Former high school sensation Kosei Yoshida returned to Akita, the city next to his hometown of Katagami, to face the Rakuten Eagles, and got off to a heck of a start Tuesday for the Fighters on a day when pitchers’ duels were the thing.
We learned Tuesday that during the four days between the ending of interleague play and the resumption of league play, Hawks chairman Sadaharu Oh stepped in and oversaw practices, imparting some wisdom in his role as the team’s tactical advisor.
The Hawks also lost one of their new imports, who never got a chance to throw a pitch for the big-league club. I also published my first projected finishes for the season, which some of you will enjoy.
And just so the news isn’t all about SoftBank, another team has entered the bidding for the services of outfielder Shogo Akiyama following the Hawks and Seibu Lions.
Shall we get started?
Eagles 3, Fighters 0 : At Akita Stadium, Kosei Yoshida (1-2) allowed two runs in the fifth inning as catcher Hikaru Ota singled in Ginji Akaminai and Ryosuke Tatsumi with one out. Eagles starter Takahiro Norimoto (5-2) allowed three hits, a walk and hit a batter over 6-2/3 innings while striking out five. Three relievers completed the Eagles’ four-hit shutout with Yuki Matsui earning his 17th save.
It’s a good thing there were only three major league games in Japan on Thursday, because with all the blowouts, NPB might have run out of spares.
We had some roster moves caused by Japan’s usual-suspect epidemics, with one game scratched due to COVID-19.
Ready to roll? Let’s get started.
BayStars, Tigers sidelined by COVID
The Cemtral League’s DeNA BayStars announced Thursday that second baseman Shugo Maki, catcher Yasutaka Tobashira, infielders Toshihiko Kuramoto and Koki Yamashita and pitching coach Takashi Saito have all tested positive for COVID, and that Thursday’s game against the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium has been posponed.
The cancellation is the third this season after infections within the Rakuten Eagles last week forced their Pacific League games against the SoftBank Hawks on Saturday and Sunday to be scrapped. It also had a ripple effect on the farm, where the BayStars were forced to scrap Thursday’s Eastern League game in order to have replacements ready for the major league club.
Santana victim of baseball’s other epidemic
Ever since 2020, Japanese baseball’s go-to reason for taking a player off the active roster has been the wonderfully vague “lack of fitness, with the most specific reference being that it is either an upper or lower body issue.
On Thursday, the CL’s Yakult Swallows indicated that right fielder Domingo Santana had become the epidemic’s latest casualty due to insufficient upper body conditioning, the reason given for his not taking his position in the field in the fifth inning on Wednesday against Chunichi.
Yanagita sent down
The Hawks on Thursday deactivated outfielder Yuki Yanagita after he was diagnosed with inflamation in the rotator cuff of his left shoulder suffered sliging headifrst into second base on Tuesday. I wonder if he’s happy he to have a specific ailment rather that the ubiquitous lack of fitness.
Carp 9, Giants 2: At Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, Yomiuri played a game of “Let’s see how many different ways we can let runners reach base after we field the ball,” as they blew a two-run lead to smithereens.
The Giants loaded the bases on the first four pitches from lefty Shogo Tamamura.Cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto fell behind 0-2 but lined the 10th pitch he saw to the wall for a two-run double. Despite the inauspicious opening, Tamamura (1-0) lasted seven innigns, allowing a walk and seven hits while striking out four.
Rookie right-hander Kenshin Hotta (1-1) couldn’t hold on to that lead for long. Ryan McBroom plated Ryosuke Kikuchi with his first homer in Japan. The Carp made it 3-2 in the second on a Hisayoshi Chono leadoff walk, a Shota Suekane run-and-hit single and a double play.
The Carp made it 4-2 when Shogo Sakakura led off the fourth with a single and Chono doubled him home. That inning was the end for Hotta. Daisuke Naohe gave the Giants two innings of calm before hijinks ensued in the seventh.
