Tag Archives: Yoshihiro Maru

NPB 2020 Sept. 20

Lions come back to beat Buffaloes

Tomoya Mori snatched the victor’s laurels from Orix Buffaloes center fielder Hayato Nishiura with a three-run eighth-inning double that lifted the Seibu Lions to a 5-4 win at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Nishiura saved three runs with in the first, robbing Ernesto Mejia of a two-out double at the wall. He went up to get it before it hit the ball and caught it between his arms, cradling it for the out after he crashed to the turf.

Ryo Ota, a former top draft pick whose 2019 debut season was limited by injury, homered off Wataru Matsumoto in the first to put the Buffaloes up 1-0. Another rookie, 2018 fifth-rounder Sho Gibo, doubled in a run with two outs in the third. Steven Moya’s second homer of the year made it 3-0.

Nishiura preserved a 3-0 lead in the top of the fifth. Playing shallow with two outs and a runner on second as Japanese teams do, Nishiura had to race back into the gap in right-center, making an over-the-shoulder basket catch for the final out.

He followed that by leading off the bottom of the fifth with home run into the second deck.

Orix starter Andrew Albers allowed two runs over six innings on seven hits, a walk and a hit batsman.

The Lions finally got to the lefty in the sixth when Sosuke Genda singled and scored on Hotaka Yamakawa’s 22nd home run.

Right-hander Ryo Yoshida, the Buffaloes’ third reliever, took over in the seventh with one on and one out but walked the bases loaded with two outs and gave up Mori’s double.

On the other side, four Lions relievers followed Matsumoto and combined to allow one walk and one hit. Tatsushi Masuda recorded his 20th save.

Eagles survive Hawks comeback

Eagles closer Alan Busenitz came within a hair of blowing a two-run ninth-inning lead, earning the save when a rocket off Ryoya Kurihara’s bat was caught by first baseman Daichi Suzuki for the final out as Rakuten beat the SoftBank Hawks 3-2 at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome on Sunday.

Suzuki tied the game 1-1 on the first pitch in the fourth. Shuta Ishikawa (6-3) left a fastball up and Suzuki lined it off the wall behind the right-field home run terrace. Hawks catcher Takuya Kai, who’d homered to open the scoring minutes earlier tried not to shake his head but failed.

Eagles veteran Takayuki Kishi got out of a sixth-inning jam when Akira Nakamura, who swings and misses as infrequently as any hitter in Japan, struck out swinging for the second out. After an intentional walk to Yuki Yanagita, Kishi got out of the inning with an easy groundout.  

Stefen Romero put the Eagles up by one in the seventh, hitting an 0-1 power curve. Ishikawa supplied the curve by hanging it up in the zone and Romero supplied the power, launching it 10 rows back into the permanent seats.

Former San Diego submariner Kazuhisa Makita surrendered a two-out two-strike single to Nakamura. Yanagita came up with a chance to put the hosts in front, but went down swinging. Hiroaki Shimauchi then took out some insurance by taking reliever Yuki Matsumoto’s first pitch out to left for a solo homer to open the ninth.

Takayuki Kishi allowed a run over a season-high six innings in his fifth start of the Eagles.

The Hawks loaded the bases against closer Alan Busenitz with one out in the ninth on two singles and a fielder’s choice. Go Kamamoto singled in one run, but Busenitz got a force out at the plate before Suzuki was impaled by Kurihara’s liner.

Fighters give one away

Shohei Kato scored the tying run from second on a passed ball-throwing error with his team down to their last strike and then tripled in two runs in the 10th to lead the Lotte Marines to a 5-3 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.

Rookie catcher Toshiya Sato’s two-run sixth-inning homer brought Lotte to within a run, after Marines starter Manabu Mima allowed three runs in the first but lasted eight innings.

Kato came on to run after Seiya Inoue singled with one out off Taisho Tamai. A two out walk put runners on first and second.

Tamai got ahead of Tsuyoshi Sugano 0-2, but catcher Yushi Shimizu failed to catch a 1-2 changeup. It popped up off the heel of his glove and by the time caught it Kato was on third, but the runner on first was well of the base. Sensing a chance to end the game, Shimizu gunned a throw to first that glanced off first baseman Kotaro Kiyomiya’s glove, allowing Kato to score.

Marines closer Naoya Masuda (2-2) got into trouble in the bottom of the ninth. Regular cleanup hitter, Sho Nakata, who started the game on the bench, came on to pinch hit flew out to short for the third out.

With two out and two on in the 10th, Kato drilled a pitch from Kenya Suzuki (0-1) to the gap to plate two. Recently acquired reliever Hirokazu Sawamura took over in the bottom of the 10th. He issued three two-out walks before getting a groundout to record his first save of the year.

Hatake plows under BayStars

Right-hander Shusei Hatake (1-3), making an emergency start in place of lefty Cristopher Mercedes, worked six innings and Yoshihiro Maru homered twice and drove in three as the Yomiuri Giants beat the DeNA BayStars 5-0 at Yokohama Stadium. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Giants.

DeNA right-hander Shinichi Onuki (6-4) allowed four runs, three earned, over six innings to take the loss. A single, a stolen base, a throwing error and a Hayato Sakamoto single put the Giants up in the first. Maru hit his 16th homer in the fourth with a man on and went deep again in the sixth.

Dragons light up Nakata in win over Tigers

The Chunichi Dragons scored three runs in two innings off veteran right-hander Kenichi Nakata (0-2) en route to a 4-2 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Nagoya Dome.

After a 1-2-3 first against the team for which he won the bulk of his 100 career games, Nakata allowed four straight hits in the second, bringing in two runs, while a third scored on a safety squeeze.

