Tag Archives: Tomoyuki Sugano

NPB 2020 8-4 Games and news

Martin’s on-target fire mission saves Marines

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.

Active roster moves 8/4/2020

Central League

Activated

GiantsP92Shohei Numata
GiantsIF37Akihiro Wakabayashi
DragonsP69Tatsuro Hamada
DragonsIF7Akira Neo

Dectivated

None

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP13Kona Takahashi
EaglesOF25Kazuki Tanaka

Dectivated

None

Starting pitchers for Aug. 5, 2020

Pacific League

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

Nick Martinez (1-3, 3.79) vs Sho Ito (0-0, 0.00)

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

Hideaki Wakui (5-0, 2.89) vs Tsuyoshi Wada (3-0, 3.58)

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

Yu Suzuki (1-2, 6.04) vs Kazuya Ojima (2-3, 4.73)

Central League

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

Hiroki Onishi (0-0, 0.00) vs Yusuke Nomura (1-0, 0.64)

BayStars vs Dragons: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Haruhiro Hamaguchi (2-1, 3.28) vs Yuya Yanagi (1-1, 1.80)

Tigers vs Giants: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shintaro Fujinami (0-2, 3.46) vs Shosei Togo (3-2, 3.25)

NPB 2020 7-21 games and news

Sugano shuts out Dragons

Tomoyuki Sugano (4-0) struck out 11, while allowing three singles in a 4-0 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Nagoya Dome on Tuesday. The win was the Giants’ sixth straight.

Gerardo Parra opened the scoring in the third inning. He opened the inning with a single off of Dragons right-hander Takumi Yamamoto (1-3) and scored on Yoshiyuki Kamei’s two-out single.

Yamamoto left the bases loaded by getting cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto to ground out, but surrendered a leadoff home run to Takumi Oshiro in the fourth and a two-out, two-run shot to Okamoto in the fifth. It was Okamoto’s 10th of the season.

Sugano surrendered a leadoff single and a no-out walk in the first, but was virtually untouchable after that working batters over with his fastball, cutter and slider.

Yamamoto allowed four runs over 4-2/3 innings on eight hits and two walks. He struck out seven.

Swallows’ Hara beats BayStars in season debut

Yakult Swallows right-hander Juri Hara (1-0) overcame a rough first inning to earn his first win in a 6-4 victory over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.

After Norichika Aoki put the visitors up 2-0 with a home run off right-hander Michael Peoples (0-1), Takayuki Kajitani homered to open the bottom of the first.

Neftali Soto walked and Jose Lopez singled to put two on with no out, but Hara retired the next two batters before Tatsuhiro Shibata singled home two. With a 3-2 lead, Peoples fashioned three scoreless innings before the Swallows got to him in the fifth.

Back-to-back singles by Tomotaka Sakaguchi and Tetsuto Yamada were followed by doubles from Aoki and Munetaka Murakami. Edwin Escobar added a sac fly that made it 6-3.

Scott McGough allowed a run in the sixth, but 21-year-old Yugo Umeno and 23-year-old Noboru Shimizu added scoreless innings, as did journeyman closer Taishi Ishiyama, who recorded his fifth save.

Peoples was tagged for six runs on six hits and four walks.He struck out three. Edwin Escobar, who worked the eighth for the BayStars, surrendered a leadoff single before getting his cousin, Swallows shortstop Alcides Escobar, to ground into a double play.

Sands, Tigers batter Carp

Jerry Sands and three Hanshin Tigers teammates each drove in two runs in a 9-4 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Koshien Stadium outside Osaka.

Sands, who played in the majors for the Los Angeles Dodgers and led South Korea’s Korea Baseball Organization in RBIs last year, was in his second game in the No. 3 hole. His first-inning homer off right-hander Allen Kuri (1-2) tied it 1-1.

Kento Itohara hit a two-run homer for the Tigers in the third, and Sands singled in starting pitcher Takumi Akiyama, who had doubled to open the inning.

Akiyama allowed four runs on a walk and seven hits while striking out five.

Tigers first baseman Justin Bour remained out of the lineup for the second-straight game with strained right glutes.

Sugiura outpitches Senga in Fighters’ win

Right-hander Toshihiro Sugiura, who was principally employed as a short starter last season, allowed a run over six innings to earn the win as the Nippon Ham Fighters came from behind to beat Kodai Senga and the SoftBank Hawks 2-1 at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Sugiura (2-1) made 14 starts last season but only amassed 65 innings. On Tuesday, he walked two and allowed five hits, including a solo home run to Wladimir Balentien, while striking out four.

Trailing 1-0, Sugiura retired his final batter by striking out Balentien with two on in the sixth with a nasty splitter.

Senga (2-1) walked three, hit a batter and allowed six hits over 6-2/3 innings.

The Fighters tied it in the seventh on doubles by Toshitake Yokoo and Haruki Nishikawa. Senga left after allowing a single to right-handed-hitting Taishi Ota. Left-hander Shinya Kayama gave up the go-ahead run, when Kensuke Kondo singled on a 1-1 slider.

