Tag Archives: Tyler Higgins

NPB 2020 7-11 games and news

Buffaloes exploit reliever’s mistakes

The Orix Buffaloes won for the fifth time in seven games with a 5-3 win on Saturday over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome on Saturday.

With both teams giving away opportunities and then throwing away their chances, the Buffaloes finally broke up the 1-1 tie that had existed since the first inning.

Southpaw Katsuhiko Kumon (0-1), the sixth pitcher on a bullpen day for Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama, made two momentary lapses in the field and that was enough to turn the game Orix’s way. The lefty came in throwing strikes and executing his pitches for the most part.

With a runner on second after a leadoff single and a sacrifice, Yuma Mune hit a grounder to first. Kumon went to cover first, and though he’d been able to locate his pitches, he was unable to locate the bag. Only after taking the throw from first baseman Sho Nakata did he realize that he had stopped more than a stride from the bag as Mune sped past and reached safely with an “infield single.”

Mune stole second on the first pitch to left-handed slugger Masataka Yoshida, who after a steady diet of pitches targeting the low-away corner of the zone, chopped one back to Kumon. The southpaw hesitated for a split second to see the runner coming home, but then couldn’t find the ball in his glove. His delayed throw home gave his catcher no chance for a play as the Buffaloes took their first lead.

With lefty Takahiro Okada on deck, Kumon worked extra carefully to Adam Jones and walked him. It was at that point that the game got out of control. Kumon missed with a 1-0 slider in the heart of the zone to Okada. Although he’s having a tremendous start to the season, the Buffaloes slugger missed and popped it up.

But Kumon’s early ability to execute was now gone. He tried to go inside with a first-pitch fastball to Aderlin Rodriguez but missed high and over the plate. Rodriguez, who had demolished the Fighters the day before, put a beautiful swing on it and lined it over second for a two-run single.

The game marked an end to Kumon’s record-setting streak of 182 career games without a loss, and rather than sympathy, one suspects he is going to receive a heaping helping of pitchers fielding practice.

Kumon’s replacement walked the next to batters to make it 5-1, and Buffaloes right-hander Keisuke Sawada coughed up two runs in the ninth on Kotaro Kiyomiya’s second home run of the season before Brandon Dickson came in to face one batter, tough left-handed leadoff man Haruki Nishikawa. Dickson retired him on three pitches to earn his third save.

Buffaloes lefty Daiki Tajima allowed a run over five innings on three hits and three walks. Nakata singled home Nishikawa, after Tajima walked the first two batters he faced in the first.

Chihiro Kaneko, who won a Sawamura Award as Japan’s most impressive starting pitcher during his days as Buffaloes ace, led off the Fighters’ bullpen relay. He surrendered a leadoff single to Koji Oshiro, who scored from third on a wild pitch.

After Tajima left the game, Hirotoshi Masui and Nobuyoshi Yamada each worked a scoreless inning, as did new import Tyler Higgins (1-0) who earned the win in relief. Higgins located a good fastball with an effective change to more or less dictate things from the mound.

Marines power past Lions

The Lotte Marines took a bat to Seibu Lions starter Wataru Matsumoto (0-2) in a 6-4 victory at Chiba’s breezy Zozo Marine Stadium.

After an error put the leadoff man on, Marines No. 3 hitter Tsuyoshi Sugano fouled off three two-strike pitches before finding a straight fastball in the heart of the zone to his liking and pulling it well back into the right field stands.

Brandon Laird drew an eight-pitch walk after he popped up the seventh near first base. There, the wind prevented a catch in foul territory. Seiya Inoue followed homering for the second-straight game to make it 4-0 Lotte, hitting the first strike he saw, a low 2-0 fastball and powering it into the left field seats.

Marines starter Atsuki Taneichi (1-1) brought a lively fastball and was able to survive a third-inning scrape with just two runs scored off him. Over six innings, he gave up three runs on seven hits, two walks and two hit batsmen while striking out 10.

Frank Herrmann, Tsuyoshi Ishizaki and Naoya Masuda finished up for Lotte, with Masuda earning his fifth save.

Niho outlasts Kishi as Hawks slam Eagles

Journeyman right-hander, who somehow got a spot in the SoftBank Hawks starting rotation, showed why he deserved that chance as he outpitched veteran Takayuki Kishi in an 8-4 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Niho (1-2) entered the game with eight career wins. He allowed four runs on four hits, a walk and a hit batsman over seven innings while striking out three. In a game that seemed like a hopeless mismatch, Niho executed his pitches, while the Hawks ran the bases better and fielded better than the Hawks.

