Tag Archives: Tatsunori Hara

NPB 2020 8-6 games and news

Tigers’ late-comer Takahashi hamstrings Giants

Hanshin Tigers lefty Haruto Takahashi overpowered the Yomiuri Giants hitters en route to an 11-0 demolition of the Central League leaders at Koshien Stadium.

Takahashi, who was unable to start the season with the team due to shoulder issues, made his debut on Thursday. Relying mostly on his four-seamer, a two-seamer and a cutter, the 24-year-old was able to pinpoint the bottom of the zone and jam batters inside.

He struck out 11 over seven innings, gave up three hits on ground balls, a walk. Hayato Sakamoto’s fifth-inning fly out was the only ball the Giants managed to hit into the air.

Leading 1-0 against Cristopher Mercedes (2-4) Ryutaro Umeno walked with one out and Seiya Kinami singled. The pair executed a double steal and reserve utility man Kai Ueda doubled them both in.

Joe Gunkel worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and the Tigers broke the bank with seven runs in the home half, started by a Jerry Sands leadoff single. Justin Bour doubled in one run and Masahiro Nakatani delivered a pinch-hit grand slam to complete the celebrations.

Born to run or pitch

It’s no secret that Giants manager Tatsunori Hara loves his pinch-runners probably as much as any manager in Japanese baseball history. One year when he managed the CL all-star team, Hara famously rewarded his all-time favorite pinch-runner, Takanori Suzuki, with an undeserved spot on the CL squad.

On Thursday, with one out in the bottom of the eighth and his team now losing by 11 runs, Hara probably figured there was nowhere to make use of his favorite toy except to put him on the mound.

Masuda retired two of the three batters he faced in the heart of the Tigers order with a fastball that maxed out at 85.7 mph.

Since Japanese teams rarely have more than one or two starting pitchers taking up space on their active rosters and since games–in non-pandemic seasons–are limited to 10 innings, and teams typically–although not next week–have Mondays off, this is pretty rare. The last position player to appear in a sanctioned NPB game was Akihito Igarashi on June 3, 2000 for the Orix BlueWave and their iconoclastic skipper Akira Ogi–the same guy who had Ichiro Suzuki pitch in an all-star game.

Onuki, BayStars add to Dragons’ misery

Shinichi Onuki (4-2) worked seven innings and two relievers completed the four-hitter as the DeNA BayStars downed the Chunichi Dragons 3-0 at Yokohama Stadium.

The shutout loss was the sixth of the season for the last-place Dragons, who fell to 0-6 against DeNA this season.

Dragons lefty Takahiro Matsuba (2-2), who has been enjoying a career renaissance this year following his trade from the Orix Buffaloes, allowed three runs over four-plus innings.

BayStars reserve infielder Daisuke Nakai marked a rare start by homering in his first at-bat to lead off the second. Kazuki Kamizato homered to open the third and singled home Takayuki Kajitani in the fifth to complete the scoring.

Kenta Ishida worked a 1-2-3 eighth and Kazuki Mishima did the same in the ninth to record his fourth save since he began filling in for closer Yasuaki Yamasaki on July 29.

One of the bright spots for the Dragons was their top draft pick from 2018, infielder Akira Neo. Although he went 0-for-2 and remains hitless for his career, Neo put the ball in play twice, made a good catch in left and threw a runner out at the plate.

Another tough outing for Carp lefty Johnson

Hiroshima lefty Kris Johnson allowed five runs over three innings in the Carp’s 9-5 loss to the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Johnson, coming off one of his two quality starts this year, gave up seven hits and walked two while striking out four. His teammates took him off the hook on three home runs by Ryuhei Matsuyama, Ryosuke Kikuchi and Hisayoshi Chono and tied it in the seventh on a Seiya Suzuki RBI single.

Swallows lefty Keiji Takahashi started and allowed four runs over five innings in his worst start of the season. Scott McGough (3-0) surrendered a run on two seventh-inning singles but earned the win after Yakult scored three times in the bottom of the inning.

