Tag Archives: Steven Moya

NPB Wrap 4-8-21

I wrote this after learning that Japan is working on a plan to vaccinate Olympic athletes ahead of its most vulnerable senior citizens, which should come as a surprise to no one.

Japan loses its battle against the coronavirus to the Olympics.

and now back to baseball.

Yamamoto rolls over Marines

Buffaloes 5, Marines 1

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, age met youth on Thursday as 22-year-old ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto (2-1) allowed a run over seven innings to earn the win for the Orix Buffaloes. Orix’s fourth pitcher, 37-yaer-old former Diamondback and Mariner Yoshihisa Hirano needed six pitches to end a ninth-inning bases-loaded jam and earn his first save in Japan since he racked up 29 in 2017 for the Buffaloes.

Lefty Fumiya Motomae (1-1) started for the Marines and allowed a run on two no-out singles in the first and a groundout. Fumiya Sugimoto hit his first homer, with red-hot Yuma Tongu on base in the second for the visitors. After Brandon Laird’s second homer, leading off the second, Tongu delivered a two-run double with no outs in the third that completed the scoring early.

Eagles 4, Lions 0

At MetLife Dome, Ryota Takinaka (1-0), the Rakuten Eagles’ sixth starter, bounced back from allowing 10 runs in his season debut by going seven innings striking out five and not allowing a runner through five as the Pacific League leaders swept the Lions in their yard.

Lions right-hander Towa Uema (0-1), a seventh-round pick in 2019, retired the first four batters he faced in his pro debut before giving up Eigoro Mogi’s fourth home run with one out in the second. He walked a pair of batters in a scoreless fifth before the Eagles knocked him out in the sixth. Ryosuke Tatsumi opened with his fourth homer.

Uema left with one out and two on after a jam shot by Hideto Asamura, and Mogi doubled over rookie left fielder Gakuto Wakabayashi on the third pitch from Bangkok-born Yasuo Sano to drive in two.

Tanaka throwing

Masahiro Tanaka, whose season debut has been delayed by a calf-muscle injury, threw 33 pitches in the MetLife Dome bullpen and appeared to be ready to return to action within a week.

Hawks 4, Fighters 2

At Sapporo Dome, Akira Nakamura’s two-run eight-inning single capped a three-run Hawks rally against veteran lefty Naoki Miyanishi (0-1 ) to complete a three-game sweep. It was Nippon Ham’s seventh straight loss.

Second-year Fighters lefty Ryusei Kawano allowed a run over five innings, while Hawks starter Shota Takeda allowed two runs on three walks and nine hits, including two RBI singles by Ryunosuke Higuchi over 5-1/3 innings. Takeda couldn’t have been helped by getting smacked by the barrel of a broken bat when he fielded a comebacker between Taishi Ota’s leadoff triple and Higuchi’s first single.

The Fighters, who stranded 11 runners through six innings, stranded three more in the seventh. Yuki Yanagita singled to open the eighth off Miyanishi, who then dropped a sharp comebacker for an infield single. After a walk loaded the bases, Alfredo Despaigne tied it with a sac fly, and Nakamura hit a flair over the drawn-in infield to put the Hawks in charge.

LIvan Moinelo, making his second appearance of the season, struck out two of the three batters he faced to raise his total to five over two innings so far.

Giants 3, Tigers 0

At Koshien Stadium, Yuki Takahashi (2-0) worked seven-plus innings, and lefty Kota Nakagawa kept two inherited runners from scoring and tying the game as Yomiuri salvaged the final game of the series.

Hayato Sakamoto made it 1-0 in the first off Takumi Akiyama (1-1) with his first home run. Fourth-inning one-out singles by Takumi Oshiro and Shinnosuke Shigenobu and a fumble by left fielder Jerry Sands set Ginjiro Sumitani up for a sac fly that made it 2-0.

Shigenobu homered in the top of the ninth and Rubby De La Rosa worked around a Jefry Marte leadoff single in the bottom of the inning with three strikeouts to notch his third save.

Akiyama struck out 10 over six innings. He gave up six hits and two walks.

Swallows 11, Carp 7

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, 19-year-old rookie Yasunobu Okugawa (1-1) allowed five runs in five innings and weathered a 54-minute rain delay to earn his first pro win as Yakult twice came from behind to beat Hiroshima.

Each team scored four runs in the first inning before the center of Tokyo was given a thunder-and-lightning show. After a scoreless second Seiya Suzuki hit the first of his two home runs, only for the Swallows to come back for two in the home half against right-hander Yuta Nakamura (0-2), who was charged with six runs over three innings.

