Tag Archives: Tyler Austin

NPB 2020 8-5 Games and news

Wakui dominates Hawks in 1-hitter

Hideaki Wakui continued to look like the best pitcher in either league this year in an impressive one-hit eight-strikeout 6-0 win over the Rakuten Eagles over the SoftBank Hawks on Wednesday.

Wakui (6-0) retired the Hawks in order in the first but labored through it. Although the visitors were unable to hit his rising fastball, Kenta Imamiya and Yuki Yanagita fouled off a total of 10 of them before they went down swinging at his slider. Although Wakui walked two batters and allowed a ninth-inning single, that first inning represented the Hawks’ best effort against him.

Tsuyoshi Wada (3-1) gave up a couple of quick no-out singles and caught a break when Hideto Asamura lined a pitch away off the end of the bat that was caught on a leap by first baseman Kenji Akashi for an out instead of going for a single.

Wakui tightened up his command from the second to keep his pitch count under control, while Wada issued leadoff walks in the third and fourth. The lefty, however, could not work around a one-out double in the fifth by Kazuki Tanaka.

Wada got ahead of Tanaka 0-2 but the PL’s 2018 rookie of the year pulled a straight fastball in the heart of the zone down the line in left. After a wild pitch put Tanaka on third, rookie Hiroto Kobukata put a good swing on a 3-1 slider that got too much of the plate and lined it into center for an RBI single.

Daichi Suzuki did a good job to get the bat head on a pitch low and away with Kobukata on the go and hit a little fly into left to put runners on the corners. Wada left a pitch up in the zone tailor-made for a sacrifice fly, and Jabari Blash did his duty with a fly to deep center. Back-to-back singles by Hideto Asamura and Hiroaki Shimauchi made it 3-0.

Wada allowed three runs on seven hits and three walks over five innings. He struck out one.

The Eagles added two more runs in the sixth off right-hander Arata Shiino and an unearned run in the eighth. Tanaka walked twice, doubled twice and scored three of the Eagles’ six runs.

Wakui did not allow a base runner until a one-out walk to catcher Hiroaki Takaya in the sixth. He retired the next seven hitters, but with two outs in the eighth, he seemed to lose his rhythm. Retiring Wladimir Balentien on one pitch when his check swing produced and easy grounder to first, seemed to surprise the right-hander. He walked the next batter before notching his first strikeout since the second.

Wakui, who appears to have practiced jokes for use in postgame hero interviews, said it wasn’t the pressure that threw him off but player coach Naoto Watanabe.

“Nobody would look me in the eye, so I guess they were all conscious of it (the no-hit bid), then after the seventh inning, I made contact with Naoto, and he started grinning at me. I started laughing and I think that threw off my concentration a bit,” Wakui said.

Whatever it was, Wakui showed no signs of it in the ninth. Athough a few of his fastballs lacked their earlier pop, the only hit the Hawks managed was Keizo Kawashima’s broken-bat one-out looper between second and short. After a meeting on the mound, Wakui struck out the last two batters, Imamiya and Yanagita to end it.

Spangenberg, Yamakawa power Lions

Cory Spangenberg and Hotaka Yamakawa each hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning as the Seibu Lions came from behind to beat Nick Martinez (1-4) on his 30th birthday and the Nippon Ham Fighters 7-2 at Sapporo Dome.

A day after he drove in six runs, Taishi Ota got the Fighters started in the second against 21-year-old Lions right-hander Sho Ito. Ota singled, took second on a wild pitch and scored on a Toshitake Yokoo single.

After managing just two hits against Martinez through five innings, the Lions took the lead with one down in the sixth. Sosuke Genda singled off a hanging knuckle curve, and Spangenberg punished a poor cutter that came in high and over the plate for his sixth homer of the season. Yamakawa followed a Tomoya Mori single with his 13th home run.

Shuta Tonosaki completed the scoring in the inning when he reached on an error, stole second and scored from third on a Fumikazu Kimura single.

Martinez allowed five runs, four earned, on six hits over 5-1/3 innings.

Ito allowed a run on one walk and five hits while striking out four.

Katsunori Hirai (4-2) earned the win in by striking out cleanup hitter Sho Nakata to end the Fighters fifth and strand two runners. Kaima Taira worked 1-2/3 innings but allowed an inherited runner to score although all five outs he recorded were on strikeouts. Reed Garrett and Tatsushi Masuda finished up with one scoreless frame each.

Marines take no prisoners in Osaka

A two-out Hisanori Yasuda double opened the scoring in the fourth and the Lotte Marines didn’t let up in a 12-1 butt-kicking of the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

The Marines opened the scoring when Shogo Nakamura singled, Leonys Martin walked and both came home on Yasuda’s no-out double to the gap in right. Although he’s not among the league leaders in hard-hit ball percentage on Delta Graphs, it seems like every ball he hits is HARD. With one out, Tsuyoshi Sugano took Yu Suzuki out for his second home run of the year and a 4-0 Lotte lead.

Suzuki (1-3) allowed eight runs over 4-2/3 runs. Marines starter Kazuya Ojima (3-3) gave up a run over six innings.

Togo beats Fujinami, defenseless Tigers

Shosei Togo (4-2) struck out 10 as he allowed a run over seven-plus innings to earn the win as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Hanshin Tigers 4-1 at Koshien Stadium.

Tigers right-hander Shintaro Fujinami (0-3) was overpowering when he could put his fastball and cutter in the zone and get hitters to chase his splitter out of the zone, but he missed often enough to allow four runs, one earned, on four hits and a walk over eight innings

Akihiro Wakabayashi made a good catch in right to end the Tigers’ second, and then singled in the game’s first run in the third against Shintaro Fujinami. Naoki Yoshikawa drew a leadoff walk and went to second on pitcher Shosei Togo’s one-out sacrifice and scored easily on Wakabayashi’s single.

The Giants padded their lead in a three-run sixth when Togo reached because Fujinami misjudged his chopper in front of the mound for an error. With one out, he made a mistake to Hayato Sakamoto, who ripped it to right for a single. A miss-hit high fastball was good for the second out, but cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto did well to launch a fastball away to the right field corner for an RBI double that came close to being caught.

Left fielder Jerry Sands then misjudged a fly to shallow left from Takumi Oshiro that fell for an RBI single and a four-run lead.

The Tigers had a chance to come back in the eighth after back-to-back singles drove Togo from the game, but Yusuke Oyama missed a fat pitch with two outs and the bases loaded to end the inning.

Hamaguchi, Sano skewer Dragons

Haruhiro Hamaguchi allowed a run over five innings and Keita Sano drove in three runs in the DeNA BayStars’ 8-2 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Yokohama Stadium.

Hamaguchi got out of a bases-loaded pickle in a scoreless first inning with the first of his eight strikeouts as Yota Kyoda couldn’t hold up on a ball in the dirt. The BayStars then opened the scoring against Yuya Yanagi, pitching on the first team for the first time in a month after suffering an oblique muscle injury.

Jose Lopez singled off the wall in left with one out and the bases loaded to score Kazuki Kamizato and Neftali Soto, who had doubled on a ball that right fielder Masataka Iryo misjudged.

The visitors got on the board in the third through Iryo’s leadoff infield single and a Yohei Oshima double but the hosts were unstoppable.

Kyoda opened the door for the BayStars to score again in the bottom of the third, when he dropped a fly at shortstop to allow the leadoff man on. After a groundout, Kamizato scored from second on a Keita Sano single.

Nomura, Carp bullpen hold off Swallows

Yusuke Nomura (2-0) allowed a run over seven innings and Shota Dobayashi scored twice in the Hiroshima Carp’s 4-1 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Rookie right-hander Hiroki Onishi (0-1), Yakult’s fourth-round pick last autumn, gave up three first-inning singles, with Ryuhei Matsuyama bringing home Dobayashi to make it 1-0 Carp, who left the bases loaded.

