Newcomers Tyler Austin of the DeNA BayStars and Masato Morishita of the Hiroshima Carp were honored on Wednesday when Nippon Professional Baseball announced its final monthly honors list.
The Pacific League’s honorees went to a pair of 30-somethings, center fielder Yuki Yanagita of the SoftBank Hawks and right-hander Takayuki Kishi of the Rakuten Eagles.
Austin led the Central League with 11 home runs and a .346 batting average in October. The NPB website lauds him for fighting hard to keep the BayStars in the “A-class” (top-three) teams, although the team finished fourth.
His selection marked the third straight monthly award to a BayStars hitter after Keita Sano‘s August award and Takayuki Kajitani‘s in September. The last team to win three straight was the 2015 CL champion Yakult Swallows.
Morishita, the Carp’s top pick in last autumn’s draft, went 4-0 with a 0.24 ERA over 37 innings. He became the first Carp rookie to win 10 games since current ace Daichi Osera in 2014. He’s the first rookie to win a CL monthly pitching honor since Hayato Takagi, then of the Yomiuri Giants won for March and April in 2015.
The 35-year-old Kishi, who won for the fourth time, made six starts, winning five, to tie for the league lead. He struck out 50 batters in a superb finish to a season slowed, like several of Kishi’s have been, by injury. The right-hander went at least six innings in each of his September and October starts.
It’s Kishi’sfirst award since May 2018.
The 32-year-old Yanagita, played in all 32 of his team’s games over the final two months, when the Hawks broke with recent form by not taking it easy after clinching. Instead, Yanagita led the team as they celebrated their first PL title in three years by throwing opponents into a wood chipper.
Yanagita led in batting average (.360) on-base percentage (.459) and tied for the PL lead with 22 RBIs as the Hawks set an NPB record for wins in a month with 22. It was his second monthly award of the year, having won the award for June and July.
Fighters to cut Villanueva
Christian Villanueva, who got a second chance in Japan this season with the Nippon Ham Fighters only to suffer through a series of small injuries and play just 54 games, will not be retained, the Pacific League club said Wednesday.
The 29-year-old Villanueva came to Japan last year with the Yomiuri Giants, but was a disappointment, hitting eight home runs in 73 games with a .325 OBP and a .386 slugging average. This year, his home run production dropped and he posted just a .351 slugging average.
For the second straight night, a Yomiuri Giants hitter who had tied the game earlier with a home run came up with a chance to turn the game around with the bases loaded but were turned away by the BayStars bullpen. Two straight sixth-inning strikeouts stemmed the tide in DeNA’s 5-2 win at Yokohama Stadium.
The Giants loss completed a three-game sweep and prevented them from clinching the pennant in Yokohama. Their magic number, however, dropped to one after the Dragons lost to the Tigers.
Yoshiki Sunada struck out slugging on-base machine Yoshihiro Maru swinging on a 3-2 changeup and right-hander Shingo Hirata got Hiroyuki Nakajima looking at a 3-2 strike to enable starter Kentaro Taira (4-5) to earn the win after allowing a run in 5-1/3 innings.
Taira, who turned pro with the Giants, only pitched in one game for them before he was plucked from among the unprotected players on Yomiuri’s roster as compensation for the signing of free agent and current Toronto Blue Jay Shun Yamaguchi. This puts Taira in the same boat as his outgoing manager, Alex Ramirez, who finished his career in Yokohama after being discarded by the Giants, for whom he won two CL MVP awards.
And while Ramirez tends to be egregiously positive and would have congratulated his former skipper Tatsunori Hara had they clinched in Yokohama, you had to think that sweeping them and preventing them from celebrating in their home park had to be sweet.
Angel Sanchez (8-4) allowed two runs over six innings to take the tough loss and the BayStars piled three runs on after Sanchez was replaced with lefty Kazuto Taguchi. Tyler Austin and Neftali Soto each drove in a run in the inning.
Maru’s home run was his 26th of the season and the 200th of his career.
Jose Lopez had two hits, moving within two of 1,000 in Japan, a milestone that would make him one of three players with 1,000 in both MLB and NPB along with Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui.
Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto also had two hits, moving him within five of Japan’s iconic 2,000-hit milestone.
Nishi takes cue from Ono
Yuki Nishi (11-5) allowed six hits and a walk over the distance as the Hanshin Tigers took advantage of poor control from Yudai Ono (10-6) to beat the Chunichi Dragons lefty in a 3-1 win at Koshien Stadium.
The irony is that Nishi’s fourth complete game came against Ono, the guy they’e now calling “Mr. Complete Game” because he’s gone the distance in 10 of his 19 starts — a figure that seems incongruous in this age.
Nishi gave up the opening run, a leadoff shot in the first when Yota Kyoda barreled up a waist-high changeup and just cleared the fence at the right-field pole for his fifth home run. The right-hander overcame a two-out “triple” on a miss-played single to right and then shut down the Dragons the rest of the way.
Ono took the mound without his pin-point location but the Tigers only barreled up one of his mistakes in a two-run first. It went: bad pitch + bad swing = leadoff single; bad pitch + good swing = RBI double; tough pitch + good swing = infield single; and an RBI groundout when Yusuke Oyama chased Ball 4 but grounded to short.
The Tigers runs snapped Ono’s streak of 45 consecutive scoreless innings, and the loss dropped the Dragons into third place behind Hanshin.
Chono spoils Swallows’ rookie’s starting debut
Yakult Swallows 20-year-old rookie Yuto Kanakubo, their fifth pick in 2017, threw five scoreless innings in his first career start, but Hisashi Chono’s pinch-hit homer tied it in the Hiroshima Carp’s three-run seventh and both teams left the bases loaded late in the 3-3 10t-inning tie at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Hawks speed past Marines
The SoftBank Hawks’ Ukyo Shuto set an NPB record by stealing a base in his 12th consecutive game and pinch-runner Go Kamamoto scored the winning run from second on a two-run wild pitch from closer Naoya Masuda (3-5) in a 4-3 win over the Lotte Marines at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Matt Moore went eight innings for the Hawks, allowing three runs, two earned, on five hits while striking out nine and walking none. Marines reliever Hirokazu Sawamura allowed the Hawks to close within a run in the eighth on a home run by Takuya Kai.
Eagles keep Lions at bay
The Rakuten Eagles took extra BP after the first pitch, hammering Zach Neal (5-8) for five runs over two innings on six hits and three walks in a 13-5 win at MetLife Dome over the Seibu Lions, who remain one game back of the Marines in the battle for the PL’s second and final playoff spot.
Rookie Eagles catcher Takaya Tanaka, a 28-year-old purchased from the Giants on Sept. 28 after two games with them, went 3-for-3 with his first career home run, a squeeze and three RBIs.
Fighters squeak past Buffaloes
Christian Villanueva tied it with a sixth-inning sacrifice fly, and Haruki Nishikawa manufactured the winning run in the 10th in a 4-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Sapporo Dome.
The Buffaloes’ back-of-the-bullpen duo, setup man Tyler Higgins and closer Brandon Dickson, kept the game tied 3-3 through nine with one perfect inning apiece. Nishikawa singled with one out and stole second. He slid headfirst and took third after catcher Torai Fushimi’s throw hit off him and into right field for an error. Ryo Watanabe then did his duty with a drive to right to score Nishikawa.
Bryan Rodriguez worked a scoreless inning of relief for the Fighters.
Viciedo out with shoulder injury
Chunichi Dragons’ first baseman Dayan Viciedo injured his left shoulder making a diving catch in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s game against the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium and was deactivated on Thursday.
The Dragons, who are the least forthcoming of Japan’s 12 teams regarding player injuries, said he was deactivated due to “insufficient upper body fitness.” This makes me wonder whether would use that catch-all to describe a player losing an arm in a traffic accident.
Reliever Hiromu Ise (3-0) helped delay the Yomiuri Giants final push toward their second straight Central League pennant on Wednesday when he got league-home run leader Kazuma Okamoto to hit into a double play, allowing the DeNA BayStars to pull out a 10-6 win at Yokohama Stadium.