Swallows leadoff man Kotaro Yamasaki went 4-for-5, reached on an error, homered and doubled to power the hosts’ offense, while Naomichi Nishiura drove in three runs on three RBI singles.

Okugawa, whom the Swallows signed after winning his rights in a three-way first-round draft lottery in 2019 and who only pitched two innings on the first team last season, struck out four without a walk, but gave up 10 hits.

BayStars 5, Dragons 2

At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, a ninth-inning error on a hard grounder with one out and the infield in by third baseman Shuhei Takahashi allowed the go-ahead run off Dragons set-up man Daisuke Sobue (0-1) as the BayStars left Nagoya with two wins.

With the game tied 2-2 in the eighth, troubled former closer Yasuaki Yamasaki (1-1) worked recorded his first 1-2-3 inning of the season and earned the win after Sobue was tagged for three unearned runs and Kazuki Mishima recorded his second save in the ninth.

Ryosuke Hirata tripled and scored off BayStars starter Kentaro Taira in the second. Taira left after five innings as the pitcher of record after rookie Shugo Maki took veteran lefty Takahiro Matsuba deep with a man on in the sixth for his third homer. The Dragons, however, tied it straight away against 23-year-old Hiromu Ise, who gave up a Hirata leadoff single and an RBI pinch-hit double to 43-year-old Kosuke Fukudome.

Starting pitchers

Friday is ace day, ostensibly, and tomorrow will bring some interesting matchups. The Pacific League-leading Rakuten Eagles will send their Opening Day starter, Hideaki Wakui (2-0) against the SoftBank Hawks first-game pitcher, Shuta Ishikawa (1-1). The Seibu Lions’ Kona Takahashi (2-0) will go for his third victory in Chiba, and former Orix Buffaloes ace Chihiro Kaneko will start at his old home park for the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Shintaro Fujinami, the Hanshin Tigers’ surprise Opening Day starter will go for his first decision, in Yokohama, while the Hiroshima Carp will send their ace, Daichi Osera (1-0) against Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano, who reportedly hurt his knee on Opening Day.

Pacific League

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

Hideaki Wakui (2-0, 1.29) vs Shuta Ishikawa (1-1, 4.85)

Marines vs Lions: Zozo Marine Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Kota Futaki (1-1, 3.75) vs Kona Takahashi (2-0, 2.93)

Buffaloes vs Fighters: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Taisuke Yamaoka (0-2, 6.30) vs Chihiro Kaneko (-)

Central League

BayStars vs Tigers: Yokohama Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Haruhiro Hamaguchi (0-1, 7.00) vs Shintaro Fujinami (0-0, 2.45)

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

Daichi Osera (1-0, 1.26) vs Tomoyuki Sugano (0-0, 4.50)

Viciedo out

The Chunichi Dragons deactivated cleanup hitter Dayan Viciedo on Thursday to the dreaded “lack of upper-body fitness.” Hiroshima Carp newcomer Kevin Cron is currently beginning rehab since he is suffering from that ailment’s partner in crime, “lack of lower-body fitness.”

The Orix Buffaloes have deactivated Steven Moya after he fouled a pitch off his right foot in Friday’s game against the Marines.

Active roster moves 4/8/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/18

Central League

Activated

DragonsIF55Nobumasa Fukuda
BayStarsP59Kentaro Taira
SwallowsP11Yasunobu Okugawa

Dectivated

DragonsIF66Dayan Viciedo
BayStarsP94Takamasa Kasai
SwallowsIF60Ryusei Takeoka

Pacific League

Activated

HawksP66Yuki Matsumoto
LionsP64Towa Uema
LionsOF53Aito Takeda
FightersP29Kazutomo Iguchi

Dectivated

LionsIF63Ryusei Tsunashima
BuffaloesOF1Steven Moya

NPB wrap 4-2-21

Wakui solid again

At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, Hideaki Wakui (2-0) struck out nine without a walk as he allowed two runs over seven innings in the Rakuten Eagles’ 4-2 win over the Orix Buffaloes on Friday.

Sachiya Yamasaki (0-1), the fourth left-handed starter the Eagles have faced in seven games, allowed two runs over five innings to take the loss in his season debut. He struck out seven.

Daichi Suzuki singled in a run in the Eagles’ two-run first, and doubled and scored in the sixth.