Takahiro Matsuba (3-4) allowed two runs over five innings. The only two runs came when pinch-hitter Kenya Nagasaka homered with a man on after his foul pop was dropped but not ruled an error. Four relievers combined to allow one hit and two walks over the final four innings with Raidel Martinez earning his 13th save.

Swallows survive ninth-inning horror show

The Yakult Swallows opened the home half of the first with three straight home runs before nearly blowing a seven-run ninth-inning lead with starter Yasuhiro Ogawa (9-3) on the mound in an 8-6 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Ogawa worked a 1-2-3 first, and in a sense, so did Carp starter Yuta Nakamura (0-1), who watched three of his first 14 pitches end up as souvenirs for the Carp fans in the left-field bleachers. It was the fifth time a team had homered in its first three plate appearances and the first time since the Dragons did it at Yokohama Stadium in 1995.

The Swallows entered the top of the ninth with an 8-1 lead and kept Ogawa on the mound after he had thrown just 101 pitches. After a double, a single and a double play, things were still looking good for manager Shingo Takatsu’s plan not to use his bullpen with the last three of nine straight games looming.

But five straight hits off straight fastballs and hanging breaking balls, the last off Ogawa’s 123rd pitch, finally forced a change. Closer Taishi Ishiyama allowed the tying run on with a single before getting a strikeout that ended the game and earned him his 11th save.

Active roster moves 9/20/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/30

Central League

Activated

GiantsP31Seishu Hatake
GiantsP58Ryosuke Miyaguni
TigersP20Kenichi Nakata
CarpP67Yuta Nakamura

Dectivated

GiantsP35Toshiki Sakurai
GiantsIF00Daiki Yoshikawa

Pacific League

Activated

HawksP63Hiroyuki Kawahara
HawksOF60Go Kamamoto
EaglesIF6Kazuya Fujita
BuffaloesIF31Ryo Ota
BuffaloesIF53Sho Gibo

Dectivated

HawksOF51Seiji Uebayashi
EaglesIF66Itsuki Murabayashi
MarinesP30Tsuyoshi Ishizaki
BuffaloesIF5Masahiro Nishino
BuffaloesOF56Yusuke Matsui

Starting pitchers for Sept. 21, 2020

Central League

Giants vs Carp: Tokyo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Daisuke Naoe (0-0, 2.35) vs Allen Kuri (4-4, 4.06)

Dragons vs Swallows: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Akiyoshi Katsuno (1-3, 3.66) vs Hirofumi Yamanaka (1-1, 5.33)

Tigers vs BayStars: Koshien Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Minoru Iwata (-) vs Masaya Kyoyama (1-0, 9.00)

NPB 2020 Sept. 13

Lions’ Matsumoto turns back Hawks

Shuta Tonosaki opened the game with a home run and Wataru Matsumoto (3-3) worked seven scoreless innings to outduel Shuta Ishikawa (6-2) in the Seibu Lions’ 1-0 win over the SoftBank Hawks at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Tonosaki appeared to geared up for a fastball and when Ishikawa threw a straight 1-0 pitch down the pipe, the Lions super utility man drove it well back into the permanent seats in left for his fifth home run.

The Hawks threatened to score in the home half when Taisei Makihara squared up a first-pitch center-cut fastball for a leadoff double. But Matsumoto’s fastball was too much for Akira Nakamura who continually hit under it, fouling it off twice before a popping up for the first out. After a cautiously walking Yuki Yanagita, Yurisbel Gracial grounded a low fastball into a double play.

Matsumoto got out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, again with some extra mustard on his fastball, as the normally deadly Nakamura miss-hit a heater to second for an inning-ending groundout.

Ishikawa allowed four hits, two walks and hit a batter while striking out six in a typically solid performance, but after Lions middle reliever Kaima  Taira set the Hawks down in order, the hosts wasted a two-on no-out chance in the ninth against closer Tatsushi Masuda.

A sacrifice advanced two pinch-runners into scoring position, Masuda overpowered grinding right-handed hitter Keizo Kawashima for the second out, and then came within a hair of disaster. The right-hander missed up with a 1-0 fastball that Makihara hammered down the third base line where it was caught by Wu Nien-ting for the final out instead of going for a game-winning two-run single. The save was Masuda’s 17th.

Eagles outpunch Fighters

The Rakuten Eagles tattooed Kohei Arihara (4-7) for nine runs over 2-1/3 innings, who wasted a six-run second inning against Takayuki Kishi in the Nippon Ham Fighters’ 14-6 loss at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Hideto Asamura opened the scoring for the hosts in the first inning with his 22nd home run, a two-run shot, but the Haruki Nishikawa’s three-run shot capped the visitors’ six-run second.

The Eagles tied in the third and took the lead in a three-run third on rookie Hiroto Kobukata’s RBI single. Kobukata, who singled and scored in the second, added a two-run double in the third.

The loss snapped a streak of four-straight solid outings for Arihara. Kishi stayed on the mound for 3-1/3 innings.

Fan-favorite Watanabe to hang it up

The game broadcast repeatedly cut to shots of Eagles player coach Naoto Watanabe, who announced he would retire at the end of the season.

A native of Miyagi Prefecture where Sendai is located, the 39-year-old Watanabe is a serviceable middle infielder. In his first few years was a good on-base percentage hitter and efficient base stealer for the Eagles before stints with the BayStars and Lions. A fan favorite in Sendai, he returned to Rakuten in 2018, but had played in 88 games since.

But if Japan likes melodrama more than almost anything, so when asked about Watanabe, manager Hajime Miki gushed during his postgame interview.

