Instead of an April Fool’s story, we have an example of the common Japanese media genre of baseball and celebrity reporting, called “someone got married and here’s what we know about their partner.”
The top news at noon on Thursday was Nippon Ham Fighters infielder Takuya Nakashima’s announcement of his marriage, with Sponichi Annex reporting the news was not an April Fools joke. Sometimes these stories make one wish they were attempts at humor.
The headline reads: “Nippon Ham’s Nakashima’s said ‘It’s not a lie’ in response to his wedding announcement to an ordinary woman from Kyushu being dubbed an April Fool’s joke.”
Try putting that in a newspaper.
The Japanese media will refer to athlete’s spouses by their job description if it is known. When Hideki Matsui got married, his wife was identified as the daughter of a salaried worker from Toyama Prefecture. When the job is unknown, they refer to players’ brides as “ordinary” — in the sense that they are not celebrities.
Nakashima revealed that the pair had been living together for a year, and that his spouse is a cheerful person with an expansive cooking repertoire.
“I’m on the road a lot, and she takes care of our home, including the cooking,” said Nakashima said, who was famously featured in Episode 1,015 of the Fangraphs podcast “Effectively Wild,” which failed to comment on his marital status.
Buffaloes ace Yamamoto gets do-over
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto (1-1) asked for a chance to make up for his poor Opening Day start by going on short rest against the SoftBank Hawks on Thursday and responded with 13 strikeouts in a 2-0 complete-game win.
The right-hander walked one and allowed two singles. After throwing 109 pitches over eight innings, skipper Satoshi Nakajima said he toyed with the idea of pulling his ace but kept him, and Yamamoto answered with a 1-2-3 ninth.
The Buffaloes managed just one run off Shota Takeda (0-1) in 6-1/3 innings, opening the scoring on three straight first-inning singles.
Marines secure win-column beachhead
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, the Lotte Marines won for the first time this season, blasting the Rakuten Eagles 16-5 behind four useful innings from rookie Fumiya Motomae (1-0) in his pro debut.
Leonys Martin and Brandon Laird each homered off Yuta Takinaka (0-1), who gave up 10 runs in 1-2/3 innings, while Hisanori Yasuda doubled twice and drove in five runs.
The Eagles came in with a highly-touted top five of Hideaki Wakui, Masahiro Tanaka, rookie Takahisa Hayakawa, Takayuki Kishi and Takahiro Norimoto. But a calf injury to Tanaka forced the Eagles to go to a bullpen day on March 27, a 9-4 beating at the hands of the Nippon Ham Fighters.
At Yokohama Stadium, the DeNA BayStars put Yakult Swallows rookie Taichi Yamano on the rack for seven runs over 1-1/3 innings in his pro debut, and got a refreshingly good performance from their former closer Yasuaki Yamasaki, but remained winless after an 11-11, 4-hour, 20-minute tie.
Scott McGough struck out the heart of the BayStars order in the seventh as one of five Swallows relievers to deliver a scoreless inning as the visitors erased a five-run deficit to leave the series with two wins and a tie.
Yamasaki, who lost his closer job last year and spent the spring with the minor league club, got hit hard the night before despite a good fastball, that was even better on Thursday.
At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, Yuki Takahashi (1-0) allowed an unearned run on three walks and four hits over seven innings for the Yomiuri Giants in a 3-1 win over the Chunichi Dragons.
Zelous Wheeler continued to produce for the Giants in the No. 2 slot, singling and doubling to open Yomiuri’s three-run sixth with a double off Dragons lefty Takahiro Matsuba (0-1).
Rubby De La Rosa worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn the save in his season debut.
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Hanshin Tigers captain Kento Itohara tripled and scored in the first inning and cracked a three-run home run to power a 6-3 win over the Hiroshima Carp.
Jefry Marte scored Itohara in the first with a sacrifice fly and doubled and scored on a Jerry Sands sac fly in the seventh. Marquee rookie Teruaki Sato followed with a solo homer for the visitors. Tigers starter Takumi Akiyama (1-0) allowed two runs over seven innings.
Hiroshima reliever Robert Corniel struck out two in the ninth in his NPB debut. New Carp Kevin Cron went 1-for-4 with a single.
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 4/11, except for those marked with an asterisk as coronavirus protocol deactivations. These players can be reactivated as soon as they are declared safe to play.
Kodai Senga got a late start to the season, and has struggled to consistently command his splitter and four-seamer, but things came together for him on Tuesday in the SoftBank Hawks’ 4-0 win against the Orix Buffaloes at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
“Today is the first day I’ve pitched the way one would expect from a starting pitcher,” said Senga, who had been relying more on his slider this year due to his inability to locate his fastball or get his splitter to tumble.
Senga (5-2) struck out nine over seven scoreless innings in a matchup of aces against Yoshinobu Yamamoto (3-2), who continued to struggle on the road. The Buffaloes’ loss was their first since Norifumi Nishimura stepped down on Thursday night and was replaced by farm skipper Satoshi Nakajima.
On this week’s Japan Weekly Baseball Podcast, Fighters pitcher Drew VerHagen talked about how well some hitters in Japan can wear pitchers down, spoiling good pitches by fouling them off and running up pitch counts. That’s what the Hawks did to Yamamoto, who allowed two runs over six innings.
The bottom of the Hawks order forced the right-hander to throw 27 pitches in a three-walk fourth inning despite his ability to end it by getting catcher Takuya Kai to ground into an inning-ending double play on two pitches.
Taisei Makihara opened the Hawks’ fifth by hitting a first-pitch fastball off the end of the bat and finding a hole for a leadoff single. He took second on a wild pitch that catcher Kenya Wakatsuki kept in front of him, and went to third on a groundout. Makihara and scored when Yuki Yanagita lined a low 0-2 splitter to center for a sacrifice fly, proving once more that Yanagita can do pretty much anything.
