At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Jerry Sands belted his third home run of the season, doubled and drove in four runs for the Hanshin Tigers in an 8-2 win over the Yakult Swallows behind six scoreless innings from Joe Gunkel (1-0). Jefry Marte also singled in a run and homered for the Tigers.
In a game where both teams wore No. 73 in honor of the late Katsuya Nomura, who managed both clubs, Swallows rookie Yasunobu Okugawa (0-1) allowed three runs over five innings. He struck out five and walked one, although Nomura might have rolled over in his grave at the number of straight fastballs in the zone. Tetsuto Yamada hit his first homer of the season for the Swallows.
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, the Chunichi Dragons held the Hiroshima Carp to a 0-0 nine-inning tie as lefty Shinnosuke Ogasawara scattered three walks and five hits.
At Tokyo Dome, it was a case of players doing well against their old team for the third straight day as the Giants and BayStars drew 1-1. This time it was Kentaro Taira, acquired by the BayStars as free agent compensation for San Francisco Giants right-hander Shun Yamaguchi, who had the hot hand, throwing five perfect innings and left after six scoreless innings with stiffness in his right elbow, Sponichi Annex reported.
BayStars rookie Shugo Maki doubled in a first-inning run, but the Giants tied it on an RBI single by Takayuki Kajitani, who moved over from DeNA last winter as a free agent.
Hayakawa wins debut
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, Lefty Takahisa Hayakawa (1-0) struck out eight over six innings for the Rakuten Eagles in their 5-0 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters. The Fighters continued the old-friend alert madness, by starting Takahide Ikeda (0-1), acquired from Rakuten in a March 3 trade.
Ikeda, who only pitched 42-2/3 innings in the Pacific League in 2018, was unscored upon in 10 spring innings for Nippon Ham before surrendering four runs, three earned, in his five-inning homecoming.
Hayakawa navigated a pair of bases-loaded situations, while Eagles catcher Hikaru Ito singled in two runs and homered.
The Eagles, who deactivated Masahiro Tanaka on Friday, sent reliever Alan Busenitz down with back stiffness on Sunday after he allowed three runs in the ninth inning, while veteran infielder Ginji Akaminai also was deactivated with a right wrist injury.
At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, the SoftBank Hawks walked off winners over the Lotte Marines for the second straight day, this time 6-5, again victimizing closer Naoya Masuda (0-2) as both teams surrendered two runs in the ninth.
Ageless utility man Keizo Kawashima delivered the game-winning two-run pinch-hit single for the Hawks with two outs and the bases loaded. The Hawks had pulled ahead on 4-3 on Alfredo Despaigne’s two-run eighth-inning homer only for Tsuyoshi Sugano to belt a two-out pinch-hit homer off Sho Iwasaki (1-0) in the top of the ninth.
Hawks lefty Tsuyoshi Wada allowed three runs, two earned, over 6-1/3 innings. The Marines’ top signing from last year’s draft – after they failed to win the rights to Hayakawa – Shota Suzuki walked six and struck out six and allowed one hit, a two-run Ryoya Kurihara home run.
At MetLife Dome outside Tokyo, Tomoya Mori hit a two-run homer and Katsunori Hirai (1-0) threw six scoreless innings for the Seibu Lions in a 5-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes. Lions reliever Reed Garrett allowed rookie Kotaro Kurebayashi’s first pro home run. Steven Moya went 2-for-4 for Orix, while Adam Jones singled in four trips to the plate.
The SoftBank Hawks won the 21st championship in franchise history on Tuesday with a 5-1 win over their nemeses all season long, the Lotte Marines, at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Tsuyoshi Wada (8-1) struck out eight while allowing three hits and a walk over six innings. Wada, the winning pitcher in the team’s last clinching game, when they won the 2019 Japan Series, came out firing on all cylinders, pumping a fastball that usually sits at 87 mph up to 92. The lefty.
“I think we were all a little nervous today, so for Wada to come out and do what he did, it gave us all courage,” Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said.
“This was a year that we didn’t even know would start, but we hung in there amid all the difficulties and uncertainty. We wanted to win so badly, but I don’t know if we could have done it without the players taking such good care of their conditioning during this very difficult year.”
Tail-end hitter Hikaru Kawase put the hosts on the board in the fifth inning against Ayumu Ishikawa (7-5). He led off with a double, was sacrificed to third and scored on Akira Nakamura’s sacrifice fly. Hawks catcher Takuya Kai made it a 3-0 game in the sixth with his 10th home run, a two-run shot that plated Kenji Akashi.
Reliever Sho Iwasaki won an epic at-bat against pinch-hitter Katsuya Kakunaka to get out of the seventh inning with two men on, and lefty Livan Moinelo worked a 1-2-3 eighth.
Closer Yuito Mori took the mound in the ninth and the Marines held his feet to the fire.
The right-hander allowed one run on Shogo Nakamura’s leadoff walk, and an error by center fielder Yuki Yanagita on Ikuhiro Kiyota’s one-out double. After a two-out walk, Mori appeared to be out of the woods on a bouncer to third, but Taisei Makihara, who entered the game for his speed and defense, fumbled the ball to load the bases.