“We have a lot of emotions when it comes to Naoto and the players all agreed we should dedicate the rest of this season to him, so that his last year as a player is something special.”

–Eagles manager Hajime Miki on player-coach Naoto Watanabe’s announcing he would retire at the end of the season.

Marines breakthrough against Buffaloes pen

Manabu Mima (7-2) allowed two runs over seven innings and the Lotte Marines scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh off lefty reliever Nobuyoshi Yamada (2-3) to break up a tie game in a 9-2 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

Hisanori Yasuda doubled in single runs in the first and third off Taiwan right-hander Chang Yi, who left after allowing two runs on two hits and four walks over five innings.

The Buffaloes tied it in the top of the seventh on a Masataka Yoshida RBI double, but Yoshida was gunned down at the plate trying to score against Leonys Martin’s arm to end the inning.

In a game twice interrupted by rain delays, Mima struck out seven without issuing a walk. He collected the win when the Marines began their seventh-inning rally after two were down. Yasuda capped the inning with a two-run single. The Marines’ 21-year-old rookie cleanup hitter has been struggling since a hot start to the season.

“Mima did a great job of shaking off the rain delays and staying on his game,” Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi said. “Real veteran stuff from him. Yasuda, has been having a hard time of it, and sure this game is a big relief to him, so he can mover forward now with a refreshed outlook.”

Martin piled on in the eighth with a three-run double for the Marines.

Dragons ride lucky bounce past stars

The DeNA BayStars lost a big first-inning double play when a batted ball deflected off the second-base bag, costing them two runs in their 3-2 loss to the Chunichi Dragons at Yokohama Stadium.

With two on and no outs, and the BayStars left-handed hitter Zoilo Almonte’s grounder was headed straight up the middle to where shortstop Yota Kyoda was poised to pick it and start an easy double play until the ball struck the bag and rolled into shallow left for an RBI single. With no outs, Dayan Viciedo supplied a sac fly before starting pitcher Shinichi Onuki (6-3) got out of the inning with a double play.

Neftali Soto homered off former ace Kazuki Fushimi in the first, but both bullpens shut the door after the fourth inning. Onuki lasted six innings, allowing three runs. Dragons closer Raidel Martinez struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 12th save.

“Onuki pitched a really good game today. The first inning he gave up a couple of hits, but those balls were good pitches and they just put good swings on good pitches. Other than that, he did a tremendous job today,” BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said. “Sometimes the ball bounces like that. It’s baseball. After he (Soto) hit a home run, I thought we would be able to score more runs. But we’re hitting pretty good. We couldn’t just come up with the big hit at the right moment. That happens.”

Maru homer lifts Giants past Swallows

Yoshihiro Maru’s 15th home run overturned a 1-0 fourth-inning deficit as the Yomiuri Giants came back to beat the Yakult Swallows 3-1 at Tokyo Dome.

Cristopher Mercedes (4-4) allowed a run over 5-1/3 innings, leaving after a one-out sixth-inning walk put two on with one out. Yohei Kagiya struck out both batters he faced and with Monday a day off, Giants manager Tatsunori Hara made liberal use of his bullpen, finishing with Rubby De La Rosa, who earned his 12th save.

Swallows right-hander Yasuhiro Ogawa (8-3) allowed three runs over six innings on seven hits and two walks. He struck out eight.

Giants-Swallows highlights

Suarez, Yokawa boost Tigers

Closer Robert Suarez (2-0) who has recently been tasked with getting four-out saves, entered a tie game in the eighth inning and earned the win after Naomasa Yokawa homered in the bottom of the eighth in the Hanshin Tigers’ 7-6 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Koshien Stadium.

Seiya Suzuki’s three-run homer in the top of the first put the Carp in front against Shintaro Fujinami, but the Tigers came back to score five runs, four earned, off Hiroshima starter Kazuki Yabuta.

Kento Itohara and Justin Bour singled in one run apiece in the first and third innings to put the Tigers in front briefly before the game turned into a battle of the bullpens, which the Tigers eventually won.

Active roster moves 9/13/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/23

Central League

Activated

GiantsIF51Shunta Tanaka
DragonsP19Kazuki Yoshimi

Dectivated

GiantsP33Ryu Ota

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesP11Takayuki Kishi
FightersP49Katsuhiko Kumon

Dectivated

HawksP18Shota Takeda

Starting pitchers for Sept. 14, 2020

Pacific League

Eagles vs Fighters: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 5 pm, 4 am EDT

Takahiro Shiomi (4-5, 4.60) vs Drew VerHagen (5-3, 4.16)

Marines vs Buffaloes: Zozo Marine Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kota Futaki (3-2, 4.73) vs Andrew Albers (3-5, 3.62)

NPB 2020 8-16 games and news

Dragons’ Ono has got this 10-K complete game thing down

For the third straight Sunday, Yudai Ono delivered a 10-strikeout complete-game victory, as the Chunichi Dragons lefty beat the Yomiuri Giants for the second week in a row, this time 4-1 at Tokyo Dome.

Ono (3-3) was asked if he had done anything differently after going 0-3 in his first six starts.

His answer: “I pitched well, but wasn’t getting wins because I’d give up the early lead and couldn’t stick around long enough for my team to score, so that has been my goal.”

Ono, who throws from a three-quarter arm slot, has the highest average fastball velocity among left-handed starters in Japan this season (146.3 kph or 90.9 mph). His fastball appeared to have more spin than usual, making it especially dangerous in combination with his two-seam sinker.

(One has to be careful in Japan with the expressions two-seam and sinker, the first is sometimes applied to a “shoot” a running fastball that is not intended to sink, and sometimes to a major-league style two-seamer, which is really Ono’s sinker, rather than a Japanese-language sinker, which is actually a screwball.)

