Tag Archives: Tsuyoshi Wada

Ramping up: 8 days to go

We’re bordering on one week to go before Nippon Professional Baseball joins its Asian rivals from Taiwan and South Korea by playing regular season games.

Hawks pick six starters

The SoftBank Hawks on Thursday revealed their starting rotation when they open the season next Friday on June 19, the Hochi Shimbun reported. Ace Kodai Senga, who is rehabbing from a right-forearm injury only made his first pitching appearance of the year last Friday in a minor league practice game, and was not on the list.

Kudo had already named right-hander Nao Higashihama, former ace lefty and former Chicago Cub Tsuyoshi Wada, and veteran big leaguer Matt Moore. On Thurday he added Rick van den Hurk, Shuta Ishikawa and journeyman Akira Niho.

“The first couple of weeks, it’s not like the starters will be going deep into games,” Kudo said. “In a context like that, it’s better to have guys who can throw two or three innings.”

Open and shut: March 4, 2020 – Full house in the Casa de PayPay

Steve Martin’s career in stand up comedy picked up as I was finishing high school and starting college, and as such his humor left a mark. One routine was about Americans’ aversion to French’s large number of difficult vowel sounds. In contrast, he presented Spanish, using the sentence: “Where is Pepe’s house? or Donde esta casa de Pepe?”

Thanks to the SoftBank Hawks’ use Fukuoka Dome to advertise SoftBank group companies, it has been Yahoo! Japan Dome, Yafuoku Dome (Yahoo! Auctions Dome). From this year it has been labeled “PayPay Dome” to represent the recently launched online billing company. It’s not identical to Martin’s famous casa, but it’s close enough that I can’t get it out of my pea brain. So for the time being I can’t think of Fukuoka Dome as anything but the Casa de PayPay.

Welcome Matt!

On Wednesday, journeyman major league starting pitcher Matt Moore struck out five of the 10 batters he faced as the SoftBank Hawks showed off their pitching depth in an 8-1 preseason win over the Central League’s Yakult Swallows.

Moore’s fastball sat at 150 kph (93.2 mph) and he complimented that with his slider and a changeup and had generally good command of his pitches, making him a strong candidate for the Hawks’ starting rotation.

The game highlights are HERE.

If Moore executes his secondary pitches, he’s going to be a success in Japan. His outing came in relief of former ace lefty Tsuyoshi Wada, who other than winning the final game of last year’s Japan Series, has not been that fit over the last three seasons.

Wada gave up a solo homer on a mistake but struck out five over four innings. Rick van den Hurk, who appeared in just three games last season, was sharp on Tuesday. That means that while the Hawks appear capable of overcoming season-opening injury to 2019 rookie of the year Rei Takahashi, they are going to have tough decisions to make regarding their import players.

Teams are allowed four active foreign-registered players. New acquisition Wladimir Balentien does not count against the limit by virtue of nine years of service time, but that still leaves the Hawks with van den Hurk, Moore, lefty reliever Livan Moinelo, infielder-outfielder Yurisbel Gracial and designated hitter Alfredo Despaigne. Further complicating things is the return of closer Dennis Sarfate, who has missed most of the last two seasons.

Japan Series 2019 Game 4

Sweep city

It took 60 years, but the 2019 SoftBank Hawks became the second team in franchise history to beat the Yomiuri Giants in the Japan Series, replicating the 1959 Nankai Hawks’ four-game sweep with a 4-3 win Game 4 win at Tokyo Dome. SoftBank has now won five of the last six Japan Series — a feat last achieved by the Seibu Lions’ run of six series titles in seven seasons from 1986 to 1992

Cuba’s Yurisbel Gracial was named the series MVP after his third home run over four games, a three-run blast, proved to be the big blow of Wednesday’s final game.

Aces present and past

As advertised, Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano started for Yomiuri after the end of his season was marred by lower back pain. Unlike the pitcher who struggled in September, however, Sugano’s location and command were spot-on. With umpire Takanori Yamamoto’s strike zone giving the pitchers a strike zone that would accommodate a motor scooter, Sugano located his fastball just off the plate for one called strike after another.

