Matt Moore (3-1) overcame an awkward start to allow two runs over 6-1/3 innings as the SoftBank Hawks departed from protocol by not practicing prior to crushing the Rakuten Eagles at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Moore struggled with the bottom of umpire Tomiji Iizuka’s strike zone and threw 24 pitches in a first inning as he pitched out of a two-on one-out jam. He surrendered Stefen Romero’s 18th home run with no outs and one on in the seventh, registered his sixth strikeout and then made his exit.
Ukyo Shuto had four hits, stole two bases–he leads the PL with 20–and scored twice for the Hawks, while Yuki Yanagita hit his 24th home run for the hosts.
Neal triggers Buffaloes stampede
The Orix Buffaloes scored six runs off Zach Neal (3-6) and routed the Seibu Lions 8-2 to earn Opening Day starter Taisuke Yamaoka (1-3) his first win of the season at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Steven Moya, activated on Thursday, hit his first home run of the year to open the scoring in the first with a two-run shot into the second deck. Neal then surrendered four-straight hits followed by a sac fly in the five-run inning.
Yamaoka allowed two runs over six innings on eight hits and a walk while striking out six. Yutaro Sugimoto, one of the minor leaguers acting manager Satoshi Nakajima activated had four hits, scored two runs and drove in two for the Buffaloes.
Marines lose fight with reserves
Reserve outfielder Go Matsumoto singled in a run in the Nippon Ham Fighters’ five-run third inning and added a two-run home run in a bullpen day for the hosts in their 7-3 win over the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.
Nick Martinez, who started the season in the rotation but has been relieving of late, allowed three runs over three innings, but Takayuki Kato (2-1) picked up the slack with three scoreless innings to earn the win while three others worked one scoreless run apiece.
The Fighters did most of their damage against lefty Toshiya Nakamura (2-3) tagging him for six runs, five earned, over 3-2/3 innings.
Austin powers Ino to victory
Tyler Austin’s sixth home run, a three-run second-inning moon shot, was the big blow in the DeNA BayStars’ 6-0 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Yokohama Stadium.
Shoichi Ino (6-4) worked six innings, and Spencer Patton, Kenta Ishida and Tomoya Mikami finished up to hand the Giants their second shutout loss since their magic number “appeared” on Tuesday. The 34-year-year-old Ino got the better of 20-year-old rookie right-hander Shosei Togo (7-4).
The BayStars win moved them to within 11 games of the defending champion Giants.
Swallows gut Carp
Naomichi Nishiura drove in four runs, including the game’s first with a sacrifice fly as the Yakult Swallows left a 14-5 mark on the Hiroshima Carp at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Albert Suarez (3-0) allowed four runs over six innings, striking out seven without issuing any of the walks that got him demoted in July when he was leading the CL in ERA, to earn his first win since July 1. Tetsuto Yamada brought the hosts back from a run down with his ninth homer, a two-run shot in the Swallows’ five-run fifth off Hiroki Tokoda (1-6).
Oyama kills Dragons in their lair
Yusuke Oyama homered twice and drove in six runs as the Hanshin Tigers overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the Chunichi Dragons 8-4 at Nagoya Dome.
Former Dodger and Korean RBI king Jerry Sands batted fourth in front of Oyama and reached base four times. He walked twice, singled and was hit by a pitch and scored on both of his teammate’s home runs.
Lotte’s Leonys Martin may have gone 0-for-4 at the plate, but he threw a strike when it mattered, gunning down Orix Buffaloes pinch-runner Ryo Ota for the final out in the ninth inning before the game at Kyocera Dome ended in a 5-5, 10-inning tie.
The Marines were headed for a narrow victory thanks to an impressive start from right-hander Mima, but he tired in the seventh and the game went down to the late innings.
Takashi Toritani came in for the Marines at third base in the bottom of the ninth and two hard-hit smashes handcuffed him. The first resulted in the leadoff runner reaching. With two outs, a bad hop struck Toritani and bounced away for an RBI infield double. Adam Jones lined a single to right. Martin’s throw gave catcher Tatsuhiro Tamura a chance at a sweep tag. Ota, who never touched home, was called out.
Orix closer Brandon Dickson survived a scoreless 10th thanks to second baseman Shuhei Fukuda fielding a hard shot for the second out with a runner on third. Dickson then struck out Lotte leadoff man Shuhei Fukuda to send it to the bottom of the ninth. Lotte’s Yuki Karakawa worked a 1-2-3 10th and the game was called.