The Dragons opened the scoring on Toshiki Abe’s fifth home run, a second-inning solo shot off Seishu Hatake (0-2), and Yoshihiro Maru tied it with his 10th homer in the home half. The two-time MVP uppercut a high 1-1 splitter from Ono and really launched it.

Chunichi completed the scoring in the fifth on a two-run double by shortstop Yota Kyoda, who scored on catcher Takuya Kinoshita’s single.

Hatake missed with a high straight 1-0 fastball and Shuhei Takahashi hammered it on the ground through the infield for a leadoff single. Abe did the same with a straight 2-1 fastball in the heart of the zone, hitting it between first and second to put runners on the corners.

The right-hander left a first-pitch changeup up in the zone to Kyoda, and he also slammed it, this time just over the bag at first and into the right-field corner for a double. Kinoshita fouled off a high fat slider for Strike 1, but hit lined a better 0-1 slider to right to make it 4-1.

Hatake went six, but the way Ono was pitching it didn’t matter.

After last week’s win, Ono said, “I’m not a very good pitcher so I just try to execute each pitch as well as I can.”

This week’s self-deprecating remark was: “I’m not one of those pitchers who go to the mound to start the game thinking, ‘I want to throw a perfect game.’ I kind of see how things go, and if it looks like it, I’ll give it a shot.”

Ono after his Sept. 14, 2019 no-hitter.

Ono praises no-hit Ogawa

Ono said he was inspired by Yasuhiro Ogawa’s no-hitter on Saturday night in Yokohama, the first one since Ono’s on Sept. 14 against the Hanshin Tigers.

“For him to pitch his way out of a no-out, two-on jam in the eighth inning after a teammate made an error? As a pitcher myself, I thought that was simply amazing,” Ono said.

Submariner Yamanaka torpedoes BayStars

Submarine right-hander Hirofumi Yamanaka (1-1) allowed two runs over five innings for the 34-year-old journeyman’s first win in nearly two years as the Yakult Swallows beat the DeNA BayStars 7-4 at Yokohama Stadium.

Tetsuto Yamada and Norichika Aoki propelled the Swallows’ offense combining for four runs and five RBIs. BayStars starter Kentaro Taira (3-3) allowed six runs over 3-2/3 innings.

Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama worked a scoreless ninth to record his seventh save.

のらりくらりとつかみどころがない。ヤクルトの山中が右下手から持ち味の緩急を利かせた投球で、DeNA打線を手玉に取った。5回2失点で2018年9月15日以来、約2年ぶりの勝利。34歳のベテランは「久しぶりすぎて、実感が湧かない」と照れ笑いを浮かべた。

Carp, Tigers tie in ugly contest

Beauty pageants in Japanese are referred to as “miss contests” and that would be a suitable description for the Hiroshima Carp and Hanshin Tigers’ 2-2 10-inning tie at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Tigers starting pitcher Takumi Akiyama survived a first-inning error that contributed to a one-out bases-loaded jam, but 21-year-old Carp right-hander Atsushi Endo failed to catch a break.

Veteran shortstop Kosuke Tanaka bobbled a grounder to put the leadoff man on. A single and a walk to Jerry Sands loaded them up. The youngster got cleanup hitter Yusuke Ono to hit into a double play and broke Justin Bour’s bat, but his stick died a hero as the ball got over the infield for an RBI single.

Akiyama worked five scoreless inning. First-year importJoe Gunkel gave up one run over two innings of relief on a pair of mistakes to Seiya Suzuki and Ryuhei Matsuyama. Suzuki drove a triple off the center-field wall and scored on a a hard-hit single by Matsuyama.

Carp leadoff man Ryoma Nishikawa scored the tying run after a single, a sacrifice, an error and a wild pitch and the game ended in a tie when it was called after 10 innings.

Effectively wild Ishikawa beats Buffaloes

Right-hander Shuta Ishikawa had as much trouble hitting the glove as the Orix Buffaloes did hitting his pitches over 5-2/3 scoreless innings in the SoftBank Hawks’ 6-2 win on Sunday at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

The Hawks beat up lefty Andrew Albers (2-5) for four runs over two innings. Albers gave up five hits, walked one and hit one. Three of his losses this season have come against the Hawks.

Ishikawa (0-5) allowed two hits but walked six and hit a batter while striking out six. The Buffaloes scored both their runs off submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi in the seventh.

Marine recruit leads Lotte’s charge

Koshiro Wada made the most of his first starting assignment on Sunday, scoring three times from the Lotte Marines’ leadoff spot to fuel a 6-5 victory over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

Wada, a 21-year-old who played in the independent Baseball Challenge league before signing with the Marines as a non-roster developmental player in 2018, struck out in his debut on Friday. But given a chance to start against right-hander Drew VerHagen, the left-handed hitter took some aggressive cuts.

He singled, stole second, and was sacrificed to third by Shogo Nakamura and scored in the first, third, and fifth innings. Leonys Martin also stole three bases for Lotte.

“I was so nervous before today’s game, I couldn’t eat,” he said.

Wada struck out in his last two at-bats.

Seiya Inoue drove in three runs for Lotte and set up the final go-ahead run in the eighth with a leadoff walk, while No. 3 hitter Leonys Martin drove in one run and scored twice.

Sho Nakata put the Marines in front briefly with his 17th home run, a third-inning shot off lefty Toshiya Nakamura.

VerHagen, who had won his three previous starts, allowed five runs over 4-1/3 innings. The Fighters tied it in the sixth off new Marine Jose Flores, who like Wada joined the Marines after a stint with the independent Toyama Thunderbirds.