The result kept the Giants from lowering their magic number to one following a loss by the second-place Chunichi Dragons. To clinch on Thursday, the Giants will need to win and the Hanshin Tigers will need to come out on top in what could be a great pitchers’ duel between Yudai Ono (10-5) and Yuki Nishi (10-5).
Okamoto, whose 27th home run, a three-run third-inning shot, tied the game 4-4 came up in the fifth with no outs, the bases loaded and the BayStars leding 8-4. But Ise got him to ground to third. A run scored as Okamoto beat the throw to first that would have completed a triple play.
Tyler Austin and Neftali Soto each had two hits for the BayStars, with Soto’s two-run double highlighting a four-run first. Spencer Patton worked an inning of scoreless relief for the hosts.
Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto went 1-for-2 with a walk and a sac fly to move within seven of Japan’s iconic 2,000-hit milestone.
The BayStars’ Jose Lopez went 0-for-4 with a walk to remain four hits shy of becoming the first imported player with 1,000-plus hits in both MLB and NPB. Two Japanese players, Ichiro Suzuki, and Hideki Matsui, have accomplished the feat.
Fujinami overcomes shaky start
Shintaro Fujinami, making his first start since Sept. 13, cruised after leaving the bases loaded in a one-run first inning and left after four innings in the Hanshin Tigers 9-1 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Koshien Stadium.
Fujinami, once considered the top pitching prospect in a draft class that included Shohei Ohtani, is only now rebuilding his career after a four-year skid. At the end of September, he was put into middle relief, and was impressive.
“He was good in that role,” manager Akihiro Yano said according to Sponichi Annex. “So I thought about keeping him there, but I also wanted to see him start once. Now I want him to start next time.”
Fujinami issued a bases-loaded walk in the first inning after he lost a good-looking third strike on an umpire’s call, but retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced and notched six strikeouts.
Jerry Sands singled and scored the tying run for the Tigers in the sevond, and Jefry Marte doubled in a run and scored in the fifth, and delivered a seventh-inning sacrifice fly. Jon Edwards worked a scoreless inning for the Tigers.
Carp withstand Murakami homers
Atsushi Endo (4-6) allowed a run over seven innings and the Hiroshima Carp scored three runs in the first off lefty Masanori Ishikawa (2-8) in a 3-2 win over the Yakult Swallows at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Munetaka Murakami moved into a tie for second place in the race for the CL home run title with his 25th and 26th home runs, tying him with Hanshin’s Yusuke Oyama.
Geronimo Franzua recorded his 17th save.
Hawks knock off Marines
SoftBank Hawks ace Kodai Senga (10-6) struck out 12 over eight innings in a 2-0 win on Wednesday over the Lotte Marines at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
The loss by the second-place Marines left them just one game ahead of the third-place Seibu Lions in the fight for the Pacific League’s final playoff spot after the Hawks clinched the pennant on Tuesday.
Senga allowed four hits and three walks in a 128 effort, while former major leaguer Chen Wei-yin (0-2) also went eight innings. Ryoya Kurihara opened the scoring with his 15th home run to lead off the fifth. Yurisbel Gracial doubled to open the seventh and pinch-runner Yusuke Masago scored on a Nobuhiro Matsuda single.
A day after throwing 39 pitches in a marathon ninth inning, Hawks closer Yuito Mori worked the ninth for his 29th save.
Shuto ties record 11-game stolen base streak
SoftBank’s Ukyo Shuto tied Hall of Famer Yutaka Fukumoto’s NPB record of stealing a base in 11-straight games when he broke toward second base before a pickoff throw to first by the lefty Chen and then slid in safely. Fukumoto, who played his whole career for the PL’s Hankyu Braves, set his record in 1974.
Shuto, like a number of Hawks regulars including Senga and catcher Takuya Kai, turned pro on a non-roster developmental contract. He leads both leagues in steals with 47.
Lions hold off Eagles, close on 2nd
Fumikazu Kimura homered and Takumi Kuriyama hit a two-run double off former Lions ace Hideaki Wakui (11-4) and Seibu closer Tatsushi Masuda overcame a leadoff homer in the ninth inning to close out his 31st save in a 4-3 win over the Rakuten Eagles at MetLife Dome.
The win pulled the Lions to within a game of the Marines for the second and final playoff spot and a berth in the best-of-five PL Climax Series.