His 38-year-old opponent, Tsuyoshi Wada, had also struggled with nagging injuries this season and pitched in just a handful of games. Wada, SoftBank’s ace until he joined the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent in 2012, lost some velocity after Tommy John surgery and has become the ultimate locating finesse pitcher. With physical issues in the second half, his location and command suffered, but like Sugano, he was nearly as good as he’s been in years.

Nearly every Giants batter came to the plate with a strike against him, as Wada started most of them with a first-pitch slider for a strike at the lower limit of the zone. Working over left-handed hitters with his slider and fastball, and doing the same to right-handers with the help of his changeup, Wada was really the last pitcher the struggling Giants hitters needed to see.

The Giants needed six hits to avoid breaking the 2005 Hanshin Tigers’ record for fewest hits (22) in a Japan Series, and they managed just one off Wada over five innings.

Gracial goes first

Gracial’s first two series homers, a two-run shot in Game 1 and a solo Game 3 blast, followed on the heels of Giants home runs. But this time he didn’t wait. With the game scoreless through three, Sugano ran into trouble. A lucky bounce turned Kenta Imamiya’s bouncer to third into a leadoff single.

With one out and Imamiya on second after a steal, Sugano’s first-pitch fastball to Alfredo Despaigne was high enough for him to smash into left and bring Gracial up with a chance to do some damage.

Sugano got ahead of the count and tried to lure Gracial farther out of the strike zone, but Gracial fouled off the closer pitches and laid off the others. A 3-2 slider meant for the outside corner got too much of the zone. It had enough movement to just miss the sweet spot, but Gracial got enough of the ball to send it six rows past the center field wall.

Okamoto makes a game of it

Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo pulled Wada after five, and the switch to hard-throwing right-hander Robert Suarez looked like it would be a nasty change for the Giants. But Suarez issued a one-out walk and missed up with a 157-kilometer-per-hour fastball away that Kazuma Okamoto drilled the other way into the stands in right center.

The teams traded runs in the seventh, the Giants giving away one with the help of a pair of errors. Yasuhiro Yamamoto, in at second as a defensive replacement made a wild throw with his first touch, replicating his snake-bit start in Game 2 when his first touch of the game as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning opened the door to a three-run inning.

Charity begins at home plate

With the Giants facing elimination, home plate umpire Yamamoto gave them a little help with a smaller strike zone than the one he’d had for most of the game. It allowed Hayato Sakamoto to avoid ending the game on a called third strike, against closer Yuito Mori. But the Giants captain failed to take advantage, swinging his way out of the at-bat flailing at a pitch well out of the zone.

Series notes

  • The Giants managed 22 hits, tying the Tigers record for fewest hits, although the Tigers batted in just 34 innings in 2005, their 10-1 Game 1 loss being called on account of fog in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Giants’ .176 team batting average is also a record low, while their 35 strikeouts are a record for four games.
  • The series set a four-game attendance record of 163,365. Unlike team attendance records, which some teams greatly inflated prior to 2005, NPB counts Japan Series and All-Star attendance.
  • The Giants became the second team to commit four errors in a four-game series and became the first team to only turn one double play.
  • The Giants extended their team record for years without a Japan Series title to seven.
  • The Hawks became the fourth non-league champion to win the Japan Series, having accomplished the feat the past two seasons. The other two teams were the 2007 Chunichi Dragons and the 2010 Lotte Orions. The Hawks, however, won the regular-season championship in 2004 and 2005 to the eventual series champs, the Seibu Lions and Marines, but from 2004 to 2006, the PL pennant was decided in the playoffs. That changed in 2007, when the CL came on board and insisted the regular-season champion be awarded the league title.

NPB games, news of Aug. 12, 2019

SoftBank Hawks southpaw Tsuyoshi Wada returned to action and the day brightened.

The 38-year-old lefty has no secrets. He’s going to throw his good changeup and his 88.2 mile-per-hour fastball a lot, and mix in a slider that is nothing really special but looks like the other two pitches coming out of his hand. He’s going to stay around the zone and more or less throw all his pitches where he wants them.

Having left his last two starts with discomfort in his right hamstring, Wada had not pitched since July 20. He was worth waiting for.

Pacific League

Hawks 6, Buffaloes 3

At Yafuoku Dome, Tsuyoshi Wada (2-1) announced his return to duty by striking out the side in the first inning, while Alfredo Despaigne homered twice to lift SoftBank past Nippon Ham and to a series sweep despite a slick performance from veteran right-hander Chihiro Kaneko.