Frank Herrman (3-0) struck out the bottom of the Fighters’ order in the eighth. He earned the win in after Tatsuhiro Tamura doubled in pinch-runner Hiromi Oka against veteran lefty Naoki Miyanishi (1-1) in the home half of the inning. Naoya Masuda worked a 1-2-3 ninth against the top of the Fighters’ order to earn his 15th save.

Old-timer Kuriyama sparks Lions

Takumi Kuriyama, his speed and arm dented by wear and tear, sparkled in a rare outfield start with his glove and bat to boost the Seibu Lions to an 11-1 plucking of the Rakuten Eagles at MetLife Dome.

With two outs and two on in the top of the first Kuriyama made a leaping grab of a Stefen Romero drive headed for the wall to end the inning and save two runs.

The 34-year-old singled to lead off the second and hustled home to score the first run in the two-run inning. After Eagles starter Yuya Fukui (0-2) walked the first two batters he faced in the third, Kuriyama blasted a three-run homer. Kuriyama finished with three hits and a walk.

Lions starter Keisuke Honda (1-4) scattered five hits and three walks to allow one run over five innings and earn the win.

Jones returns to Osaka early

Adam Jones, who joined the Pacific League’s Orix Buffaloes from this season, returned home to Osaka on Sunday from Fukuoka prior to his team’s afternoon game against the SoftBank Hawks, according to the Sankei Sports.

It marked the second time Jones, who turned 35 on Aug. 1, has been omitted from Orix’s game-day roster. He was also sidelined on Aug. 9 with discomfort in his right heel. Jones has played in 48 games and so far has a .313 on-base percentage and a .362 slugging average.

Marines’ Laird returns to U.S. for treatment

Lotte Marines third baseman Brandon Laird has returned to the United States for treatment on his lower back the Pacific League club said Sunday according to website Full-Count.

Laird was deactivated on Aug. 5 due to lower back stiffness. In 147 plate appearances over 39 games he has six home runs with a .299 on-base percentage and a .391 slugging average.

Active roster moves 8/16/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/26

Central League

Activated

GiantsIF00Daiki Yoshikawa
GiantsOF94Shuhei Kato
BayStarsP43Takuya Shindo

Dectivated

GiantsIF51Shunta Tanaka
GiantsOF88Gerardo Parra
BayStarsP21Shota Imanaga
BayStarsP68Yoshiaki Fujioka
SwallowsOF49Daiki Watanabe

Pacific League

Activated

LionsOF51Manaya Nishikawa
HawksP29Shuta Ishikawa

Dectivated

LionsOF73Wataru Takagi
HawksP11Yuki Tsumori

NPB 2020 7-24 games and news

Lions goes small in walk-off win over Marines

The big-hitting Seibu Lions executed some down-and-dirty ninth-inning small ball to earn a 3-2 walk-off win over the Lotte Marines on Friday.

With the score tied 2-2 against Marines closer Naoya Masuda (0-2), Sosuke Genda popped his drag bunt over the mound and slid head-first into the bag for a leadoff single. Slugging catcher Tomoya Mori, the Pacific League’s 2019 MVP sacrificed for the second time in his career. After an intentional walk to two-time home run king Hotaka Yamakawa, Masuda missed up with a 1-0 fastball and Shuta Tonosaki looped it into left to bring home the winning run at MetLife Dome.

The Lions open the scoring in the first inning on a one-out Genda single and a two-out Yamakawa home run. Tonosaki followed with a double, but Ishikawa retired 12 of the next 13 batters, allowing the Marines to draw level and left the game after seven innings.

Leonys Martin doubled and scored on a long single by cleanup hitter Hisanori Yasuda, but the inning ended on a strike-out, caught-stealing double play. The Marines tied it on well-struck two-out singles by Tsuyoshi Sugano, Yoshida and Seiya Inoue.

Frank Herrman struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth for the Marines, while Lions relievers Kaima Taira, Reed Garrett and Tatsushi Masuda kept the Marines off the board through nine, when the hosts were able to pull ahead.

Hawks’ Higashihama outpitches Arihara

Nao Higashihama (2-0) allowed a run over seven innings while striking out eight, and Akira Nakamura’s two-run third-inning double snapped a 1-1 tie as the SoftBank Hawks pulled away to a 4-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

The visitors took the lead in the first when Higashihama was missing a lot on three well-hit no-out singles by Haruki Nishikawa, Taishi Ota and Kensuke Kondo, but Arihara blew that lead in the third.

The Hawks came back in the third inning, when Ukyo Shuto and Kenta Imamiya both squared up pitches in the zone like they knew what was coming from Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (1-4). Yuki Yanagita, who seems to square up everybody’s pitches, ironically drove in the tying run when he was fooled on a high changeup that fell for a flair single. A passed ball when Arihara and catcher Ryo Ishikawa got their signals crossed put the runners on second and third for Nakamura.

Livan Moinelo struck out three batters in the eighth, and Yuito Mori closed it out in the ninth to earn his seventh save.

Arihara hung in to the end in an eight-inning complete-game loss. He was charged with four runs, three earned, on eight hits, two walks and a hit batsman. The right-hander struck out four.

Ryoya Kurihara accounted for SoftBank’s final run when he opened the sixth with his fifth home run.

Unheralded Buffalo Sakakibara downs Eagles

Tsubasa Sakakibara (1-1), who turned pro on a non-roster developmental contract, outpitched Rakuten Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto (3-2) in a 6-2 Orix Buffaloes win at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Orix scored in the first on a Tatsuya Yamaashi single off Norimoto’s first pitch, a sacrifice and a Masataka Yoshida single. The Eagles ace suffered no further damage after Adam Jones hit a bullet to third for the second out and Aderlin Rodriguez struck out swinging at a slider.

