Akira Niho, a 31-year-old right-hander who pitched on the periphery of the SoftBank Hawks’ starting rotation the past two seasons, moved to the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers on Friday in a deal that sent 28-year-old first baseman-outfielder Masahiro Nakatani home to Fukuoka Prefecture to play for the Pacific League powerhouse.
By NPB standards, where teams are forever reluctant to part with any player of value that might make them look bad with post-trade production for another team, this is a remarkably big trade of two players who are actually useful.
Niho has pitched twice for the Hawk’s top club this season, while Nakatani has not been away from the Tigers’ Western League team.
Niho, who’s also from Fukuoka, is 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA with 46 strikeouts, 13 walks and three home runs allowed in 63 Western League innings. Nakatani has slashed .266/.333./.409 in 225 plate appearances.
The Hawks have not been hitting and with the imminent return of Kodai Senga, who suffered an ankle injury in his season debut, Niho’s value as a replacement was probably diminished.
In his lone season as a Tigers regular, the right-handed hitting Nakatani hit 20 home runs, not an easy feat at Koshien.
Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano surrendered a first-inning run, and then bossed the Hiroshima Carp for five more innings in a 6-1 win at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium on Tuesday.
Speedy rookie Minoru Omori hustled a leadoff triple and scored on a sac fly but allowed four hits in total and a walk over six innings, hitting his spots in a virtuoso performance as he struck out nine.
“I gave up a run from the get-go, but then I think I was able to work diligently one inning at a time,” he said upon becoming the second Opening Day pitcher in NPB history to win his first 12 decisions.
Hisashi Iwakuma, now with the Giants’ farm team, started the 2004 final season of the Kintetsu Buffaloes 12-0.
No. 8 hitter Akihiro Wakabayashi took the reins of the Giants’ offense, starting Yomiuri’s two-run third with a leadoff walk against Atsushi Endo (2-4) was sacrificed to second by Sugano and scored the on a Seiya Matsubara single.
Wakabayashi tripled in a run in the fourth, and singled in a run and scored in the sixth.
Itoi, bullpen win it for Tigers
Yoshio Itoi broke a 3-3 tie with a two-run home run and the Hanshin Tigers bullpen threw three shutout innings to finish up a 7-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Koshien Stadium.
Itoi hit his fifth home run of the season with two outs in the fifth off Akiyoshi Katsuno (2-4). Tigers starter Haruto Takahashi allowed three runs, one earned, over six innings. Jon Edwards, Shintaro Fujinami and Robert Suarez each worked a scoreless inning with Fujinami earning his first career hold.
The Dragons tied it in the top of the fifth, when Zoilo Almonte reached on his second single and scored on a sacrifice fly. He made a good play in the outfield to end the sixth with a good catch in left to keep the game from getting control the damage.
BayStars club Ogawa
Yasuhiro Ogawa (9-4) returned to the site of his Aug. 15 no-hitter but blew a two-run lead as the Yakult Swallows lost 8-4 to the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.
Cleanup hitter Keita Sano put the BayStars in front with this 14th home run after Takayuki Kajitani opened with a single and Neftali Soto drew a one-out walk.
Kajitani led off the BayStars’ two-run third with another single and hit his 16th home run in the fifth with two outs to make it a 7-4 game.
A quartet of BayStars relievers then slammed the door on the last-place Swallows as Yuki Kuniyoshi, Spencer Patton, Edwin Escobar and Kenta Ishida buried the visitors’ hopes.
Yamamoto strikes out career-high 14
Yoshinobu Yamamoto maintained his dominance in home games, striking out a career-high 14 batters over eight innings for the Orix Buffaloes in their 3-0 win over the Seibu Lions at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
The 22-year-old right-hander allowed two walks and four hits. With better than usual command of his splitter and curve, he just tortured the Lions hitters.
Lions starter Kona Takahashi (5-8) pitched a solid game but Buffaloes hitters were able to get enough barrels on his pitches to rack up six hits over six innings, while he walked two and hit one.
Masataka Yoshida singled in two runs and Torai Fushimi hit a solo homer for the Buffaloes, and closer Brandon Dickson worked a perfect inning against the heart of the Lions order to close out his 11th save.
Senga deals out Eagles
Kodai Senga (7-5) allowed a run over seven innings while striking out 10 and the SoftBank Hawks chased Takahiro Norimoto (5-4) in a five-run fifth and held on to beat the Rakuten Eagles 6-2 at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Pitching for the first time since he cut his hand in his Sept. 4 start, Norimoto pitched out of a bases-loaded fourth inning jam, but did allow the Hawks to tie it. Ryoya Kurihara’s three-run homer in the fifth put the Eagles away.
Senga allowed five hits and walked three, while Norimoto allowed six hits, walked four and hit a batter while striking out six over 4-1/3 innings.
1st inning costly to Fighters
Nippon Ham Fighters right-hander Naoyuki Uwasawa (7-4) continued his impressive run this season, but only after he allowed three first-inning runs in a 4-3 loss to the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.
Uwasawa regrouped after allowing four hits and a walk in the first to go seven. Marines finesse artist Ayumu Ishikawa worked into the eighth, when he surrendered Wang Po-jung’s first homer of the season, a two-run shot.
Leonys Martin blasted another long home run, his 24th, with two outs in the ninth off Ryo Akiyoshi to score an insurance run that came in handy after Marine closer Naoya Masuda surrendered a run in the home half on three singles.
Giants sell catcher Tanaka to Eagles
The Giants said Tuesday they have assigned 28-year-old minor league catcher Takaya Tanaka to the Rakuten Eagles for cash consideration on Tuesday. Tanaka was taken in the third round of the 2014 developmental draft.
Tanaka has appeared in two first-team games. In the Eastern League, he has slashed .264/.340/.352. It is the third deal this season between the two clubs, starting with a June 29 trade that brought Zelous Wheeler to the Giants in exchange for pitcher Shun Ikeda.
Wednesday, Sept. 30 is this year’s non-waiver roster deadline.