Mima brought his good stuff and outpitched Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto but it was not enough to the Lotte Marines a win.
With a one-run lead from the get-go, Mima was in total. He was accurate with his bread-and-butter two-seamer that was moving particularly well and was routinely to located on the outside corner and was able to reliably get called strikes there well out of the zone.
Between the two-seamer tailing away from left-handed hitters, his fork change that was dropping well and an occasional slider and fastball to keep guys honest, Mima challenged hitters when he fell behind and missed barrels. As the game went on, he went more and more to the change and got swings and misses.
Yamamoto gave up a run in the first on a fly ball that fell perfectly in the gap in right center for a one-out double and a single from rookie cleanup hitter Hisanori Yasuda, who smashed a fat pitch up the middle.
With one out in the second, Yamamoto hit Tamura and walked Brandon Laird. Light-hitting Yudai Fujioka squared up a 1-1 cutter in the heart of the zone and drove it to the warning track in left over Takahiro Okada for an RBI double. Fukuda, a first-inning strikeout victim, lined a low fastball for a two-run single before getting run out on the bases to end the inning.
Jones opened the Buffaloes second with a line single. With one out after a force at second, Steven Moya nailed a slider up and over the plate and tripled to the gap in right to put the hosts on the board.
Fukuda belted a long home run fourth to make it 5-1 before the Marines rallied against Mima in the seventh. Moya bounced a well-placed grounder up the middle for a leadoff single, and Yuya Oda smashed one of the few straight pitches Mima threw in the zone all night for a double. Ryoichi Adachi swatted a single to make it 5-2 and drive Mima from the mound after his 99th pitch.
Lefty Takahiro Matsunaga took over with one out and two on. He walked the bases loaded before giving up a two-run pinch-hit single to Torai Fushimi. Another walk loaded the bases. Jones came up with a chance to put his team in front, but smashed a low 3-2 pitch to third for an inning-ending double play.
The Marines were denied an insurance run in the top of the eighth, when Oda threw a strike to the plate from center to cut down a runner trying to score from second on a two-out single against Tyler Higgins, the third Buffaloes pitcher.
Frank Herrmann worked a scoreless eighth for the Marines as the game hurtled toward its thrilling but indecisive finish.
Asamura finishes Eagles’ comeback
Hideto Asamura’s two-run home run capped a three-run eighth inning for the Rakuten Eagles and completed a 7-6 comeback win against the SoftBank Hawks at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
The Eagles scored three runs off Hawks ace Kodai Senga over six innings, but then scored four runs off SoftBank’s formidable bullpen. With two outs and one on in the seventh and Rei Takahashi on the mound, back-to-back singles by Hiroaki Shimauchi and Stefen Romero made it a 6-4 game.
Lefty Livan Moinelo (0-1) retired the first two batters. Daichi Suzuki doubled and scored on a Jabari Blash single, Asamura homered and Alan Busenitz worked the ninth for Rakuten to record his third save.
Senga gave up six hits, three walks and hit a batter while striking out six. Hawks lefty Hayato Yuge gave up five runs, three earned, on six hits and three walks over five innings.
Fighters punch out Lions’ Takahashi
Taishi Ota homered twice, walked twice and drove in six runs as the Nippon Ham Fighters hammered the Seibu Lions 11-4 at Sapporo Dome.
Naoki Uwasawa (2-1) allowed four runs over 5-2/3 innings but just one through the first five, during which the Fighters hammered Lions starter Kona Takahashi (2-4) for six runs over 4-1/3 innings. The right-hander, who has struggled with walks his entire career, allowed three hits but issued seven free passes.
Ota broke a 1-1 tie in the third inning with his fourth home run after Sho Nakata drew a two-out walk. Ota drew a bases-loaded walk in Nippon Ham’s three-run fifth, and belted a three-run homer in the sixth.
Fighters leadoff man Haruki Nishikawa singled twice and walked twice and scored three runs.
Giants ace Sugano holds off Tigers
Tomoyuki Sugano (6-0) allowed two runs over seven innings for the Yomiuri Giants in a 7-2 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium.
Sugano went to the mound with a 1-0 lead and was not as sharp as usual. The right-hander allowed six hits and a walk, while striking out three.
The Giants opened the scoring in the first on a two-out solo home run from Hayato Sakamoto. Lefty Onelki Garcia (0-4) thought he had a called third strike on a 1-2 fastball in and above the belt. His 2-2 changeup missed up and Sakamoto drove it over the wall in center.