Takeshi Miyamoto, a reserve infielder playing while superstar Tetsuto Yamada regains fitness, homered to tie it off Nomura in the second.

Onishi pitched out of a tough spot in the third and struck out the side in the fourth, but a hard-hit infield single and a Hisayoshi Chono double put the Carp in front in the fifth. The Carp added two runs off the bullpen from Dobayashi’s eighth home run and Tsubasa Aizawa’s third.

Yakult loaded the bases in the in the eighth, but lefty Atsuya Horie pitched left the bags juiced, and Geronimo Franzua notched his third save in the ninth.

Hawks rehab group staff member tests positive

The SoftBank Hawks reported Wednesday that one staff member with the organization’s rehab group in Chikugo, Fukuoka Prefecture, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The rehab group shares the organization’s minor league facility with the Western League farm team and the Hawks’ third team, and for that reason, minor league activities have been suspended.

The Hawks tested around 200 people on Sunday the day after veteran outfielder Yuya Hasegawa, who is currently with the minor league team, tested positive. One member of the first-team staff, who was asymptomatic, has also tested positive and those who were deemed to have been in close contact with him have been sent home.

BayStars’ Austin, Marines’ Laird dropped

DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said Wednesday the team will deactivate outfielder Tyler Austin following his crash against Koshien Stadium’s right field wall on July 31 according to the Daily Sports, while the Pacific League’s Lotte Marines have deactivated third baseman Brandon Laird.

Austin hurt his neck trying to catch a fly at the wall, and it has been stiff ever since.

Laird has been serving as the Marines’ DH recently with rookie cleanup hitter Hisanori Yasuda starting in his place at third base. On Tuesday, he was pinch-hit for in the sixth inning due to a stiff back.

Active roster moves 8/5/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/15

Central League

Activated

BayStarsOF37Taishi Kusumoto
DragonsP17Yuya Yanagi
SwallowsP44Hiroki Onishi

Dectivated

BayStarsIF23Tyler Austin

Pacific League

Activated

MarinesIF68Kenji Nishimaki
BuffaloesIF64Shinya Hirosawa

Dectivated

MarinesIF54Brandon Laird
BuffaloesP26Daiki Tomei

Starting pitchers for Aug. 6, 2020

Pacific League

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

Ryusei Kawano (1-3, 4.13) vs Kaito Yoza (2-2, 4.18)

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

Yuki Matsui (0-0, 5.19) vs Shunsuke Kasaya (1-2, 6.94)

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

Sachiya Yamasaki (1-1, 5.47) vs Daiki Iwashita (3-2, 3.58)

Central League

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

Keiji Takahashi (1-1, 2.28) vs Kris Johnson (0-3, 5.14)

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

Shinichi Onuki (3-2, 2.42) vs Takahiro Matsuba (2-1, 1.47)

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

Haruto Takahashi (-) vs Cristopher Mercedes (2-3, 3.09)

NPB 2020 7-31 GAMES AND NEWS

Neal’s streak ends on Akashi homer

Kenji Akashi now has one home run for each of his 17 pro seasons. His sixth-inning solo shot broke a 4-4 tie and helped end Zach Neal’s string of winning decisions at 13 on Friday, when the SoftBank Hawks beat the Seibu Lions 5-4 at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Hawks right-hander Nao Higashihama survived two no-out walks to open the second inning but not a center-cut 3-1 two-seam fastball to Hotaka Yamakawa, who opened the scoring with his 12th homer of the year. Shuta Tonosaki followed with Seibu’s second hit, and Takeya Nakamura capped the inning with a two-run home run with a flat-straight fastball down the pipe that the six-time home run champ got off the end of the barrel but still drove 10 rows back in left field.

Neal (2-1), however, gave away the lead in the home half of the third.

After Takuya Kai’s one-out miss-hit infield single, Ukyo Shuto barreled up a low first-pitch two-seamer and nearly took off Neal’s head with his single. Neal then hung a 1-0 two-seamer up in the zone to Kenta Imamiya, who drove it off the center field wall for a two-run triple.

With Akira Nakamura at the plate, Yuki Yanagita walked and stole second and Nakamura singled in one run to tie it. Neal made a decent 1-2 pitch to the next hitter, but Ryoya Kurihara put a prototypical inside-out, left-handed swing on the low two-seamer and knocked it between third and short for an RBI single and a 4-3 Hawks lead. Yanagita’s run was his 32nd of the month, tying an NPB record.

Corey Spangenberg, who’d doubled, tripled and homered the night before, homered off reliever Shinya Kayama to tie it in the sixth. Higashihama struck out Nakamura with his 95th pitch to open the inning, and with two left-handed hitters due up, the Hawks turned to a south paw.

Kayama got veteran Takumi Kuriyama to fly out on his first slider, and then threw five-straight to Spangenberg. The last one missed down and in and Spangenberg bounced it off the top of the permanent wall in right for his fifth homer.

Again, the Hawks struck back. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Neal missed with a straight two-seam fastball up and over the plate, and Akashi drilled it into the “home run terrace,” the Casa de Pepe’s outfield field seats.

Kayama (1-0) earned the in relief for two-thirds of an inning of work, while Rei Takahashi, Livan Moinelo and Yuito Mori each supplied another scoreless inning, with Mori earning his ninth save.

Smells like team spirit in Sapporo

The Orix Buffaloes laid a big seventh inning on Nippon Ham Fighters ace Kohei Arihara to snap a tie game and earn a 7-2 win at Sapporo Dome.

Prior to the game, the Buffaloes activated infielder Shuhei Fukuda, who emerged as their regular second baseman in 2019, and outfielder Steven Moya. Both played key roles in what can only be described as a team win. Fukuda was the only Buffalo to score more than one run, while seven different players drove in one each, and five relievers combined for five scoreless innings in support of starter Tsubasa Sakakibara.

Moya who was 14-for-39 with eight walks in the pitcher-friendly Western League drove in Orix’s first run with a smash off the glove of first baseman Sho Nakata that he legged out for a fourth-inning RBI double. Buffaloes catcher Kenya Wakatsuki homered to tie it 2-2 in the fifth.

Singles by Masataka Yoshida and Moya put runners on the corners with two outs, but one of manager Norifumi Nishimura’s favorite plays, the delayed double steal of home backfired when catcher Shingo Usami faked a throw to second and caught Yoshida off third base.

Sakakibara’s trouble with the walk this season haunted him again. Two of the seven runners he handed free passes to in his four-plus innings scored to give the Fighters a 2-0 lead. A first-inning leadoff walk, a sacrifice and a Kensuke Kondo single opened the scoring. Taishi Ota cashed in a run with a single in the third following a pair of two-out walks.

After six serviceable innings from Arihara (1-5) things went sideways in the seventh.

Mune opened with a single and Wakatsuki doubled him to third. Ryoichi Adachi singled to break the tie, and No. 9 hitter Hayato Nishiura doubled in Wakatsuki from third. Arihara was yanked afte getting his first out on a liner to third, and Fukuda singled in a run. Yoshida delivered a sac fly, and Adam Jones doubled in Fukuda off Kazutomo Iguchi, the third Fighters pitcher of the inning. Moya walked before Mune made the final out.

Tyler Higgins and Brandon Dickson each worked around a single to pitch a scoreless inning and close it out.

Arihara, who had aspired to pitch in the majors next year, allowed six runs on 10 hits. He struck out six without issuing a walk.

Tamura, Marines get Ishikawa his 1st win

Tatsuhiro Tamura twice put Lotte in front, the second time for good with a two-out, two-run bases-loaded single that made a winner out of the Marines’ Opening Day starter, Ayumu Ishikawa (1-2), in a 5-4 come-from-behind victory over the Rakuten Eagles at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

Eagles right-hander Takahiro Norimoto (3-3), who also pitched on Opening Day for his club, had his splitter working better than it has all season when he struck out two in a 1-2-3 first, but after that he stopped missing bats and what started as a blitzkrieg became a war of attrition between the two starters.