Yurisbel Gracial, who rejoined the Hawks’ first team last week after he and Alfredo Despaigne arrived in Japan from Cuba in July, followed with his first home run to make it 2-0. Yamamoto tried to go outside with an 0-1 fastball, his 91st pitch of the game, and Gracial nearly hit one of the Boston Dynamics Spot dogs that decorate the center field stands at the Casa de PayPay.
Yamamoto started the day having struck out one batter in 22 consecutive innings, one shy of the Japan record set by Yutaka Enatsu in 1968 with the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers. The Buffaloes 22-year-old ran the record to 25 innings before the Hawks fouled him silly in the fourth.
At home, Yamamoto has struck out 54 batters and walked four over 37 innings. On the road, he’s now struck out 24 and walked 15 in 29-2/3 innings.
Buffaloes officially need help
One stat that goes hand in hand with Japanese baseball’s perverse magic number calculating system is the “jiriki-V” the ability of a team to clinch a “V” for victory under its own power “jiriki” by winning enough of its remaining games regardless of its opponents’ results in other games.
Tuesday’s loss eliminated the Buffaloes’ chances of clinching by running the table. Like asking players what they intend to do in May when they compile the service time necessary to file for free agency, one of the duties of reporters in NPB is to ask the manager about such things as magic numbers and the jiriki-V.
“I don’t think we’re finished yet,” Nakajima said. “It’s something that happens in the final stages, too, when it comes and goes day by day. We’ll keep playing.”
Adam Jones, who hit four home runs in Orix’s previous three games, was removed for a pinch-hitter prior to his second at-bat. He’s been dealing with discomfort in his right heel and on Aug. 16 he skipped the Buffaloes’ last game in Fukuoka on Aug. 16.
NOTE: This story originally incorrectly identified Jones as not being on the game-day roster.
Marines blow up against Eagles’ Chargois
J.T. Chargois (0-3) hit the first batter he faced in a five-run seventh inning, allowing the Lotte Marines to overturn a one-run deficit en route to an 8-4 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Leonys Martin was plunked for the second time to open the seventh when a 1-2 back-foot slider became a front-knee breaking ball. Although pitchers are expected to tip their cap to batters they hit, Chargois didn’t although did have a word as Martin walked to first.
A hanging slider was hit for a single and Seiya Inoue hit a high fastball to tie it with a single for his second RBI of the game. Shuhei Fukuda, who also had an RBI in Lotte’s three-run first inning, doubled in the go-ahead run.
Mariners starter Manabu Mima, who left the Eagles as a free agent over the winter, allowed four runs over six innings to improve to 5-2.
“That was a bit of a hard game, a little frustrating,” Eagles manager Hajime Miki said afterward. “It became a game where there’s really nothing to say about it. We owe the fans an apology.”
Taking 11 for the team
By getting hit twice, Martin moved into a tie with Seibu’s Hotaka Yamakawa for the unenviable Japan lead in being hit by pitches with 11 this season. Martin’s sleeve was brushed by a pitch from Tomohito Sakai to open the fifth. Like Chargois, Sakai did not appear to tip his cap.
Fighters’ Uwasawa beats Lions’ Takahashi
Go Matsumoto walked twice, scored twice and had an RBI triple for the Nippon Ham Fighters, allowing Naoyuki Uwasawa (4-2) to overcome a solid start from Seibu Lions right-hander Kona Takahashi (3-6) in a 4-3 win at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.
Matsumoto drew a one-out walk in the first and scored after two-out singles by Sho Nakata and Ryo Watanabe. Christian Villanueva, who missed nearly a month after fouling a ball off his foot, doubled in his first at-bat back and scored on Takuya Nakashima’s perfectly executed suicide squeeze. With two outs, Taishi Ota doubled and scored on Matsumoto’s triple to make it 3-0.
Uwasawa spent his last four innings on the mound getting himself out of trouble.
“My form wasn’t all that good today,” he said after walking four and hitting a batter. “I’m glad I could keep them off the board as well as I did.”
The Lions, who most often wear variations of blue or occasionally red or green, came dressed a little early for Halloween, wearing white uniforms with orange trim that made it look they were being sponsored by Starbucks’ pumpkin spice drinks,
Sugano’s season-opening streak rolls on
Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano remained unbeaten on the season, improving to 9-0 after allowing two runs over eight innings in an 8-4 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
The franchise record is 13 winning decisions to open the season, set by Tsuneo Horiuchi in 1966. It’s the longest by an Opening Day pitcher since Hall of Famer Victor Starffin’s nine straight in 1938. The Japan record for consecutive victories is the 28-0 stretch by former Rakuten Eagles ace Masahiro Tanaka spanning the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons.
Sugano struck out six without issuing a walk, while allowing five hits. He allowed two runs on four first-inning singles but only one hit the rest of the way.
“To be honest, I was wondering just how many runs they might score off of me (in the first),” said Sugano, who got a huge boost from a one-out double play before veteran Yuhei Takai singled in the second run.
The Giants tied it against 40-year-old lefty Masanori Ishikawa on a Hayato Sakamoto homer and a Zelous Wheeler RBI single but broke the game open against Swallows rookie surprise Hiroki Hasegawa (1-1) in a five-run seventh.
BayStars overcome Yamasaki blowup
Yamato Maeda’s two-out sayonara single won it for the DeNA BayStars 5-4 over the Hiroshima Carp at Yokohama Stadium after closer Yasuaki Yamasaki blew a two-run lead in his current role as the BayStars’ seventh-inning man.
Jose Pirela fueled Hiroshima’s comeback with two hits and two runs, while Ryuhei Matsuyama drove in two runs off the bench for the Carp.
Edwin Escobar took over in the seventh with one out and two in scoring position but couldn’t strand either one.