Yasuhito Uchida blasted a three-run second-inning homer in an inning led off by good at-bats from Hiroaki Shimauchi, who walked, and Stefen Romero, who singled.

The Hawks scored twice in the second thanks to some opportunistic base running that the Eagles failed to counter. With two outs and a man on in the third, Nobuhiro Matsuda tied it when he appeared to be looking for a first-pitch changeup from Kishi and drilled it for his second home run of the season and second in two games.

Yuki Yanagita, who doubled in the first and walked three times, walked to open the seventh and broke the 4-4 tie on a double by Kenji Akashi, who had scored in both the second and third innings.

Akashi’s first run was simple theft. After he singled and went to second when Matsuda walked, Takuya Kai singled to center. The Eagles appeared to have Matsuda hung up between second and third, but while they focused on him Akashi sprinted home. The throw went home late and both runners advanced. Matsuda then scored on a squibber down the line. Catcher Hikaru Ota went to field it but could not tag Matsuda as he ran past to score.

Big fish inning defeats Dragons

Shogo Itakura, a 22-year-old catching prospect had a pair of RBI singles in the third inning and went 4-for-5 with a walk and a double in the Hiroshima Carp’s 19-4 demolition of the Chunichi Dragons at Nagoya Dome.

The Carp broke a 1-1 tie with nine runs in the third, five off right-handed starter Akiyoshi Katsuno (0-1), while Hiroshima lefty Hiroki Tokoda (1-1) allowed three runs over six innings to earn the win.

Hiroshima’s Jose Pirela went 2-for-5 with a walk and a home run on the game’s first pitch, while the new Dragons new, 24-year-old Cuban Ariel Martinez batted third and went 2-for-4 with an RBI double and two strikeouts to keep his average at .500.

New Carp import D. J. Johnson made his debut and allowed one run in the ninth.

Takahashi out again, rookie Ishikawa to get call

Dragons captain Shuhei Takahashi injured his left hamstring as he was striding to first base in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game and is expected to be out between three weeks and a month according to a report in the Nikkan Sports.

Takahashi posted a career-high .345 on-base percentage last season when he missed 26 games, largely due to a leg injury. He will be deactivated on Sunday

According to the report, Takahashi will be replaced on the roster by slugging rookie Takaya Ishikawa, whom Chunichi won the rights to in a draft-day lottery after he was picked first by three clubs.

The 19-year-old who starred for Japan’s U-18 team last summer, suffered from inflammation in his right shoulder during camp. He has played in all nine of the Dragons’ farm club’s Western League games, batting fourth and playing third.

Ogawa pitches Swallows past Giants

Right-hander Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa” (3-0) allowed two runs over six innings while striking out six to earn the win as the Yakult Swallows beat their Tokyo rivals, the Yomiuri Giants, 9-2 at Hotto Motto Field Kobe.

Swallows shortstop Alcides Escobar had his 1.85-meter frame to thank for being able to reach up and snag a flyball in a run-saving first-inning catch. Munetaka Murakami doubled off Angel Sanchez (2-2) to open the Swallows fourth and scored the tie-breaking run on a Yuhei Takai sac fly.

Norichika Aoki homered, doubled, scored twice and drove in three for the Swallows.

Sanchez allowed four runs, three earned, on four hits and two walks in 5-1/3 innings. He struck out eight.

Soto finishes dramatic DeNA comeback

Neftali Soto capped a three-run ninth-inning rally with a two-run homer off Kyuji Fujikawa (0-2) in the DeNA BayStars’ 4-2 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium.

Soto walked and scored in the eighth to make it a 2-1 game. With one out in the ninth, Takayuki Kajitani walked. Substitute outfielder Kai Ueda, who had entered in the bottom of the eighth as a pinch runner, let Masayuki Kuwahara’s single get past him, allowing Kajitani to score from first. Soto then blasted a 2-1 fastball for his fifth home run.

The Tigers had led since the second inning, when Justin Bour hit his fourth home run of the season, off BayStars southpaw Shota Imanaga, who left after six innings.

Four relievers finished up for the BayStars, with lefty Kenta Ishida (1-0) working the eighth to earn the win, and Yasuaki Yamasaki stranding two in the ninth to earn his fifth save.