Tamura’s second-inning double plated the game’s first run, but Ryosuke Tatsumi’s third-inning leadoff homer tied it, and back-to-back doubles by former Marines captain Daichi Suzuki and Eigoro Mori put the Eagles in front. It stayed that way until the roof caved in on Norimoto in the sixth.

Hiromi Oka drew a leadoff walk, and Leonys Martin was hit by a pitch. Some poor base running cost the Marines an out and a run when Oka was gunned down trying to score from second on a drive to the wall in right. A sac fly from Seiya Inoue, however, tied it. A single and a walk loaded the bases for Tamura. A 3-2 fastball down the pipe was shot back through the box and into center to put the Marines in front.

Yudai Fujioka followed with an RBI single off lefty Wataru Karashima. Former Eagle Frank Herrmann surrendered two runs in the eighth on a Yasuhito Uchida home run, but Naoya Masuda earned his 10th save with a scoreless ninth.

Norimoto allowed five runs on six hits, three walks and a hit batsman over six innings. He struck out six.

Rookie Marines cleanup hitter Hisanori Yasuda continued to do what he’s done all season, hit rockets. He went 3-for-3 with a double and a walk.

Enter the ‘Sands Man’ as Jerry saves Tigers

Tigers left fielder Jerry Sands made a game-saving catch in the 10th-inning to start an inning-ending double play, depriving the DeNA BayStars of their chance to win as Hanshin held on for a 3-3 tie at Koshien Stadium.

With two on and one out in the 10th, the final inning allowed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Tigers outfield was playing in as is customarily done in Japan to cut off the run at the plate, when Yamato Maeda drove a ball that looked like it would get over Sands’ head for at least a one-run double.

But the former Dodger, who came within a foot of denying the BayStars the tying run with a diving catch in the seventh, hauled it in. The relay throw was on the money to double the runner off second.

Tigers catcher Ryutaro Umeno opened the scoring with a three-run home run in a fourth inning in which BayStars pitcher Taiga Kamichatani gave his outfielders a workout.

Sands’ drive was caught off the wall by center fielder Takayuki Kajitani for the second out, while right fielder Tyler Austin leaped for a long drive but failed to haul in a double off the bat of Yusuke Oyama. After Justin Bour walked, Kamichatani missed up with a cutter away and Umeno hit it off the end of the bat to right center. Kajitani gave chase but he would have needed a ticket to catch this one.

Austin became the second BayStar with a hit off side-armer Koyo Aoyagi when he smoked a grounder past first to open the sixth with a double. He went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout to put the visitors on the board.

Austin ran full speed into the right field wall in the bottom of the inning trying to catch a Justin Bour drive that went for a double but stayed in the game as Kamichatani stranded two to keep it close and allow the BayStars to tie it in the seventh.

Toshihiro Miyazaki opened with a double, and with one out and two on, Koki Yamashita batted for Kamichatani and singled in a run when Sands dove but fell just short of making the catch in left. Aoyagi was pulled after 90 pitches and exciteable right-hander Kosuke Baba took over. Baba retired Kajitani for the first time all night by fanning him on six pitches.

With two outs, Austin lined a good 3-2 fastball past third to tie it.

Tigers pitcher Joe Gunkel nearly gave the game away in the eighth, when he surrendered three singles, but he made a terrific catch on a line drive and was able to shot put the ball to first to complete a double play that allowed him to strand two runners.

Giants get past Carp rookie

After a wild but hitless three innings against the Yomiuri Giants, Hiroshima Carp rookie Masato Morishita decided to focus on throwing strikes and it proved to be his downfall in a 2-1 loss at Tokyo Dome.

Morishita (2-2) survived five walks and a hit batsman over three scoreless innings. With a one-run lead in the fourth after Ryoma Nishikawa’s second home run in two nights, the rookie threw strikes, and the Giants hit them.

Naoki Yoshikawa’s compact swing on a 1-2 fastball opened the door with one out. After a sacrifice by starting pitcher Seishu Hatake, Yoshiyuki Kamei also stayed compact and smashed an 0-1 fastball away up the middle for an RBI single.

Hayato Sakamoto mashed an 0-2 inside fastball for another single. Yoshihiro Maru turned on a 2-1 cutter and lashed it for a single and a 2-1 lead.

Hatake was ejected in the fifth for a dangerous pitch, when Carp catcher Tsubasa Aizawa failed to duck a fastball and it glanced off the top of his helmet.

These ejections are automatic, but he nearly got out of the way, leading one to wonder that if the hitter had better reflexes, Hatake’s pitch would not have struck the batter in the head, and thus wouldn’t have been classified as a “kikenkyu” and he wouldn’t have been ejected.

Viciedo rescues Dragons, Ono

Dayan Viciedo made it a one-run game with a two-run fourth-inning double, and singled in the tying run in a two-run sixth as the Chunichi Dragons came from behind to beat the Yakult Swallows 5-3 at Nagoya Dome.

Dragons lefty Yudai Ono (1-3) allowed one base runner through three innings, a one-out solo home run to Yasutaka Shiomi. But a one-out walk in the fourth was followed by a straight high fastball to 20-year-old slugger Munetaka Murakami, who belted his sixth home run.

With one out and two on in the bottom of the inning, Viciedo drove a ball to the wall in center that Kotaro Yamasaki leaped for but missed to make it a 3-2 game.

Swallows rookie Daiki Yoshida allowed two runs on two walks and three hits over five innings but did not figure in the decision. Thirty-five-year-old lefty Masato Nakazawa entered in the sixth and allowed both batters he faced to reach. After Viciedo tied it, Toshiki Abe drove in the go-ahead run.

Ono completed the game, striking out 10, walking two and allowing five hits.

Free-agent eligible Ono claims not to think

Chunichi Dragons lefty Yudai Ono on Friday amassed the necessary service time to file for domestic free agency this autumn and played his part in the accompanying media ritual to perfection.

When NPB informs news outlets that a player earns the right to file durning the next filing period, reporters due their duty and ask the individual about his plans for the future.

Ono then read his lines to perfection: “I haven’t given any thought to things happening down the road. My priority is to concentrate on the season.”

The famous exception to this ritual, Koji Uehara, who three days after securing his rights to international free agency told the media he would leave for the major leagues at the end of the season, lost his next three starts to start the 2008 season 0-4.

To be fair, Uehara’s body was not up to being a starter anymore. He had saved 32 games the year before but disliked being a reliever. It was only out of consideration for his service to the team that he was allowed another shot at the rotation. But after three more poor starts, he was not given another opportunity to start for four months.

Buffaloes call up Moya, Dragons drop Ishikawa

The Orix Buffaloes activated outfielder Steven Moya on Friday, a day after first baseman Aderlin Rodriguez was deactivated after being hit by a pitch.

Moya is in his third season. He played in 64 games for the Buffaloes last season after a trade brought him over from the Chunichi Dragons. The Buffaloes also activated Shuhei Fukuda, who became their regular second baseman last season. Fukuda has yet to play on the first team this year but was dynamite at the plate in his four Western League games.

Meanwhile, the Dragons have deactivated third baseman Takaya Ishikawa. He was with the first team while captain Shuhei Takahashi was deactivated due to pain in his left hamstring.