With Tatsuhiro Shibata on base in the ninth with two outs and first base open in a 4-4- game, the Carp opted to walk Takayuki Kajitani who was 4-for-4 with a double. Maeda followed with a booming single to the wall to end it.
The BayStars snapped a 23-inning scoreless streak in the second on a Keita Sano single and a Toshiro Miyazaki homer off Allen Kuri. Afterward Miyazaki had to say his only intent was contributing to the rally.
“I was only trying to set the table for the hitters behind me, ” he said, dutifully reading the orthodox script for describing most home runs hit in Japan.
Tiger Takahashi slays Dragons
Lefty Haruto Takahashi reeled off his third-straight solid start, allowing a run over eight innings as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Chunichi Dragons 5-1 at Koshien Stadium.
Takahashi (2-1) allowed six hits and struck out five while walking one, and Jerry Sands drove in the go-ahead run in a two-run third inning against lefty Shinnosuke Ogasawara.
Ogasawara (1-2) allowed five runs, four earned, over six innings, snapping a solid run by the Dragons’ pitchers, who allowed one run in their weekend series against DeNA.
Justin Bour hit his 10th home run, a two-run shot in the sixth.
Veteran right-hander Kazuki Mishima worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to earn his first career save in place of battered closer Yasuaki Yamasaki on Wednesday as the DeNA BayStars held on to a 3-2 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome.
BayStars lefty Haruhiro Hamaguchi (2-1) was effectively wild at the start, walking four and hitting one threw four hitless and scoreless innings thanks to a pair of inning-ending 4-6-3 double plays. Hamaguchi allowed two runs on three hits over 5-2/3 innings while striking out seven.
Takayuki Kajitani homered with two outs in the third off Giants right-hander Shosei Togo to record the visitors’ first hit, while catcher Shuto Takajo added a two-run homer for the visitors in the fifth.
Togo (3-2) allowed three runs on four hits and a walk while striking out seven over five innings.
The Giants got their first hit in the fifth, Yang Dai-kang’s leadoff single, and their first run in the seventh, when Yoshihiro Maru opened the inning with his eighth home run. With two outs, mid-season acquisition Zelous Wheeler pulled the Giants within one with his fourth home run to drive Hamaguchi from the mound.
With the BayStars leading by a run in the seventh, manager Alex Ramirez called on Yamasaki to see if his struggling closer might regain his stuff in a middle relief role. The right-hander allowed a one-out infield single to speedy pinch-hitter Shinnosuke Shigenobu. A stolen base on a strikeout, and a wild pitch put the tying run on third with two outs, but Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto flied out to end the inning.
Spencer Patton worked the eighth and walked Wheeler with one out. Wheeler was replaced by Daiki Masuda, the flagship of manager Tatsunori Hara’s pinch-running fleet. Patton, however, struck out the next two batters to get the game to Mishima.
The 30-year-old right-hander, who had not allowed a hit or a walk since he was lit up for three runs on July 16, got tough left-handed hitter Takumi Oshiro swinging at a 1-2 splitter out of the zone. Veteran left-handed-hitting grinder Yasuyuki Kamei flied out before Shigenobu went down swinging to end it.
Swallows kiddy corps beats Tigers
Twenty-year-old Munetaka Murakami brought the Yakult Swallows from behind with a two-run fourth-inning home run and 21-year-old lefty Hiroki Hasegawa saved the day out of the bullpen in a 3-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
After allowing the visitors on the scoreboard in the first, Yakult right-hander Juri Hara (2-0) got out of a one-out bases-loaded jam in the first inning with a pair of strikeouts. Hara worked five innings, allowing three hits and five walks while striking out six.
Tigers lefty Onelki Garcia cruised through the first three innings before surrendering a leadoff double to Norichika Aoki in the fourth. Murakami followed with his fifth home run.
Yugo Umeno, a 21-year-old right-hander, followed Hara in the sixth and walked the first batter he faced. He left with one out the bases loaded. Hasegawa, however, popped up leadoff hitter Koji and struck out veteran Yoshio Itoi.
Yakult’s Yasutaka Shiomi, who homered when he returned to action on Tuesday, a month after being injured by a pitch, homered off veteran lefty Atsushi Nomi to open the bottom of the sixth.
Scott McGough pitched a 1-2-3 seventh for the hosts, while impressive 23-year-old rookie Noboru Shimizu worked around a pair of walks in the eighth when he caught Chikamoto looking at Strike 3. Taishi Ishiyama worked the ninth for his sixth save.
The Tigers opened the scoring through Chikamoto. He doubled to open the game when his drive popped out of center fielder Kotaro Yamasaki’s glove, stole third and came home on a Yusuke Oyama infield single. Garcia gave up four hits and a walk, while striking out five.
Carp’s Suzuki decides pitchers’ duel
Seiya Suzuki broke open a scoreless game in the sixth inning, when he homered for the ninth time this year with a two-run shot off lefty Takahiro Matsuba in a 2-0 Hiroshima Carp win over the Chunichi Dragons at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Making his second start of the season, veteran Carp right-hander Yusuke Nomura (1-0) was perfect through five innings. He allowed four hits and no walks over eight innings while striking out two.
Geronimo Franzua struck out the side in the ninth to earn his first save.
Matsuba (2-1) allowed five hits and two walks while striking out five and hitting a batter. He surrendered Jose Pirela’s second hit of the game with one out in the sixth, and with two outs, Suzuki took him deep.
39-year-old Wada shuts down Lions
Veteran southpaw Tsuyoshi Wada (3-0) turned back the clock as he combined his usual guts and finesse with good movement on his fastball to strike out nine over six-plus innings for the SoftBank Hawks in a 4-2 win over the Seibu Lions at Fukuoka’s PayPayDome.