Katsuhiko Kumon allowed two runners in a scoreless seventh for the Fighters. Veteran lefty Naoki Miyanishi worked the eighth, starting with an impressive strikeout of slugger Yuki Yanagita.

With a 3-2 count, Yanagita appeared to be looking for one of Miyanishi’s bread-and-butter low-and-away sliders, but got fastballs instead. He managed to foul off two before swinging under a third.

Fighters closer Ryo Akiyoshi, who struggled in two of his last three games, worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his fifth save.

Buffaloes snap losing streak against Eagles

Orix catcher Kenya Wakatsuki hit a sixth-inning grand slam and the Buffaloes came from two runs down to beat the Rakuten Eagles 10-3 in a rain-shortened game at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi that was called in the top of the eighth.

Lefty Andrew Albers (2-2) allowed two runs on five hits while striking out one to earn the win for Orix. He gave up the game’s first run on a Jabari Blash solo homer in the second.

Adam Jones, dropped to the Buffaloes’ No. 6 slot, singled with one out in the sixth when his chopper to third evaded Daichi Suzuki’s stab. A single by rookie Ryo Ota and a walk by Ryoichi Adachi loaded them for Wakatsuki, who homered off a 1-2 changeup from Taiwan right-hander Sung Chia-hao (0-1).

Lions Marines

Corey Spangenberg had three hits and drove in three runs as the Seibu Lions came from behind to beat the Lotte Marines 8-3 at MetLife Dome in Saitama Prefecture.

Lions right-hander Tatsuya Imai (2-3) gave up three runs over five innings but was able to earn the win after Seibu took the lead in a three-run fifth against Manabu Mima (2-2).

Through four innings, the Lions could manage only one base runner against Mima, Takeya Nakamura’s fourth home run of the year in the second. But an infield single by Tomoya Mori, a single off the wall in center by Nakamura, and a walk to Takumi Kuriyama loaded the bases.

Spangenberg then smashed a first-pitch fastball from Mima past first base to tie it. A sacrifice bunt and a sac fly to deep right by Shohei Suzuki put the Lions ahead for good, and the Lions bullpen allowed just three runners to reach the rest of the way.

The Marines opened the scoring in the first when Leonys Martin’s fly fell for a double as Spangenberg in left and Suzuki couldn’t decide who would catch it. and scored on a single by rookie Hisanori Yasuda that nearly took off Imai’s head. Yudai Fujioka drove in single runs in the second with a booming double, and in the fourth with a broken-bat single to make it 3-1.

Active roster moves 7/21/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/31

Central League

Activated

BayStarsP45Michael Peoples
DragonsP14Keisuke Tanimoto
SwallowsP16Juri Hara

Dectivated

DragonsIF9Shun Ishikawa

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesOF46Ko Shimozuru
MarinesP28Takahiro Matsunaga
FightersP57Toshihiro Sugiura
BuffaloesOF25Ryo Nishimura

Dectivated

None

NPB 2020 7-14 games and news

Senga makes do with less as Buffaloes stumble

A week after SoftBank Hawks ace Kodai Senga made his belated season debut, his splitter remains a work in progress. But even without any obvious feel for it, Senga was still able to locate his high-velocity fastball, cutter and slider often enough to overcome an Orix Buffaloes team that booted its early opportunities in a 10-3 Hawks win at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Buffaloes lefty Andrew Albers was unable to locate his slider in the first and worked too carefully for his own good and was fortunate not to allow more than two runs. After walking Yuki Yanagita on four pitches to put two on with one out, Wladimir Balentien hit a good two-seam fastball on the outside edge and singled to center fielder Yuma Mune.

The Buffaloes outfielder misplayed the ball, allowing Yanagita to score and Balentien to take second. A walk and a bunt single loaded the bases but Albers struck out Nobuhiro Matsuda with a beauty of a changeup and jammed Kenji Akashi with a fastball inside to end the inning.

The Buffaloes evened it up in the bottom of the inning, thanks to four good two-out at-bats after leadoff man Kojji Oshiro led off with a walk. Singles by Adam Jones and Takahiro Okada, made it 2-1, and walks by Aderlin Rodriguez and Kenya Wakatsuki tied it. Ryoichi Adachi saw some mistakes up in the zone but was unable to do anything with them as Senga got out of the inning with the game tied.

Albers challenged Takuya Kai to open the second and the Hawks’ catcher doubled. Albers then did a poor job covering the bag on Ryoya Kurihara’s grounder to first, slowing as he neared the bag and letting the batter beat him to the base. Albers jammed Kenta Imamiya, but the ball fell in shallow center. It would have been a tough play but neither shortstop Adachi nor center fielder Mune committed to it, and that was, in short, the story of this game.

The Buffaloes looked more confident in their execution against another team that too often failed to execute routine plays, but against the Hawks, they looked just a little tight.