Journeyman reserve catcher Suguru Ino tripled against Kazuki Yabuta (0-2) and scored on a sacrifice fly. Alcides Escobar singled and two more runs came in on back-to-back two-out doubles RBI by Tomotaka Sakaguchi and Yasutaka Shiomi.

Matsui goes 5 in loss to Hawks

One of the big moves this spring for the Rakuten Eagles was taking left-handed closer Yuki Matsui and putting him back in the starting rotation.

Making his first appearance in over a month after two poor outings, Matsui (0-1) allowed three runs on eight hits and a walk in a 3-1 loss to the SoftBank Hawks at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

The diminutive southpaw was victimized by some tough hops in the infield that contributed to two of the Hawks’ runs.

On a bullpen day, Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo shook up his lineup, batting a pair of struggling big hitters, Nobuhiro Matsuda and Wladimir Balentien one, two, respectively, in his order.

The only contribution either made at the plate was when Matsuda made poor contact for an infield single in the third, allowing Yuki Yanagita to drive in the tying run with a single.

Rookie Yugo Bando (1-1) the second of seven Hawks pitchers, worked three scoreless innings to earn his first career win.

Buffaloes’ Yamazaki halts Marines

Sachiya Yamasaki (2-1) worked six scoreless innings for the Orix Buffaloes in their 3-1 win over the Lotte Marines at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Yamasaki allowed three singles and a walk while striking out four. Marines starter Daiki Iwashita (3-3) walked five batters during his six innings on the mound and one of the three runs he allowed was unearned.

With a two-run lead in the eighth, Tyler Higgins worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and Brandon Dickson a 1-2-3 ninth for his sixth save.

Fighters rookie Kawano earns 2nd win

Lefty Ryusei Kawano got an early three-run lead and allowed two runs over five innings for the Nippon Ham Fighters in their 5-3 win over the Seibu Lions at Seibu Dome.

Kawano (2-3) walked three and allowed four hits, including a solo home run by Ernesto Mejia, his first of the season. The lefty struck out five.

Haruki Nishikawa singled to open the bottom of the first off rookie Lions submariner Kaito Yoza (2-3), who walked Kensuke Kondo with one out. Sho Nakata doubled off the wall in left. Taishi Ota, a huge thorn in the Lions’ paw this season, doubled Nakata home to make it 3-0.

Hawks resume farm team activities

The SoftBank Hawks said Thursday that with the exception of six individuals, baseball activities have resumed at their minor league facility in Chikugo, Fukuoka Prefecture.

Even so, the team’s Western League farm games at Tama Stadium Chikugo against the Chunichi Dragons on Aug. 7 and 8, have been postponed. Following the announcement of Hasegawa’s test result on Saturday, the Pacific League game set for the Seibu Lions and Hawks in Fukuoka was also postponed.

Four players who were determined by local health officials to have had close contact with either outfielder Yuya Hasegawa, whose positive test for coronavirus was revealed Saturday, and a rehab staff member, whose result was announced Wednesday, have been ex

The rehab group shares the organization’s minor league facility with the Western League farm team and the Hawks’ third team, and for that reason, minor league activities have been suspended.

Umetsu works out with rehab group

Chunichi Dragons right-hander Kodai Umetsu reported to the team’s rehab group at Nagoya Stadium on Wednesday apparently due to discomfort in his right elbow, the Chunichi Sports reported.

The 23-year-old threw a career-high 10 innings and 127 pitches in his shutout on Sunday at Nagoya Dome in a 0-0 tie with the Yakult Swallows. He has not thrown since.

Although his condition is said not to be serious, it comes at a time when the team is in last place, eight games below .500 and two games into a stretch of nine games in nine days.