After failing to sneak across a run in the fourth on a delayed double steal, the Eagles helped out with Orix’s second run in the fifth. Center fielder Ryosuke Tatsumi failed to catch Kenya Wakatsuki’s leadoff liner and played a single into a double. No. 9 hitter Hayato Nishiura followed another sacrifice with another run-scoring single. Norimoto missed over the plate with a low 0-2 slider, and Nishiura went down and hammered it up the middle.

Sakakibara scattered four hits and two walks over the first six innings, and Ryoichi Adachi singled home a run in the seventh to make it 3-0 Buffaloes before Stefen Romero put the hosts on the board with a leadoff homer in the home half.

The Buffaloes finally drove Norimoto from the game in the eighth on Aderlin Rodriguez’s two-run double.

The Buffaloes bullpen allowed an unearned run on two walks over three innings as Orix won its third-straight decision.

Giants comeback, tie Swallows

The Yomiuri Giants gave up five early runs in ugly fashion, but came back against the Yakult Swallows bullpen to salvage a 5-5, 10-inning tie at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Giants lefty Nobutaka Imamura walked three of the first six batters he faced before the game blew up on him in the second.

Daiki Yoshida, the Swallows’ starting pitcher and their second draft pick last autumn, singled home two runs after Alcides Escobar’s leadoff walk, Kotaro Yamasaki’s single and a sacrifice. Yoshida went to second when a grounder that struck Imamura’s foot. The Swallows pitcher scored from second on a Tetsuto Yamada single. Yamada scored on a Norichika Aoki fly to left center that fell untouched for a double due to a mixup between left fielder Zelous Wheeler and center fielder Yoshihiro Maru. Munetaka Murakami singled home Aoki to drive Imamura from the game.

The Giants began taking the measure of the Yoshida in the fourth. Takumi Oshiro followed a walk to cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto with his second homer in two games. Back-to-back hard-hit singles from Hiroyuki Nakajima and Wheeler followed. Yoshida, however, snuffed out the rally with a strikeout and a double play.

The Giants mounted another rally in the fifth, but Escobar made a good stop at short on a grounder up the middle and started a sweet double play. That was all for Yoshida, who walked three and gave up six hits while striking out four.

Scott McGough worked a 1-2-3 sixth, but the Giants took a stick to 21-year-old righty Yugo Umeno in the seventh.

Naoki Yoshikawa led off with a home run, and Shinnosuke Shigenobu doubled – his ball passed through a small hole in the fence over Jingu Stadium’s right field wall – and scored on a Hayato Sakamoto sac fly before Maru homered to tie it.

Sano slam lifts BayStars to walk-off win

Keita Sano continued his torrid streak since criticism of skipper Alex Ramirez emerged over the weekend, blasting a walk-off grand slam that boosted the DeNA BayStars to a 9-6 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Yokohama Stadium.

Ramirez, who was criticized for everything from not ordering a bunt to putting on his socks in the wrong order, was also widely slammed in the Japanese media this week for giving key offensive roles to Sano and veteran first baseman Jose Lopez.

Sano’s home run was his third in three games, while Lopez had two doubles and his second home run in three games.

The BayStars came from a run down in the first against Carp ace Daichi Osera on a Takayuki Kajitani leadoff single, back-to-back doubles from Tyler Austin and Lopez and a groundout.

DeNA starter Taiga Kamichatani, who allowed two hits in the first, gave up two more in the second and two more in the third, when he added a walk and allowed another run.

Osera was pulled after two innings of work. Right-hander Makoto Kemna seven of the first eight batters he faced before Kajitani walked with one out in the fifth and scored on Lopez’s second double.

The lead was short-lived, however. Kamichatani fell behind 3-1 to Seiya Suzuki who hit the ball so hard off the wall in left he was easily held to a single. With one out, Jose Pirela hammered a hanging 2-1 splitter into the seats in left for his second home run in two nights.

The Carp widened the lead with two more runs off Spencer Patton in the eighth, but Hiroshima’s bullpen couldn’t hold it. Lopez homered to make it a 6-4 game in the eighth and Kajitani singled in another run in the ninth before Sano underlined the victory.

Ono misses out again in loss to Tigers

A week after suffering a tough loss to the Hanshin Tigers, Yudai Ono allowed a run over five innings only for the Chunichi Dragons bullpen to blow up in a 5-2 loss at Nagoya Dome.

Ono, who is looking for his first win of the season, surrendered a solo home run to Yusuke Oyama in the fourth. The lefty allowed four hits and two walks while striking out nine.

Tigers starter Koyo Aoyagi (4-1) gave up two runs in the second and lasted six innings to earn the win after Hanshin scored four runs in the top of the seventh. Fumiya Hojo doubled in three and scored on a Jerry Sands single.

Robert Suarez worked the ninth to earn his fifth save.

Tigers’ Gunkel rejoins top team

Right-hander Joe Gunkel worked out with the Hanshin Tigers’ first team on Friday according to Sponichi Annex and was activated. The 28-year-old first-year import pitched in a simulated game on Thursday and ostensibly showed no ill effects.

Gunkel was deactivated on July 14 due to lower back stiffness.

Meanwhile, the Yomiuri Giants have deactivated Brazilian pitcher Thyago Vieira while the Hiroshima Carp have dropped infielder Alejandro Mejia.

