheralded Buffalo Sakakibara downs Eagles
Tsubasa Sakakibara (1-1), who turned pro on a non-roster developmental contract, outpitched Rakuten Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto (3-2) in a 6-2 Orix Buffaloes win at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Orix scored in the first on a Tatsuya Yamaashi single off Norimoto’s first pitch, a sacrifice and a Masataka Yoshida single. The Eagles ace suffered no further damage after Adam Jones hit a bullet to third for the second out and Aderlin Rodriguez struck out swinging at a slider.
After failing to sneak across a run in the fourth on a delayed double steal, the Eagles helped out with Orix’s second run in the fifth. Center fielder Ryosuke Tatsumi failed to catch Kenya Wakatsuki’s leadoff liner and played a single into a double. No. 9 hitter Hayato Nishiura followed another sacrifice with another run-scoring single. Norimoto missed over the plate with a low 0-2 slider, and Nishiura went down and hammered it up the middle.
Sakakibara scattered four hits and two walks over the first six innings, and Ryoichi Adachi singled home a run in the seventh to make it 3-0 Buffaloes before Stefen Romero put the hosts on the board with a leadoff homer in the home half.
The Buffaloes finally drove Norimoto from the game in the eighth on Aderlin Rodriguez’s two-run double.
The Buffaloes bullpen allowed an unearned run on two walks over three innings as Orix won its third-straight decision.
Giants comeback, tie Swallows
The Yomiuri Giants gave up five early runs in ugly fashion, but came back against the Yakult Swallows bullpen to salvage a 5-5, 10-inning tie at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Giants lefty Nobutaka Imamura walked three of the first six batters he faced before the game blew up on him in the second.
Daiki Yoshida, the Swallows’ starting pitcher and their second draft pick last autumn, singled home two runs after Alcides Escobar’s leadoff walk, Kotaro Yamasaki’s single and a sacrifice. Yoshida went to second when a grounder that struck Imamura’s foot. The Swallows pitcher scored from second on a Tetsuto Yamada single. Yamada scored on a Norichika Aoki fly to left center that fell untouched for a double due to a mixup between left fielder Zelous Wheeler and center fielder Yoshihiro Maru. Munetaka Murakami singled home Aoki to drive Imamura from the game.
The Giants began taking the measure of the Yoshida in the fourth. Takumi Oshiro followed a walk to cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto with his second homer in two games. Back-to-back hard-hit singles from Hiroyuki Nakajima and Wheeler followed. Yoshida, however, snuffed out the rally with a strikeout and a double play.
The Giants mounted another rally in the fifth, but Escobar made a good stop at short on a grounder up the middle and started a sweet double play. That was all for Yoshida, who walked three and gave up six hits while striking out four.
Scott McGough worked a 1-2-3 sixth, but the Giants took a stick to 21-year-old righty Yugo Umeno in the seventh.
Naoki Yoshikawa led off with a home run, and Shinnosuke Shigenobu doubled – his ball passed through a small hole in the fence over Jingu Stadium’s right field wall – and scored on a Hayato Sakamoto sac fly before Maru homered to tie it.
Sano slam lifts BayStars to walk-off win
Keita Sano continued his torrid streak since criticism of skipper Alex Ramirez emerged over the weekend, blasting a walk-off grand slam that boosted the DeNA BayStars to a 9-6 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Yokohama Stadium.
Ramirez, who was criticized for everything from not ordering a bunt to putting on his socks in the wrong order, was also widely slammed in the Japanese media this week for giving key offensive roles to Sano and veteran first baseman Jose Lopez.
Sano’s home run was his third in three games, while Lopez had two doubles and his second home run in three games.
The BayStars came from a run down in the first against Carp ace Daichi Osera on a Takayuki Kajitani leadoff single, back-to-back doubles from Tyler Austin and Lopez and a groundout.
DeNA starter Taiga Kamichatani, who allowed two hits in the first, gave up two more in the second and two more in the third, when he added a walk and allowed another run.