Active roster moves 8/6/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/16

Central League

Activated

TigersP29Haruto Takahashi

Dectivated

DragonsP28Kodai Umetsu

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesP1Yuki Matsui
EaglesP72Shun Ikeda
FightersP28Ryusei Kawano
BuffaloesP39Keisuke Kobayashi
BuffaloesP49Keisuke Sawada

Dectivated

HawksP29Shuta Ishikawa
EaglesP12Hiroki Kondo
EaglesP58Wataru Karashima
FightersP59Yuki Yoshida
BuffaloesP60Yu Hidarisawa
BuffaloesP68Yu Suzuki
BuffaloesIF9Koji Oshiro

Starting pitchers for Friday, Aug. 7, 2020

Pacific League

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

Toshihiro Sugiura (3-1, 2.28) vs Zach Neal (2-1, 4.46)

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

Takahiro Norimoto (3-3, 3.55) vs Nao Higashihama (2-0, 2.35)

Buffaloes vs Marines: Kyocera Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Tsubasa Sakakibara (1-1, 3.20) vs Ayumu Ishikawa (1-2, 4.23)

Central League

Swallows vs BayStars: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Daiki Yoshida (0-1, 6.57) vs Taiga Kamichatani (0-0, 5.25)

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

Yudai Ono (1-3, 3.83) vs Kazuto Taguchi (2-0, 2.25)

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

Masato Morishita (2-2, 2.56) vs Koyo Aoyagi (4-1, 2.23)

Ramping up: 16 days to go?

Two positive tests for COVID-19 by Yomiuri Giants players derailed their team’s plan to play a practice game against the Seibu Lions at Tokyo Dome on Wednesday, the club announced according to the Mainichi Shimbun.

The news comes a day after Tokyo’s government issued an alert about the danger of a second wave of infections after 34 new confirmed cases were announced in the metropolis on Tuesday.

Sakamoto, Oshiro test positive

There were supposed to be six practice games on Wednesday as teams build up for Nippon Professional Baseball’s June 19 season openers, but Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara abruptly called and end to the home team’s practice on Wednesday according to a source with the team.

“Everyone was running around like crazy,” the source said. “The Seibu Lions showed up later for their practice and there was nobody on the field and they didn’t know what was going on.”

In May, two days after June 19 was announced as Opening Day, the Giants said at least 220 people in the organization would get antibody blood tests for the coronavirus.

“Why don’t you test people before you announce when you’re going to start the season?” the source asked.

Actually, the Giants were the one team to do early testing, having 218 people in the organization take an antibody test. The four who tested positive then took the PCR test that produced the players’ positive results.

The show goes on

Due to the nature of the players’ test results, a top epidemiologist has declared they are not high risks to infect others due to the small amount of virus DNA produced by their tests. Dr. Mitsuo Kaku, who has been advising NPB on its health guidelines believes the players had been infected for quite some time.

Armed with that information, NPB secretary general Atsushi Ihara, said the infections changed nothing for the time being,

For their part, the Giants have ordered everyone connected with the first team to undergo a PCR test by Thursday morning. The Lions said there is no indication any of their players needed to be tested and the club is moving forward with its workouts and practice games as planned.

Guidelines

NPB is currently in the final stages of formalizing coronavirus guidelines that would reportedly force players testing positive such as Sakamoto and Oshiro to self-quarantine for two weeks after they produce negative test results. But with Opening Day now barely two weeks away, that and the added time it would take for them to regain fitness would — if applied to the Giants’ guys — keep them out of action until well after Opening Day.

The Giants, however, said they were keen to get the pair back as soon as they tested negative, which at first glance seemed to fly in the face of the guidelines. Having said that, the Giants as an organization have a long history of flouting guidelines when it suits them.

The SoftBank Hawks’ game at Kyocera Dome against the Orix Buffaloes started on schedule at 6 pm. While starting Wednesday afternoon, the Giants began having all their players and staff PCR tested.

Bour, Mejia continue to bop

In the four day games that did go ahead as scheduled, Justin Bour of the Hanshin Tigers and Alejandro Mejia of the Hiroshima Carp each homered for the second-straight day at Koshien Stadium.

Kosuke Fukudome also homered for the Tigers, which is kind of cool. I like it when a guy who is 43 and (almost) too old to be my son is in the game highlights.

Camping world: Feb. 9, 2020

Here are some tidbits from NPB spring training from the Japanese language media on Sunday, Feb. 9.