Active roster moves 7/24/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/3

Central League

Activated

GiantsP64Ryusei Ohe
GiantsP95Hayato Horioka
BayStarsP27Taiga Kamichatani
TigersP49Joe Gunkel
CarpOF59Minoru Omori
DragonsIF37Taiki Mitsumata

Dectivated

GiantsP47Takahiro Fujioka
GiantsP49Thyago Vieira
BayStarsOF37Taishi Kusumoto
TigersP36Masumi Hamachi
CarpIF96Alejandro Mejia
DragonsIF32Masami Ishigaki

Pacific League

Activated

EaglesC65Kengo Horiuchi

Dectivated

EaglesC29Ayatsugu Yamashita

NPB 2020 7-17 games and news

Inside story

Is it just me, or are NPB umps beginning to adopt the old major league standard of shifting the strike zone one ball width away from the batter? This was done in the States, I understand, to decrease hit batsmen. As long as I can remember, Japanese umps have called the vertical edges of the zone by the rules as well as their talents allowed.

But Friday’s games got me to wondering. Looking at the pitches that were called strikes and balls in Sendai’s game between the Lions and Eagles, and in Osaka between the Hawks and Buffaloes and at Koshien between the Dragons and Tigers, it sure seemed like inside strikes meant getting the ball entirely over the plate, while pitchers tended to get more leeway outside.

It may just be me, but a narrow strike zone definitely impacted at least one game.

Neal outpitches Norimoto in Sendai

Rakuten Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto has been very tough this season and he was pretty darn good on Friday, but sometimes things just have a way of going south. And while things didn’t go his way, Seibu Lions right-hander Zach Neal had his best outing in three weeks and picked up the win in a 10-2 victory in Sendai.

After both pitchers were rock solid in the first, Norimoto ran into trouble in the second. He hit the leadoff man, and pitched carefully to 2019 Pacific League MVP Tomoya Mori and ended up walking him. After that, he pretty much made his pitches but didn’t get the results he might have.

OK, he threw a straight fastball down and in to Takeya Nakamura that the slugger lined to left. The opening run scored on the play when left fielder Hiroaki Shimauchi failed to gather in the ball on a hop.

After that it was back-to-back singles off good pitches. An inside fastball jammed Takumi Kuriyama but resulted in a flair to left that fell in for an RBI single. Cory Spangenberg did a super job to go down and get a splitter and single to load the bases.

Norimoto had thrown 22 pitches in the inning at that point the wheels kind of fell off. But oddly enough, the Lions had pretty much done all the damage they were going to do in the inning.

He threw three straight pitches down the pipe, a first-pitch fastball resulted in an RBI single. A hanging first-pitch slider would have brought in another run had Shimauchi not made a good sliding catch in left. Sosuke Genda then watched a fat first-pitch fastball go by before offering at a splitter out of the zone that let the Eagles get a force at the plate.

The Lions added two more runs in the third when he REALLY missed to dangerous hitters, resulting in a Hotaka Yamakawa home run and a hanging curve that missed being a two-run homer by a few feet.

Neal — remember Zach Neal? — gave up a couple of hard-hit balls to his fielders in the second, and had trouble with the strike zone, see above, in the third, when he issued two, two-out walks — credit to Daichi Suzuki for the second — before Eigoro Mogi lined a pitch to center that went for a two-run double when center fielder Shohei Suzuki failed to make a shoe-string catch.

That brought league RBI leader Hideto Asamura to the plate. Neal got a 1-0 strike on the outside corner, and Asamura missed a fastball up and in before flailing at a changeup low and well out of the zone. You could see that changeup coming a mile away, and it was poetry.

Neal walked just those two batters, while striking out five and allowing five hits. With the win, he was able to extend his streak of consecutive winning decisions to 13.

Hawks take advantage of Buffaloes youngster

As happens a lot, walks opened the door for the SoftBank Hawks offense and they never looked back in their 9-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Hard-throwing 21-year-old Tsubasa Sakakibara (0-1) went into the fourth inning with the game tied 1-1, but four walks in the inning proved his undoing.

Sometimes pitchers walk hitters because they can’t locate their pitches and sometimes because they have a poor approach, and in Sakakibara’s case it seemed more of an inability to adjust to umpire Fumihiro Yoshimoto’s narrow strike zone.

A leadoff walk on four borderline pitches to Yuki Yanagita was a case of his trying to hit the edge of the zone and locating, but not getting the calls. Another walk followed before a three-pitch strikeout of Wladimir Balentien. But at that point, Sakakibara’s ability to execute began to slip. He missed all over the place to Nobuhiro Matsuda to load the bases before Takuya Kai ground out a walk that broke the tie.

Sakakibara, whose fastball was sitting at 150 kph but was pretty straight, got the grounder he needed to keep it a 2-1 game but the ball went for an infield single and he was yanked after four.

Orix rookie Ryo Ota, whose first pro hit was a home run on Thursday, had a home run for his second hit as well, when he tied it in the second off Nao Higashihama. The Hawks starter, who was in the leg by a batted ball early in the game, left after three innings.

Arihara earns 1st win for Fighters

Nippon Ham Fighters ace Kohei Arihara (1-3) allowed two runs over six innings, scattering eight hits and three walks in a 7-4 win over the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.

Arihara allowed just a run in the first despite a leadoff single and a Leonys Martin double and didn’t have a stress-free inning until his 1-2-3 sixth. Marines starter Ayumu Ishikawa (0-2) had three 1-2-3 innings through six but surrendered six runs on 10 hits and a walk to take the loss.

Fighters cleanup hitter doubled in a run in the hosts’ two-run first, and put the game out of reach with a seventh-inning grand slam.