Kimura opened the scoring with his seventh home run, a two-run second-inning shot, and Lions rookie Shota Hamaya (3-2) was saved a run in the fourth when first baseman Hotaka Yamakawa threw a runner out at the plate on a groundball to first. Kuriyama’s sixth-inning double off his former teammate made it 4-1 in the sixth.
VerHagen shuts out Buffaloes
Drew VerHagen (8-6) struck out 13 while allowing two hits and no walks, and catcher Shingo Usami singled home the only run in the ninth inning off Orix Buffaloes closer Brandon Dickson (0-4) in a 1-0 win at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Buffaloes setup man Tyler Higgins struck out all three Fighters he faced in the ninth, including Kensuke Kondo and Sho Nakata, but Dickson walked two in the ninth to set up the tie-breaking run.
The SoftBank Hawks won the 21st championship in franchise history on Tuesday with a 5-1 win over their nemeses all season long, the Lotte Marines, at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Tsuyoshi Wada (8-1) struck out eight while allowing three hits and a walk over six innings. Wada, the winning pitcher in the team’s last clinching game, when they won the 2019 Japan Series, came out firing on all cylinders, pumping a fastball that usually sits at 87 mph up to 92. The lefty.
“I think we were all a little nervous today, so for Wada to come out and do what he did, it gave us all courage,” Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said.
“This was a year that we didn’t even know would start, but we hung in there amid all the difficulties and uncertainty. We wanted to win so badly, but I don’t know if we could have done it without the players taking such good care of their conditioning during this very difficult year.”
Tail-end hitter Hikaru Kawase put the hosts on the board in the fifth inning against Ayumu Ishikawa (7-5). He led off with a double, was sacrificed to third and scored on Akira Nakamura’s sacrifice fly. Hawks catcher Takuya Kai made it a 3-0 game in the sixth with his 10th home run, a two-run shot that plated Kenji Akashi.
Reliever Sho Iwasaki won an epic at-bat against pinch-hitter Katsuya Kakunaka to get out of the seventh inning with two men on, and lefty Livan Moinelo worked a 1-2-3 eighth.
Closer Yuito Mori took the mound in the ninth and the Marines held his feet to the fire.
The right-hander allowed one run on Shogo Nakamura’s leadoff walk, and an error by center fielder Yuki Yanagita on Ikuhiro Kiyota’s one-out double. After a two-out walk, Mori appeared to be out of the woods on a bouncer to third, but Taisei Makihara, who entered the game for his speed and defense, fumbled the ball to load the bases.
That brought Shuhei Fukuda to the plate as the potential tying run. For years, the Hawks fourth outfielder, Fukuda moved to the Marines over the winter as a free agent. Mori finally got him on his 39th pitch of the inning.
The Hawks have now won three straight against Lotte but still trail in their season series 7-11 with one tie.
Lions ground Eagles on Mori homer
Tomoya Mori’s three-run home run off Rakuten Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto (5-6) lifted the Seibu Lions to a 4-3 win at MetLife Dome that moved them to within two games of the Pacific League’s final playoff spot.
Mori’s ninth home run made a winner out of Kona Takahashi (8-8), who allowed three runs on four hits and three walks over seven innings. Kaima Taira and Tatsushi Masuda finished up with one scoreless apiece with Masuda earning his 30th save.
Fighters get past Buffaloes
The top two hitters in the Nippon Ham Fighters lineup, Haruki Nishikawa, who reached base five times, and Shota Hiranuma each scored twice in a 5-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Steven Moya tied the game 2-2 in the bottom of the first for the Buffaloes with his 10th home run, while Bryan Rodriguez threw a scoreless inning of relief as the Fighters used seven pitchers on a bullpen day.
Nishikawa, who said last winter that he’d like to move to the majors in 2021 by way of the posting system, made his second costly base running mistake in a few days.
Lopez slams Giants
Jose Lopez, who spent his first two Japanese seasons with the Yomiuri Giants, hit a grand slam off his former team for his 996th career hit in Japan as the DeNA BayStars clobbered rookie Shosei Togo (8-6) in a 9-2 win at Yokohama Stadium.