Jones stands in for fellow new Orix import Higgins

Former San Diego Padres minor leaguer Tyler Higgins threw his third bullpen of the spring at the Orix Buffaloes camp on Sunday, this time with Adam Jones standing in the right-handed batter’s box. According to Sankei Sports, Higgins wanted to Jones’ view of his pitches, saying that as a quality hitter his opinion might be different from others.

Giants manager Hara impressed with Diplan

Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara is keeping his eye on 26-year-old Dominican right-hander Nattino Diplan, who joined the club over the winter on a developmental contract, Sports Nippon Annex reports.

The 1.9-meter, 81-kilogram Diplan, who pitched in Double A last season for the Milwaukee Brewers. After watching him in the bullpen and in a simulated game, Hara said he expected Diplan to touch 160 kph (100 miles per hour). On Sunday, Diplan, who is working out with the Giants two farm clubs, hit 93.8 miles per hour and broke a bat in an intrasquad game. After which Hara said the right-hander is a candidate to join the big club in camp when it moves to Okinawa on Saturday.

According to the story, Diplan was motivated to play in Japan after being impressed by Shohei Ohtani.

Jones bonds with Orix outfielders over steak, picks up tab

New import Adam Jones joined eight other Orix Buffaloes outfielders for dinner at a swanky steak place in Miyazaki on Friday night for talk about baseball and other things, according to a Daily News report, and picked up the tab — in excess of $2,700.

On Sunday, Jones was a hot item as he and teammates conducted a baseball clinic after nearly 300 elementary school kids from Miyazaki Prefecture attended the Buffaloes practice session.

The kotatsu league: Tigers sign minor league righty Gunkel

A day after they concluded a contract for 2020 with lefty Onelki Garcia, the Hanshin Tigers announced they have added Miami Marlins minor league right-hander Joe Gunkel.

The 27-year-old comes out of the Marlins organization. In four Triple-A seasons, Gunkel posted a 3.77 ERA. He struck out 6.23 batters per nine innings while walking 1.19 and allowing a little more than one home run per nine.

In a statement released by the Tigers, Gunkel said he was excited to be playing in Japan after hearing how good Japanese baseball was from former teammate and Yakult Swallows reliever Scott McGough.

Japanese-only free agency needs a 2nd look

Number magazine’s website “Number Web” posed an interesting question that speaks to the heart of one of Nippon Professional Baseball’s paradoxes — how come teams losing top foreign stars to another NPB club cannot receive compensation?

The answer is of course that foreign-registered players, unlike Japanese, cannot be reserved unless they agree to a contract for the following season. They are in essence free agents the minute their contractual obligation to a team ends. The Number Web article uses Wladimir Balentien‘s impending move to the three-time Japan Series champion SoftBank Hawks as an example because — according to NPB’s silliest rule — he has acquired the right to file for free agency.

Thus, one could argue that the Yakult Swallows, for whom he played nine seasons, are losing a free agent but receiving zip in return. But using Balentien as an example is ridiculous. What about Onelki Garcia? He went 13-9 for the Chunichi Dragons in 2018 on a one-year deal and then decided to split to the Hanshin Tigers when Chunichi wanted to re-sign him.

Heck, the Yomiuri Giants’ back-to-back 2008 and 2009 pennants were built on the backs of stealing players the Swallows had scouted and signed. Pitchers Seth Greisinger went 30-15 over those two seasons, while Dicky Gonzalez was 15-2 in 2009 — the year he moved to Yomiuri from Yakult. Left fielder Alex Ramirez moved four stops down the Chuo Line to Tokyo Dome and won back-to-back Central League MVP Awards.

The Swallows response to the talent drain was to begin offering lucrative long-term contracts, starting with Balentien, reliever Tony Barnette and outfielder Lastings Milledge. The latter deal didn’t pan out, but the contracts for Balentien and Barnette were instrumental in Yakult’s 2015 pennant.