“The way I left the mound in my last outing here — and the one before that — was pretty lame,” Wada said. “It took me about 22 days to be able to pitch again, but I’m pretty happy to be back.”

“I had the sense that everyone was concerned about the fitness of my leg, so I thought the best thing I could do was show people I was 100 percent. To do that, I wanted to come out pitching as well as I could, and that turned out OK.”

Game highlights are HERE.

Wada struck out leadoff man Haruki Nishikawa looking on three fastballs. A called first-strike slider started Taishi Ota, who missed badly on a 1-1 change and a 1-2 fastball. Compared to them, Kensuke Ota’s five-pitch at-bat was a prolonged siege. The Fighters’ leading hitter, too, went down flailing at a pitch out of the zone.

Yoshikawa (0-3) made his third “short starter” appearance since he returned to the Fighters in a trade from the Yomiuri Giants. His last one, on July 30 was moderately successful, two runs over four innings as the Fighters were shut out 2-0 by Eagles rookie Hayato Yuge. But overall, the lefty has now allowed eight earned runs in 8-1/3 innings.

My other favorite Hawk, grinding utility infielder Keizo Kawashima, returned to the lineup for the first time since June 1, and singled to open the game. After a sacrifice, Seiichi Uchikawa drove him home and then scored when Despaigne got under a fastball away that carried farther than he expected and landed on the other side of Yafuoku Dome’s inner fence near the right field foul pole.

After that, it was a case of Wada fooling batters and getting away with his mistakes. He missed with two fastballs to cleanup hitter Sho Nakata, who got under both of them for high fly outs. Wada had to pitch out of a two-out, two-on jam in the fourth, and another one in the fifth — when he surrendered a leadoff homer to Toshitake Yokoo.

“I used up a lot of my strength in the first inning, and as a result, I was missing with pitches in the second and third inning,” Wada said. “But somehow with the help of Takuya (catcher Takuya Kai), we got through it.”

“The team handed me the start having won Saturday and Sunday, and I didn’t want to be the one to drop the ball.”

Kaneko allowed three runners to reach in his five-inning stint, and two were erased on double plays. He left trailing by two runs because rookie Hiroshi Kaino came on in the top of the sixth. After two singles to open the inning, leadoff batter, Nishikawa (.378 on-base percentage) tried to bunt his way on for the first time this season and succeeded in sacrificing the runners into scoring position.

Rookie reliever Hiroshi Kaino, however, struck out two of the Fighters’ best, Ota and Kondo, on two-strike splitters to end the inning.

“He (Ota) a good batter, so I knew I had to be careful with him,” Kaino said. “Kondo, too, is a great hitter as well, so I had to trust in the pitches that my catcher called for and execute.”

Despaigne homered again in the bottom of the eighth to make it a 6-1 game, and the Fighters rallied for two in the ninth against Ren Kajiya. Closer Yuito Mori hit a batter to load the bases with two outs before recording his 24th save.

Lions 9, Marines 2

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Zach Neal (6-1) allowed one run — on Leonys Martin’s sixth home run — over 6-2/3 innings as Seibu handed Lotte its fourth-straight loss.

Mike Bolsinger (3-4) surrendered three runs, one earned, over five innings in which he walked five. But the Lions broke the game open in the seventh in a four-run seventh against the Marines bullpen.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 3, Buffaloes 2, 10 innings

At Rakuten Seimei Park, 22-year-old rookie Yoshiaki Watanabe doubled in the winning run from first base with two outs in the 10th innings of Rakuten’s win over Orix.

Frank Herrmann (5-3), who worked a 1-2-3 10th inning for the Eagles earned the win, while Buffaloes closer Brandon Dickson (2-1), who walked last year’s PL rookie of the year Kazuki Tanaka with two outs, took the loss.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Swallows 4, BayStars 3

At Jingu Stadium, ninth-inning home runs by Wladimir Balentien and Munetaka Murakami off DeNA closer Yasuaki Yamasaki (3-2) lifted Yakult to a walk-off win after Swallows closer Scott McGough (5-3) surrendered two runs in the top of the inning and was poised to take the loss.