Although the 19-year-old Ishikawa has begun to look confident and assertive at the plate, Takahashi’s return means he is being sent down to amass playing time

Active roster moves 7/31/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/10

Central League

Activated

GiantsP31Seishu Hatake
DragonsIF63Naomichi Donoue

Dectivated

DragonsP36Yuichiro Okano
DragonsIF2Takaya Ishikawa

Pacific League

Activated

BuffaloesIF4Shuhei Fukuda
BuffaloesOF1Steven Moya

Dectivated

BuffaloesIF67Keita Nakagawa

Starting pitchers for Aug. 1

Pacific League

Fighters vs Buffaloes: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Drew VerHagen (2-1, 4.23) vs Daiki Tajima (1-1, 2.56)

Marines vs Eagles: Zozo Marine Stadium 5 pm, 4 am EDT

Atsuki Taneichi (3-1, 2.20) vs Takahiro Shiomi (1-3, 5.46)

Hawks vs Lions: PayPay Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Shuta Ishikawa (3-0, 3.14) vs Keisuke Honda (0-2, 2.87)

Central League

Giants vs Carp: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Kazuto Taguchi (1-0, 2.08) vs Hiroki Tokoda (1-3, 6.04)

Dragons vs Swallows: Nagoya Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Akiyoshi Katsuno (0-2, 6.00) vs Yasuhiro Ogawa (4-0, 4.21)

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

Yuki Nishi (2-2, 1.87) vs Shota Imanaga (3-2, 2.92)

NPB 2020 7-25 games and news

Professional baseball 2020: Day 105

Dragons win high school style

The Chunichi Dragons beat the Hanshin Tigers in a 1-0 pitchers’ duel on Saturday afternoon at Nagoya Dome, but the real story was not the tight pitching but the seventh-inning high school-style offense that produced the winning run.

Masataka Iryo, 30-year-old reserve outfielder, drove in the run off Yuki Nishi (2-2) who took the loss for his strong seven-inning effort.

Dragons right-hander Akiyoshi Katsuno allowed four hits, two by Jerry Sands, and two walks. After he was gone, lefty Hiroto Fuku, and right-handers Daisuke Sobue and Raidel Martinez were all lights out. But the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was that seventh inning.

Nobumasa Fukuda did the hard work with a leadoff single and was replaced by a pinch-hitter. That’s when the story really really began. Takaya Ishikawa, the Dragons’ 19-year-old slugging rookie infielder sacrificed.

“There it is, his first career sacrifice bunt,” the TV announcer crowed. Ishikawa hasn’t homered yet, and as excited as he was, it seemed like a sacrifice was the next best thing. Ishikawa admitted that he hadn’t bunted in a game since elementary school although he does practice bunting.

Dragons captain Shuhei Takahashi, who rejoined the team earlier than expected after suffering a hamstring strain two weeks earlier, hit behind the runner to advance him to third.

Iryo’s sharp grounder into the hole was grabbed by shortstop Seiya Kinami, who had no play at first, but Iryo did what Japanese players with a surplus of fighting spirit are expected to do: he went into the bag head first in a “spirited slide.”

New import Joe Gunkel, who entered the season in the Tigers starting rotation, returned to the team after suffering back stiffness and pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.

The ultimate sacrifice

Thirty years or so back, no Japanese baseball broadcast was complete without a bizarre liturgy regarding the sacrifice bunt. Whenever a bunting situation came up, the analyst and announcer would talk about how extremely difficult it is to get a bunt down, about the skill required and the challenges one needs to overcome.

This was a setup, of course, and similar to the kind of things former first baseman say whenever someone refers to their old position as less challenging.

The purpose is to heap praise on bunters. The irony is that whenever a player failed to execute a routine bunt–which seconds before had been treated as baseball’s ultimate challenge–the former player serving as an analyst would attack the hitter for his inability to execute the simplest of tasks.

It was a wonderful time to be a fan of Japanese baseball.

BayStars continue to rock

The DeNA BayStars continued to play like they are on a mission on Saturday in a 6-2 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Yokohama Stadium.

Following widespread criticism of manager Alex Ramirez for his willingness to keep Jose Lopez in the lineup and Keita Sano in the cleanup spot, the BayStars’s offense has been dynamite, scoring 21 runs over the last three games with Lopez and Sano doing much of the heavy lifting.

Sano and Lopez each had two hits and an RBI, while Tyler Austin doubled twice, walked and scored two runs for the BayStars.

Lefty Shota Imanaga (3-2) allowed two runs, one earned over six innings. Lefty Edwin Escobar struck out four over two scoreless innings and struggling closer Yasuaki Yamasaki worked a 1-2-3 ninth after not pitching the last two days.

Tomo Otosaka, batting for Imanaga in the sixth, hit a three-run pinch-hit home run.

Kawabata saves Swallows’ blushes

Shingo Kawabata, the injury-prone veteran infielder who won the Central League’s batting title in 2015, came off the bench in the ninth inning to stroke a sayonara single, lifting the Yakult Swallows to a 6-5 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Swallows right-hander Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa allowed three runs over seven innings, but rookie setup man Noboru Shimizu surrendered a run in the eighth, and closer Taishi Ishiyama blew the one-run save before stranding three Giants base runners.

Norichika Aoki hit a two-run homer in the first off former Giants closer Hirokazu Sawamura, drew three walks and doubled to open the ninth, when he was pulled for a pinch-runner.

Sawamura was an emergency starter in place of Angel Sanchez, who complained of discomfort in his right shoulder prior to the game.

Had the game ended 5-5, it would have been the Swallows third 5-5 tie in four games.

Yoshihiro Maru homered twice for the Giants

Nakata blast completes Fighters comeback

Sho Nakata’s three-run home run broke a 6-6 seventh-inning tie as the Nippon Ham Fighters came back from an early 6-0 deficit to beat the SoftBank Hawks at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Ryoya Kurihara belted a first-inning grand slam off former Cleveland Indians farmhand Toru Murata, and Hawks starter Shuta Ishikawa allowed three runs over six innings, but the Hawks bullpen proved uncharacteristically vulnerable.

Taneichi blanks Lions for 1st career shutout

Lotte Marines right-hander Atsuki Taneichi (3-1) struck out 10, while walking four in a four-hit shutout in a 5-0 win over the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome that was a scoreless game through six innings.

Lions starter Keisuke Honda (0-2) allowed a run in six-plus innings to take the loss. A walk and a stolen base by pinch-runner Hiromi Oka set up Lotte’s Hisanori Yasuda to drive in the opening run.

Yasuda, a 21-year-old left-handed-hitting corner infielder, was the Marines’ top draft pick in 2018. The rookie seems to hit one or two rockets every game. The Marines broke the game open in a four-run eighth off right-hander Tetsu Miyagawa, the Lions’ top draft pick last autumn.

Mune’s inside the parker sparks Buffs in 9th

Yuma Mune’s ninth-inning drive to the fence in right went for an inside-the-park home run, snapping a 3-3 tie for the Orix Buffaloes, who finished the night with a 6-3 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Eagles right fielder Jabari Blash leaped to try and catch Mune’s drive off Eagles closer Kohei Morihara, but hit the wall awkwardly and was unable to give chase immediately while the speedy Buffalo circled the bases.

Buffaloes lefty Daiki Tajima allowed three runs over seven innings, while Eagles southpaw Takahiro Shiomi held the Buffaloes to a run over six innings.

The visitors took a 3-2 lead in the seventh against former Lion and Padre submariner Kazuhisa Makita. Aderlin Rodriguez opened with a home run to tie it.

With two outs and runners on the corners, the Buffaloes finally executed a play that has backfired on them twice over the past few games, the delayed double steal, with Mune scoring the go-ahead run on what might have been the biggest home plate collision in Japanese baseball since they were outlawed in 2016.

Catcher Yuichi Adachi crossed into Mune’s path to catch the ball, which struck the runner. Mune was ruled safe, and would have been ruled safe even if a tag had been made since NPB prohibits players from obstructing the baseline even with the ball in hand.

Tajima, however, surrendered the tying run in the bottom of the inning, setting up the thrilling finish. Brandon Dickson worked the ninth for Orix, earning his fifth save.

Dragons recall Takahashi, Carp drop Osera

The Chunichi Dragons activated their captain, Shuhei Takahashi on Saturday, while the Hiroshima Carp have deactivated ace right-hander Daichi Osera.

Takahashi suffered a mild left hamstring strain on July 11.