Wakui took a three-run lead into the seventh but gave up back-to-back doubles to Masataka Yoshida and Steven Moya and a pinch-hit RBI single to Adam Jones. Eagles leadoff hitter Kazuki Tanaka led off the first with a single and scored, and then scored an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh after leading off with a walk off Tyler Higgins.

Right-hander Tomohito Sakai worked around a pair of two-out walks in the eighth, and closer Yuki Matsui worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save.

For the second straight week, Wakui established his fastball early and then mauled batters with his slider, sinker and curve, although he did use the heater more this time around as the game progressed.

At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Kona Takahashi (2-0) was sharp for the Seibu Lions, striking out eight over eight innings, while Shuta Ishikawa (1-1) had an uncharacteristic start for the SoftBank Hawks in their 6-2 loss.

Ishikawa tends to have so much movement on his pitches that he walks three or four batters a start but rarely gives up a lot of hits. But this time out, when he walked two and hit one, the Lions teed off on straight pitches in the zone, scoring six runs on nine hits, the biggest a three-run Takeya Nakamura homer.

At Sapporo Dome, the PL needs to start thinking about a delay of game penalty to keep the Nippon Ham Fighters from taking at least 3-1/2 hours to play every one of their games.

That’s how long this one took as the Lotte Marines hammered former high school baseball star Kosei Yoshida (0-1) for seven runs over two innings.

Hisanori Yoshida homered, doubled and drove in four runs, while Shogo Nakamura had four hits, scored two and drove in three, while Leonys Martin walked twice, homered and scored three runs.

Kota Futaki (1-1), Lotte’s Opening Day starter, scattered four walks and two hits over seven innings.

Carp run over winless BayStars

At Yokohama Stadium, Daichi Osera (1-0) struck out seven over seven innings, and Ryuichi Matsuyama drove in three runs as the Hiroshima Carp continued the DeNA BayStars’ winless streak with a 4-0 victory in the Central League.

Haruhiro Hamaguchi (0-1) allowed two runs over six innings to take the loss.

At Tokyo Dome, Yasuhiro Ogawa (1-0) worked 7-2/3 innings and Munetaka Murakami hit his third home run, a two-run shot off Ryoma Nogami (0-1) in the Yakult Swallows’ 2-0 win over the Yomiuri Giants.

Zelous Wheeler hit two balls to the wall, one went for a double, and the other a single after he over-slid second base and was tagged out.

Swallows reliever Scott McGough retired the top of the Giants’ order 1-2-3 in the ninth to earn his first save.

Giants-Swallows highlights

At Koshien Stadium, the Hanshin Tigers’ bullpen wasted a good start from enigmatic right-hander Shintaro Fujinami in a 6-3 loss to the Chunichi Dragons.

Fujinami allowed a run on seven hits and two walks while striking out six, but new Tiger Ren Kajiya allowed three runners to reach with out in the eighth. Dragons catcher Takuya Kinoshita drove him from the mound with a two-run double and scored on a Yohei Oshima single.

Kinoshita doubled in two more in the ninth to ice it for the visitors.

Minor goings on

Sasaki pitches

Hard-throwing Lotte Marines teenager Roki Sasaki pitched in his first official pro game on Friday, allowing an infield single and a stolen base in two scoreless innings in an Eastern League game against the Yakult Swallows, Nikkan Sports reported.

The 19-year-old, who was clocked at 163 kph (101.3 mph) in a national team training camp in 2019, touched 153 kph (95.1) in the game at the Swallows’ minor league park in Toda, Saitama Prefecture.

Swallows suck it up

The Swallows have been forced to improvise in the wake of a number of staff members and No. 2 catcher Akihisa Nishida testing positive for the coronavirus. The subsequent deactivation of players considered to have had close contact with those testing positive has forced the Swallows to cancel Saturday’s and Sunday’s Eastern League games with the Marines.

On Thursday, thanks to the heads up from Deanna Rubin @marinerds, we learned that the short-handed minor league squad was forced to skip the DH at the Nippon Ham Fighters’ park and used a pitcher as a substitute outfielder.

Tigers Girls put on hold

The Hanshin Tigers’ cheerleading squad, the Tigers Girls, not to be confused with the organization’s amateur baseball club, the Tigers Women, will not appear in games at Koshien Stadium for the time being after more than one of the club’s cheerleaders tested positive for the coronavirus, Daily Sports reported.

Starting pitchers

Taguchi gets 1st shot at old team

So Taguchi, traded from the Yomiuri Giants to the CL rival Yakult Swallows in March, will get his first crack at his old team on Saturday when the Giants host the Swallows at Tokyo Dome.