That brought Shuhei Fukuda to the plate as the potential tying run. For years, the Hawks fourth outfielder, Fukuda moved to the Marines over the winter as a free agent. Mori finally got him on his 39th pitch of the inning.
The Hawks have now won three straight against Lotte but still trail in their season series 7-11 with one tie.
Lions ground Eagles on Mori homer
Tomoya Mori’s three-run home run off Rakuten Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto (5-6) lifted the Seibu Lions to a 4-3 win at MetLife Dome that moved them to within two games of the Pacific League’s final playoff spot.
Mori’s ninth home run made a winner out of Kona Takahashi (8-8), who allowed three runs on four hits and three walks over seven innings. Kaima Taira and Tatsushi Masuda finished up with one scoreless apiece with Masuda earning his 30th save.
Fighters get past Buffaloes
The top two hitters in the Nippon Ham Fighters lineup, Haruki Nishikawa, who reached base five times, and Shota Hiranuma each scored twice in a 5-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Steven Moya tied the game 2-2 in the bottom of the first for the Buffaloes with his 10th home run, while Bryan Rodriguez threw a scoreless inning of relief as the Fighters used seven pitchers on a bullpen day.
Nishikawa, who said last winter that he’d like to move to the majors in 2021 by way of the posting system, made his second costly base running mistake in a few days.
Lopez slams Giants
Jose Lopez, who spent his first two Japanese seasons with the Yomiuri Giants, hit a grand slam off his former team for his 996th career hit in Japan as the DeNA BayStars clobbered rookie Shosei Togo (8-6) in a 9-2 win at Yokohama Stadium.
The Giants’ magic number to clinch their second straight Central League pennant dropped to three thanks to the Chunichi Dragons’ 4-1 loss to the Hanshin Tigers.
Over the weekend, Lopez achieved his 2,000th hit between the majors and NPB, and is now four hits shy of joining his former Seattle Mariners teammate Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui as the third player to achieve 1,000-plus hits in both the majors and Nippon Professional Baseball.
Lopez’s home run was his ninth, while Tyler Austin hit his 19th for the BayStars. Shinichi Onuki (10-5) allowed two runs over six innings to earn the win.
Tigers win on grab bag of mistakes
The Chunichi Dragons’ bullpen which has been, after lefty starter Yudai Ono, the team’s biggest story this season, was snake-bit in a three-run, error-filled eighth inning in a 4-1 Hanshin Tigers win at Koshien Stadium.
With two outs and none on in the eighth, first baseman Dayan Viciedo dove to make a stop, and threw to the pitcher, who took his eye off the ball, allowing a runner to reach. On the next play, Fuku threw wide to first to put two on.
Dragons rookie Kaname Takino, whose first career hit over the weekend was unexpectedly greeted by fireworks at Jingu Stadium from a nearby event, made it a trifecta for Tigers fans. He tried to make a shoestring catch on a flare off the bat of Koji Chikamoto but kicked it away. The Tigers leadoff man was credited with a two-run triple before another run scored on a smashed infield single.
Tigers closer Robert Suarez surrendered a Viciedo leadoff double in the ninth before striking out the last three batters to record his 24th save.
Hanshin left fielder Jerry Sands, who was ejected on Sunday for abusive language toward a home plate umpire and fined 100,000 yen ($950) had two hits.
Kuri stuffs Swallows
Allen Kuri (8-5) threw his fifth straight solid start, hurling 7-2/3 innings for the Hiroshima Carp in a 2-0 win over the Yakult Swallows at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Kuri struck out 10 but loaded the bases in the eighth on a single and two walks, forcing lefty Atsuya Horie to come in and strike out Swallows batting star Munetaka Murakami to preserve the two-run lead. Geronimo Franzua worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 16th save.
Over his last five starts, Kuri has allowed three runs, two earned, over 40 innings. During that stretch, he’s walked nine but struck out 38 and allowed no home runs.
Swallows right-hander Hirotoshi Takanashi (3-6) worked seven innings and took the tough loss.
The 26-year-old is 4-4 this season with a 3.10 ERA in 11 games. He will probably will be unable to resume training for at least a month.
Former Red Sox pitcher Tazawa goes undrafted
Junichi Tazawa, the 34-year-old right-hander who made history by snubbing Nippon Professional Baseball’s draft and becoming the first marquee Japanese amateur to turn pro with a major league club, was in turn snubbed by NPB teams in Tuesday’s draft.
As a Japanese citizen, Tazawa is only eligible to sign his first NPB contract after being selected in the draft. For years, he hoped to play for Japan’s national team but was blacklisted because of NPB’s infamous Tazawa Rule, which was recently revoked.
He is currently playing for the Musashino Heat Bears of the independent Baseball Challenge League, Japan’s largest independent circuit. He was not even selected in the developmental draft, from which a team could sign him to a non-roster contract with a 240,000-yen minimum salary (roughly $2,200).
There was some speculation that he was passed over because teams don’t wish to deal with players who are represented by agents.