Murakami’s 25th home run ranks him fourth in a season by players under 20-years-old and at 19 years, 6 months, the youngest player to hit a sayonara home run in NPB. Seibu’s Kazuhiro Kiyohara hit 31 as an 18-year-old in 1986 and 29 the following year, while Nishitetsu Lions Hall of Fame shortstop Yasumitsu Toyoda hit 27 in 1953 as an 18-year-old.

Dragons 5, Tigers 1

At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi’s second-round draft pick last autumn, Kodai Umetsu (1-0) won his pro debut, allowing a run over six innings and striking out seven to beat former Dragon Onelki Garcia (2-6) in a win over Hanshin.

Former Dragon Kosuke Fukudome opened the scoring in the first with an RBI double. Garcia struck out 10 over seven innings, but the Dragons had four hits in a two-run first, and Noamichi Donoue hit a two-run homer in the fourth.

Umetsu, who hit 151 kph with his fastball, was a teammate at Toyo University with Hawks rookie flame thrower Hiroshi Kaino and BayStars top draft pick Taiga Kamichatani.

Game highlights are HERE.

Giants 8, Carp 7

At Mazda Stadium, Alex Guerrero made Hiroshima pay for hitting him with a pitch in a four-run first inning by belting a two-run home run in the third as Yomiuri held on to beat Hiroshima in a 4-hour, 17-minute marathon.

The Carp, however, did not go quietly into that good night as the top of the order, leadoff man Ryoma Nishikawa and No. 2 hitter Ryosuke Kikuchi combined to reach base eight times, score five runs and drove in four.

Game highlights are HERE.

News

1,000 whiffs of Yamaguchi

Yomiuri Giants starting pitcher Shun Yamguchi, who spent the first half of his career as a closer for the BayStars, became the 150th pitcher in Japanese pro ball to reach 1,000 career strikeouts on Monday, when he caught Hiroshima’s Seiya Suzuki looking in the third inning at Mazda Stadium.

His first strikeout victim was South Korean slugging star Lee Seung Yeop, on June 29, 2006, who was in his first season that year with the Giants.

Rookie Yoshida set for 3rd start

Fighters rookie pitcher Kosei Yoshida, Nippon Ham’s top draft pick last autumn, has been penciled in to start against the Lotte Marines on Wednesday, when Nippon Ham stages a home game at Tokyo Dome.

Yoshida, who famously threw 1,571 pitches last summer (636 in the Akita Prefecture championship and another 881 in the national summer finals at Koshien). It will be his first start against Pacific League opposition, having started on June 12 against the Hiroshima Carp and again on June 23 against the Chunichi Dragons.

Scoring 1 run for your starter

One thing I love about Orix Buffaloes manager Norifumi Nishimura is his willingness to speak his mind. Of course, as one of Japan’s principle advocates of the sacrifice bunt, that means ascribing all kinds of benefits to the tactic.

Nishimura attributed Orix’s 9-2 loss to the SoftBank Hawks on Sunday to:

  • His starting pitcher repeatedly throwing pitches that were easy to hit
  • His No. 2 hitter failing to sacrifice after his leadoff man reached in the 1st inning.

Mind you, his starting pitcher, rookie Daichi Takeyasu had been fairly sharp in his four previous starts. But still, Nishimura is asserting that getting the runner to scoring position with one out could have prevented the ass-whipping that was to follow.

Is it reasonable to assume that a visiting pitcher would do better if he entered the bottom of the first with the one-run lead Nishimura lives to play for?

Here’s a quick study from the available data including recent starting pitchers, and how they performed on the road in those games when they went to the mound in the first inning of games that were either scoreless or 1-0. Included only those in which I have a record of them with a minimum of 50 innings as a starter in games that were 1-0 after the top of the first.