An even worse pitch ended up in exactly the same spot off the bat of leadoff man Takumi Kitamura in the third. A Takumi Oshiro double and a Yoshihiro Maru single made it 3-0 in the fifth.
The Tigers got two scoreless innings from right-hander Atsushi Mochizuki and a two-run homer from Jerry Sands. Koji Chikamoto reached on a ground single and Sands swung and missed at a fat slider in the heart of the zone before pulling one on the outside corner and driving it 10 rows back in left.
With Mochizuki out of the game, Oshiro singled in two runs in a four-run Giants eighth to seal it. Kosuke Baba allowed four unearned runs and committed one of the Tigers’ two errors in the inning.
Ino, Stars pen silence Dragons
Shoichi Ino allowed six hits without a walk over seven innings, and two relievers provided near-perfect relief in the DeNA BayStars’ 3-0 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Yokohama Stadium.
Dragons starter Koji Fukutani (0-1) allowed all three runs on seven hits and a walk. The BayStars scraped out a run in the fourth on two singles and a double play.
Fukutani was less fortunate in the sixth. A Takayuki Kajitani leadoff single and a Kazuki Kamizato double set the table with no outs, and Neftali Soto hit a comebacker that came off the pitcher’s body for an RBI infield single. Another shot up the middle got through the infield to complete the scoring.
Chono, Tanaka lift Carp past Swallows
Hisayoshi Chono and Kosuke Tanaka each hit a three-run home run for the Hiroshima Carp in their 6-3 come-from-behind win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Swallows right-hander Hirotoshi Takanashi took a 3-0 lead into the seventh inning and left with two out and two on. Scott McGough entered and surrendered Chono’s first homer off the season. Noboru Shimizu (0-2) worked the eighth and gave up Tanaka’s third of the year.
Atsuya Horie (2-1) earned the win in relief for 1-1/3 innings of scoreless relief, and Geronimo Franzua earned his second save in the ninth. Carp starter Allen Kuri gave up three runs in four innings.
Reserve Swallows catcher Akihisa Nishida doubled in two runs in the second and doubled and scored in the fourth.
Carp looking for next manager: more nonsense
Yukan Fuji speculated Tuesday that the Hiroshima Carp may soon be seeking a replacement to take over next year from their first-year skipper Shinji Sasaoka, but as speculation goes, it’s pretty hollow.
These articles are generally a collection of criticisms from former players now working as analysts who would prefer to be coaching and who have ties with one or more of the potential candidates.
Like the propaganda launched recently against DeNA BayStars skipper Alex Ramirez, it includes extravagant projections for individual players and of the team that are given as certainties, thus providing “proof” that the manager’s policies are intolerably bad.
In this case Sasaoka is attacked for the failure of rookie right-hander Masato Morishita, who a former Carp player said should be a strong rookie of the year candidate, but who is floundering.
Morishita may not be taking the league by storm, but there is no reason to think he won’t be good based on what we’ve seen so far.
No mention was made of his peculiar usage of ace Daichi Osera, having him labor through a second-straight complete game to start the season when the buildup to the coronavirus-hit season has been anything but normal and fitness issues were expected.
The Carp have struggled, and the article mentions that since Yoshihiro Maru, the CL’s MVP in 2017 and 2018, left as a free agent to the Yomiuri Giants 1-1/2 years ago, things are in decline. Sasaoka’s failure, it seems has been his ability to make bricks without straw.
The article said that if Sasaoka is replaced it would be rare. It would be more than rare for the Carp. It would be unprecedented. The team has had three managers who lasted a year or less during a stretch from 1973 to 1975, but all three, Kaoru Betto (1973), Katsuya Morinaga (1974) and Joe Lutz (1975) all quit. The family-owned Carp have never fired a manager after one season. I wouldn’t expect Sasaoka to be the first.
The candidates listed were former Carp Hiroki Kuroda, Takahiro Arai and Tomoaki Kanemoto. It’s hard to imagine someone like Kuroda, who stoically bore the weight of his teams’ expectations with every pitch wanting the responsibility for a team on his shoulders.
Kanemoto had to be compelled to manage the Tigers and that didn’t go well. The easy-going Arai might give it a try, but someone would have to twist his arm a lot. A far better choice would be Ryuzo Yamasaki, their longtime former minor league manager or Giants batting coach Takuro Ishii, who finished his career there and then coached for the team.
Dragons activate 2018 top pick Neo
The Chunichi Dragons continue their cycling through their farm team rookies on Tuesday with the activation of Akira Neo, their first pick in the 2018 amateur draft.