The ninth-inning comeback spoiled a solid start by Hanshin right-hander Yuki Nishi, who struck tout seven over 6-1/3 scoreless innnings.

NPB 2020 7-4 GAMES AND NEWS

Sunday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB.

Wada gets assist from Fighters in 1st win

Former Cub Tsuyoshi Wada took a no-hitter into the seventh and ended up with his first win of the season as the SoftBank Hawks beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 8-3 at Sapporo Dome.

The 39-year-old lefty frequently missed in the zone, but the Fighters only hit two balls hard off him through six, both drives straight to Hawks outfielders. Instead of playing “see the ball, hit the ball” against a pitcher whose fastball sat at 85 miles per hour, they guessed and watched and looked and waited.

Wada’s changeup was first rate, and it was if the Fighters were waiting for him to throw it up in the zone, something he refused to do. Instead, whenever they got a fastball up they either watched it, missed it or miss-hit it. He surrendered his first hit to Kensuke Kondo to open the seventh.

The Fighters’ most patient hitter had taken strike after strike in the zone in his first two at-bats, and should have been rung up on a low 0-2 changeup. But umpires are umpires the world over, Kondo got a second life and pulled an inside 1-2 fastball between first and second for a single.

In the seventh, the Fighters changed tactics and began taking easy swings at mistakes in the zone. They loaded the bases with three no-out singles and Wada was gone.

“They are professional hitters. It wasn’t a matter of if they would get a hit, but when,” Wada said.

The Hawks opened the scoring in the first, when Kenta Imamiya homered with one out and none on against Takayuki Kato (0-1). Imamiya, on Friday moved into a tie for seventh all-time in career sacrifice hits with 300. Three straight hits, including a Wladimir Balentien double gave the Hawks the lead for good.

Here are the game highlights:

Kishi wins season debut

The Rakuten Eagles won a seven-inning rain-shortened 3-1 game over the Lotte Marines at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi. Takayuki Kishi (1-0) allowed a first-inning run over five innings in his season debut by pitching out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fourth.

Former Padre Kazuhisa Makita worked a scoreless sixth, and former Dodger JT Chargois pitched the seventh to earn his first save in Japan.

Here are the game highlights:

Yoshida homer lifts Buffaloes over Lions

Masataka Yoshida’s third home run of the season, a two-run shot in the eighth inning, brought the Orix Buffaloes from a run down and lifted them to a 4-3 win over the defending Pacific League champion Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.

Buffaloes starter Daiki Tajima (1-0) had one brush with trouble and it cost him in a three-run fourth, capped by Takeya Nakamura’s two-run double. Aderlin Rodriguez’s fifth-inning solo homer made it a 3-1 game in the fifth and Tajima left after seven.

A one-out walk, a wild pickoff throw and an RBI single by Koji Oshiro made it a 3-2 game before Yoshida homered with two outs.

Tyler Higgins worked the eighth for Orix and Brandon Dickson closed in the ninth to record his first save of the season.

Maru drives in 6 as Giants whip Dragons

Yoshihiro Maru homered twice and added an RBI double as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Chunichi Dragons 7-3 at Tokyo Dome.

Hayato Sakamoto walked twice, homered, singled and scored three runs, while Gerardo Parra doubled twice and singled.

Marte, Bour rip as Tigers gut Carp

Jefry Marte hit a two-run first-inning home run off Carp ace Daichi Osera (2-1) in a 9-3 Hanshin Tigers win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Justin Bour had three hits for the Tigers and a sacrifice fly, while starting pitcher Yuta Iwasada (1-1) allowed three runs over six innings to earn the win.

Osera, who entered the game having opened the season with back-to-back complete-game victories, allowed five runs on eight hits over four innings. Osera failed to score or drive in a run on Saturday, but did single in his only at-bat, raising his average to .625.

Marte did not return to third base in the bottom of the third inning after complaining of tightness in his left calf.

Martinez 1st import to catch in 20 years

A day after being called up, 24-year-old Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez saw his first duty behind the plate on Saturday. Coming on as a sixth-inning pinch-hitter, Martinez walked, scored and stayed in to catch.

In so doing, he became the first imported player to catch in an NPB game since former Australian big leaguer Dave “Dingo” Nillson caught in one game for the Dragons in 2020. Prior to that, Mike Diaz caught 21 games for the Lotte Orions from 1990 to 1991.