The Hawks batters succeeded in running up Albers’ pitch count, and it seemed that both he and Senga really only got warmed up after they hit the 50-pitch mark. He retired eight-straight hitters after Imamiya’s flare before giving up back-to-back triples in the fourth. Mune got to a ball off Imamiya’s bat and it would have been a heck of a catch, but it hit his glove and bounced away.

Yanagita then hit a ball too high off the left field wall for Okada to have a play on. By the time he got the ball back, Yanagita was on third and Albers was out of the game.

Albers (1-2) allowed four runs, three earned, on two walks and eight hits while striking out six. He doesn’t throw particularly hard, but he commanded his four-seam fastball, his two-seamer and change. The slider was effective after the first inning. It was more a case of lots of little things going wrong.

Once Albers was out of the way, the game was a piece of cake for the Hawks. Balentien singled off his replacement, Kazumasa Yoshida, and the Hawks took Orix’s bullpen to the bank.

Senga (2-0) did throw some good splitters, but more often than not, he could neither locate them or get them to tumble properly. But because Senga throws so hard and was able to locate his fastball and cutter better than he usually does, the absence of a reliable splitter was more an annoyance than a deal-breaker.

Seiji Uebayashi, who came on as a late substitute once the game was out of hand, and Kai, each belted a two-run home run for the Hawks.

Mima fans 7 as Marines beat Fighters

Manabu Mima (2-0) allowed two runs on six hits over seven innings while striking out seven, while Leonys Martin homered and had an RBI single in the Lotte Marines’ 5-2 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.

Leadoff man Takashi Ogino reached base three times, stole two bases and scored two runs, while relievers Frank Herrmann and Naoya Masuda each supplied a scoreless inning to close it out.

The Fighters’ difficulties with execution returned home with them after an ugly week in Osaka as catcher Yushi Shimizu hit his pitcher while throwing to second on one steal attempt and missed third base on another.

Lefty Naoyuki Uwasawa (0-1) gave up five runs, three earned, on six hits and two walks over five innings.

Akiyama, Kinami push Tigers past Swallows

Takumi Akiyama (1-1) allowed three runs over six innings, while Seiya Kinami drove in three runs with a sac fly and a home run as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Yakult Swallows 6-3 at Koshien Stadium.

Akiyama paid the price for a pair of one-out walks in the first as both runners came around to score on a Munetaka Murakami single and a grounder to third.

The Tigers got to 40-year-old Swallows lefty for three runs in the fourth. Yoshio Itoi doubled, Justin Bour singled with one out and Jerry Sands walked. Catcher Ryutaro Umeno doubled in two, and Kinami’s sac fly made it 3-2.

The Swallows, who are without their top two catchers, Yuhei Nakamura and Motohiro Shima, got a game-tying home run from reserve catcher Akihisa Nishida in the top of the fifth, but Itoi singled home Koji Chikamoto with the tie-breaking run in the home half.

After Sands singled to open the sixth, Kinami then homered off right-hander Tomoya Hoshi, and three Tigers relievers, Yusuke Baba, lefty Suguru Iwazaki and Robert Suarez kept Yakult off the board the rest of the way. Suarez earned his second save.

Tiger pitcher asks fans for quiet

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, teams are only allowed to admit up to 5,000 fans and those have been instructed not to shout or engage in organized cheering. One hears lots of clapping, and when Tigers batters come to the plate at Koshien Stadium, one can distinctly hear thousands of fans chanting together softly.

But Koshien being Koshien and Tigers fans being enthusiastic, the hecklers, who are normally hard to hear above the constant white noise background produced by the cheering groups, were too audible for Tigers pitcher Iwazaki’s comfort according to a Daily Sports story.

During the eighth inning, the pitcher called time and informed umpire Tomiji Iizuka, who, according to the Hochi Shimbun, asked them to be quiet by saying, “You can’t speak in a loud voice.”

Sugano, Okamoto lead Giants win over Carp

Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano (3-0) tossed five shutout innings, and Kazuma Okamoto hit his sixth home run, a three-run, third-inning shot in Yomiuri’s 7-2 win over the Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Tomoyuki Sugano

Carp right-hander Allen Kuri (1-1) escaped a one-out bases-loaded jam in the second, but issued a four-pitch leadoff walk to Sugano to open the third. A one-out walk and a Yoshihiro Maru double at his old home park put the Giants up by a run. Okamoto followed with a homer.

Gerardo Parra singled in a run for the Giants against new Carp D.J. Johnson in a two-error, three-run sixth.


Hara surpasses Nagashima’s win total

The win was the 1,035th of Giants manager Tatsunori Hara’s career. It moved him out of a tie with his mentor, Shigeo Nagashima, and into sole possession of second place in franchise history behind Tetsuharu Kawakami, who managed the “V-9” Giants — winners of nine-straight Japan Series championships from 1965 to 1973.