The 39-year-old Wada, who said afterward he wanted to come out with guns blazing after not getting out of the fifth inning in his last start, came out getting swings and misses with his fastball and struck out two batters in a 1-2-3.
Hawks speedster Ukyo Shuto opened the scoring for the Hawks in the bottom of the first, when he tripled and scored on Kenta Imamiya’s sacrifice fly. Three-straight one-out singles made it 2-0 as Ryoya Kurihara drove in Yuki Yanagita.
The Lions got their first runners of the game on in the top of the second, but Wada stranded two, and the Hawks added a third run in the bottom of the inning. Nobuhiro Matsuda singled, took second on a throwing error by the pitcher, went to third on a groundout and scored on a Shuto sac fly.
Seibu’s Fumikazu Kimura, who struck out to end the Lions’ second with two in scoring position, hit a solo home run in the fifth, but Yanagita answered that with his 10th home run, a one-out solo shot in the home half.
Wada gave up a run in the seventh on a leadoff double to Takeya Nakamura and a Takumi Kuriyama RBI single. Lefty Shinya Kayama, however, worked around a one-out single to strand two runners. Another lefty, Livan Moinelo, worked the eighth, while closer Yuito Mori pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his eighth save.
Matsumoto (1-3) gave up all four runs on seven hits and two walks over five innings.
Martinez, Kondo get Fighters past Buffs
Nick Martinez allowed a run over six innings and Kensuke Kondo drove in four runs for the Nippon Ham Fighters in their 6-2 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Sapporo Dome.
Orix right-hander Yu Suzuki struggled but stranded six runners as he held the Fighters to a run over four innings. Taishi Ota drew a leadoff walk in the second and opened the scoring on Kotaro Kiyomiya’s bases-loaded sac fly.
The Buffaloes repeatedly threatened to blow the game open, but Martinez prevailed through tough pitching and some good luck.
Masato Matsui got the Buffaloes’ first hit off Martinez when first baseman Kiyomiya fielded a ball Martinez couldn’t reach, and then neglected to see the pitcher covering first and waiting for his throw that never came.
Orix skipper Norifumi Nishimura’s customary sacrifice when trailing on the road and a Ryo Nishimura single put runners on the corners with one out. A stolen base and a comebacker opened first base with two outs, and after Martinez fell behind Masataka Yoshida 3-0, Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama ordered the left-handed slugger walked. Martinez then won a 10-pitch duel with Adam Jones by getting a routine fly out to center.
The Buffaloes tied it in the fifth after a walk and two singles, one an infield dribbler, and a Yoshida sac fly.
Once more, Jones came up with a chance to some damage with two outs, but home plate umpire Atsushi Fukuya called him out on a 2-2 pitch that missed badly inside. Martinez tried to hide the disbelief at his good luck behind his glove as he walked off the mound. Jones could do little but express his own disbelief with Fukuya’s perception of the strike zone.
With Suzuki out of the game after 85 pitches, Buffaloes right-hander Kazumasa Yoshida allowed the Fighters to retake the lead. He promptly gave up a Kenshi Sugiya leadoff double. A sacrifice bunt and a Kondo sac fly put the Fighters back in front. That, too, was short-lived.
With Martinez gone, the Buffaloes tied it in the seventh when Aderlin Rodriguez was struck near the wrist with the bases loaded. But that was it for Orix. Sugiya drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning, was sacrificed to second on Takuya Nakashima’s second sac bunt of the game and the 230th of his career. Kondo singled to bring in the go-ahead run and scored on a two-out Ota double.
Fighters lefty Naoki Miyanishi worked the eighth inning and became the 16th pitcher in Japanese pro baseball history to appear in 700 games. The active leader is Ryota Igarashi of the Swallows (822).
Wakui continues remarkable turnaround
After going 3-0 in his first three starts and looking truly mediocre, Hideaki Wakui has been rock solid since and continued that on Tuesday when he allowed a run in seven innings as the Rakuten Eagles beat the Lotte Marines 5-1 at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Wakui (5-0) has allowed three runs, two earned, over his last 20-1/3 innings after giving up tons of hits in his early games. Against the team that sold him in December, the 34-year-old right-hander went to the mound with a two-run lead thanks to Hideto Asamura’s 12th homer of the season.
Leonys Martin touched Wakui for a first-inning home run, but that was about it for the Marines offense as the right-hander continued to spin the ball away from opposing bats and mix his pitches.
Stefen Romero, who hit a pinch-hit grand slam the night before, took lefty Kazuya Odajima (2-3) out to dead center to open the fifth, and then tripled and scored in the seventh.
“I’ve been able to keep leadoff hitters off base, and that was what I was trying to keep up tonight,” said Wakui, who joined the Marines as a free agent from the Seibu Lions in 2014. “It did feel kind of strange tonight since I hadn’t been a visiting player her for so long. I’m just glad I didn’t go back to the wrong dugout.”
For the second-straight week, journeyman right-hander Akira Niho got the job done, allowing a run in five-plus innings, while the SoftBank Hawks bullpen provided four-plus innings of solid relief in a 6-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters and their rookie lefty Ryusei Kawano.
Niho was not nearly as sharp as a week ago, but made enough good pitches to scatter six hits and three walks.
For the first time since his debut, Kawano (1-3) had a worse outing then the one before. His stuff has been fairly solid, but his first games looked like they were more about the confidence needed to go after good hitters in the strike zone.
Against the Hawks, it was more a case of lousy command, as he struggled to hit targets and ended up throwing a few poor pitches in the zone and then he had some poor luck in terms of poorly hit balls finding holes.
Kenta Imamiya, dropped into the leadoff spot, singled, doubled and walked against the rookie, scored three runs and drove in two. His two-run second-inning double off the first pitch from Kawano broke a 1-1 tie. Imamiya scored on a Yuki Yanagita sacrifice fly.