The lefty got hammered in his first outing against the Tigers last weekend, giving up six runs in 2-1/3 innings.

Pacific League

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

Naoyuki Uwasawa (0-1, 11.57) vs Manabu Mima (0-0, 1.50)

Eagles vs Buffaloes: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Hayato Yuge (-) vs Taisuke Yamaoka (0-1, 6.00)

Hawks vs Lions: PayPay Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Rei Takahashi (0-0, 2.84) vs Shota Hamaya (0-1, 5.79)

Central League

Giants vs Swallows: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Shosei Togo (1-0, 1.29) vs Kazuto Taguchi (0-1, 19.29)

BayStars vs Carp: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Masaya Kyoyama (0-1, 6.75) vs Allen Kuri (1-0, 1.50)

Tigers vs Dragons: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Koyo Aoyagi (1-0, 4.76) vs Yuya Yanagi (0-1, 6.75)

Active roster moves 4/2/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/12

Central League

Activated

GiantsP23Ryoma Nogami
BayStarsP35Tomoya Mikami
SwallowsP62Hiroaki Saiuchi

Dectivated

SwallowsP21Taichi Yamano

Pacific League

Activated

FightersP18Kosei Yoshida
BuffaloesP11Sachiya Yamasaki

Dectivated

HawksP10Kotaro Otake
EaglesP59Shu Sugahara
BuffaloesP58Kazuyuki Kaneda

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NPB wrap 3-30-21

Kishi throws season’s 1st shutout

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Takayuki Kishi scattered eight singles while striking out seven and walking none for the Rakuten Eagles, who spoiled the Lotte Marines’ home opener, 5-0 in the Pacific League on Tuesday.

Kishi, who went 7-0 last year despite walking 20 batters over 67-1/3 innings, a fairly high rate for him, got back into his more normal groove. The 36-year-old elder statesman of the Eagles’ staff poured a little cold water on tradition in the postgame hero interview.

“I wasn’t thinking I was going to go all the way and finish the game. I wasn’t going to do anything counterproductive. I just focused on pitching as well as I could to get guys out,” he said.

Southpaw Kazuya Ojima (0-1) took on the mostly left-handed-hitting Eagles and took his lumps from their big right-handed bat, Hideto Asamura, who homered, and singled in a run. Eigoro Mogi followed Asamura’s sixth-inning single with a three-run homer.

The Marines activated slugging infielder Brandon Laird for the game. The 33-year-old managed just 39 games last season before injuries intervened. The one-time Mexico international went 1-for-3 against Kishi.

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, the SoftBank Hawks improved to 4-0 on the season with a 3-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes. Hawks lefty Shunsuke Kasaya (1-0) allowed a run over six innings on Adam Jones’ leadoff shot in the second. Kasaya struck out seven and walked two.

The Buffaloes got solid work from lefty Daiki Tajima, who gave up two runs over six innings. Hawks catcher Takuya Kai cannoned a pitch from Tyler Higgins over the wall in left to complete the scoring in the seventh, while Steven Moya went 1-for-3 for the Buffaloes.

At Sapporo Dome, rookie Brandon Taiga Tysinger, an Okinawa native who went to university in Hokkaido, returned there with a two-run homer, an RBI single and a sac fly as the Seibu Lions handed the Nippon Ham Fighters an 11-4, 3-1/2-hour beating in their home opener.

Hotaka Yamakawa, the PL’s 2018 MVP and another Okinawa native, homered in the first to open the scoring off lefty side-armer Ryo Kawano (0-1) but hurt himself stepping awkwardly on the first-base bag and came out of the game.

Yamasaki returns in bullpen blowup

At Yokohama Stadium, Yasutaka Shiomi doubled, homered and drove in three runs as the Yakult Swallows won for the first time this season in the Central League, coming from three runs down to beat the DeNA BayStars 5-4.

Lefty Kenta Ishida and former closer Yasuaki Yamasaki combined to allow four eighth-inning runs with Shingo Kawabata teeing off on a high first-pitch fastball from the former Japan closer Yamasaki to put the visitors in front.

Trailing 4-1 in the eighth, Norichika Aoki’s clone, Kotaro Yamasaki, worked a leadoff walk against the normally reliable Ishida. With two outs, Ishida appeared to lose the plot after left-handed-hitting slugger Munetaka Murakami checked his swing on a pair of two-strike high fastballs to draw a walk.