Martinez, who joined Chunichi as a non-roster developmental signing in 2018, was signed to a standard contract this past week and added to the Dragons’ 70-man roster. He looked good behind the plate and threw out the first runner who tried to steal against him.

Swallows walk the walk

The Yakult Swallows overcame home runs by Neftali Soto and Jose Lopez by drawing seven walks in a 10-8 win over the DeNA BayStars, who outhit the Swallows 15-6.

Soto had four hits, including two homers, but Naomichi Nishiura and Norichika Aoki each hit two-run shots for the Swallows. Nishimura, who had lost his shortstop job to Alcides Escobar, has grabbed it back by hitting four homers in four games.

Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama entered the ninth with a four-run lead but allowed two runs on Soto’s third home run of the year.

NPB 2020 7-3 GAMES AND NEWS

Saturday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB.

Sugano outduels Ono with 1-hitter

Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano struck out 11, while allowing one hit in a 5-0 shutout of the Chunichi Dragons on Friday at Tokyo Dome.

Sugano (2-0) walked two and hit a batter, while Ono (0-2) allowed two runs, one earned, while striking out 10 over seven innings. Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto broke up the scoreless game in the sixth inning with a solo homer.

Dayan Viciedo, who broke up Sugano’s no-hit bid with a seventh-inning double, ended the game by grounding out to second.

Ariel Martinez, a 24-year-old Cuban catcher who was activated on Friday after a hot streak in the Western League, struck out in the eighth as a pinch-hitter in his first-team debut.

Balentien makes Arihara pay

Wladimir Balentien broke a 1-1 tie at Sapporo Dome with a two-run home run, his third in two games, off Kohei Arihara (0-3) in the SoftBank Hawks’4-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Coming to the plate after Yuki Yanagita singled in the tying run, Balentien extended his arms on a lazy first-pitch slider and drove it well past the wall in center for his fifth home run of the season.

In the eighth, Balentien didn’t reach the seats, but he did double off the dome’s ceiling. The ball that was headed out was deflected downward and bounced in front of and over left fielder Kensuke Kondo.

Cuba’s Livan Moinelo worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn the save.

Imamiya reaches sacrificial milestone

Although Hawks shortstop Kenta Imamiya has developed medium-range power, he’s still a shortstop and still expected to sacrifice like he did when he needed to cement his role on the team by bunting all the time.

On Friday, his sixth-inning sacrifice put a runner in scoring position, from where Yanagita singled him home. The 300th career sacrifice hit ties him for sixth all-time with former Nankai Hawks and Kintetsu Buffaloes star Hiromasa Arai.

Norimoto survives scrape for 3rd win

Takahiro Norimoto (3-0) got his pitching hand in the way of a fourth-inning batted ball but returned to the field after treatment and gutted it out for 6-2/3 innings to earn the victory in the Rakuten Eagles’ 3-1 win over the Lotte Marines.

The Marines tied it in the fourth on a passed ball, but home runs from Ryosuke Tatsumi and Hiroaki Shimauchi off Marines right-hander Ayumu Ishikawa (0-1) made the difference at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

With two outs and the tying runs on in the seventh JT Chargois retired Lotte leadoff man Takashi Ogino to preserve the lead, and Alan Busenitz struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth. Kohei Morihara worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save.

Lions salvage tie with Buffaloes

Takeya Nakamura homered and had a solid defensive game at third base as the Seibu Lions overcame a three-run, sixth-inning deficit at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo in their game against the Orix Buffaloes that was called a 4-4 tie after 10 innings.

Adam Jones tied the game 1-1 in the sixth with an RBI single and scored on Takahiro Okada’s monstrous home run off Lions starter Zach Neal. But Nakamura homered to open the sixth against former closer Hirotoshi Masui, and Sosuke Genda completed the comeback with a two-run single.

By taking Neal off the hook for the loss, the Lions preserved his chance to win 13 straight decisions.

Tyler Higgins and Brandon Dickson each worked scoreless innings in relief for the Buffaloes, with Dickson pitching out of a one-out bases-loaded jam by striking out Nakamura and getting Wu Nien-ting to fly to the warning track.

For the second-straight night new Lion Reed Garret pitched out of trouble after allowing two hits. He had some help from catcher Tomoya Mori, who cut down a would-be base stealer with a tremendous throw.

Dragons call up catcher Martinez

The Central League’s Chunichi Dragons activated Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez on Friday according to the Chunichi Sports. The team signed the 24-year-old on Wednesday after acquiring him in 2018 as a non-roster developmental player.