NameIP 1-0 startsERA 1-0 startsERA 0-0 startsWin Pct 0-0 startsWin Pct 1-0 startsERA Diff .
Randy Messenger664.093.200.5000.3750.89
Kenshin Kawakami54 1/34.143.700.5600.7500.44
Takayuki Kishi107 1/32.932.540.5830.6150.39
Kazuhisa Ishii93 2/34.043.660.3670.4440.38
Hideaki Wakui142 1/34.053.770.4950.4740.28
Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi89 1/34.844.570.4040.3330.27
Atsushi Nomi1504.143.870.4780.4500.27
Tetsuya Utsumi151 1/33.513.540.4420.450-0.03
Kan Otake124 2/33.543.610.3860.625-0.07
Koji Uehara122 2/33.083.190.5160.600-0.11
Masanori Ishikawa152 2/33.483.680.3880.619-0.20
Shunsuke Watanabe99 2/33.794.040.4260.500-0.25
Kenichi Nakata104 2/33.614.030.3730.692-0.42
Yoshihisa Naruse118 1/33.423.910.3750.571-0.49
Toshiya Sugiuchi196 2/32.613.200.4940.684-0.59
Kenta Maeda1452.112.710.4460.688-0.60
Hisashi Iwakuma742.433.070.5920.625-0.64
Fumiya Nishiguchi1053.604.300.4260.769-0.70
Daisuke Miura1842.843.540.3410.647-0.70
Masahiro Yamamoto1243.824.670.4070.667-0.85
Hiroki Kuroda1202.333.330.4760.786-1.00
Yasutomo Kubo952.564.130.4510.857-1.57
Tsuyoshi Wada188 1/31.963.680.5140.941-1.72
Naoyuki Shimizu86 2/33.225.110.4030.818-1.89
Pitchers performances in starts as visitors in games started with 1-0 lead or 0-0 lead.

It seems from this data that it might be a good idea to get your pitcher a 1-0 lead in the first inning if you can. Having said that, I think I can see why Randy Messenger‘s teammates have infamously scored so few runs for him: He has done better when they don’t.

So Nishimura’s assertion that one run could have changed everything is probably not as ridiculous as it first sounds. And if your starting pitcher was Tsuyoshi Wada — at least back in the day before he had Tommy John surgery, why the heck wouldn’t you sacrifice in the top of the first if you had a chance?

NPB games, news of July 20, 2019

The Fighters won their second straight game with a limited-use starting pitcher, a guy who is not intended to pitch to more than 18 opposing batters. I haven’t heard a lot of flack about it like I’ve heard about DeNA manager Alex Ramirez’s batting orders, but that might be because I’m not listening hard enough.

The split personality of Hideki Kuriyama

I’m thinking about how I might conduct a study about the efficiency of Fighters skipper Hideki Kuriyama’s method, but that might take a while. In the meantime it’s worth noting that Kuriyama, who loves to stand back and sort of encourage people to consider him the smartest person in the room without saying it, is kind of bipolar.

When Shohei Ohtani was at his peak in 2016, Kuriyama took credit for keeping Ohtani’s workload down and being strict about letting him play hurt, since Ohtani would try to bluff his way into playing when he was dealing with physical issues.

Kuriyama told a Tokyo press conference, “You have to be strict with players because they’ll try to play when they’re hurt. You have to step in.”

But the same manager who was so fastidious about protecting his players let Yang Dai-kang play with broken ribs in the heat of a pennant race without a day off for roughly a month.

In that case, it was a matter of “don’t ask don’t tell,” in which Kuriyama, the team’s trainer, and Yang were all to blame, because nobody was willing to be the adult in the room and say he shouldn’t play.

The trainer said, “Yang said he could play.” The manager repeated that when asked. The Fighters’ reporters were discouraged from following up a story from Taiwan that reported Yang was being compelled to play when hurt.

Having been asked about the situation by Yang’s agent at the start of September, I recommended Kyodo News’ beat writer ask the trainer, the player and the manager what was going on. That day, Yang got his first day off in nearly a month and played sparingly for a few days of rest.

Kuriyama is an early adapter in some areas, but at the same time, he’s pushing some seemingly very dumb ideas — like using closer Ryo Akiyoshi to pitch with a four-run lead on Saturday.

To be fair, Akiyoshi had the day off on Friday, but Akiyoshi has now appeared in 32 games for the Fighters and more than a quarter of those have been three-run save situations or games in which the Fighters have led by more than three runs.

Pacific League

Fighters 4, Marines 0

At Sapporo Dome, Hiroshi Urano (3-1) sparkled so well, striking out seven batters, in his 18-batter starting role that he ended up facing 20 over six innings. It was the first time a Fighters starter other than Kohei Arihara has gone six innings since June 18, when the Fighters’ other long starter, Naoyuki Uwasawa had a kneecap fractured by a line drive.