Seiichi Uchikawa, who began his career as a big-hitting second baseman for the BayStars 20 years earlier and is back in the CL for the first time in 11 years, ripped a fat 1-0 slider up the middle for an RBI single to score Yamasaki.

Having allowed a run in each of his relief appearances over the weekend against the Giants, Ishida was yanked in favor of Yasuaki Yamasaki. Shiomi hit a 1-1 splitter to the wall in left that Taiki Sekine failed to time properly, allowing it to go for a two-run double, and Kawabata drilled a first-pitch fastball to the gap in right for a Swallows lead.

Albert Suarez started for the Swallows and allowed three runs over four innings, while the BayStars wasted seven solid innings from Shinichi Onuki.

The BayStars remain winless after two wins and a tie over the weekend.

At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, 2020 Sawamura Award winner Yudai Ono lacked the sharp command that was his trademark from the middle of last season, but gutted out seven innings while allowing two runs in the Chunichi Dragons’ 3-3 nine-inning tie against the Yomiuri Giants.

Angel Sanchez allowed two unearned runs over seven innings for the Giants, while Zelous Wheeler, hitting in the two hole for Yomiuri, went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Dragons cleanup hitter Dayan Viciedo put the hosts ahead in the second with a two-run single after a mental mistake by Giants third baseman Kazuma Okamoto prolonged the inning.

Defending No. 2

The pro yakyu news cast spent five minutes discussing the merits of Wheeler in the No. 2 hole, which is no surprise, since Japanese dogma since about 1980 demands that spot be taken by a guy who sacrifices and hits behind the runner and is typically a small, fast glove man.

“I used Wheeler when I was manager of the Eagles. He’s smart, always thinking of the base running situation as a hitter,” Hiromoto “Dave” Okubo said.

This is just another example of the language we get to justify the use of guys in the No. 2 spot whose only offensive skills are bunting and grounding out behind the runner. Because Wheeler isn’t one of those guys, a lot of the old boys need an excuse to justify his batting there.

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, 2020 rookie of the year Masato Morishita (1-0) struck out seven over six innings in the Hiroshima Carp’s 1-0 win over the Hanshin Tigers, who suffered their first loss.

Once Morishita left the game, the Tigers managed three hits off the Hiroshima bullpen, but two of those batters, Jerry Sands and rookie Teruaki Sato, were erased trying to leg out doubles against right fielder Teruaki Sato. Sato ended the game striking out against rookie Carp closer Ryoji Kuribayashi, who recorded his second save.

Sugano deactivated

Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano was deactivated on Tuesday after feeling discomfort and slight pain in his leg Kyodo News (Japanese) reported.

The report said he is only expected to miss one start.

Last season’s Central League MVP, Sugano turned down offers from MLB clubs after the Giants posted him and signed a one-year deal to remain in Japan for the 2021 season. He made his seventh career Opening Day start on Friday, allowing three runs on eight hits and three walks over six innings.

Welcome back

Two SoftBank Hawks’ players, outfielder Wladimir Balentien and pitcher Nick Martinez, both entered Japan on Tuesday, Nishinihon Sports reported.

Balentien may count as a domestically-registered player but unfortunately, that doesn’t cut any weight with the immigration office that had been keeping non-residents from entering Japan, until pro baseball and soccer players were added to an entry waiver used for emergency workers, because, well, baseball and soccer are urgent.

No word on Senga after farm outing

SoftBank Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo said he hadn’t made a decision on whether to activate ace Kodai Senga after the right-hander allowed three runs on nine hits over seven innings in the minors on Tuesday, Nishinihon sports reported.

“I’ve been informed of how he did, but I haven’t seen the video yet, so I can’t say what’s next for him,” Kudo said.

Fighters’ top pick to start Wednesday

Right-hander Hiromi Ito, a Hokkaido native and the Nippon Ham Fighters’ first pick in last autumn’s draft, will make his pro debut on Wednesday against the Seibu Lions at Sapporo Dome.