With two out and two on in the Fighters third, Niho got out of the inning by throwing an 0-2 ball in the zone that he might have wanted lower. Taishi Ota tagged it but it went for an out on the warning track.
Eagles salvage win against Buffaloes’ ace
The Rakuten Eagles salvaged a victory from their six-game home series against the Orix Buffaloes and their ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto in a 5-4 come-from-behind win at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Yamamoto had neither good command nor his best stuff, and the Rakuten Eagles scored four runs off him over six innings by taking their walks and by not trying to do too much when he came into the zone. All but two of the nine hits off him were to the pull field. Yamamoto gave up two walks, hit a batter and struck out six.
The Eagles lost their starter, Shoma Fujihira, when his seventh pitch hit Koji Oshiro in the head and he was automatically ejected. Both runners scored and Tomohiro Anraku allowed another in the first but kept the game from slipping away and left after three innings with the score 3-0. Sung Chia-hao allowed one run over two innings, during which time the Eagles tied it against Yamamoto.
Yamamoto loaded the bases in the sixth with two outs but did not allow a run. In the seventh, former closer Hirotoshi Masui walked the bases loaded in the sixth with one out, but Yudai Aranishi got out of it.
First-year import Tyler Higgins (1-1), who has been very effective this season, allowed the Eagles to grab their first lead on a leadoff walk to rookie Hiroto Kobukata, and a triple by veteran Eigoro Mogi.
The Buffaloes got the leadoff runner aboard in the ninth, when Alan Busenitz walked Ryoicihi Adachi. Manager Norifumi Nishimura who absolutely loves to sacrifice when he’s trailing on the road, did so. With two outs and first base open, tough left-handed-hitting slugger Masataka Yoshida was walked, and Busenitz got Adam Jones to groundout to short to earn his first save.
Lions pen proves too deadly for Marines
Takumi Kuriyama twice put the Seibu Lions in front with an RBI double, and four relievers each threw a perfect inning in a 4-2 come-from-behind win over the Lotte Marines at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.
The starters, a pair of journeymen lefties, Lotte’s Toshiya Nakamura and Seibu lefty Daiki Enokida pitched to a virtual stalemate over five innings.
Nakamura allowed only one run thanks to shortstop Kenta Chatani making a great play that prevented the fourth inning from getting out of hand.
Enokida allowed two runs before making his exit after a leadoff single in the sixth, but surrendered no more thanks to Katsunori Hirai (3-1) coming on and retiring all three batters he faced. He was followed by Kaima Taira, Reed Garrett and Tatsushi Masuda, who each worked 1-2-3 innings. Masuda recorded his ninth save.
Lotte’s 23-year-old right-hander Fumiya Ono (1-2) retired the first batter in the sixth, but a single and a Takeya Nakamura double tied it. Kuriyama, whose first double was the 350th of his career, followed with his second to make it 3-2.
Carp feast on BayStars relievers
Tsubasa Aizawa hit a pair of late home runs, including a ninth-inning tie-breaker off closer Yasuaki Yamasaki in the Hiroshima Carp’s 10-6 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.
It’s been a tough week for the BayStars, whose manager, Alex Ramirez, appeared to be the target of an organized media smear campaign. But since that nonsense started, the BayStars had lost one, tied one, and won two in convincing fashion. But on Sunday, Kentaro Taira worked seven scoreless innings and led 6-0 before things started to awry in the seventh.
The BayStars bullpen allowed two inherited runners to score in the eighth to make it a 6-3 game before coughing up another seven on their own.
Kenta Ishida gave up a sacrifice fly for the second out in the eighth, and Spencer Patton surrendered back-to-back home runs to Shota Dobayashi and Aizawa to make it a one-run game.
Yamasaki’s pitches didn’t look good. His sinking pitch he calls a two-seamer–that looks and acts like a splitter–was not dropping much, and his fastball looked straight.
A single and a walk was followed by a Seiya Suzuki putting a punishing swing on a center-cut fastball that probably damaged the padding in the center field wall and resulted in an RBI single. With one out and first base open, Dobayashi was intentionally walked and Aizawa smoked a “two-seamer” out to right.
“That’s part of the game. There’s nothing we can do about that,” Ramirez said afterward. “Taira did a tremendous job today. The relievers tried to do the best they could. The Hiroshima Carp hitters are very good.”
“They (Patton and Yamasaki) threw a lot of strikes. They’re good hitters. We lost the game with our best two guys on the mound. There’s nothing we can do about it.”
Yamasaki might be one of their best, but he has not been himself this year. He’s not getting guys to chase out of the zone, he’s not getting nearly as many swings and misses and is instead giving away much harder contact.
Quien es mas malo?
Anyone remember the Saturday Night Live game show parody in which Bill Murray hosted a latin-oriented program called “Quien es mas macho?” Well the bottom of the ninth made this game look like another version called “Quien es mas malo?” or “Who is the worst?” or rather whose bullpen is worst.
Ryuji Ichioka came in for the Carp and loaded the bases with one out, but a BayStars comeback was not to be.
Relief Dragons awaken sleeping Tigers
My podcast partner will no doubt be talking about this when we record our program for Monday, but since the first time Dragons lefty Hiroto Fuku gave up runs this season — on a second-straight day of work — John E. Gibson has been telling me that he hasn’t been good after pitching the day before.
Fuku, the loser on Sunday, when he blew a 3-2 lead by surrendering three runs, has allowed eight runs in his last two games when he pitched the day before. The previous four times he didn’t allow any runs.
Here are his results pitching after no game the previous day and on the second-straight day. On Saturday, the stocky lefty was lights out in a 1-0 Dragons win, but Sunday was a different story.
Fuku bukuro (grab bag)
Pitching after no game the day before
Pitching on the second-straight day
Tigers lefty Yuta Iwasada surrendered three runs, though only two were earned due to his throwing error, over four innings.