Hara, who barely failed to win election to the Hall of Fame for his playing career, sprinted in once voters were allowed to consider his other accomplishments during his three-year hiatus as Giants skipper from 2016 to 2018.

BayStars’ Onuki shuts down Dragons

Shinichi Onuki (1-2) allowed two runs over eight innings, while his teammates sent 10 men to the plate in a five-run fourth inning as the DeNA BayStars beat the Chunichi Dragons 5-3 at Nagoya Dome.

Onuki struck out six without a walk. He allowed an unearned run in the first, and surrendered 24-year-old Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez’s first home run for the top team. Martinez also singled in a run in the ninth to keep his average at .500.

Dragons right-hander Takumi Yamamoto (1-2) gave up five runs, three earned, over 3-2/3 innings on six hits and three walks. The Dragons had a golden opportunity to get out of the inning on a double play. Unfortunately with the in-the-neighborhood double play a thing of the past, second baseman Shun Ishikawa’s failure to touch second on the pivot allowed a run to score and the bleeding to continue.

Lots of little ups and downs

With the win, the BayStars have now become the first NPB team to have alternated wins and losses over a 15-game stretch, according to the Nikkan Sports.

Giants, Eagles swap pitchers

The Central League’s Yomiuri Giants and the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles announced a trade on Tuesday, with the Giants acquiring 28-year-old lefty Yuhei Takanashi in exchange for 22-year-old right-hander Hosei Takata.

It’s the second trade between the two clubs after the Eagles sent infielder Zelous Wheeler to Yomiuri in June for lefty Shun Ikeda.

The Daily Sports reported that Eagles general manager Kazuhisa Ishii is high on Takata’s potential, while noting Takanashi, a side-armer, will have an opportunity for more playing time with the Giants, who since their last trade have lost closer Rubby De La Rosa.

Takata led the Eastern league in wins and ERA in 2018.

Tigers’ Gunkel deactivated

The Hanshin Tigers deactivated right-hander Joe Gunkel on Tuesday after he felt lower back stiffness during pregame practice, Sponichi reported. A first-year-import, the 28-year-old Gunkel is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA after his only start for the Tigers.

Active roster moves 7/14/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/24

Central League

Activated

BayStarsIF38Kouki Yamashita
TigersP36Masumi Hamachi

Dectivated

TigersP49Joe Gunkel
DragonsIF3Shuhei Takahashi

Pacific League

Activated

MarinesP27Daiki Yamamoto
FightersP15Naoyuki Uwasawa
BuffaloesC33Masato Matsui

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Open and shut: March 6, 2020 – Edwards’ home debut in Japan

Right-hander Jon Edwards made his debut at Japan’s baseball mecca, Koshien Stadium outside Osaka on Friday. The normally loud park was subdued by the fact that Nippon Professional Baseball’s spring exhibition season is being held behind closed doors to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Pandora’s balks

Edwards issued a walk and followed with a balk, for failing to observe Japan’s dictum that pitchers pause for at least three seconds before delivering to the plate. Edwards halted for about 1.5 and nodded in agreement, so it seemed clear he’d been warned about that one.

It’s not just foreign pitchers who run afoul of the rule either. Former New York Mets pitcher Masato Yoshii said checked his delivery with the umps when he returned to play in NPB. But despite getting assurances in camp during interasquad games, he was flagged for a balk in his preseason debut.

Edwards’ game was otherwise uneventful. He located his fastball fairly well, his slider and curve not so well. After the game ended, however, he returned to the mound — almost as if he was going to take part in a post game hero interview, of which there aren’t because there are no fans.

Instead, he went out to talk to the grounds crew. At first I thought he had an issue with the mound, but it appeared he lost something on the mound and wanted help finding it.

Hit it hard and make it fly

There were no fans for the afternoon game between the hometown Tigers and Nippon Ham Fighters, but for some reason, the scoreboard operator displayed the lyrics to Jerry Sands‘ cheer song.

“Hit it hard, make it fly Jerry. Strike a powerful blow. Out to left, out to right, home run Jerry. Jerry Sands let’s go. Jerry Sands let’s go.”

Just thought you’d want to know that.

Sands popped up to second and struck out looking twice. Fellow newcomer Justin Bour walked in three plate appearances.

Nearby in Osaka

The Orix Buffaloes and Yomiuri Giants sent their Opening Day starters to the mound at Kyocera Dome in Osaka. Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano and his elaborate new take-back surrendered a solo homer to Orix’s fifth draft pick from last autumn, 22-year-old infielder Shoki Katsumata that accounted for all the scoring.

Orix starter Taisuke Yamaoka‘s pitches looked very crisp as he struck out eight over seven innings.

Adam Jones hit the ball hard a couple of times, once for a high fly to the warning track the other a single, while big swinging Giants outfielder Israel Mota struck out twice as the ump gave Sugano some good calls on the outside edge. Mota has chased a lot but at least he was trying to stay in the zone.