Free agency was the baby of the Yomiuri Giants — a plan for Japan’s most prestigious team to snap up as much previously unavailable talent as possible. But this winter, Giants Hall of Fame manager Tatsunori Hara has railed against compensation that annually costs his club a player here and a player there.

Since the Giants are the biggest talent poachers in NPB, they would likely dig in their heels at the thought of having to shell out even more for foreign talent just because it’s easier to get Japan-ready talent from the Swallows than it is to actually find it yourself.

And then there were four

On Monday, Nov. 18, the Yomiuri Giants announced that pitcher Shun Yamaguchi would be made available to major league teams via the posting system. The pitcher, who tied for the Central League lead in wins this season, while leading the league in winning percentage and strikeouts was ineligible to file for free agency until the end of next season at the earliest.

My profile on Yamaguchi is HERE.

The news was something of a bombshell since Yomiuri had denounced the very existence of the posting system since Day 1. It is likely that the club will now have to field similar requests from other players, including the team’s best player, Tomoyuki Sugano, who wanted to turn pro in the majors but was dissuaded from doing so. Sugano is the nephew of Giants manager Tatsunori Hara.

At a press conference, the Giants admitted that the team had accepted the pitcher’s desire to be posted when he joined them as a free agent from the DeNA BayStars ahead of the 2017 season, the team president saying, “no time was fixed for posting but that it was agreed to” according to a Daily Sport story.

And then there was 1

The Yamaguchi posting leaves the SoftBank Hawks as Nippon Professional Baseball’s lone holdouts against the posting system. When that dam breaks, MLB is going to be flooded with talent from Japan.

NPB games, news of Sept. 21, 2019

The Yomiuri Giants avoided setting a franchise record for most seasons without a league pennant on Saturday, when they came from behind to beat the second-place DeNA BayStars 3-2 in 10 innings at Yokohama Stadium.

Central League

Giants 3, BayStars 2

At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA just couldn’t get the final out. Closer Yasuaki Yamasaki retired the first two batters in the ninth, but two walks set up Seiji Kobayashi for a game-tying RBI single when Yamasaki missed high with a mediocre 1-1 slider.

Kazuki Mishima walked two batters to open the 10th, and struck out the next two, but surrendered the go-ahead run on a bouncer that found a hole.

The Giants bullpen, too pitched itself into trouble in the seventh and eighth inning, when DeNA had two on and no outs. Hirokazu Sawamura kept the BayStars from pulling away in the eighth when Jose Lopez smoked a two-out liner that was caught at third base for the final out.

“They never give up after two outs,” BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said. “They were able to come back during the game. They really did deserve that (pennant).”

“Plan B now for us. Our guys did a tremendous job until this point and there is nothing to be ashamed of. We’ve got to just continue playing.”

Game highlights are HERE.

Tigers 4, Carp 2

At Koshien Stadium, 39-year-old former Cub Kyuji Fujikawa converted his 14th-straight save opportunity as Hanshin beat Hiroshima.

Game highlights are HERE.

Dragons 14, Swallows 2

At Jingu Stadium, Yuya Yanagi (11-6) surrendered 19-year-old Munetaka Murakami’s 36th home run but little else over six solid innings as Chunichi clobbered last-place Yakult.

Pacific League

Fighters 8, Hawks 1

At Yafuoku Dome, Koehi Arihara (15-8) made SoftBank’s final home game of the regular season a bitter experience as the Nippon Ham ace allowed a run in seven innings that inched the Hawks closer to a second-consecutive second-place finish.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 6, Lions 1

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Seibu missed a chance to cut their magic number to clinch to two after Tatsuya Imai struck out six over seven scoreless innings. Instead, Rakuten rallied against the Lions’ bullpen ace, middle reliever Katsunori Hirai (4-2), who allowed five runs in a third of an inning.

Game highlights are HERE.

Buffaloes 3, Marines 1

At Kyocera Dome, Brandon Dickson, who took over Orix’s closer role in mid-season, saved his 18th game after Taisuke Yamaoka (12-4) held Lotte to a run over eight innings.

Game highlights are HERE.