The Giants’ magic number to clinch their second straight Central League pennant dropped to three thanks to the Chunichi Dragons’ 4-1 loss to the Hanshin Tigers.
Over the weekend, Lopez achieved his 2,000th hit between the majors and NPB, and is now four hits shy of joining his former Seattle Mariners teammate Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui as the third player to achieve 1,000-plus hits in both the majors and Nippon Professional Baseball.
Lopez’s home run was his ninth, while Tyler Austin hit his 19th for the BayStars. Shinichi Onuki (10-5) allowed two runs over six innings to earn the win.
Tigers win on grab bag of mistakes
The Chunichi Dragons’ bullpen which has been, after lefty starter Yudai Ono, the team’s biggest story this season, was snake-bit in a three-run, error-filled eighth inning in a 4-1 Hanshin Tigers win at Koshien Stadium.
With two outs and none on in the eighth, first baseman Dayan Viciedo dove to make a stop, and threw to the pitcher, who took his eye off the ball, allowing a runner to reach. On the next play, Fuku threw wide to first to put two on.
Dragons rookie Kaname Takino, whose first career hit over the weekend was unexpectedly greeted by fireworks at Jingu Stadium from a nearby event, made it a trifecta for Tigers fans. He tried to make a shoestring catch on a flare off the bat of Koji Chikamoto but kicked it away. The Tigers leadoff man was credited with a two-run triple before another run scored on a smashed infield single.
Tigers closer Robert Suarez surrendered a Viciedo leadoff double in the ninth before striking out the last three batters to record his 24th save.
Hanshin left fielder Jerry Sands, who was ejected on Sunday for abusive language toward a home plate umpire and fined 100,000 yen ($950) had two hits.
Kuri stuffs Swallows
Allen Kuri (8-5) threw his fifth straight solid start, hurling 7-2/3 innings for the Hiroshima Carp in a 2-0 win over the Yakult Swallows at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Kuri struck out 10 but loaded the bases in the eighth on a single and two walks, forcing lefty Atsuya Horie to come in and strike out Swallows batting star Munetaka Murakami to preserve the two-run lead. Geronimo Franzua worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 16th save.
Over his last five starts, Kuri has allowed three runs, two earned, over 40 innings. During that stretch, he’s walked nine but struck out 38 and allowed no home runs.
Swallows right-hander Hirotoshi Takanashi (3-6) worked seven innings and took the tough loss.
The 26-year-old is 4-4 this season with a 3.10 ERA in 11 games. He will probably will be unable to resume training for at least a month.
Former Red Sox pitcher Tazawa goes undrafted
Junichi Tazawa, the 34-year-old right-hander who made history by snubbing Nippon Professional Baseball’s draft and becoming the first marquee Japanese amateur to turn pro with a major league club, was in turn snubbed by NPB teams in Tuesday’s draft.
As a Japanese citizen, Tazawa is only eligible to sign his first NPB contract after being selected in the draft. For years, he hoped to play for Japan’s national team but was blacklisted because of NPB’s infamous Tazawa Rule, which was recently revoked.
He is currently playing for the Musashino Heat Bears of the independent Baseball Challenge League, Japan’s largest independent circuit. He was not even selected in the developmental draft, from which a team could sign him to a non-roster contract with a 240,000-yen minimum salary (roughly $2,200).
There was some speculation that he was passed over because teams don’t wish to deal with players who are represented by agents.
Kotaro Otake (2-0) came up from the farm, surrendered one run over five innings and Ukyo Shuto sparked the offense as the SoftBank Hawks clinched a postseason spot for the seventh straight year with a 7-2 win over the Seibu Lions at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Otake allowed three singles, all in the Lions’ second, and five relievers finished up while the Hawks offense scored early and often.
Shuto opened the bottom of the first with a single, stole his Japan-best 45th base, and scored on a Yuki Yanagita single to center. Lions center fielder Yuji Kaneko charged his hardest to keep Shuto from scoring, but failed to collect the ball, and Yanagita–even with his diminished 32-year-old wheels–circled the bases easily and scored standing up.