Hard-throwing former Mariners and White Sox reliever Thyago Vieiera threw some very straight fastballs and a slider that didn’t move a lot.


Elsewhere in games without fans

Because Rakuten plays outdoors in the northeast, the Eagles have a hard time getting clubs to play preseason games in their cold hometown, so they have to make do.

Hosting the Chunichi Dragons in Shizuoka, Takahiro Norimoto struck out four over five innings, while new Eagle Stefen Romero singled and doubled. Dayan Viciedo singled and doubled for the Dragons.

In Hiroshima, Seibu Lions Opening Day starter Zach Neal said he was trying out a few things and was satisfied after allowing two runs over 4-1/3 innings against the Carp.

New Lions import Reed Garrett faced the last five hitters in Hiroshima’s order and struck out three of them in a perfect outing.

Best 10 of the 2010s

I know one’s supposed to do these things before 2020, but Ione of the things about New Year’s Eve in Tokyo is that the trains run all night, and I was on the train, so it seemed like an optimal time. So here are my top 10 Japanese baseball stories of the past 10 years in chronological order.

2013: It’s the ball stupid

Six weeks into the 2013 season and everyone noticed it. Home runs were jumping and the players union, worrying about pitchers failing to collect on their incentives, asked what was going on. Commissioner Ryozo Kato said, “Nothing. The ball is the same uniform ball we introduced in 2011.”

His disloyal lieutenant, Atsushi Ihara, stood there and let his boss tell that knowing full well that he had conspired with the Mizuno Corporation to introduce a livelier ball without the commissioner’s consent or knowledge. Ihara, one of four people involved, came from the Yomiuri Shimbun — owner of Japan’s most influential team and the leading opponent of the commissioner — whose new ball cut home runs and who had introduced a third-party panel to adjudicate player arbitration cases.

So Ihara let his boss hang himself in public. And then later came clean that he and his immediate superior, who was not a Yomiuri guy, had switched out the balls. Ihara’s boss was fired, the commissioner was ousted and Ihara, the fox, was put in charge of the henhouse.

2013: Masahiro Tanaka, Senichi Hoshino and the Eagles

Masahiro Tanaka went 24-0 and didn’t lose all year until Game 6 of the Japan Series. After that complete game, he earned the save in Game 7 as the city of Sendai — struck by a killer earthquake and tsunami two years earlier — won its first Japan Series.

Manager Senichi Hoshino, who had lost his three previous Japan Series as manager of the Chunichi Dragons and Hanshin Tigers said when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame that he lost interest after winning the Central League pennant because his mission in life had been to beat the league-rival Giants. But in 2013, as Pacific League champions with NPB’s newest franchise, he faced the Giants and beat them in seven.

2014-2016: Tetsuto Yamada

From July 2014 through July 2016, the Yakult Swallows second baseman may have been the best player on the planet. He wasn’t a very good fielder in 2014 but took steps forward the next year when he was the CL MVP and led the consistently bad Swallows to the pennant.

His 2015 season was the 10th best in NPB history as measured by win shares and adjusted for era. His run came to a screeching halt in August 2016, when he was on his way to an even better season, but was hit in the back by a pitch that threw him off his game for nearly two seasons. Because of his stellar 2016 start, he became the first player in NPB history to record multiple seasons with a .300 average, 30 homers and 30 steals — even though he was an offensive zero the last two months of the season.

2015-2016: Giants stung by gambling scandal

Toward the end of the 2015 season, three Yomiuri Giants minor league pitchers were found guilty of betting on baseball — including games by their own team, although not in games they played in. The following March, a fourth pitcher, Kyosuke Takagi, revealed he, too, had been betting on games.

The first three players were all given indefinite suspensions and fired. In March 2016, Kyosuke Takagi also admitted to gambling. The only pitcher of the four of any quality, Takagi was let back into the game after a one-year suspension, following a recent pattern in which athletes who break the rules in Japan receive punishment inversely proportionate to how successful they are as competitors.

2016: Shohei Ohtani

If Yamada was the best for a 25-month span, 2016 cemented Ohtani’s place as the most intriguing player in the world. Ohtani had his first “Babe Ruth season” in 2014 with 10-plus wins and 10-plus home runs, but 2016, when he often batted as the pitcher in games when his manager could have used the DH was magical.

That summer, the Tokyo Sports Kisha Club, which organizes the voting for Japan’s postseason awards, made a rule change that allowed writers to cast Best Nine votes for the same player at multiple positions — provided one was a pitcher. The Ohtani rule allowed him to be win two Best Nine Awards, as the Pacific League’s best pitcher and best designated hitter.

His signature game came against the SoftBank Hawks — the team his Fighters came from behind to beat in the pennant race. Ohtani threw eight scoreless innings, opened the game with a leadoff homer and scored Nippon Ham’s other run in a 2-0 victory. Although he rolled his ankle running the bases in the Japan Series, he capped his year batting for Japan by hitting a ball into the ceiling panels at Tokyo Dome in November’s international series.