The 29-year-old was pulled after two innings from the Carp’s game on Friday in Yokohama due to an “accident” a catch-all phrase that could include any kind of incident or injury.

The Carp said later only that his “condition was not good.”

Osera threw a 116-pitch complete game on Opening Day and a 132-pitch complete game seven days later in a lop-sided win. Since then, he has surrendered 10 runs on 24 hits and six walks over 19 innings.

Meanwhile, the Seibu Lions have activated Venezuelan slugger Ernesto Mejia for the first time this season.

Active roster moves 7/25/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/4

Central League

Activated

GiantsOF59Seiya Matsubara
TigersOF53Kairi Shimada
CarpP26Ren Nakata
CarpC22Shosei Nakamura
DragonsIF3Shuhei Takahashi

Dectivated

GiantsP45Nobutaka Imamura
TigersP67Suguru Iwazaki
CarpP14Daichi Osera
CarpIF4Tetsuya Kokubo

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP45Keisuke Honda
LionsIF99Ernesto Mejia

Dectivated

LionsIF39Wu Nien-ting
LionsOF68Junichiro Kishi

NPB 2020 7-13 games and news

BayStars’ Austin out with finger injury

The DeNA BayStars deactivated outfielder Tyler Austin on Monday after he was scratched from the game lineup for the team’s games on Saturday and Sunday against the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium.

The 28-year-old Austin reported pain and discomfort in his right index finger on Friday according to the Hochi Shimbun. In 17 games this season, Austin who began mashing in the spring and has not stopped, has a .403 on-base percentage and a .618 slugging average.

The BayStars start a three-day series against the Chunichi Dragons at Nagoya Dome on Tuesday.

Active roster moves 7/13/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/23

Central League

Activated

None

Dectivated

BayStarsIF23Tyler Austin

Pacific League

Activated

None

Dectivated

LionsP44Kaito Yoza
MarinesP48Toshiya Nakamura
MarinesP86Jose Flores
FightersP13Tsubasa Nabatame
BuffaloesC62Katsuki Yamazaki

NPB 2020 7-9 games and News

Bour opens Koshien account with home run

Justin Bour may have been typecast as the second coming of Randy Bass because of his left-handed power to left and center, but on Thursday, he looked the part in his first regular-season game at Koshien Stadium.

Bour ruined what had been a terrific start by Yomiuri Giants lefty Cristopher Mercedes (0-2) by blasting a high 1-0 slider well past the center field fence with a man on. Bour’s third home run made it 2-0, and the Hanshin Tigers went on to win their home opener 2-1.

Tigers starter Onelki Garcia dodged his share of bullets after walking six over six scoreless innings, but it was Mercedes, who struck out eight while allowing five hits and a walk over 6-2/3 innings who was left holding the bag.

Suguru Iwazaki (1-0) earned the win with a scoreless inning of relief, a feat duplicated by Robert Suarez in the eighth. Kyuji Fujikawa, who has been shaky this season after a remarkable 2019 campaign, allowed a run on a walk and two, two-out singles to cut it close before securing his second save.

Here’s Bour’s hero interview:

Intentional walk costs Dragons again

For the second time in three games, a late-inning intentional walk came back to bite Chunichi Dragons manager Tsuyoshi Yoda in the butt in an 8-6 loss to the Yakult Swallows at Nagoya Dome.

Leading 5-4 after the Dragons scored twice against right-hander Scott McGough in the eighth, Dragons lefty Toshiya Okada surrendered a one-out double to Norichika Aoki and issued a walk to Swallows’ on-base machine Tomotaka Sakaguchi. A 1-2 wild pitch to superstar Tetsuto Yamada opened first base, and Yoda ordered the free pass.

Okada, who walked in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning of Tuesday’s 2-1 loss after an intentional walk had loaded the bases, fell behind 2-0 to Kotaro Yamasaki, who has led a charmed existence this season, where seemingly every ball coming off his bat finds a hole.

He put a good swing on a high pitch for a two-run single, and slugger Munetaka Murakami piled on with a two-run double through the drawn-in outfield.

Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama surrendered a run in the ninth but earned his third save.

Swallows lefty Keishi Takahashi allowed two runs through five innings, and was barely recognizable, without his transformer-like leg-kick, arm-raise, leg-lower, leg-raise delivery. He looked like an ordinary lefty with a longer-than-usual leg lift. Takahashi located a fastball that had a lot of spin on it and combined that with a slider he kept at the bottom of the zone.

Martinez unstoppable

Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez came off the bench as a pinch-hitter and tied the game with an RBI single. He lined out to second to end the game, keeping his average at .500.

BayStars’ Austin, Ino fillet Carp

Tyler Austin singled to with one out to help set the table in a two-run first inning, doubled and homered in the eighth to put the game out of reach in the DeNA BayStars’ 5-1 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Shoichi Ino (2-0) allowed a run in six innings as he scattered four hits and two walks while striking out four. The BayStars bullpen was solid, allowing four hits over the final three innings.

Rookie Carp right-hander Masato Morishita struggled with hanging breaking balls and straight fastballs in the heart of the zone, but never lost his composure in driving rain and allowed just two runs on four walks and eight hits over five innings.

Sharp Shiomi slices up Hawks

Right-hander Takahiro Shiomi (1-2) survived a first-inning scrape with just a run scored and cruised through the next six innings for the Rakuten Eagles in a 9-1 hammering of the SoftBank Hawks at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Shiomi was able to command his slider and splitter and locate his fastball as he struck out seven, walked one while allowing four hits.

Hawks starter Rick van den Hurk (1-1) allowed a run through four innings but his stuff deserted him in the fifth. Straight fastballs, floating changeups and hanging sliders set the visitors up for a four-run inning. The Eagles scored four more in the sixth after Yuya Ogo reached on a two-out bunt single.

Jabari Blash delivered a first-inning sacrifice fly and had a two-run fifth-inning single and drew a bases-loaded walk in the sixth.

Fighters blow late lead in tie with Buffaloes

Nippon Ham Fighters cleanup hitter Sho Nakata did his utmost to give his team the lead, but the bullpen and defense gave it away under pressure from pinch-runner Kodai Sano in a 4-4, 10-inning tie with the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Takahiro Okada, who has been hitting the ball hard a lot this year, homered with Masataka Yoshida on in the fourth off Fighters’ starter Drew VerHagen to put Orix in front in the fourth inning.

Buffaloes lefty Sachiya Yamasaki was on thin ice through five innings with five walks but no runs allowed. He was yanked after a leadoff walk and two singles in the sixth and right-handed slugger Sho Nakata coming up.

Nakata was rewarded for a great at-bat against righty Keisuke Sawada with a three-run homer. After missing high with a 1-2 splitter on his seventh pitch, Sawada tried again with another splitter but left it in the zone. Nakata saw it coming and launched it well back into the second deck at Kyocera Dome.

Hijinks ensued in the eighth when veteran Fighters lefty Naoki “I got an MVP vote in 2016” Miyanishi issued two two-out walks. Sano, running for Okada, stole second and then third. Aderlin Rodriguez walked, and tried to draw a throw on a delayed steal. Fighters catcher Yushi Shimizu wasn’t fooled and tried to throw behind Sano at third. His throw, however, sailed into left field, and the game was tied.

Two scoreless innings from Hirotoshi Masui and one each from Brandon Dickson and Tyler Higgins kept the Fighters quiet and paved the way for the Buffaloes comeback.

Jackson leaves Lotte

Right-handed reliever Jay Jackson will be released by the Lotte Marines, with the team saying Thursday it received a request from the pitcher to be let out of his contract the day before.

The team has declined to explain the situation at the current time. The 32-year-old pitched with the Hiroshima Carp from 2016 to 2018. When he was not offered an extension for 2019, Jackson wound up with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019.

“We can’t elaborate at this time,” the Marines’ director of baseball operations Naoki Matsumoto said according to the Daily Sports.