Chihaya Sasaki (1-1) pitched OK for the Marines, but the game unraveled in a four-run fourth.

The game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 1, Hawks 0

At Rakuten Seimei Park, an unearned run in the eighth inning made the difference in a pitchers’ duel with nine different hurlers on the mound. Rakuten’s Yoshinao Kamata and SoftBank’s Tsuyoshi Wada each struck out six without getting out of the fifth inning.

The Hawks, who led the Fighters by seven games after the all-star break, now lead by two, having lost six straight games.

A night after Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo response to his team’s not hitting was to sarcastically say the coaches needed to a better job, he simply said, “It isn’t for a lack of scoring opportunities. The hope that the batters will get motivated is now sustaining me, and I’m waiting for it to happen.”

The game highlights are HERE.

Buffaloes 3, Lions 1

At MetLife Dome, 24-year-old rookie right-hander Daichi Takeyasu (2-0), the Hanshin Tigers’ third pick in the 2015 draft, allowed a run over seven innings. Takeyasu was acquired over the winter by Orix as part of the compensation package for starting pitcher Yuki Nishi’s defection to Hanshin as a free agent.

Shinsaburo Tawata (1-4), fit to pitch for the first time since May 25, allowed just three runs over six innings in which he allowed nine hits, a walk and a hit batsman, while striking out four.

Masataka Yoshida’s 16th home run broke a sixth-inning tie for the Buffaloes, and Brandon Dickson, who blew the save on Friday night bounced back with a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his eighth save since being pressed into the closer’s role on June 19.

The game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Carp 4, Giants 2

At Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima’s Xavier Batista turned the game around with a pair of two-run home runs. He tied it in the sixth and put his team in front in the eighth against new Giant Rubby De La Rosa, handing Yomiuri its third-straight loss.

BayStars 4, Dragons 3

At Yokohama Stadium, lefty Kenta Ishida (1-0) struck out eight over five innings, while allowing a hit and a walk in his first start of the season as DeNA beat Daisuke Yamai (3-4) for the first time in three seasons.

The maligned top of the BayStars batting order did almost all the damage in a four-run third. With two outs and a runner on, leadoff hitter Yamato Maeda singled, Japan cleanup hitter Yoshitomo “doesn’t belong in the No. 2 spot because he’s a power hitter in the DH-less CL” Tsutsugo walked.
Neftali Soto doubled in two runs to make it 2-0, and Jose Lopez singled in two more.

Tigers 4, Swallows 3

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin starter Haruto Takahashi struck out 10 over seven innings, and Yakult wasted a chance to score more than the tying run off Rafael Dolis (4-3) and paid the price in the bottom of the ninth, when Hanshin rallied to win it against David Huff (1-2).

The Tigers scored twice in the eighth to take the lead, and pinch hitter Fumiya Hojo keyed a ninth-inning rally with a leadoff double in the ninth.

News

Hamstring KOs former Cub Wada

Tsuyoshi Wada limped off in the fifth inning of Saturday’s start against the Rakuten Eagles after feeling discomfort in his right hamstring.

It was the second-straight game the 38-year-old had made an early exit due to lower-body issues. This one, he said, was caused by poor traction on the mound in a game that was delayed by rain in Sendai.

“There was a lot of dirt sticking to the bottom of my spikes,” he said. “It’s my mistake for not taking it off. The trouble is just like what hindered me last time. I owe everyone an apology.”

Wada needed a little bit of luck in the game, missing with a fastball down the pipe with two on and one out in the second that Zelous Wheeler lined to the left fielder for an out. The lefty was not as sharp as he’s been for most of the season, but was still entertaining in his ability to lure batters out of their approaches and get them to swing at his pitches.

NPB games, news of June 23, 2019

If I could have put a bet down on Sunday’s game between the SoftBank Hawks and Yomiuri Giants, I would happily have plunked down 1,000 yen to have Tomoyuki Sugano the winner of the last two Sawamura Awards, beat 38-year-old Tsuyoshi Wada.

But baseball is unpredictable. Wada, who’s had fitness issues the past year and a half, and who hasn’t had any velocity to speak of since he started his big league career in 2012 with Tommy John surgery, got a big early lead and cruised.