2016: Hiroshima Carp end their drought

In 2015, Hiroki Kuroda returned from the major leagues and even without Sawamura Award winner Kenta Maeda, the Carp’s young talented core snapped a 24-year drought, winning their first CL title since 1991.

The Carp went on to win three-straight CL championships, the longest streak in club history. When the club failed to win its fourth straight pennant and finished out of the postseason in 2019, manager Koichi Ogata resigned.

2019: Ichiro Suzuki retires in Japan

The only better script would have been for Suzuki to sell his soul to the Devil in exchange for another MVP and a World Series championship.

2010-2019: The CL status as a 2nd-class league is confirmed

The PL won nine Japan Series in the decade, the only time either league had ever done that. It equaled the best 10-year stretch by either league—when the Yomiuri Giants won nine straight from 1965 to 1973 bookended by PL titles.

2010-2019: The SoftBank Hawks

Never mind that the Hawks opened the decade by losing the playoffs’ final stage for the 4th time in 7 years to the third-place Lotte Marines. Softbank’s six Japan Series titles from 2011 t0 2019 under two different managers made them the team of the decade.

2019: The Giants discover the posting system

In November 2019, Shun Yamaguchi was posted by the Yomiuri Giants, who along with the Hawks have been the most critical of NPB’s posting agreement with MLB. When approached for comment about the impending news, the Giants’ official response was “that’s a rumor” and “speculation.”

Eight days later it was a done deal. Then followed the fun stuff as first one executive said it was a “one-off deal” and that the team had not changed its policy, having been obligated by contract to post Yamaguchi, which is pretty dumb, since the Giants agreed to that contract in the first place when they took him on as a free agent three years before.

The move makes it virtually impossible that the club will be able to keep ace and two-time Sawamura Award-winner Tomoyuki Sugano much longer and not post him.

The kotatsu league: Yamaguchi poised to sign with Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays hit pay dirt on with what appears to be a cost-effective two-year contract for right-hander Shun Yamaguchi. The deal, as reported by Sankei Sports Wednesday morning in Japan, will be for $6 million.

Yamaguchi, who joined the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Central League three years ago as a free agent from the DeNA BayStars, is the first player ever posted by the Giants, Japan’s oldest pro team.

My profile of Yamaguchi is HERE. He is coming off a career year in 2019 when he tied for the Central League in wins with 15 as the Giants won their first pennant since 2013.

Although pundits are saying Yamaguchi could be effective as a reliever, should know that the reason he became a starter was that he developed a case of the yips as a reliever and became ineffective. The switch back to starter allowed him to develop his other pitches — a development that was accelerated during his time with the Giants.

Part of that metamorphosis was also likely due to his needing a new challenge, something pitching in the majors will provide in any context.

According to the SanSPo story, Yamaguchi will fly directly to Canada from Hawaii, where he had been with the rest of the Giants on their customary “victory vacation.”

Yamaguchi opens posting door for Sugano

The Giants had been staunchly opposed to using the posting system since the days of powerful former owner Tsuneo Watanabe but included a provision to post Yamaguchi as part of the three-year contract that saw him move from Yokohama to Tokyo. Since then, mixed signals have been coming from Yomiuri.

The same week the team’s owner passed off Yamaguchi’s posting as a one-time thing, Team president Tsukasa Imamura admitted the team had accepted the pitcher’s desire to be posted when he joined them as a free agent, saying, “no time was fixed for posting but that it was agreed to” according to a Daily Sports story.

Imamura added that it would now be incumbent on the team to evaluate other players’ wishes to be posted and named two-time Sawamura Award-winner Tomoyuki Sugano as a player who might fit that bill, mentioning that the right-hander had already sacrificed a year of his pro career in order to join the Giants as an amateur.

My profile of Sugano is HERE.

Tigers done with Dolis, close to Edwards deal

Rafael Dolis, the closer for the CL’s Hanshin Tigers until Kyuji Fujikawa‘s ninth-inning resurrection this past summer, is apparently moving on in search of a major league contract according to this story in the Daily Sports, which said the Tigers gave up on contract talks on Tuesday.

After saving 88 games over the previous 2-1/2 seasons, Dolis lost two games in June and was removed from the ninth-inning firing line and replaced by the remarkable Kyuji Fujikawa in July.

Except for a few hiccups, the 31-year-old Dolis was essentially as effective in 2019 as he had been in his three previous seasons.

Dolis’ English language NPB player page is HERE.

Here’s an interview with Fujikawa from this summer.

In related news, the Daily Sports also reported with 31-year-old right-hander Jon Edwards. In 49 major league games as a reliever with the Rangers, Padres and Indians, Edwards is 2-0 with a 3.67 ERA over 41-2/3 innings.

The video says “1st start” but it was Edwards’ first game in relief.

He has a 3.08 ERA over 131-1/3 career Triple-A innings with 30 saves and an 11-4 record. His 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings this year with Columbus was the worst figure of his Triple-A career. Using the lively major league ball introduced this season in Triple-A, Edwards allowed seven of his 10 career home runs over 49 innings.