Dragons right-hander Kodai Umetsu had his second-best start of the season, giving up two runs, one earned, over six innings while striking out eight.
The Dragons broke through in the third after Umetsu singled to open the inning. A groundout and a throwing error put two on with one out. Toshiki Abe and Dayan Viciedo followed with back-to-back singles. Nobumasa Fukuda homered to make it 3-0 in the fourth.
The Tigers got on the board after rookie third baseman Takaya Ishikawa misjudged a hop for a two-out, two-base error. With two on, Koji Chickamoto singled in a run. Justin Bour’s sixth homer, a two-run shot off the left field fair pole made it a one-run game.
Fuku came on to face Chikamoto in the seventh with two outs and a runner on second. He surrendered a single up the middle. Tigers catcher Ryutaro Umeno, who singled to open the inning, has decent speed and runs the bases well, but was gunned down by a throw from center fielder Yohei Oshima on a good tag by catcher Ariel Martinez.
Unlike Mr. Gibson, I don’t see enough Dragons games to say what’s up with Fuku on second-straight games, but he was not locating today.
After getting a reprieve from the fielders, Fuku stayed in to pitch the eighth. Four of the five batters he faced reached, and even with a double play in the middle of that string, three of them scored in the five-run inning.
Chikamoto finished 4-for-5, while Umeno had three hits, and Yusuke Oyama blew out the candles on this one with a two-run, ninth-inning home run.
Giant Yoshikawa clubs Swallows
Naoki Yoshikawa capped a five-run first inning with his third home run in three games for the Yomiuri Giants in a 9-4 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Swallows starter Hirotoshi Takanashi (1-2) allowed six runs in 2-2/3 innings, while Giants starter Toshiki Sakurai (2-1) worked into the eighth inning to earn the win.
Four of the first seven Giants hitters reached base and the one who didn’t delivered a sacrifice fly.
Giants sign former Fighter Tanaka
The Yomiuri Giants on Sunday signed 26-year-old right-handed pitcher Toyoki Tanaka, who had been with the club on a non-roster developmental contract since the Giants saw him in a tryout last November.
The club was in need of pitchers after Saturday’s scheduled starter, Angel Sanchez, was scratched with discomfort in his right shoulder. Sanchez, and his replacement, former closer Hirokazu Sawamura, were both deactivated Sunday, while Tanaka was added to the active roster.
Tanaka was the fifth draft pick of the Fighters in 2015 and appeared in 31 first-team games for them from 2016 to 2018.
The Rakuten Eagles bullpen wasted a stellar start from veteran right-hander Hideaki Wakui, allowing the Orix Buffaloes to score nine late runs in an 11-7 loss at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi on Tuesday.
For the second-straight week Hideaki Wakui, who was sold by the Lotte Marines over the winter, looked like one of Japan’s best pitchers. He attacked the zone with a fastball that batters continually swung under, while mixing it with some variations, cutters and running fastballs, a slider he generally kept out of the zone and even a few screwballs.
But trailing 7-2 in the eighth, the visitors scored three runs in the eighth, all charged to J. T. Chargois after Alan Busenitz allowed two inherited runners to cross the plate.
Eagles closer Kohei Morihara (1-1) allowed a leadoff double on an innocuous fly by Yuma Mune that left fielder Hiroaki Shimauchi failed to catch after he cut in front of center fielder Ryosuke Tatsumi. Buffaloes catcher Kenya Wakatsuki, who drove in five runs on Tuesday, and who singled in a run in the Buffaloes’ two-run sixth, singled to make it a one-run game.
With no outs and the tying run on first in the ninth, Buffaloes manager Norifumi Nishimura played for a tie with a sacrifice bunt, but got more than he asked for when Morihara failed to get the force at second. No. 3 hitter Koji Oshiro followed a successful sacrifice with a two-run single. An intentional walk, a two-run Adam Jones double and a run-scoring Takahiro Okada single completed the scoring.
Wakui, who entered the game 4-0 despite being mediocre in his first three starts was untouchable through six innings. He struck out 10, while allowing two runs over 6-1/3 innings.
On-again off-again Buffaloes right-hander Yu Suzuki was off again. The right-hander has quality stuff but his location was not there. Eigoro Mogi tripled off his first pitch, a center-cut two-seamer, and scored on a groundout. In the second inning, Hikaru Ota followed a one-out walk and a Jabari Blash single by launching a first-pitch slider for his first home run of the year. Stefen Romero hit a 3-2 slider in the third inning for his sixth home run.
Wakui struck out 10, while allowing two runs over 6-1/3 innings.
Hawks survive strong start from Martinez
Nick Martinez came close to being the second straight Nippon Ham Fighters starter to score an upset win in Fukuoka but surrendered three runs in the seventh inning in a 3-2 loss to the Softbank Hawks at PayPay Dome.
A day after Toshihiro Sugiura outpitched Hawks ace Kodai Senga, Martinez easily outclassed veteran lefty Tsuyoshi Wada, who just barely managed to keep the game scoreless through four.
Right fielder Seiji Uebayashi and catcher Hiroaki Takaya combined to save a run in the top of the first when Kensuke Kondo was out trying to score from second on a two-out single. Wada got out of a one-out bases-loaded situation in the second on a double play and escaped a two-on, no-out pickle in the fourth.
After three close shaves, Wada ran out of get-out-of-jail-free cards in the fifth. Right-hander Keisuke Izumi inherited two runners with one out. A wild pitch let in the game’s first run. A second scored on a Taishi Ota single.
The Hawks got on the board against Martinez in a three-run seventh. A Yuki Yanagita leadoff single and an Akira Nakamura double trimmed the lead to one. Martinez left with two outs and two on after a walk to Wladimir Balentien. Nobuhiro Matsuda singled in the tying and go-ahead runs off reliever Taisho Tamai after the Hawks added speed on the bases and a stolen base put both men in scoring position.