Starting pitchers

Pacific League

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

Hiromi Ito (-) vs Tatsuya Imai (3-4, 6.13)

Marines vs Eagles: Zozo Marine Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Daiki Iwashita (7-7, 4.20) vs Takahiro Norimoto (5-7, 3.96)

Buffaloes vs Hawks: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hirotoshi Masui (2-2, 3.03) vs Kotaro Otake (2-0, 2.30)

Central League

BayStars vs Swallows: Yokohama Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Taisei Irie (-) vs Hirotoshi Takanashi (3-6, 4.12)

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

Akiyoshi Katsuno (4-5, 3.88) vs Shoichi Ino (6-7, 3.94)

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

Hiroki Tokoda (5-8, 4.93) vs Masashi Ito (-)

Roster moves

Active roster moves 3/30/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/9

Central League

Activated

GiantsP15Angel Sanchez
TigersP16Yuki Nishi
DragonsP22Yudai Ono
BayStarsP16Shinichi Onuki
CarpP18Masato Morishita
SwallowsP43Albert Suarez
SwallowsOF8Shota Nakayama

Dectivated

GiantsP18Tomoyuki Sugano

Pacific League

Activated

HawksP67Shunsuke Kasaya
MarinesP43Kazuya Ojima
MarinesIF54Brandon Laird
LionsP17Wataru Matsumoto
EaglesP11Takayuki Kishi
FightersP28Ryusei Kawano
FightersOF4Yuya Taniguchi
BuffaloesP29Daiki Tajima
BuffaloesP52Tyler Higgins
BuffaloesIF3Ryoichi Adachi

Dectivated

BuffaloesP37Hayate Nakagawa
BuffaloesIF4Shuhei Fukuda

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NPB wrap 3-27-21

Hawks overcome Marines in defensive struggle

“Much of what we think of pitching is actually defense.”

-Bill James

This was evident on Saturday afternoon at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, where shortstop Kenta Imamiya starred for SoftBank in their 3-2 Pacific League win over the Lotte Marines, posting a pair of fielding highlights while playing a big role on the offensive side.

Marines starter Manabu Mima impressed, holding the four-time defending Japan Series champs to a run on five hits and three walks over six innings. SoftBank, however, turned an awful outing by submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi into a quality start with two big plays from Imamiya and another from second baseman Ukyo Shuto.

Takahashi hit two batters in the first and walked in two more. With two outs and one run in, Imamiya dove into the hole and threw out Takashi Toritani from his knees. At 39, Toritani no longer runs like he once did, but it was a sparkler nonetheless.

With no outs in the fourth, Toritani again looked like he was going to get the Marines’ first hit on a grounder into right, but the speedy Shukyo cut it off and threw him out. The Marines took a 2-0 lead in the fifth on a Takashi Ogino double and a Leonys Martin single. With one out and a runner on first, Imamiya robbed Hisanori Yasuda of an infield single to limit the damage.

Imamiya, who doubled and scored in the sixth, was one-upped in the seventh. With two outs and the bases loaded, 20-year-old Marines center fielder Kyota Fujiwara robbed him of a three-run double. With the Lotte outfield playing shallow as Japanese teams do with a runner on second, Imamiya lined a pitch from Yuki Karakawa to medium deep center, where Fujiwara ran it down and caught it with a leap.

The Hawks’ Cuban connection delivered the tying run in the eighth against Frank Herrmann. Yurisbel Gracial, whose single plated Imamiya in the sixth, singled with one out in the eighth. Pinch-runner Taisei Makihara stole second on a run-and-hit strikeout that forced the hard-to-strike-out Akira Nakamura to wave at a pitch out of the zone. But the steal allowed Makihara to fly home on Alfredo Despaigne’s two-out single.

Hawks closer Yuito Mori worked a 1-2-3 ninth. Shuto singled in the ninth against Marines closer Naoya Masuda (0-1), took third on a bounced pick-off throw and scored on a fly to deep center against an outfield that was pulled in shallow, analyst Chihro Hamana said,  “like a little league game.”

At MetLife Dome, 19-year-old lefty Hiroya Miyagi, the Orix Buffaloes’ top signing from the 2018 draft, struck out eight while allowing a run over seven innings in a 3-2 win over the Seibu Lions. With the game tied 1-1 in the fourth, Adam Jones doubled and scored after a Steven Moya single. Jones also walked twice. Reed Garrett struck out two in a scoreless eighth for the Lions.

At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, Yuki James Nomura broke a 2-2 third-inning tie with a two-run single as the Nippon Ham Fighters whacked the Rakuten Eagles 9-4. With Masahiro Tanaka out three weeks due to a soleus (calf) muscle injury, the Eagles dropped the season’s first bullpen game rather than move Sunday’s starter, rookie Takahisa Hayakawa up a day.

Kensuke Kondo singled twice, tripled and drove in four runs for the Fighters, while Eagles reliever Alan Busenitz gave up three runs in the ninth in the 4-hour, 26-minute game.