Tsutsugo introduced by Rays

Here’s an English language wrap of Yoshitomo Tsutsugo‘s introductory presser with the Tampa Bay Rays.

My Tsutsugo profile is HERE.

The kotatsu league: Moves aplenty

Tigers announce Bour agreement

The Hanshin Tigers announced Thursday that they have come to terms with Justin Bour. The team’s director of baseball operations, Osamu Tanimoto said, “He reminds one of (two-time triple crown batter Randy) Bass.”

@thehanshintiger might have said: “Welcome to the monkey house”

The comparison is not utterly without merit since both came to Hanshin as left-handed hitters with some pop who drew walks, but their ages and career paths prior to signing with Hanshin are so different.

Kyodo News Plus’ story is HERE.

Unlike Bass, who was at the age of 21 one of the best Triple-A hitters in America and then got better, Bour came out of college and didn’t make it to Triple-A until he was 26. The following year he had 446 plate appearances for the Marlins. Bass had 366 plate appearances over six major league seasons, most coming in his Age 27 season with the San Diego Padres in 1981.

It’s not hard to look at Bour’s major league career and see Bass doing the same or even a little better. Of course Bass came to Japan at the age of 29, while Bour is nearly two years older.

Bass’ Japanese batting stats are HERE, in Japanese unfortunately.

Although Bass took a couple of years to really master the Japanese strike zone, he had two seasons when he walked more often than he struck out — something that had been routine for him in the minors.

I’m not saying Bour has no chance to be nearly as good, but Bass — whose bid for the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame is gaining momentum in the expert’s division, is a fairly optimistic target.

Sugano wants 20 wins before moving to majors

Kyodo News reported that Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano has set a target of 20 wins for next season after a 2019 campaign that was marred by injury and ended his bid for an unprecedented third straight Sawamura Award. The Kyodo News story as published by Nikkei Shimbun is HERE.

Sugano’s player profile is HERE.

“I want to try and win 20 games,” he said after signing his 2020 contract. “I understand what I am capable of, and I think it’s important to go into the offseason having set oneself such an issue to attend to.”

On Wednesday, Giants owner Toshikazu Yamaguchi left the door open a crack for the possibility that Sugano could be posted, even while asserting that the club has not changed its official policy of rejecting the posting system altogether.

Yamaguchi said, “The case of (pitcher Shun) Yamaguchi was an individual exception…Sugano, of course, sat out a year as an amateur (to sign with the Giants) and so that is something that could be taken into consideration.”

On Thursday, Sugano said, “My desire (to go to MLB) remains unchanged. But my focus is on next year. I want to take care of that business, aim for a championship, and after that, I expect there will be various discussions.”

No such luck for Senga

Asked whether the Giants move to discuss posting had changed the landscape for his team, SoftBank Hawks owner Masayoshi Son, said in essence, “No, no, and hell no.”

“Why should we do anything that’s not in the team’s best interest.”

This does not bode well for star right-hander Kodai Senga, who will not be able to file for international free agency until Nov. 2024 at the earliest, — when two months before he turns 32. Although some said hell had frozen over when the Giants posted Yamaguchi, it seem

Hawks ditch Miranda, Suarez

The SoftBank Hawks announced Thursday they will not offer contracts to to left-hander Ariel Miranda and right-hander Robert Suarez. Suarez had been a bullpen workhorse in 2016, but has not been as effective after needing elbow surgery after the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

After eight impressive starts in 2018, Miranda was much less effective this season over 18 games.

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 Aug. 2, 2019

The top two teams in each league as of Aug. 1, met for the start of three-game series on Friday at the home park of the second-place team. With Kodai Senga pitching for the Hawks in Sapporo and Tomoyuki Sugano going for the Giants in Yokohama, it made for an entertaining start to the weekend.

Central League

BayStars 4, Giants 2

At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA’s Kentaro Taira took his 138 kph (85.7 mph) side-arm fastball, a screwball a slider and kept the ball in or below the bottom of the strike zone to outpitch Yomiuri ace Tomoyuki Sugano (8-5).

Taira said teammates Neftali Soto and Jose “El Chamo” Lopez both promised to get hits for him, and in a sixth inning set up by a series of fat pitches from Sugano, Soto tied it with a line double before Lopez had to work for a hit, going down to get a decent slider and lofting it into right center for a two-run double.

Carp 7, Tigers 0

At Mazda Stadium, Xavier Batista hit a grand slam with his 25th home run of the season, and Daichi Osera (8-6) threw a five-hitter as third-place Hiroshima beat Hanshin to move within three games of the Giants.

Dragons 5, Swallows 4

At Jingu Stadium, Yota Kyoda drove in the winning run with a squeeze as Chunichi beat Yakult’s current closer, Scott McGough (4-2) in a game that saw five home runs.