Interleague

Hawks 5, Giants 1

At Tokyo Dome, Tsuyoshi Wada (2-1) showed batters his slider, missed bats with a nasty changeup that caused hitters to miss-hit his fastball over five artful innings.

The lefty allowed a run on three hits and two walks, while striking out six in an 81-pitch effort, and Shuhei Fukuda hit two more Giant-killing jacks to lift the Hawks to their eighth interleague championship.

Fukuda hit his second tie-breaking homer of the series, leading off the first by drilling a center cut fastball out to right center. Giants starter Tomoyuki Sugano was yanked after allowing four runs in the first and walking Wada to lead off the second. It was the shortest outing of the 29-year-old’s career.

After two walks, a pair of choppers deep in the hole to short were scored infield singles. Shortstop Hayato Sakamoto’s errant flip to third on the second one plated an extra run making it 3-0. Hawks catcher Takuya Kai, whose bases-loaded, two-out bunt single on Friday turned the table for the Hawks ahead of Fukuda’s grand slam, took the Giants by surprise yet again with another safety squeeze to make it 4-0.

Wada did a number on Sakamoto, the Giants’ most productive hitter this season, striking him out on a combination of low fastballs and changeups, but he also got away with high straight fastballs that were miss-hit. Wada started Giants cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto off with a mistake in the fourth and the youngster hit it off the hitter’s background in center.

Wada now 1 shy of interleague win record

Wada’s first win since September 2017 was his 25th regular season win against CL teams, one shy of the interleague record held by his former Hawks teammate Toshiya Sugiuchi.

Wada entered the day tied for second with Masanori Ishikawa of the Swallows and Hideaki Wakui of the Marines with 24.

“(Next season) there will be a chance for Nos. 26 and 27,” Wada said. “I’m an athlete so I aspire to go higher.”

Wada said that more than being overjoyed with securing the Hawks’ interleague title, he felt remorse for having been on the sidelines for so long.

“My strongest emotion runs toward feeling apologetic for having taken this long to get back,” he said. “I’m really just happy the team could win.”

BayStars 3, Eagles 0

At Yokohama Stadium, Taiga Kamichatani (4-3) did it all against Rakuten. The DeNA rookie threw six scoreless innings, and drove in two runs off tough right-hander Takayuki Kishi (2-2).

Swallows 6, Marines 2

At Jingu Stadium, Lotte’s pitchers issued 11 walks, the most in Japan this season and the most by the Marines since 2013, while Yakult rookie Keiji Takahashi (1-3) allowed two runs over six innings to earn the win.

Mike Bolsinger got no decision for the Marines after allowing two runs over five innings, one run coming on Wladimir Balentien’s 15th home run, a first-inning solo shot.

Dragons 8, Fighters 4

At Nagoya Dome, after relying heavily on his fastball in his pro debut, Nippon Ham rookie Kosei Yoshida was ambushed by Chunichi hitters sitting fastball in a three-run first inning as his record fell to 1-1.

The 18-year-old, who threw 881 pitches over the course of last year’s national summer high school finals, allowed five runs over three innings.

“That really is an excellent fastball. We were lucky to score three runs off him in the first inning,” Dragons skipper Tsuyoshi Yoda said of an inning in which his guys were “lucky” to really drive the ball as well as they did.

Even the Dragons’ outs were loud as their third run scored on a sacrifice fly that required an excellent catch on a drive to the warning track.

Dragons lefty Enny Romero (5-5) gave up three runs over six innings, while striking out seven.

Buffaloes 9, Carp 1, 10 innings

At Mazda Stadium, Orix broke up a scoreless game in a nine-run 10th inning that saw five triples, two doubles and three walks to complete a three-game sweep of three-time defending Central League champion Hiroshima.

Brandon Dickson (1-0), currently serving as Orix’s closer while Hirotoshi Masui discovers his form on the farm team, pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the win.

The Buffaloes’ four triples in an inning tied their franchise and NPB record set by the Hankyu Braves in their Aug. 16, 1947, game against the Yomiuri Giants.

Lions 7, Tigers 3

At Koshien Stadium, Wataru Matsumoto (3-1), Seibu’s top draft pick last autumn, allowed a run over five innings, while his teammates roughed up lefty Onelki Garcia (2-3) for seven runs over 5-1/3 innings.