The move was made because 31-year-old left fielder Zolio Almonte was deactivated due to concerns about his fitness. In his two-plus seasons in Japan, Almonte has a .369 on-base percentage and a .484 slugging average despite playing at one of Japan’s toughest home run parks.

Martinez, who cracked his second Western League home run on Thursday, has four from 11 minor league and practice games this year. He becomes the first imported player registered as a catcher since Australian Dave Nillson, who caught in one game in 2000 for the Dragons.

In three WL games, Martinez is 5-for-9 with a double, two home runs and two walks. He has yet to strike out.

Martinez caught on June 24, when he accounted for the only run off Carter Stewart Jr, with a solo home run and again on Thursday, when he homered in an 8-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Nagoya Stadium.

Carp drop reliever Scott

The Hiroshima Carp deactivated right-handed first-year import Taylor Scott on Friday, the day after he surrendered four runs in a 9-5 walk-off loss to the Yakult Swallows.

Scott (0-2) has faced 22 hitters, while allowing 10 hits and three walks. He’s allowed one home run, Thursday’s game-winning grand slam off the bat of Munetaka Murakami.

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 6-27 GAMES AND NEWS

Sunday’s announced starting pitchers are HERE.

Let’s go Jerry!

The Hanshin Tigers dialed the right number on Saturday, when they called up 2019 KBO RBI leader Jerry Sands to the active roster. Sands made a run-saving sliding catch in the fourth inning, and put the Tigers ahead for good in the ninth, with a two-out, three-run homer off closer Yasuaki Yamasaki (0-1) in an 8-6 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.

BayStars starter Michael Peoples allowed five runs in five innings. The right-hander struck out three, walked one and hit two. Jefry Marte’s sac fly opened the scoring in the first before Justin Bour singled in a run and stole a base in the visitors’ two-run inning.

The BayStars tied it in the bottom of the inning on doubles by Takayuki Kajitani, Neftali Soto and Keita Sano. With the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth, a BayStars runner on first an no outs, Sands slid into the left field corner to just snag a fly for the first out.

Trailing 6-5 in the ninth, Yamasaki, who also closes for Japan’s national team was in trouble for the second-straight game. The right-hander got two outs before walking Marte and pinch-hitter Yusuke Oyama. Sands belted a 1-2 pitch over the wall to put Hanshin in front.

Former Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, who reclaimed the Tigers’ closer role last summer, also got into hot water. The 39-year-old had blown his last save opportunity, the first time that had happened in over a year.

A walk to Soto, and a single to former Padre Tyler Austin, who drove in two runs in the sixth, put the tying runs on and a hit batsman loaded the bases with two outs before Fujikawa got out of it for his first save of the season.

Yamada crushes Giants

Tetsuto Yamada capped a sixth inning in which both teams combined for 11 runs with a grand slam as the Yakult Swallows beat the Yomiuri Giants 9-6 on Saturday.

Yamada doubled in a run and scored in the first inning, but the Giants pounded Swallows starter Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa for four runs in the sixth, two on Gerardo Parra’s third home run, a two-run shot.

Yoshimi stops Carp, Dragons’ losing skid

Kazuki Yoshimi (1-1), once the ace of the Chunichi Dragons staff, pitched out of a fourth-inning jam to allow a run over five innings in a 6-1 win over the Hiroshima Carp. Yoshimi, who has a long history of elbow surgeries and has had seven 100-inning seasons but only two since 2012. He struck out two and hit a batter while allowing four hits, all singles.

With a 3-0, fourth-inning lead, back-to-back, no-out singles brought up Seiya Suzuki, but the Carp star grounded into a double play. With two out and two on, Yoshimi retired Alejandro Mejia on a fly out to end the inning.

Sato caps Marines’ victory with 1st career hit

Toshiya Sato, the Marines’ second pick in last autumn’s draft, drilled a pinch-hit single to the wall in the 10th inning to lift Lotte to a 2-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes.

Tyler Higgins, made his Japan debut by getting three outs in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded for the Buffaloes, while Marines relievers Jay Jackson and Frank Herrmann each struck out two in a scoreless inning of relief. Herrmann (2-0) got the win.

The Buffaloes have now lost five straight since right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto won last Sunday. With the Pacific League looking to reduce travel among its far-flung teams by holding six-game series, Yamamoto will go to the mound tomorrow to prevent the Buffaloes from suffering a six-game sweep.