Osera was pulled after two innings of work. Right-hander Makoto Kemna seven of the first eight batters he faced before Kajitani walked with one out in the fifth and scored on Lopez’s second double.
The lead was short-lived, however. Kamichatani fell behind 3-1 to Seiya Suzuki who hit the ball so hard off the wall in left he was easily held to a single. With one out, Jose Pirela hammered a hanging 2-1 splitter into the seats in left for his second home run in two nights.
The Carp widened the lead with two more runs off Spencer Patton in the eighth, but Hiroshima’s bullpen couldn’t hold it. Lopez homered to make it a 6-4 game in the eighth and Kajitani singled in another run in the ninth before Sano underlined the victory.
Ono misses out again in loss to Tigers
A week after suffering a tough loss to the Hanshin Tigers, Yudai Ono allowed a run over five innings only for the Chunichi Dragons bullpen to blow up in a 5-2 loss at Nagoya Dome.
Ono, who is looking for his first win of the season, surrendered a solo home run to Yusuke Oyama in the fourth. The lefty allowed four hits and two walks while striking out nine.
Tigers starter Koyo Aoyagi (4-1) gave up two runs in the second and lasted six innings to earn the win after Hanshin scored four runs in the top of the seventh. Fumiya Hojo doubled in three and scored on a Jerry Sands single.
Robert Suarez worked the ninth to earn his fifth save.
Tigers’ Gunkel rejoins top team
Right-hander Joe Gunkel worked out with the Hanshin Tigers’ first team on Friday according to Sponichi Annex and was activated. The 28-year-old first-year import pitched in a simulated game on Thursday and ostensibly showed no ill effects.
Gunkel was deactivated on July 14 due to lower back stiffness.
Meanwhile, the Yomiuri Giants have deactivated Brazilian pitcher Thyago Vieira while the Hiroshima Carp have dropped infielder Alejandro Mejia.
I’m a day behind discussing the best infield tools in Japan, although to be precise these were done the other day. Before the One-year scouting diary page got too big and unwieldy I opted to make it a collection of links to individual posts, and editing issues took up that time.
The informational interviews required for my class (at least the ones in Japan) are going forward. I want to pursue a bunch of them in the U.S.– because I hope to get those people’s attention — and in Japan because if I am a scout here, I need a network of people to help me in my effort to get good information out.
Before I dive off the deep end and start cold calling MLB teams, I wanted to explain how my interview with the Waseda University manager is going. First I talked to him and we set up a time. This was easy because he’s a Facebook friend. Then I had to arrange it with the university. I called the baseball department — not the athletic department but the baseball department — only to be told to go to the university website and fill out an interview request with their PR department. I’m kind of challenged because explaining that this is not for my work as a journalist — in Japanese — is extremely challenging, even when speaking, In writing it is virtually impossible for me. Anyway, that’s done and the baseball department’s manager called me back and told me when and where to show up.
So back to business
Defensive tools: Pacific League shortstops
The three top finishers in the PL’s 2019 Golden Glove voting were:
Sosuke Genda, Seibu Lions
Kenta Imamiya, SoftBank Hawks
Takuya Nakashima, Nippon Ham Fighters
Based on video I saw, all three have
lateral quickness on ground balls
raw arm strength
quick smooth transfers
can throw from all angles
Imamiya is as good at catching the ball as anyone I’ve seen. He is the Trevor Story of the three, 75 raw arm strength who doesn’t set his feet as often as he might and is not quite as accurate as his rivals.
Imamiya is really, really good at catching the ball. He smothers throws that dare to skip away from him. He is the Trevor Story of the three, 75 raw arm strength who doesn’t set his feet as often as he might and is not quite as accurate as his rivals.
Genda may have 65-70 arm strength, but his release is as quick as anybody’s. He’s also the best at backhanding balls, something virtually no Japanese amateurs are taught. He sets his feet well and is extremely accurate. Nakashima appears to have the strongest arm of the three, but his ball transfer is just a tick behind the others, and he looks less comfortable backhanding the ball.
All things considered, as much as I love Imamiya scramble for the ball, Genda appears to be the best overall tools package.