This season, Jackson has allowed three runs over seven innings. He has struck out 12 of the 29 batters he’s faced.

Swallows’ Suarez, Dragons’ Yanagi dropped

The Yakult Swallows deactivated right-handed starting pitcher Albert Suarez on Thursday, with the team saying he needed to makes adjustments.

The 30-year-old Suarez is 2-0 with a 0.53 ERA in three starts, although he walked seven batters in Tuesday’s game against the Chunichi Dragons. The Swallows won the game 2-1 in 10 innings.

The Swallows replaced Suarez on the active roster with Keiji Suzuki, who may have Japan’s funkiest left-handed delivery.

The Dragons starter on Tuesday, Yuya Yanagi, was also deactivated. Yanagi, who struck out 10 but allowed a run in six innings, complained of stiffness in his right obliques during practice on Wednesday.

The 26-year-old right-hander led the Dragons in wins last year, when he posted an 11-7 mark with a 3.53 ERA. This season, he’s allowed four runs in 20 innings, while striking out 25.

As expected, the Yomiuri Giants activated flame-throwing Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira to take the roster spot opened when closer Rubby De La Rosa, who suffered a left oblique strain on Sunday.

NPB 2020 7-2 GAMES AND NEWS

Friday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB.

Fighters overcome Balentien bombs

Rick van den Hurk started for SoftBank and for the second-straight time his former Dutch interational teammate Wladimir Balentien homered twice behind him. Balentien drove in five runs but van den Hurk gave them back in a 9-8 walk-off loss to the Nippon Ham Fighters on Wednesday.

With two outs and two on in the ninth, Yuki James Nomura drove one off the wall to end it. The 20-year-old rookie also made up for a second-inning error with a second-inning home run.

A week after everything worked for him, a lot of van den Hurk’s pitches lacked their usual life as he surrendered five runs on seven hits and two walks over five innings.

That was enough to keep the Hawks in the game, however, as Fighters starter Drew VerHagen allowed six runs, four earned, over 4-1/3 innings. The combination of too many missed locations and too many good swings proved tough to overcome.

A hanging 2-2 changeup to Yuki Yanagita put an extra runner on for Balentien in the first, and with the Netherlands international looking for a second fastball outside, that’s where VerHagen missed, and gave Balentien a little more to celebrate on his 36th birthday as he drove it over the distant center field wall at Sapporo Dome for a three-run shot.

VerHagen appears to have good stuff. His fastball was crisp, and his slider sharp, so it’s probably more of getting a sense of what he needs to do against certain hitters.

Sho nakata homered in the first for the Fighters on a straight 2-2 fastball in the zone. Hawks leadoff hitter Ryuya Kurihara hit a two-run shot in the second for the Hawks after a two-out smash came off the heel of Nomura’s glove at third.

Nomura, who was born in the States, homered in the bottom of the second, and Kensuke Kondo, who walked and scored in the first, delivered a sac fly in the third to make it a 5-4 game. With SoftBank leading 6-5 in the seventh, Balentien homered again, but Fighters prospect Kotaro Kiyomiya matched him with a two-run shot.

Hawks closer Yuito Mori came on in the ninth. Kensuke Kondo, who entered the game tied for the league lead with 10 walks, drew his third of the game, on eight pitches, to open the inning. Tanaka singled.

With two outs and both runners in scoring position, Nomura drove a cutter in the heart of the zone to the wall to end it.

Spangenberg, Mori blast Buffaloes

New Lions leadoff man Corey Spangenberg, homered, tripled, singled, walked and scored three runs, while Tomoya Mori homered and drove in four runs as Seibu overcame an early two-run deficit to beat the Orix Buffaloes 9-5.

Lions reliever Reed Garrett entered in the eighth, having retired the last 13 batters he’d faced, but surrendered back-to-back hits. The right-hander then returned to form by retiring three straight and working his fifth-straight scoreless inning.

Spangenberg may have had a big night at the plate, but his first inning in the field was an adventure. He misplayed the hop on a ball hit in front of him in left. The ball got over his head for a double and then he kicked it to put leadoff runner Yuma Mune on third.

Martin, Inoue pace Marines

The Lotte Marines moved back into first place in the Pacific League with an 8-5 win over the Rakuten Eagles, at Sendai’s Rakuten Semei Park Miyagi. Leonys Martin and Seiya Inoue each homered and drove in three runs for the Marines.

Stefen Romero, who joined the Eagles over the winter, homered to tie it 2-2 in the bottom of the second but starting pitcher Takahiro Shiomi (0-2) surrendered six runs over 4-2/3 innings.

Marines starter Daiki Iwashita (2-0) allowed three runs, two earned, over five innings, while Frank Herrmann and Jay Jackson each worked a scoreless inning out of the Lotte bullpen.

Viciedo, Dragons rock former teammate

Dayan Viciedo belted a three-run homer off former teammate Onelki Garcia (0-2) and Raidel Martinez closed it out as the Chunichi Dragons beat the Hanshin Tigers 4-2 at Nagoya Dome.

“They’re in a bind. They want to get up there and advance runners with sacrifice bunts, but they just don’t have runners.”

–analyst Yutaka Takagi on the Hanshin Tigers’ offensive woes.

Swallows blast Carp

The Yakult Swallows overcame a four-run deficit on the strength of four homers in a 9-5 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Jingu Stadium, with 2019 CL rookie of the year Munetaka Murakami driving in five runs, four on a walk-off grand slam.

Naomichi Nishiura, who had homered to drive in the winning run twice this week, twice tied the game with home runs.

Ramirez’s best intentions prove costly

DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez’s fondness for the intentional walk cost him in a 5-3 loss to the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome. Japan’s annual leader in giving away first base put two on intentionally and both scored.

Giants right-hander Toshiki Sakurai (1-0) was punished for a couple of his mistakes, but he was able to mix, locate and execute some nasty curves and splitters, and the BayStars only managed one run off him in eight innings while striking out nine.

Tyler Austin walked, doubled and scored for the BayStars, while lefty Edwin Escobar worked a solid inning of relief for DeNA. Right-hander Spencer Patton, who had been lights out so far this season, got rocked for three runs in the eighth with the help of an intentional walk.

Austin to 1B as Ramirez sidelines Lopez

Tyler Austin, who has been in right-field this season for the Yokohama-based DeNA BayStars, will be at first base on Thursday night for the team’s Central League series finale against the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome, manager Alex Ramirez said before the game according to the Daily Sports.

The story reported Ramirez as saying that Lopez was hitless against Giants starter Toshiki Sakurai in eight at-bats, while outfielder Tomo Otosaka had a good track record at Tokyo Dome.

Austin has gotten his Japan career off to a good start, 13 hits in his first 34 at-bats for DeNA.

With Lopez inactive for the game, the BayStars will have Austin, two-time defending CL home run champ Neftali Soto and relievers Spencer Patton and Edwin Escobar available.

NPB 2020 7-1 GAMES AND NEWS

Thursday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB

Suzuki has career night against Lions

For most of the first five years of his pro baseball career, Yu Suzuki has been a reliever. But going 6-3 as a starter in the Western League last season with a 2.81 ERA must have caught someone’s attention.

On Wednesday, the 23-year-old right-hander who was Orix’s ninth draft pick in 2014, was handed the ball for his first top-team start and threw five hitless innings, nearly doubling his career output with the Pacific League club. The result was his first career win as Orix snapped a seven-game losing streak in a 6-0 win over the Seibu Lions.

For five innings, he and Lions starter Tatsuya Imai (0-2) traded hitless innings, until in the sixth, the jig was up for the Seibu starter. After issuing a leadoff walk, Imai left a slider up a little too much to diminutive power hitter Masataka Yoshida, and the left-handed-hitter launched it over MetLife Dome’s right field fence.