Yamakawa decides Lions-Hawks slugfest

Takeya Nakamura, with six PL home run titles under his belt, and Hotaka Yamakawa, who owns the last two, each homered for the Seibu Lions in an 8-7 victory over the SoftBank Hawks at MetLife Dome.

The Hawks’ Yuki Yanagita set the tone early with a first-inning shot off Lions starter Wataru Matsumoto.

The Lions bullpen, which has been inconsistent to say the least, worked six scoreless innings, while allowing two walks and three hits.

Trailing 7-5 in the seventh, Sosuke Genda and Shuta Tonosaki singled off Sho Iwasaki (0-2) before Yamakawa hit his fourth homer of the season to put Seibu in front.

Reed Garrett, who struck out the side on Friday night to earn the win, retired all three batters he faced in the eighth, while closer Tatsushi Masuda survived a two-out triple to nail down his third save.

Asamura wrecks Fighters

Hideto Asamura took a hammer to the Nippon Ham Fighters, scoring twice and driving in seven runs in the Rakuten Eagles’ 18-4 blood-letting at Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Jabari Blash drove in three runs, scored twice, walked twice and singled for Rakuten, whose starter, former southpaw closer Yuki Matsui, surrendered four runs in four-plus innings.

Six Fighters pitchers combined to issue 10 walks.

Buffaloes call up Higgins

The Orix Buffaloes activated right-hander Tyler Higgins on Saturday to take the spot of Opening Day starter Taisuke Yamaoka, who strained an internal oblique tendon in the first inning of Friday’s start against the Lotte Marines in Chiba.

In two farm outings this season, the 29-year-old allowed a run on one hits and a walk, while striking out three. Higgins spent nine seasons in the minor leagues, mostly with the Miami Marlins. Last year, he pitched in 33 games for Triple-A El Paso, where the Padres assigned Japanese pitching coach Akinori Otsuka.

In his Japan first-team debut, Higgins came on with two on and no outs in the bottom of the ninth of a 1-1 game. After issuing an intentional walk, he retired the next three batters to send the game to an extra inning.

Tigers bring up KBO RBI king Sands

Outfielder Jerry Sands, who led the Korea Baseball Organization in RBIs last season, was called up for the first time this season by the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League on Saturday.

Since Opening Day, the Tigers have deactivated three imported pitchers, Onelki Garcia, Joe Gunkel and Jon Edwards. Their four active imports now are Sands, first baseman Justin Bour, third baseman Jefry Marte and reliever Robert Suarez.

“Hit it hard and make it fly Jerry. Home runs to left, home runs to right Jerry Jerry Sands Lets go! Jerry Sands Lets go!”

Jerry Sands cheer, as displayed on the big screen at Koshien Stadium this spring.

Sands has played in two games for the Tigers’ Western League farm club this summer and has one hit and three walks in seven plate appearances.

The Tigers started the season 1-6.

Open and shut: NPB goes under cover

I’m calling this spring’s preseason stories “Open and shut” since a main theme so far is 72 exhibitions scheduled to be played behind closed doors as Japanese companies are being asked to curtail large gatherings in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Sands opens with pair

Hanshin Tigers newcomer Jerry Sands blasted two of his team’s five solo home runs in a 5-4 win over the SoftBank Hawks on Saturday. The Tigers got three scoreless innings from their Opening Day starter, Yuki Nishi, and another scoreless frame from former Hawk Kenichi Nakata.

Yusuke Oyama, who is fighting to secure the starting third base job for Hanshin, also homered twice, while 2016 rookie of the year Shun Takayama homered to continue his comeback spring effort. Hawks starter Nao Higashihama allowed four solo homer, all off breaking pitches.

Matsui goes 5 in Eagles restart

Yuki Matsui, making the shift from closer, started and went five innings for the Rakuten Eagles in a 4-2 win over the Lotte Marines. J.T. Chargois and Alan Busenitz worked scoreless innings in relief for the Eagles, while former Eagle Frank Herrman and former Carp Jay Jackson each worked an inning for Lotte.

The PL clubs exchanged a host of players over the winter via free agency and other deals with. Herrmann, (Opening Day starter) Manabu Mima, and a pair of young minor leaguers, infielder Kenji Nishimaki and pitcher Fumiya Ono joined Lotte. Going the other way were Lotte’s former captain, infielder Daichi Suzuki, veteran right-hander Hideaki Wakui and pitcher Tomohito Sakai.