Martinez (1-3) was absolutely solid with good command of all his pitches. He allowed three hits, walked two and struck out six.
Odajima pitches Marines past Lions
Kazuya Odajima (2-1) worked out of a first-inning predicament by retiring Hotaka Yamakawa and Tomoya Mori and then allowed one run over 6-2/3 innings for the Lotte Marines in a 2-1 win over the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome.
Lions starter Kona Takahashi (2-3) allowed two runs on eight hits, a walk and two hit batsmen over seven innings. He gave up the first run in the fifth on a Yudai Fujioka double, a sacrifice and a wild pitch. Seiya Inoue made it a 2-0 game in the sixth with his fifth home run.
Naoya Masuda worked the ninth to earn his ninth save.
BayStars’ Yamasaki provides thrills in 5-5 tie
BayStars closer Yasuaki Yamasaki continued to make things interesting by loading the bases in the ninth inning of a tie game before closing out the inning as DeNA and the Yakult Swallows finished in a 5-5, 10-inning tie.
After a leadoff single and two one-out walks, Yamasaki struck out Munetaka Murakami, who had earlier hit his fourth homer of the season, before getting out of the inning on a flyball.
Swallows starter Gabriel Ynoa allowed five runs over four innings. The right-hander surrendered back-to-back two-out first-inning home runs to Jose Lopez and Keita Sano and another to reserve catcher Shuto Takajo in the second.
BayStars starter Haruhiro Hamaguchi allowed five runs over 5-2/3 innings on four walks eight hits.
Martinez shines as Dragons stop Giants
With slugging first baseman Dayan Viciedo unavailable, the Chunichi Dragons put put 24-year-old Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez into the cleanup spot. He responded with a home run in a 5-0 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Nagoya Dome.
Lefty Takahiro Matsuba, who failed to earn a win last season when he was traded from Orix, allowed a walk, a hit batsman and four hits over six innings to improve to 2-0 in two games this season. With two on and two outs in the first he got out of trouble with a cutter on the hands of right-handed-hitting Zelous Wheeler that produced a little tapper back to the mound.
The Dragons’ top draft pick last autumn 19-year-old third baseman Takaya Ishikawa drew a one-out walk in the third from impressive 20-year-old Giants right-hander Shosei Togo (3-1) and scored on a Yohei Oshima double. Ishikawa went 2-for-2 with an RBI and two runs.
The Dragons snapped a four-game losing streak with the win, while Giants manager Tatsunori Hara’s club saw its seven-game win streak end on his 62nd birthday.
Sands continues to rock in tie with Carp
Jerry Sands homered, doubled and drove in two runs for the Hanshin Tigers in their 3-3, 10-inning tie with the Hiroshima Carp at Koshien Stadium.
Both teams came from a run down in the ninth to force a 10th inning in a game that was dominate by the starting pitchers, Yusuke Nomura of the Carp and Onelki Garcia of the Tigers.
Nomura allowed a run on five hits and a walk over six innings, while Garcia allowed a run over seven.
There were quips made when Hawks manager named Akira Niho to be the last man in his six-man starting pitching rotation. When the 30-year-old right-hander did as well as expected out of the gate, Kudo stuck with him, and on Sunday, Niho did what he was capable of walked away with a win after matching up with one of Japan’s best, Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Niho (2-2) threw six scoreless innings, and the SoftBank Hawks took advantage of their one chance against Yamamoto to leave Osaka’s Kyocera Dome with 3-2 win.
Niho escaped a two-out bases-loaded jam in the third when Adam Jones grounded into the final out.
After starting the Buffaloes cleanup hitter on the outside edge with his two-seam fastball, he left a slider up in the heart of the zone and then missed with a fastball inside. Jones fouled off the fat slider and was jammed by the 89-mph fastball on the hands.
Niho then retired eight of the last nine batters he faced before three good swings changed the game in the seventh.
Left-handed-hitting Seiji Uebayashi hit a high fastball away and sliced it into the left field corner for a leadoff double and the Hawks’ second hit of the game. Yuki Yanagita, who struggled against Yamamoto’s splitter in his second at-bat made some headway against it his third time up.
Yanagita survived a narrow escape when he grounded a splitter to first (again) only for it to bounce foul by inches. The next pitch, Yamamoto’s seventh to him, hung up and the left-handed-hitting slugger slammed it to the warning track in right for a tie-breaking double.
Akira Nakamura followed, and somehow pulled a fastball up and over the outside part of the plate and his drive just cleared the wall in right for his first home run of the year.
“I was waiting for something fast. It’s a confidence boost to be able to hit one of the best pitchers in baseball,” Nakamura said.
Submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi, the PL’s 2019 rookie of the year, whose been in relief this season, worked a scoreless seventh against the bottom of the Buffaloes order, but dependable lefty Livan Moinelo couldn’t locate in the eighth and ran into trouble.
The Cuban reliever surrendered a leadoff single before issuing three walks, forcing in a run, and bringing Jones to the plate with a chance to turn the game around.
Jones, who has seen precious few fastballs in the strike zone this season, fouled off an 0-1 heater and then chased and fouled off a curve out of the zone. Moinelo missed up high with a change up and Jones got under it, flying out to center to bring home a run.
The play resulted in the second out when Ryoichi Adachi took off for third and was tagged out on the throw from Yanagita in center when he over-slid the bag.
Hawks closer Yuito Mori worked a 1-2-3 ninth to record his fifth save.
Orix manager Norifumi Nishimura blamed the loss on failure to execute, pointing to a failed sacrifice in the third inning after Ryo Ota opened with a leadoff single.
“We had the failed bunt,” he said. “There are times when things will take a wrong turn if you don’t execute properly.”