In the Central League, Hanshin Tigers rookie Teruaki Sato capped a four-run first inning off new Yakult Swallows lefty Kazuto Taguchi (0-1) with a two-run homer, his first hit as a pro, if we don’t count his first pro hit in practice games or his first pro hit in preseason exhibitions. Sato also walked and singled in the 9-5 win at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Jefry Marte walked twice and scored twice for the Tigers, while Jerry Sands, who homered twice on Opening Day, delivered a first-inning sac fly, while catcher Ryutaro Umeno doubled twice, singled and drove in three runs.

At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri Giants right-hander Shosei “Admiral” Togo (1-0) allowed a run over seven innings while striking out six in a 10-5 win over the DeNA BayStars. Thyago Vieira allowed the visitors three consolation runs in the ninth, while Takayuki Kajitani’s first hit as a Giant was a sixth-inning grand slam against the club he left as a free agent.

Giants-BayStats highlights

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Allen Kuri (1-0) struck out six while allowing a run over six innings as the Hiroshima Carp beat the Chunichi Dragons 4-1. Kosuke Tanaka homered to tie it 1-1 in the bottom of the first, while Hiroshima took the lead for good on RBI singles by Seiya Suzuki and 22-year-old catcher Shogo Sakakura, who also doubled from the No. 5 hole.

New Carp Kevin Cron went 0-for-2 with a sixth-inning walk that contributed to Hiroshima’s final run. Carp rookie Ryoji Kuribayashi, their first-round signing from last year’s draft, worked a 1-2-3 ninth to record his first save.

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NPB commissioner sees more games in future

Nippon Professional Baseball Commissioner Atsushi Saito said Tuesday Japan’s two top-tier leagues are considering playing more than their current 143-game schedule after 2021 in order to make up for the losses incurred in the coronavirus-hit 2020 season, the Nikkan Sports reported.

“One thing we can consider is related to the number of games. We now have 143, but if we increase the number of games, we can increase revenue.”

–NPB Commissioner Atsushi Saito

Saito said preparations are in the works for combatting the coronavirus this year, when Japan is set to host the Summer Olympics, and even next, and said he’s heard that some players would be on board with an expanded schedule.

Saito didn’t say why NPB didn’t consider MLB’s scorched-earth model of firing scouts, coaches and minor leaguers.

Viral tale

NPB’s coronavirus response mirrored the stance of Japan’s central government. In February 2020, when the virus was considered a threat to holding the the Olympics on schedule, preseason games were held behind closed doors and NPB mimicked the government by first saying the season would start on schedule and then repeatedly announcing new starting dates.

All that changed on March 24, the day Japan bowed to the obvious, that a July-August 2020 Tokyo Olympics were impossible when the IOC said it was a no-go.

No longer needing the illusion that Tokyo would be safe to host the Olympics from July, Japan’s infection count jumped by a factor of eight, and the fiction that pro baseball’s season would begin in April was abandoned.

The government soon announced its first state of emergency, and when it was lifted in May, NPB announced its June 13 Opening Day behind closed doors for a 120-game season with no all-star break or interleague play. Teams were allowed to admit up to 5,000 fans from July 10.

Teams were permitted to admit roughly half their venues’ attendance from the start of September.

Japan is now on the verge of announcing another state of emergency with infection rates hitting record levels. The government is also restricting entry to non-resident foreign nationals following the emergence of new strains of the coronavirus, and there is concern about the ability of players to travel here in time for the start of Spring Training on Feb. 1.

On Monday, the Orix Buffaloes announced that infielder Steven Moya arrived in Japan on Sunday in order to avoid any entry hassle. This year, he will be competing for playing time with both Adam Jones and returning slugger Stefen Romero, who had a productive 2020 season with the Rakuten Eagles.

NPB 2020 Nov. 7

Saturday’s games

Other news

Marines recruit leads charge to playoffs

Rookie Kyota Fujiwara’s three-run home run brought the Lotte Marines from a run down in a 4-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes that put them in pole position to clinch a playoff spot on Sunday.

Kota Futaki (9-3) allowed a run in the first on a Steven Moya RBI single but held the Buffaloes off the board after that at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

Trailing 1-0 in the fourth Fujiwara lined a pitch into the right-field stands with two on to make it 3-1. Frank Herrmann allowed one run in relief and Naoya Masuda another in the ninth. The closer had to sit through a short rain delay with two outs and the tying run on second but came back to earn his 31st save.

