At Tokyo Dome, Kazuto Taguchi (1-1) hurled his best stuff at his former teammates on Saturday in his first start against the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants since his March trade to the Yakult Swallows.
The Giants, however, survived seven scoreless innings from Taguchi and Munetaka Murakami’s first-inning two-run homer off Shosei Togo with two runs off Yakult’s bullpen in their 2-2 nine-inning tie.
The Giants, who lost 2-0 the night before on Murakami’s third homer of the year, pitched around him after that. He twice led off innings that went nowhere after two failed bunts.
Taguchi, one of Japan’s slowest starting pitchers, with an average fastball velocity during his years in the Giants’ rotation of less than 138 kph, had a better fastball than he had even as a reliever over the past three seasons in a Giants uniform.
That and near-perfect command of his secondary pitches allowed him to throw seven scoreless innings. He allowed five hits, including one to reserve infielder Taishi Hirooka–whom he was traded for– while walking one, hitting one, striking out six and getting two double plays.
The Giants got on the board n the eighth on two-out doubles by Zelous Wheeler and Hayato Sakamoto off right-hander Noboru Shimizu, who ended the inning by striking out slugger Kazuma Okamoto on 10 pitches. Wheeler went 2-for-4, while Sakamoto had three hits.
Togo walked three and struck out seven while hitting one over eight innings. Rubby De La Rosa worked the ninth before the hosts tied it off closer Taichi Ishiyama, who surrendered a one-out single from Hiroyuki Nakajima and Akihiro Wakabayashi’s two-out pinch-hit RBI double.
At Yokohama Stadium, Allen Kuri (2-0) allowed three runs on six hits and no walks over six innings, and up and coming catcher Shogo Sakakura blasted a grand slam, lifting the Hiroshima Carp to a 7-3 win, extending the DeNA BayStars’ franchise-worst season-opening winless streak to eight games.
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, reserve utility infielder Yasutaka Yamamoto singled in the game’s only run as the Hanshin Tigers walked off 1-0 winners over the Chunichi Dragons. Robert Suarez worked a 1-2-3 ninth for the Tigers to earn his first win.
Kosuke Fukudome, who returned to the Nagoya-based Dragons, where he began his pro career 22 years ago, doubled in the second for his first hit after being cast off by the Tigers over the winter. He went 1-for-3. He was walked intentionally, struck out and grounded into a double play.
At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, reserve infielder Wu Nien-ting went 3-for-4 with a walks and a double and five RBIs as the Seibu Lions handed the defending Pacific League champion SoftBank Hawks their fourth-straight loss.
Seibu’s Shota Hamaya (1-1), their second pick in the 2019 draft, allowed a run over five innings, while Rei Takahashi (0-1), the PL’s 2019 rookie of the year, walked six, hit two and gave up five runs over six innings.
The Lions took a six-run lead into the ninth but had to call upon closer Tatsushi Masuda, who faced one batter, veteran Yuya Hasegawa and retired him to snuff out a late rally and earn his second save.
Lions lose Tonosaki
Lions second baseman Shuta Tonosaki suffered a fractured left fibula when a pitch hit him near his ankle to force in a first-inning run. The Lions are already without cleanup hitter and 2018 MVP Hotaka Yamakawa after the slugger miss-stepped rounding first base on a home run.
The Lions’ four-player foreign contingent, right-hander Zach Neal, new lefty Matt Dermody, first baseman Ernesto Mejia and utility man Cory Spangenberg only arrived in Japan on Friday and now must undergo 14 days of quarantine before joining the team.
At Rakuten Seimei Park, it was another Saturday with a battalion of Rakuten Eagles relievers in place of Masahiro Tanaka as seven pitchers held the Orix Buffaloes in check in a 3-2 win.
The Eagles scored three off Taishi Yamaoka (0-2) over four innings. Eagles closer Yuki Matsui struck out two in the ninth to record his third save.
Steven Moya went 1-for-3 and scored the Buffaloes’ first run after doubling to open the fourth.
Tanaka could debut on 17th
Masahiro Tanaka will make his season debut as early as Saturday, April 10, Rakuten Eagles manager Kazuhisa Ishii Sponichi Annex has reported.
Tanaka was deactivated just before Opening Day last week with a soleus muscle injury in his right calf and was expected to be out of action for three weeks.
“At the earliest, it will be the 10th,” Ishii said Saturday. “The next opportunity will be the 17th. Barring that it will be the 20th-something on a Saturday.”
The plan is for the right-hander to skip a rehab outing on the farm and go straight to the Pacific League active roster. Next Saturday’s game will be at home against the SoftBank Hawks. The Eagles are scheduled to visit the Fighters at Tokyo Dome the following week.
Ishii denied the team was rushing their returning former ace, who was originally scheduled for the start at Tokyo Dome.
“He could pitch before that. It might not require him to be out until the 17th,” Ishii said. “It’s not like we’re rushing him. If Tanaka’s fit, he could go on the 10th. If we think, ‘Let’s wait,’ we’ll wait another week and look at the 17th. It all depends on how he feels.”
At Sapporo Dome, Shogo Nakamura drove in three runs for the second straight game for the Lotte Marines, who came from behind to beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 6-5 for their third straight win.
Marines closer Naoya Masuda worked around a one-out Sho Nakata double to notch his first save, while Takashi Toritani, who joined Lotte a year ago after being discarded by Hanshin, became the 44th player to score 1,000 career runs.
Japan’s career leader in runs scored is Sadaharu Oh with 1,967. Oh leads the runner-up former Hankyu Braves leadoff man and career stolen base king Yutaka Fukumoto by 311 runs. Toritani was playing in his 2,218th game.
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Stewart throws 5 scoreless innings
Carter Stewart Jr. threw five scoreless innings for the SoftBank Hawks’ Western League farm team on Saturday in a 7-0 win over the WL Chunichi Dragons , Pacific League Insight reported.
The story said Stewart allowed a hit in each inning but didn’t buckle under pressure. He allowed six hits and a walk while striking out five.
In his only previous outing this season, Stewart allowed a run on five hits over two innings while walking one and striking out three.
Stewart joined the Hawks on a six-year deal in 2019.