The Hawks put the game away in a four-run second, with Shuto singling home the first run off Lions starter Wataru Matsumoto (5-6). Yanagita walked with the bases loaded and Yurisbel Gracial doubled in two runs.
The Hawks have a magic number to clinch the franchise’s 21st pennant and will play the second-place Lotte Marines at home starting on Tuesday.
Iwashita returns to plague Buffaloes
Daiki Iwashita, Patient Zero in the Lotte Marines recent novel coronavirus outbreak, returned to duty with five scoreless innings in a 10-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Iwashita (6-7) allowed four hits and a walk while striking out four. On the other side of the equation Taiwan’s Chang Yi (2-3) gave up an unlucky run in the first before the roof caved in on him in the third.
“In the third and fifth innings, I made mistakes with my out pitches,” he said after allowing seven runs on 11 hits but now walks over five innings. “I threw fat pitches and that was it.”
Romero steals show in Sendai
Stefen Romero did everything except hit for the cycle, playing great defense in left field while going 4-for-4 with a double and a triple in the Rakuten Eagles’ 13-4 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Romero robbed Sho Nakata of an RBI extra-base hit to end the first with a catch near the top of the fence in left. He singled and scored the game’s first run in the third off Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (7-9) and tripled in two and scored in Rakuten’s three-run fourth.
A single off a big swing in his final at-bat ended Romero’s day as he failed to put his name in the record books next to baseball’s stupidest accomplishment.
Ryota Takinaka (2-1) walked five but allowed no runs over seven innings to earn the win. Rakuten’s D.J. Johnson allowed no hits or walks but gave up an unearned run in the eighth.
Akiyama stops Giants
Right-hander Takumi Akiyama (9-3) allowed six hits over the distance and Yusuke Oyama powered the Hanshin Tigers’ offense in a 4-2 win over the Central Legue-leading Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo Dome.
Akiyama struck out five and allowed both runs on Yoshihiro Maru’s 24th home run. He struck out five without issuing a walk.
The Tigers opened the scoring in the first against Seishu Hatake (3-4) on three straight one-out singles by Kento Itohara, Jefry Marte and Oyama.
Oyama doubled in the fifth and scored on Naomasa Yokawa’s fifth home run.
The Giants’ magic number to clinch the pennant remained at four after the second-place Chunichi Dragons won their late game at nearby Jingu Stadium.
In the first game since DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez announced he would leave at the end of the season, a parade of six relievers held the Hiroshima Carp to six hits in a 3-0 win at Yokohama Stadium.
With the BayStars leading 1-0 after Toshiro Miyazaki’s first-inning RBI single off Yuta Nakamura (3-3), Neftali Soto drove in an eighth-inning insurance run with his 22nd home run. Tyler Austin followed with a single and scored on a Yamato Maeda single.
Kinoshita doubles down for die-hard Dragons
Takuya Kinoshita doubled in three second-inning runs as the Chunichi Dragons refused to roll over and give up the pennant race in a 5-1 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Dayan Viciedo homered, singled twice and scored twice for the Dragons, who got 6-1/3 scoreless innings from Yuya Yanagi (5-6). The right-hander allowed four hits, three walks and hit a batter while striking out seven.
Swallows starter Albert Suarez (4-3) also had trouble with location as he allowed three runs over five innings after walking four, hitting one and giving up three hits.
Igarashi goes out on top
Ryota Igarashi threw one pitch in his 823rd and final NPB game, entering the game between the Yakult Swallows and Chunichi Dragons in the eighth inning and left after throwing one pitch and getting an out thanks to a good play at third by Alcides Escobar.
He entered the game to hugs from his teammates, left to a standing ovation, and tossed the ball he threw into the fans at Jingu Stadium.
Buffaloes deactivate Jones
The Orix Buffaloes deactivated outfielder Adam Jones on Sunday due to the season’s most overused catch-all reason, “a lack of lower-body fitness.”
In 87 games, Jones has posted a .331 on-base percentage with a .417 slugging average. He has hit 12 home runs, scored 29 runs and driven in 43.
Meanwhile, the Yakult Swallows activated reliever Ryota Igarashi for the express purpose of allowing him to pitch in his retirement game and for that reason were allowed to exceed the 31-man active roster limit.