An Adam Jones double and an Aderlin Rodriguez RBI single made it 3-0, when Seibu self-destructed. An error and three-straight bases-loaded walks completed the six-run sixth inning.

Four Orix relievers came in, and the Lions, who haven’t been no-hit in 20 years, didn’t get a hit until veteran slugger Takeya Nakamura’s hard grounder found a hole to lead off the eighth off new import Tyler Higgins.

Asamura punishes Marines some more

Hideto Asamura homered for the second-straight night in Sendai, while Hideaki Wakui (2-0) allowed two runs over five innings as the Rakuten Eagles beat the Lotte Marines 5-3 to pull into a tie for first place in the Pacific League.

Pitching against the club that sold him over the winter, Wakui sturck out seven, while allowing five hits and a walk.

Leonys Martin homered for the Marines, while JT Chargois and Alan Busenitz each worked an inning of relief for the Eagles. Busenitz allowed a run on three hits.

Ishikawa strikes out 10 in Sapporo

Shuta Ishikawa (1-0) of the SoftBank Hawks struck out 10, while walking one and allowing five hits in a 4-0 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.

Nick Martinez (0-2) started for the Fighters. He gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits and two walks while striking out five.

Austin, Patton turn on power against Giants

Tyler Austin’s three-run eighth-inning double off the wall at Tokyo Dome helped lift the DeNA BayStars to a 5-3 win over the Yomiuri Giants.

Reliever Spencer Patton (2-0), who entered in the seventh to face Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto and struck him out, got the win in relief. He provided an encore in the eighth by striking out the side, starting with cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto and finishing with Gerardo Parra.

Giants starter Cristopher Mercedes allowed a run over 5-2/3 innings but it could have been worse without a good catch from newly acquired utility man Zelous Wheeler, who denied the BayStars a leadoff single in the sixth with a sliding catch in left.

Escobar treats Swallows to ice cream cone

Naomichi Nishiura hit his second game-changing home run of the week with a fourth-inning two-run shot that put the Yakult Swallows in front in a 4-3 win over the Hiroshima Carp at at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

On Thursday, Nishiura hit a pinch-hit, three-run sayonara shot off Tigers closer Kyuji Fujikawa. On Wednesday, he went deep off Sawamura Award-winning lefty Kris Johnson (0-2).

Right-hander Albert Suarez (2-0) started for Yakult and allowed three runs, one earned, over five innings, while Scott McGough worked a scoreless eighth. The Carp mounted a rally against closer Taishi Ikeyama, and the lead looked blown on a two-out liner, only for new Swallow Alcides Escobar to save the game.

Yamamoto stops Tigers

Twenty-year-old Takumi Yamamoto (1-1) allowed two runs over five innings, while Zoilo Almonte doubled, walked and scored twice, and Dayan Viciedo singled in a couple of runs as the Chunichi Dragons beat the Hanshin Tigers 6-3.

Jerry Sands singled in a run for the Tigers, while Justin Bour hit his first home run in Japan, a ninth-inning consolation shot.

Dragons add catcher Martinez to roster

The Chunichi Dragons inked 24-year-old Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez to a standard contract on Wednesday. Martinez, signed to a non-roster developmental contract in 2018, hurt his right knee playing in Cuba’s Series Nacional prior to camp the Chunichi Sports reported.

He rejoined the Dragons for practice games from June 2 after completing his rehab.

Marines’ Futaki, Buffaloes’ Nakagawa dropped

Because Japanese baseball has no options and players can be activated or dropped from the active roster an unlimited number of times. So it’s common for a player, ostensibly on the active roster because the manager believes in him, to get sent down for a couple of bad plays.

Two heads rolled on Wednesday after poor performances the night before. The Lotte Marines deactivated right-handed starting pitcher Kota Futaki after the Rakuten Eagles teed off on too many first-pitches in Lotte’s 15-4 loss. The defeat snapped the Marines’ eight-game winning streak.

The Orix Buffaloes pulled the plug on 24-year-old utility infielder Keita Nakagawa, who finished fourth in the rookie of the year voting last year, for not hitting and for making a throwing error that led to the Seibu Lions’ third run in a 3-2 loss. The Buffaloes have lost seven straight.

NPB 2020 6-23 LiVE

Tuesday marked the start of the first full week of pro baseball in Japan, when the Pacific League enters into its pandemic travel protocols, limiting cross-country travel by playing six-game series.

Rookie Togo pitches Giants to 4th straight win

Twenty-year-old right-hander Shosei Togo, the Giants’ sixth pick in the 2018 draft allowed two runs over 6-2/3 innings while striking out seven to outduel Hiroshima’s Kris Johnson, who walked three and allowed three runs over five innings. It was Johnson’s first loss at Tokyo Dome in over three years.

Defending Central League champion Yomiuri won 3-2 to improve to 4-0 on the season. Kazuma Okamoto had two hits, singled in one run and forced in another with a walk.

Gerardo Parra, who homered twice in the opening series against Hanshin, went 2-for-3 with a line out, while Rubby De La Rosa earned his second save.

Marte, Tigers spoil Ynoa’s debut

Jefry Marte capped a three-run first inning at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium with a two-run home run off former Orioles right-hander Gabriel Ynoa, as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Swallows 5-1 for their first win of the season. Marte went 3-for-4.

Austin guns down 2, drives in 1 in BayStars win

DeNA BayStars right fielder Tyler Austin threw out a base runner to end a fourth-inning Chunichi Dragons rally and had four hits, including an RBI single that broke up a scoreless game in the fifth in a 3-0 win at Yokohama Stadium

The BayStars’ rally was keyed by a leadoff double by shortstop Yamato Maeda, leading off from the ninth spot after starting pitcher Haruhito Hamaguchi, batting eighth, ended the previous inning. Jose Lopez singled in the inning’s other run.

Austin, who threw out Toshiki Abe at the plate, was also cut down twice on the bases, but evened the score in the ninth, when he threw out Abe at home for the second time in the game.

Spangenberg breaks out

Corey Spangenberg put good swings on straight pitches in the zone for his first big game in Japan, going 4-for-5 with a grand slam and a strikeout in the Seibu Lions’ 11-3 win over the SoftBank Hawks at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.

It was a welcome sight for Lions fans after the left-handed hitter flailed at low and away breaking balls over the weekend with eight strikeouts over the first three games.

Matt Moore, making his first start in over a year, missed some locations, and made a costly fielding error on a potential double play comebacker and allowed six runs, four earned over 5-1/3 innings.

Here are the game highlights.

Here is Spangenberg’s hero interview.

Marines come back against closer Dickson

Lotte’s Seiya Inoue singled in the tying run in the ninth inning at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, and the Lotte Marines walked off 6-5 winners when Orix Buffaloes closer Brandon Dickson hit Takashi Ogino after an intentional walk loaded the bases to set up a force at the plate.

Trailing 3-0 after four thanks to first-inning homers from Ikuhiro Kiyota and Brandon Laird off Buffaloes starter Andrew Albers, Adam Jones hit his first home run in Japan and drew a walk in Orix’s three-run sixth.

Here are the game highlights.

Yuge shuts down Fighters in Martinez’ return

Hayato Yuge, a 1.93-meter lefty, struck out six and walked one over 6-1/3 innings, while Hideto Asamura and new Eagle Stefen Romero both hit long home runs in a 4-0 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Fighters’ starter Nick Martinez, making his first start since 2018 after his 2019 season was derailed by injury, struck out seven but allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks over five innings.

Here are the game highlights.

Live viewing

I didn’t really have a good idea how our live viewing event would turn out. The purpose was to make NPB games more accessible to readers, but with most of the participants already well-versed in the game here, it was a fun, free-wheeling discussion as the Lions-Hawks game went on in the background.

I hope to do about three a month, because I can only do them on my days off, and I can’t blog or do anything else while we’re doing it. More than half the participants were joining from the U.S. or Canada so it was hard with a 5 am EDT start time. I am in awe of these people.