Neo was a shortstop at baseball factory Osaka Toin High School (Ryosuke Hirata, Takeya Nakamura, Hideto Asamura, Tomoya Mori, Shintaro Fujinami). Four teams named him as their top draft pick in 2018, the same number that went after Hiroshima’s first-round signee, Kaito Kozono.
The left-handed-hitting Neo’s numbers suggest he was overmatched by Western League pitching last year, striking out in 28 percent of his plate appearances with little power. This year so far, he has have cut down on his strikeouts to about 22 percent of his plate appearances.
After making 24 errors last season, the most by any player in Japan’s two minor leaguers, Neo has spent most of his time this summer at second base, although the word is that the Dragons intend to give him playing time on the first team in the outfield.
Last month, Chunichi called up third baseman Takaya Ishikawa, their top pick last year, and then gave a few plate appearances to 18-year-old outfielder Yuki Okabayashi. Their fifth pick last autumn, Okabayashi, unlike Ishikawa and Neo, had been tearing it up on the farm team.
Former San Diego Padres minor leaguers Tyler Higgins and Aderlin Rodriguez have signed with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Pacific League, the club announced Monday according to online site fullcount.
HIggins, who began his career with the Miami Marlins, is a 28-year-old right-hander who has spent most of his career at Double-A. At Triple-A El Paso last year, where former Japan closer Akinori Otsuka served as a pitching coach, Higgins struck out 50 batters in 45-2/3 innings while issuing 13 walks and surrendering 13 home runs.
Rodriguez, who is from the Dominican Republic and turned 28 in November, is a right-handed hitter who hit 19 home runs in 289 plate appearances for El Paso while striking out 46 times and drawing 14 walks. It was his lone season in Triple-A.
The Buffaloes have also acquired veteran major league outfielder Adam Jones on a two-year deal, and are bringing back outfielder-first baseman Steven Moya, starting pitcher Andrew Albers and closer Brandon Dickson.
Lotte signs Dominican amateur Acosta: report
The Lotte Marines have signed hard-throwing Dominican amateur Jose Acosta to a developmental contract, the Hochi Shimbun reported Monday, citing informed sources.
According to the report, the acquisition of 25-year-old Acosta, who has no pro experience, and 30-year-old Venezuelan Jose Flores, who pitched this year for the Toyama Thunderbirds of the independent BC League, will be announced in the coming days.
Acosta, a 1.87-meter, 89-kilogram right-hander, pitched for his country in this summer’s Pan Am Games. His fastball has been recorded at 164 kilometers per hour. He also possesses an effective slider and change.
At a tryout in the Dominican, his average fastball velocity was 157 kph.
The 1.91-meter, 120-kg Flores, who throws in the 150-159 kph range, tried out for the club in October at the Pacific League club’s home park, Zozo Marine Stadium, in Chiba. He is also headed for a developmental contract, that does not count against the team’s 70-man roster and does not allow him to play on the top team.
The SoftBank Hawks are poised to acquire 30-year-old lefty Matt Moore, the Nikkan Sports reported Friday citing a source. Moore posted 10-plus wins in three different seasons. He had surgery on his pitching elbow in 2018 but came back to pitch two games this past season with the Detroit Tiger when he showed no noticeable drop in velocity. Moore spent most of his career with the Tampa Bay Rays before playing for the San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers and Tigers.
The Hawks this week also welcomed former catcher Kenji Jojima, who will take up a role in the front office. Jojima, who I have ranked as the fifth most valuable catcher in NPB history and the 50th best player overall, left the Hawks after the 2005 season for the majors. He returned to Japan with the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers and played three more years until 2012.
Tigers announce Sands signing
The Hanshin Tigers on Friday introduced Jerry Sands, the 32-year-old outfielder who led the KBO in RBIs this year. His one-year deal is reportedly worth $1.1 million. In comments released by the Tigers (in Japanese only) Sands said his former minor league teammate, Pierce Johnson, who starred in relief this year for the Tigers, spoke highly of the organization.
Dickson, Albers and Moya back with Orix for 2020
The Pacific League’s Orix Buffaloes announced they had concluded 2020 contracts with three foreign holdovers from 2019, pitchers Brandon Dickson and Andrew Albers, and outfielder-first baseman Steven Moya. Dickson , who joined Orix in 2013, moved last season from the starting rotation to the bullpen, where he proved effective as the closer for the Buffaloes, and during the Premier 12 for the United States. Moya arrived last season from the CL’s Chunichi Dragons.