The SoftBank Hawks turned a pitchers’ duel into a rout with seven runs off the Nippon Ham Fighters’ bullpen in a 9-1 win at Sapporo Dome on Wednesday. The Hawks, looking to win their first Pacific League pennant in three years, lowered their magic number to eight.
The Japanese news on Thursday will be the Hawks HAVE a magic number. But don’t be confused. That’s just the way they do things here.
Hawks ace Kodai Senga (9-6) allowed a run in the second on three ground balls that weren’t particularly well hit. He left after 6-1/3 innings having allowed seven hits and a walk while striking out five.
Drew VerHagen (7-6) allowed three runs over 6-2/3 innings. He gave up eight hits and a walk while striking out six.
Until the bullpen got involved everything revolved around the Hawks’ Ukyo Shuto and the Fighters’ Taishi Ota.
Shuto dropped a ground ball at second, allowing second-inning leadoff hitter Sho Nakata to reach on an error. Ryo Watanabe reached on a grounder to third. Ota smacked a breaking ball up in the zone through the infield, and Nakata just beat the throw home.
The Hawks took the lead in the fifth. Takuya Kai singled and scored when Shuto burned around the bases on a triple to the gap in left center. The Hawks’ speedster then scored on Akira Nakamura’s fly to right, barely beating the tag after a strong throw from Ota arrived on the first-base side of the plate.
With one out and two on in the bottom of the sixth, Ota hit a fly to medium deep right field, Nakata barreled home, but Ryoya Kurihara’s throw was on the third-base side of the plate, and lacking Shuto’s speed, Nakata was out. Shuto sparked a three-run seventh with a two-out walk that chased VerHagen. Reliever Mizuki Hori walked Nakamura and surrendered an RBI single to Yuki Yanagita. Takahiro Nishimura came in and gave up a two-run double to Yurisbel Gracial.
Déjà vu all over again
For the second straight night, Shuta Tonosaki led off the bottom of the ninth against Lotte Marines closer Naoya Masuda (3-4) and scored the winning run on a ball hit by Kakeru Yamanobe to lift the Seibu Lions to a 2-1 win at MetLife Dome.
For the second straight night, Lions closer Tatsushi Masuda (5-0) worked dangerously. A night after he blew a one-run save, he pitched out of trouble to keep the game tied. Tonosaki drew a leadoff walk and instead of scoring on a dropped fly ball as he did on Tuesday, scored on a Yamanobe single.
Ernesto Mejia’s fourth-inning RBI single opened the scoring, and the Marines tied it in the seventh on a double play after Ikuhiro Kiyota and Hisanori Yasuda singled to open the inning.
Oshiro HR lifts Buffaloes
Koji Oshiro homered in the ninth inning off Yuki Matsui (4-5) to lift the Orix Buffaloes to a 6-5 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Buffaloes setup man Tyler Higgins (3-3) earned the win after he surrendered the tying run in the bottom of the eighth. Brandon Dickson loaded the bases in the ninth but allowed no runs to notch his 15th save.
The Eagles’ Stefen Romero capped a four-run first inning with a three-run home run, his 21st.
Swallows win battle for the ages
Forty-year-old Masanori Ishikawa (2-7) allowed a run over six innings and Munetaka Murakami, who is 20 years, 11 days younger, brought the Yakult Swallows from a run down with his 24th home run to beat the Central League-leading Yomiuri Giants 2-1 at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto broke up the scoreless game with a fourth-inning home run, his 17th. The visitors blew a chance for a fifth-inning insurance run when Yoshihiro Maru was put out trying to score from third when Takumi Oshiro failed to bunt a breaking ball in the strike zone.
With Norichika Aoki aboard in the sixth, Murakami hit an improbably low pitch from Giants lefty Yuki Takahashi and hit a nine-iron into the left-field stands for an opposite-field home run.
Dragons centurian Viciedo beats BayStars
Dayan Viciedo’s three-run home run, his 16th of the season and the 100th of his Japan career, overturned a 2-1 deficit and lifted the Chunichi Dragons to a 4-2 win over the DeNA BayStars at Nagoya Dome.