Rookie Kawano earns 1st win
Rookie lefty Ryusei Kawano allowed two runs over eight innings to win his first game as a pro in the Nippon Ham Fighters’ 9-2 win over the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.
Sho Nakata’s three-run, third-inning home run capped a four-run outburst against right-hander Yuki Ariyoshi (1-1).
Kawano, who has shown good stuff since Day 1, has become more and more assertive in the strike zone with each passing day, and Sunday’s start was another step in that direction.
Through the early innings, Kawano, the Fighters’ top pick last autumn in NPB’s draft, tried to hit corners but was less hesitant about challenging hitters in the zone with his fastball and then making them look bad against his changeup.
With a 4-0 lead in the fourth, catcher Shingo Usami began setting his target squarely in the zone and Kawano responded to the encouragement.
Through seven innings, he allowed three base runners. He finished with seven strikeouts, two walks and four hits after allowing two eighth-inning runs on a Leonys Martin double. Brandon Laird went 2-for-4 in his old home park.
Former Lion Asamura flies with Eagles
HIdeto Asamura bounced back from two hitless games with two days worth of hits and four RBIs to lead the Rakuten Eagles’ comeback in a 9-5 win over his old team, the Seibu Lions, at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Stefen Romero opened the scoring with a solo homer off lefty Daiki Enokida, making his first start of the season, but Hotaka Yamakawa’s third home run in three days, a three-run third-inning shot off former Lions ace Takayuki Kishi made it 5-1 Seibu.
Former Lion (one can say that A LOT in Sendai) Asamura made it a 5-2 game in the third with his second hit, an RBI single that plated Daichi Suzuki.
Kishi was pulled after 2-13 innings, but the bullpen picked up the slack and Asamura hit his Japan-best 11th home run to lead off the sixth against Enokida. The Lions lefty was yanked after allowing three runs over five-plus innings.
Seibu’s bullpen workhorse Katsunori Hirai took over and worked around a hit batsman to keep it 5-3 through six. Eagles right-hander Alan Busenitz (1-0) worked a scoreless seventh, and Asamura tied it with a two-run single in the bottom of the inning.
Hirai (2-1), who led both leagues in games pitched last season with 81, allowed three runs on two walks, a hit batsman and six hits over one-plus inning of work. He was replaced by stocky Kaima Taira.
The right-hander, who struck out Romero on a 99.4 mph fastball after entering with no outs and the bases loaded, went into Asamura’s kitchen with a 1-2, 98 mph heater that brushed him back. Asamura, however, brushed that off and stroked a cutter away into right for a two-run single that tied it.
With two outs and the bases reloaded, Yasuhito Uchida homered off Taira to complete the Eagles’ comeback.
Okamoto, Giants burn BayStars closer in 9th
Pinch-runner Daiki Masuda stole second with one out in the ninth inning and scored the tying run from second on an infield singe before Kazuma Okamoto blasted a two-run home run in the Yomiuri Giants’ 5-3 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.
With a one-run lead in the ninth, Yasuaki Yamasaki (0-2) took the mound for the BayStars and surrendered a one-out single to Hayato Sakamoto. Pinch-runner Daiki Masuda stole second and with two outs, he gambled and was safe at home on Yoshihiro Maru’s grounder deep into the hold behind first.
BayStars manager Alex Ramirez yanked his closer, and Yuki Kuniyoshi served up an 0-1 fastball to Okamoto who drove it out well beyond the wall in right center for his ninth home run.
The BayStars’ Neftali Soto scored three runs and homered to tie it 2-2 in the third inning. Soto was hit by a pitch in the fifth and scored on a Jose Lopez double.
The Hiroshima Carp bullpen proved able to solve the Yakult Swallows once the game was tied and the bases loaded, which they did in both the ninth and 10th innings to finish in a 3-3 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
The visitors took a 2-0 lead into the seventh, but the heart of the Hiroshima attack found their third look at right-hander Hirotoshi Takanashi to their liking. After allowing just two hits and a walk through six innings, Takanashi gave up a single to Shota Dobayashi and back-to-back doubles by Seiya Suzuki and Ryuhei Matsuyama that tied it up.
Yugo Umeno got out of the inning but not before Tsubasa Aizawa singled in the go-ahead run. In the eighth, 23-year-old Noboru Shimizu loaded the bases on two one-out walks and a single but struck out Matsuyama and Hisayoshi Chono to prevent the game from getting away.
Norichika Aoki singled in the tying run in the ninth and the Swallows loaded the bases with one out for Munetaka Murakami. But journeyman right-hander Yasunori Kikuchi got the easiest double play imaginable, when the 20-year-old slugger tipped a low forkball into the dirt in front of home plate. Aizawa collected it, stepped on the plate and threw to first to end the inning.
New Carp D.J. Johnson loaded the bases in the 10th — the last inning allowed in NPB this season — but ended the inning with a strikeout. Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama then pitched out of a two-on, one-out pickle in the bottom of the 10th to ensure the tie.
Tigers blow out Dragons
On a night when hard-hitting first baseman Justin Bour was out of the Hanshin lineup, the Tigers still erupted for 11 runs on 14 hits and eight walks in an 11-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons and a sweep of their three-game series at Koshien Stadium outside Osaka.
Jerry Sands, batting third in manager Akihiro Yano’s lineup singled in the game’s first run and scored on Kosuke Fukudome’s sacrifice fly in the Tigers’ three-run first.
The 43-year-old Fukudome, who came off the bench to wreak havoc on the Swallows on Thursday, was in the starting lineup and responded with two singles, a double, two sacrifice flies and four RBIs.
Sands also doubled and drew one of the Tigers’ two bases-loaded walks in their three-run fourth inning.
The Dragons’ Dayan Viciedo continued to rip it up at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a walk and a home run.