The win moves Lotte a half-game ahead of the Seibu Lions before the two teams square off in Chiba on Sunday. A Lotte loss or tie will keep the PL’s postseason picture in the dark until the teams finish their schedule on Monday. A Marines win will send them into the postseason for the first time since 2016.

Nakamura scores hat-trick in Lions comeback

Takeya Nakamura scored three runs as the Seibu Lions overcame a five-run first-inning deficit to earn a 6-6 10-inning tie against the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi on Saturday afternoon.

Seibu starting pitcher Tatsuya Imai surrendered six runs in jus two-thirds of an inning, but seven Seibu relievers combined to work 9-1/3 scoreless innings. Reed Garrett, fireballing rookie Kaima Taira and closer Tatsushi Masuda notched nine of the Lions’ 10 strikeouts in a combined 4-2/3 innings of work.

Shuta Tonosaki singled in a run for the Lions in the first and brought them to within a run when he led off the seventh by homering off D.J. Johnson. Nakamura doubled with one out and scored on Cory Spangenberg’s single to tie it.

Alan Busenitz worked a scoreless eighth for the Eagles, while Yuki Matsui struck out three over two scoreless innings to ensure Rakuten’s final game of the season did not end in defeat.

Akiyama wins it for Tigers

Takumi Akiyama (11-3) worked seven-plus innings, backed by an RBI double from Seiya Kinami and Yusuke Oyama’s 28th home run in the Hanshin Tigers’ 2-0 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Akiyama left after surrendering his third hit of the game to open the eighth. Forty-one-year-old lefty Atsushi Nomi, who is leaving the Tigers after the season for an uncertain future, “retired” 41-year-old catcher Yoshiyuki Ishihara, who is leaving the game at season’s end.

With the day’s sentimental journeys attended to, Jon Edwards entered an induced an inning-ending double play.

Robert Suarez earned his 25th save for the Tigers.

Sakamoto moves within 1 hit of 2,000

Two of the Central League’s biggest sluggers each went deep twice but they were overshadowed by the buzz surrounding Hayato Sakamoto’s pursuit of 2,000 hits in the Yomiuri Giants’ 6-2 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo Dome.

Sakamoto, who turns 32 in December, recorded his 1,999th career hit in the third inning before Kazuma Okamoto extended his lead in the CL home run race with his 30th. Sakamoto is 53rd on Nippon Professional Baseball’s all-time hit list, and his 2,000th will tie him with former Lotte Marine Kazuya Fukuura.

The 24-year-old Okamoto has now hit 30 home runs in three straight seasons. Both Swallows runs came on 20-year-old Munetaka Murakami’s 27th and 28th home runs.

Iwakuma goes out a Giant

Are you kidding me? Hisashi Iwakuma, who ended his pro career in a Yomiuri Giants uniform after throwing two innings in the Eastern League for them in 2019, was given a hero’s sendoff at Tokyo Dome, with his teammates all wearing “Thanks Iwakuma” T-shirts.

Active roster moves 11/6/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/16

Central League

Activated

DragonsP19Kazuki Yoshimi
SwallowsP16Juri Hara
SwallowsP47Keiji Takahashi

Dectivated

GiantsP96Nattino Diplan
BayStarsP53Spencer Patton
BayStarsP94Takamasa Kasai
BayStarsIF2Jose Lopez
BayStarsIF4Yukiya Ito
BayStarsIF6Keito Mori
BayStarsIF23Tyler Austin
TigersP16Yuki Nishi
TigersP34Masaki Tanigawa
CarpP57Norihiko Tanaka
CarpIF69Ryutaro Hatsuki
CarpOF59Minoru Omori
SwallowsP15Yuma Oshita
SwallowsP48Yuto Kanakubo

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesIF26Naoto Watanabe
BuffaloesP13Hiroya Miyagi
BuffaloesC62Katsuki Yamazaki

Dectivated

None

Starting pitchers for Nov. 8, 2020

Pacific League

Eagles vs Lions: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Ryota Takinaka (2-1, 3.18) vs Tatsuya Imai (3-4, 5.31)

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

Kota Futaki (8-3, 3.53) vs Tsubasa Sakakibara (1-3, 4.89)

Central League

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

Nobutaka Imamura (4-2, 3.43) vs Yasuhiro Ogawa (10-7, 4.50)

Carp vs Tigers: Mazda Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Yuta Nakamura (3-3, 2.21) vs Takumi Akiyama (10-3, 3.09)