Tyler Austin singled in both of DeNA’s runs in the first and third, but Edwin Escobar surrendered one-out hits to Yohei Oshima and Yota Kyoda before Viciedo took him deep with two outs. The Dragons bullpen, weakened by the loss of closer Raidel Martinez, allowed six of the BayStars’ final 13 batters to reach but no runs.
Marte returns, homers in Tigers’ win
Jefry Marte returned after a 3-1/2 month absence to smash a two-run homer that lifted the Hanshin Tigers to a 2-0 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Koshien Stadium.
Koyo Aoyagi (7-8) worked 5-1/3 innings. He gave up a hit, two walks and hit a batter while striking out eight. Closer Robert Suarez, the Tigers’ fifth pitcher, worked a 1-2-3 ninth to take over the CL saves lead with his 22nd.
Carp starter Atsushi Endo (3-6) allowed two runs over six innings. He struck out nine.
Tigers may be done with Fukudome
Kosuke Fukudome, who at 43 is the oldest player in Nippon Professional Baseball, has been notified by the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers that he is not in their plans for next year, the Nikkan Sports reported Wednesday.
Such notices usually mean a player will be released or sold, but that is not always the case. It is noteworthy that when the Tigers became a novel coronavirus cluster in September, Fukudome had been one of those who had broken team protocols by dining out in a group of eight — twice the team’s limit.
As happens in Japan, at least one head had to role when a problem occurred in conjunction with rulebreaking and team president Kenji Ageshio announced on Oct. 9 that he would step down.
Another thing that happens in Japan is that the punishment and blame handed to athletes who break the rules is in inverse proportion to their competitiveness.
When a number of Japanese badminton players were found to have visited a casino–which are illegal in Japan–the most lenient treatment was reserved for world No. 2 Kento Momota, who missed the 2016 Olympics but has since returned to competition.
When a number of Yomiuri Giants pitchers were found to have bet on baseball, the lightest punishment was reserved for the only one who was any good. And after sitting out for one year and showing remorse, lefty Kyosuke Takagi resumed his career.
In 2019, Fukudome posted a .347 on-base-percentage, his worst as a regular in Japan. This year, his struggles have intensified, making him vulnerable to pay a price for his failure to follow the rules.
A former CL MVP, Fukudome spent five seasons in the United States, where he may have had the worst NPB-to-MLB translated value in history.
An on-base machine with good power (career .383 OBP .495 slug), who was killed by his first pro home park, Nagoya Dome, Fukudome’s offensive numbers in the majors (.359 .395) fell off considerably despite playing in excellent hitters’ parks.
Using Bill James Win Shares, most Japanese players lose some value going to the States, and after coming back past their prime, regain a little or stay about where they were in terms of value. Fukudome dropped sharply when he left and rebounded sharply when he returned.
I haven’t had a chance to speak with him about it, but MLB’s more challenging travel requirements and training routines may have been particularly hard on him. These differences can be very tough on Japanese players–regardless of Hideki Okajima‘s assertion that it was easy for him and “if it’s hard to adjust, you don’t belong in MLB.”
He was deactivated on Aug. 5 and traveled to the States 11 days later. He has played in 39 games this year with six home runs, giving him 169 in Japan. Laird was instrumental in the Nippon Ham Fighters winning the 2016 PL pennant and Japan Series, and is well known in Japan for his “sushi-making” home run celebration.
Buffaloes drop ace Yamamoto
A day after yet another sharp outing in which he allowed two runs over seven innings, the Orix Buffaloes dropped ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto on Wednesday.
Yamamoto was taken off the hook for the loss when Orix came back to tie it 2-2 in the ninth inning. The 22-year-old leads both leagues with 149 strikeouts and tops the Pacific League with a 2.20 ERA and 126-2/3 innings. The move, according to the Daily Sports, was made out of consideration for his lower-body fitness and overall fatigue.
The Chunichi Dragons also made a move, dropping closer Raidel Martinez, who has struck out over 11 batters per nine innings and is tied for the league saves lead with Robert Suarez of the Hanshin Tigers.
As usual, the Dragons failed to specify any reason for Martinez’s move other than saying it was due to a lack of lower-body fitness.”
Active roster moves 10/21/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/31