Against, lefty Yuhei Takanashi, Shota Dobayashi led off with a pinch-hit double. Second baseman Taishi Hiroka dropped a throw allowing Ryoma Nishikawa to reach on a faked slash bunt. Dobayashi scored on Ryosuke Kikuchi’s safety squeeze with Kikuchi reaching on a fielder’s choice.
Kaito Kozono struck while the iron was hot with another sacrifice, this time in front of the plate. Kozono reached on a throwing error by catcher Seiji Kobayashi. While first baseman Sho Nakata, pitcher Takanashi and Kobayashi all watched the play unfold at first, no one covered home, allowing Nishikawa to score from second.
Giants manager Hara decided to pull the snake-bit Takanashi, for Thyago Vieira, who received an automatic ejection when his third pitch hit McBroom in the helmet to load the bases.
Rookie Natsuki Toda inherited the no-out bases-loaded shit storm and started a double double play to keep it from getting worse, briefly before Chono doubled in two to make it 8-2. Dobayashi gave the Giants one more kick in the goolies as he doubled and scored in the eighth.
Dragons 11, Swallows 3: While the Giants beat themselves in Hiroshima, Swallows pitchers served up four home runs to the Chunichi Dragons at Jingu Stadium.
The Swallows opened the scoring against rookie right-hander Hiroto Takahashi (1-1) on a first-inning Yasutaka Shiomi leadoff double and a single by Tetsuto Yamada, who ended the inning trying to steal second as cleanup hitter Munetaka swung and missed at a 3-2 pitch.
Swallows lefty Masanori Ishikawa (0-2), who rarely walks hitters when he’s on and walked five in his season debut, missed less against the Dragons than he did a week earlier against the Giants. But his two second-inning walks loaded the bases for Takahashi, who lined a fat 1-0 fastball through the infield to plate Toshiki Abe and Takuya Kinoshita.
Yota Kyoda made it 3-1 in the fourth when he belted Ishikawa’s first pitch into the right-field stands for his first home run, while reserve Swallows catcher Naoki Matsumoto hit his third career home run and his second in two days with a man on to make it 4-3 in the fifth.
The Swallows went with a new pitcher in the sixth, but that didn’t slow the Dragons’ unexpected power game. Takaya Ishii, who had popped up and struck out looking, hit his second career homer and second of the series to open the Dragons’ sixth against Yuma Oshita, and Kyoda followed with his second of the game.
Singles by Yohei Oshima and Yuki Okabayashi set up another run as Oshima scored no a groundout to make it 7-3. With the game out of hand, Oshita remained on the mound for the Dragons’ seventh and stranded a pair of runners.
Yakult rookie Takuma Kubo took over in the eighth, and got two outs before the game went from out of hand to lost cause. Oshima singled, Dayan Viciedo doubled him home, Abe walked, and Kinoshita blasted his second homer of the season.
Hawks 7, Buffaloes 3: At Fukuoka Dome, Colin Rea made his first start in Japan since his 2021 swansong, an eight-strikeout July 12 shutout, and allowed three runs over 6-2/3 innings.
Masaki Mimori broke the ice in the third inning with his second homer of the season putting a sweet swing on a slow fat Sachiya Yamasaki (0-1) slider that drove it into the right-field home run terrace.
The Buffaloes took the lead on Breyvic Valera’s first homer of the season, after Yuma Tongu reached on a leadoff infield single in the sixth. But Orix’s lead quickly vanished. A Mimori leadoff single and a Taisei Makihara bunt single set up a two-on one-out situation for the Buffaloes’ new pitcher, rookie right-hander Atsuya Kogita. A wild pitch and Yurisbel Gracial’s second walk of the game loaded the bases.
Kogita fell behind Akira Nakamura and walked in a run before going outside to Nobuhiro Matsuda, who dove into a 1-0 pitch, as he does, and drove it into the gap in right for a three-run double.
“My speed isn’t gone yet,” the irepressible 38-year-old Matsuda said afterward. “I am going to continue these very cool triples to show I’ve still got it.”