Buffs, Fighters show off season openers

The Orix Buffaloes’ Taisuke Yamaoka worked five scoreless innings, while the Nippon Ham Fighters’ Kohei Arihara allowed a run in three as the two teams went with their Opening Day starters. Orix newcomer Tyler Higgens worked a scoreless inning of relief.

Orix first baseman Takahiro Okada, who was exiled to the minors for the duration of the season after letting a routine grounder go through his legs last summer, homered in his first at-bat.

Viciedo blasts off

Dayan Viciedo homered and singled in his home preseason debut at a silent Nagoya Dome, while new Carp pitcher DJ Johnson allowed a run in one inning of work.

Camping world: Feb. 9, 2020

Here are some tidbits from NPB spring training from the Japanese language media on Sunday, Feb. 9.

Jones stands in for fellow new Orix import Higgins

Former San Diego Padres minor leaguer Tyler Higgins threw his third bullpen of the spring at the Orix Buffaloes camp on Sunday, this time with Adam Jones standing in the right-handed batter’s box. According to Sankei Sports, Higgins wanted to Jones’ view of his pitches, saying that as a quality hitter his opinion might be different from others.

Giants manager Hara impressed with Diplan

Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara is keeping his eye on 26-year-old Dominican right-hander Nattino Diplan, who joined the club over the winter on a developmental contract, Sports Nippon Annex reports.

The 1.9-meter, 81-kilogram Diplan, who pitched in Double A last season for the Milwaukee Brewers. After watching him in the bullpen and in a simulated game, Hara said he expected Diplan to touch 160 kph (100 miles per hour). On Sunday, Diplan, who is working out with the Giants two farm clubs, hit 93.8 miles per hour and broke a bat in an intrasquad game. After which Hara said the right-hander is a candidate to join the big club in camp when it moves to Okinawa on Saturday.

According to the story, Diplan was motivated to play in Japan after being impressed by Shohei Ohtani.

Jones bonds with Orix outfielders over steak, picks up tab

New import Adam Jones joined eight other Orix Buffaloes outfielders for dinner at a swanky steak place in Miyazaki on Friday night for talk about baseball and other things, according to a Daily News report, and picked up the tab — in excess of $2,700.

On Sunday, Jones was a hot item as he and teammates conducted a baseball clinic after nearly 300 elementary school kids from Miyazaki Prefecture attended the Buffaloes practice session.

The kotatsu league: Orix signs Padres minor leaguers Higgins, Rodriguez

Former San Diego Padres minor leaguers Tyler Higgins and Aderlin Rodriguez have signed with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Pacific League, the club announced Monday according to online site fullcount.

HIggins, who began his career with the Miami Marlins, is a 28-year-old right-hander who has spent most of his career at Double-A. At Triple-A El Paso last year, where former Japan closer Akinori Otsuka served as a pitching coach, Higgins struck out 50 batters in 45-2/3 innings while issuing 13 walks and surrendering 13 home runs.

Rodriguez, who is from the Dominican Republic and turned 28 in November, is a right-handed hitter who hit 19 home runs in 289 plate appearances for El Paso while striking out 46 times and drawing 14 walks. It was his lone season in Triple-A.

The Buffaloes have also acquired veteran major league outfielder Adam Jones on a two-year deal, and are bringing back outfielder-first baseman Steven Moya, starting pitcher Andrew Albers and closer Brandon Dickson.

Lotte signs Dominican amateur Acosta: report

The Lotte Marines have signed hard-throwing Dominican amateur Jose Acosta to a developmental contract, the Hochi Shimbun reported Monday, citing informed sources.

According to the report, the acquisition of 25-year-old Acosta, who has no pro experience, and 30-year-old Venezuelan Jose Flores, who pitched this year for the Toyama Thunderbirds of the independent BC League, will be announced in the coming days.

Acosta, a 1.87-meter, 89-kilogram right-hander, pitched for his country in this summer’s Pan Am Games. His fastball has been recorded at 164 kilometers per hour. He also possesses an effective slider and change.

At a tryout in the Dominican, his average fastball velocity was 157 kph.

The 1.91-meter, 120-kg Flores, who throws in the 150-159 kph range, tried out for the club in October at the Pacific League club’s home park, Zozo Marine Stadium, in Chiba. He is also headed for a developmental contract, that does not count against the team’s 70-man roster and does not allow him to play on the top team.