Tuesday’s starting pitchers notes

Here were the starting pitchers. All three of the PL visiting starters are imports (Nick Martinez, Matt Moore, Andrew Albers), while two of the three CL starters (Kris Johnson and Gabriel Ynoa) are. Moore and Ynoa will be making their Japan debuts.

Pacific League

Eagles vs Fighters: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi

Hayato Yuge vs NICK MARTINEZ

Martinez went 10-11 in 2018 while eating up over 160 innings in his Japan debut after moving from the Texas Rangers. He missed all of 2019 with an injury to his right forearm.

Lions vs Hawks: MetLife Dome

Kona Takahashi vs MATT MOORE

Lions pitchers led Japan with a record 93 hit batsmen. The Lions had set the previous record of 84 in 2018. Only one other team, the 2004 Orix BlueWave, has hit more than 80. I mention this because Takahashi led all pitchers in Japan with 14, which doesn’t crack the top 20 all-time. I guess they just don’t make ’em like they used to. The record is 22, by Toshiaki Moriyasu of the 1969 Toei Flyers, but it took him 341-2/3 innings to get there.

Moore was one of three players taken in the eighth round of the 2007 MLB draft to reach the majors and turned 31 on Thursday, probably the first time in his career his birthday came before Opening Day. On April 6, 2019, his season ended when he damaged the meniscus in his right knee when fielding a bunt. This will be his first regular-season start since then.

I haven’t talked to the Hawks’ scouts but one would think that since virtually every Hawks pitcher throws a knuckle curve or a spike curve, Moore will fit right in.

Marines vs Buffaloes: Zozo Marine Stadium

Kota Futaki vs ANDREW ALBERS

Albers is coming off a tough 2019 season, when more or less everything went south for him. He gave up more had contact, gave up home runs twice as often as he had in 2018 when he went 9-2 with a 3.02 ERA, and his fielders caught few of the balls opponents did put in play.

He’s 4-0 in eight career games against the Marines with a 2.66 ERA, but that’s 1-0, 4.03 in Chiba, and 3-0, 1.44 elsewhere.

Central League

Giants vs Carp: Tokyo Dome

KRIS JOHNSON vs Shosei Togo*

Johnson is the veteran among Tuesday’s import starters, having won the prestigious Sawamura Award as Japan’s top starting pitcher in 2016–when his numbers were virtually identical to his 2015 figures.

He’s 57-30 in his Japan career, but 9-3 against the Giants, who though they won the league last year, were fairly mediocre from 2016 to 2018. Johnson is 5-1 at Tokyo Dome in his career. His only loss there an 8-inning complete-game defeat in May 2016.

BayStars vs Dragons: Yokohama Stadium

Haruhiro Hamaguchi vs Yuya Yanagi

Swallows vs Tigers: Jingu Stadium

GABRIEL YNOA vs Koyo Aoyagi

Ramping up: 17 days to go

Practice games ahead of the June 19 Opening Day got underway on Tuesday in Japan, with each team scheduled for 12 games before things get underway. On Tuesday, the clubs announced teams will have expanded rosters, and on Monday, NPB announced official schedules for the first time since it abandoned opening the season on March 20. The Central League mapped out its plan until July 23 and the Pacific League until July 19.

Austin blasts off

Journeyman first baseman / corner outfielder Tyler Austin picked up where he left off in the spring. The new DeNA BayStar homered and went 3-for-3 in the BayStars June practice game opener against the Rakuten Eagles on Tuesday.

“He’s been swinging the bat pretty good in batting practice and today he had the opportunity to show that in the game. And he swung pretty good today,” BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said of his new import who went 12-for-35 with six doubles, for home runs and six walks in the preseason.

Bour hits 1st home run in Japan

New Hanshin Tiger Justin Bour, who had four singles and a walk in his 20 official preseason plate appearances (not counting practice games) homered on Tuesday as the Tigers and Hiroshima Carp ramped up their preparations with a practice game at Koshien Stadium.

Ynoa goes 5 for Swallows

Gabriel Ynoa, who came to Japan this year to play his 11th pro season, started at Jingu Stadium for the Yakult Swallows and allowed one run over five innings in their 15-3 practice game win over the Chunichi Dragons.

Rosters, import limits increased

NPB announced changes to its roster limits due to the additional stress that comes with starting a season in the midst of a pandemic, Sports Nippon reported Tuesday.

The number of players eligible to suit up for a game will be increased from 25 to 26, while the active roster will be increased from 29 to 31. The limit on active import players will be increased from four to five, although the game roster limit will continue to be four, with no more than three pitchers or three position players.

“There is no downside to increasing the number of active players or the number on the bench, so increasing those is no problem,” said Tadahito Mori, the executive director of NPB’s player union.

Because of the delayed start to the season, some consideration is being given to push the deadline for non-waiver roster additions to Sept. 20 from July 31, an ideal the players association is also in favor of

The 2020 regular season schedule as announced June 1, can be found HERE.

Open and shut: March 7, 2020 – Welcome to Japan, Joe Gunkel

New Hanshin Tigers right-hander Joe Gunkel started Saturday’s preseason game against the Nippon Ham Fighters at Koshien Stadium, and allowed seven runs in four innings. Despite the ugly totals it was anything but an ugly outing for the 28-year-old who pitched in the minors for the Red Sox, Orioles, Dodgers and Marlins.

Gunkel put a couple of floating sliders on a tee, and got a lesson in what left-handed hitters in Japan will do to two-seamers when they are not trying to crush the ball, but by and large it was entertaining.

A lesson in pitching to Japanese left-handed hitters.

From his low 3/4 slot, Gunkel had a lot of horizontal movement on a 91.3 mph two-seamer that he mercilessly jammed right-handed hitters with, and even got one batter looking on a backdoor two-seamer.

His slider was inconsistent in quality and command, as was his four-seamer, but he threw a splitter that really dropped and got him swinging strikes, and he is quick to the plate.

He got burned on ground balls that found holes, a couple of jam shots and a fly to deep center on a mistake pitch that carried out of the unusually windless park. He also struck out six.

Gunkel has a lot to work with, and he has a great catcher in Ryutaro Umeno to help him over a couple of minor rough spots. Hopefully, he’ll learn to use his arsenal quickly enough to keep up with the adjustments opposing hitters will make so that he doesn’t hit a prolonged rough patch. That’s because imported Tigers pitchers who have major rough patches learn more than they want to know about the Western League and get released.

Austin, Soto go back to back

Taylor Austin hit his fourth home run of the spring for the DeNA BayStars on Saturday, while two-time defending Central League home run champion Neftali Soto followed him with his first. Get a look on Austin’s face after Soto’s home run.

When I saw they both came off SoftBank Hawks journeyman Ryoma Matsuda, who gives up a fair number of home runs, I wasn’t too surprised, but compared to some of the really fat pitches Austin crushed earlier in the preseason, it was a straight fastball but not a cookie.

The Hawks opened with Nao Higashihama, who’s been named their Opening Day starter, and he looked ready to go, although he did get away with a hanging curve to Soto up in the zone that the right-handed-hitting slugger pulled foul. Matsuda had less luck with his fat pitch.

Patton’s back

The BayStars got an inning of work from Spencer Patton, who ended a frustrating season by breaking his hand against a refrigerator door. I commented to a colleague that he didn’t pitch well last season, but looking at his sharp performance on Saturday and his numbers from Delta Graphs the past three seasons, nothing really stands out.

The one outlier is his win probability. He gave up an unusual number of hits in the most volatile moments. How much of that is down to bad luck and bad timing, I don’t know. An old fart uninterested in analytics might say he lacked the “will to win,” but I am going to go with really crappy timing and luck.

I am unaware of his contract situation, but a lot of teams would have been cautious about bringing Patton back. The BayStars do a good job with analytics, and I assume they want him around because they see the intrinsic quality and because he’s a good teammate. That stuff matters.