Wladimir Balentien hit his 22nd of the season for the Swallows, giving Japan’s single-season record holder 277 home runs in NPB, tying him for fifth all-time among foreign hitters alongside former Minnesota Twins farmhand Greg “Boomer” Wells.

Pacific League

Hawks 2, Fighters 0

At Sapporo Dome, Kodai Senga (10-4) walked five but allowed just two hits, while striking out eight to post his first shutout of the season as SoftBank held off Nippon Ham.

Fighters right-hander Toshihiro Sugiura, who has been bouncing back and forth between the minors and the big club, making starts every two weeks or so and looking bad doing so, had his best game of the year, striking out five over five scoreless innings.

Alfredo Despaigne broke the scoreless deadlock in the sixth off Mizuki Hori, who had been dropped out of his short starter role after surrendering 13 runs over his last two starts.

Senga improved to 7-0 in his career at Sapporo Dome.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 5, Marines 2

At Rakuten Seimei Park, 1.69-meter right-hander Manabu Mima (7-3) allowed one unearned run over six innings, and Rakuten skipper Yosuke Hiraishi got a chance to use his closer for a save in the ninth against Lotte.

A Shogo Nakamura leadoff homer in the top of the ninth made it a three-run game, and Takashi Ogino’s two-out single created a save situation. Hiraishi trotted out Japan’s save leader just to prove he could, and lefty Yuki Matsui struck out Leonys Martin on seven pitches to earn his Japan-best 29th save.

Game highlights are HERE.

Buffaloes 9, Lions 8

At Kyocera Dome, Steven Moya drove in three runs as Orix beat Seibu–the second-straight night the Lions lost by a run after scoring eight-plus.

Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji juggled his lineup, dropping No. 2 hitter Sosuke Genda to the No. 9 spot, and batting catcher Tomoya Mori third, from where he homered twice and drove in five runs.

Game highlights are HERE.

News

Former Tigers, Buffaloes infielder Kamada dies

Minoru Kamada, who played 1,482 games, mostly at second base for the Tigers and Kintetsu Buffaloes and is best known for introducing the infielder’s backward toss to Japan, has died at the age of 80.

Kamada first saw major leaguers flipping the ball to their double play partners when he visited major league spring camps in Florida with the Tigers in the early 1960s, but said it took him four years of practice to get the hang of it.

A story goes that he rarely tried it in games because he disliked the media so much and said that if he were to make one mistake doing it the Tigers beat writers would never let him forget it.

When he moved to the Buffaloes in 1967, legendary manager Osamu Mihara instructed him not to do it. One story goes that Mihara, a former infielder said it would cause problems with the team’s other infielders, who were not that skilled. In response to that, Kamada famously said, “That’s the other infielder’s problem, and has nothing to do with me.”

Tigers return all-star fire at Koshien

Koji Chikamoto had a night for the record books on Saturday. The Hanshin Tigers rookie became the second player to hit for an all-star cycle and was named the MVP of All-Star Game series Game 2, an 11-3 blowout by the Central League that ended the Pacific League’s five-game winning streak.

Chikamoto became the first rookie to lead off the first inning of an all-star game when he went deep off Orix Buffaloes pitcher Taisuke Yamaoka in the CL’s two-run first.

After Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano’s two scoreless innings, the CL hitters got to face Seibu Lions right-hander Kona Takahashi. To say they schooled him or took him to the woodshed would be an understatement. They went to the lumber yard and gave him a beating with some serious clubs.

Two Tigers catchers went deep back to back to open the inning. Fumihito Haraguchi, who homered in the ninth inning of Friday’s game as a pinch hitter led off. His catching partner Ryutaro Umeno, an early favorite for the CL’s Best Nine Award, followed. Chikamoto doubled and scored on the first of two doubles by the Chunichi Dragons’ Shuhei Takahashi.

After a Tetsuto Yamada singled, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo crushed a line drive out to left center, which takes a tremendous poke at Koshien, which boasts Japan’s deepest power alleys thanks to its original design as a multipurpose stadium.

“I felt my pitches just weren’t good enough to face the best CL hitters.” said Takahashi, who was added to his first PL all-star roster by his skipper, Hatsuhiko Tsuji of the Lions.

“I think I’ll be happy to avoid the all-star game from now on.”

After one win and one loss, Tsuji said.

Chikamoto became the first player with four extra-base hits in an all-star game and the second to have five hits, the other being Yakult’s Roberto Petagine in 2001.

The series, at Japan’s two biggest parks, set a two-tame attendance record of 90,008 spectators.

The two home run derby finalists, each homered in the game. Seiya Suzuki of the Hiroshima Carp won this year’s derby, beating Friday’s finalist Masataka Yoshida of Orix 4-3.

Suzuki beat Tomoya Mori of the Lions 4-3 in his first round and then knocked off Tsutsugo 5-4 in their semifinal. Tsutsugo advanced past Japan home run leader Hotaka Yamakawa on a tie-breaker.