Aoyagi, Sands pace Tigers past Dragons

Right-handed side-armer Koyo Aoyagi had the Chunichi Dragons pounding the ball into the dirt, grounding out 16 times over seven innings in a 4-1 Hanshin Tigers victory at Koshien Stadium.

The Dragons managed four hits and a walk off Aoyagi (3-1), who struck out two. The Tigers broke out for three runs in a fortunate third inning against Dragons lefty Yudai Ono (0-3).

Ono sawed off Seiya Kinami’s bat at the handle with a 1-1 slider on the hands but the ball looped over the mound for a leadoff infield single. After the pitcher sacrificed, failed to get a called first strike and sort of gave up on trying to get Yoshio Itoi and walked him on four pitches. Kento Itohara lucked into an infield single hitting an 0-2 pitch well out of the zone off the end of the bat for a perfect swinging bunt down the third base line. A throwing error by third baseman Hayato Mizowaki advanced all three runners and let in a run.

The infield came in, and Jerry Sands, whose eighth-inning home run tied Thursday’s game against Yakult and set the stage for a Tigers comeback, hit Ono’s pitch. The lefty spotted a 3-0 two-seamer low and away only for Sands to reach for it and launch it the other way into the right field gap for a two-run double.

Dayan Viciedo got a run back for the Drgons with his eighth home run of the year in the fourth.

Maru makes difference in rainy Yokohama

Yoshihiro Maru launched a third-inning tie-breaking home run at rainy Yokohama Stadium and the Yomiuri Giants earned a 2-1 win over the DeNA BayStars when their game was called after six innings.

The Giants opened the scoring in the second thanks to some quality swings from Takumi Oshiro, Gerardo Parra and Zelous Wheeler as three singles loaded the bases with no outs against Shoichi Ino (2-1). Oshiro scored on a double play.

Ino struck out six and walked one, while allowing six hits. Giants lefty Nobutaka Imamura (1-0) won his season debut. He allowed six hits and a walk while striking out two, and served up a pair of groundball double plays as the base cutouts at Yokohama Stadium began to resemble mud wrestling venues.

Maru broke the tie with two outs in the third, when Ino hung a curve ball that he launched off the end of his bat and just into the outfield seats atop their high wall in left.

Carp spoil Swallows rookie’s debut

Shota Dobayashi, long a favorite of the Hiroshima media, made his debut in the Carp No. 3 spot and went 4-for-5 with three runs, while Seiya Suzuki and Ryuhei Matsuyama combined to drive in eight in a 9-2 win over the Yakult Swallows.

Right-hander Daiki Yoshida, Yakult’s second draft pick last autumn, allowed five runs on nine hits over 2-1/3 innings to take the loss in his first-team debut.

Carp ace Daichi Osera (3-1) allowed two runs over six innings, while striking out five and walking two. New import D. J. Johnson had his best outing yet for Hiroshima as he struck out the side in the eighth inning.

Alcides Escobar drove in both Yakult runs with a sixth-inning double that missed the top of the wall at Mazda Stadium by a few feet.

Hawks drop van den Hurk, Carp call on Scott

A day after the briefest start of his career in Japan, right-hander Rick van den Hurk was deactivated by the SoftBank Hawks on Friday. The 35-year-old who opened his season with a dominating win over the Seibu Lions on June 25, is now 1-2 with 7.29 ERA in his sixth Japanese season.

Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said van den Hurk was feeling tightness in his back according to the Nikkan Sports.

“We’re going to give it a little time,” Kudo said at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome prior to Friday’s game against the Orix Buffaloes. “We want to know a little bit more about his condition, so he’ll be staying with the team for a bit.”

Meanwhile, a day after a Hiroshima Carp bullpen game imploded, the Central League club called up reliever Tayler Scott. The first-year right-hander has allowed seven runs over three innings and is 0-2 in five games. He has since pitched in two farm games and retired all six batters he faced for the Carp’s Western League team.

Active roster moves 7/17/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/27

Central League

Activated

GiantsP45Nobutaka Imamura
TigersC12Seishiro Sakamoto
TigersOF60Masahiro Nakatani
CarpP70Tayler Scott
SwallowsP28Daiki Yoshida
SwallowsP64Ren Kazahari

Dectivated

GiantsP46Takuya Kuwahara
BayStarsP93Ko Nakagawa
TigersP20Kenichi Nakata
TigersIF00Hiroki Uemoto
TigersOF9Shun Takayama
SwallowsP20Kazuki Kondo

Pacific League

Activated

HawksP34Arata Shiino

Dectivated

HawksP44Rick van den Hurk

Maru goes behind fielding numbers

I wasn’t the only one to take note of Yoshihiro Maru’s declining fielding metrics since 2016 with the Hiroshima Carp, but I may have been the most outspoken about them. The important thing to remember, however, is that they are measures of things. And those things only become place holders for skill and ability in our heads and don’t represent actual reality.

It’s important to remember that just because someone’s metrics have declined, things other than declining individual performance might be at the root.

The table below gives three metrics for each year: Fielding Win Shares, and his ARM and UZR 1200 ratings from Delta Graphs. While Maru’s skills may have not altered one bit, his numbers rebounded in 2019 after he moved to the Yomiuri Giants.

Maru’s fielding figures

YearFieldingARM1200
20144.3+1.9-7.4
20153.3+4.0+4.5
20164.7+4.1+11.1
20173.6+2.4+16.1
20182.9-4.6-4.9
20195.3+1.9+8.5

Maru’s story

“I don’t think my speed or the quality of my jumps improved any from when I was in Hiroshima. The difference was (Carp right fielder) Seiya Suzuki,” Maru said Sunday.

“As long as I’ve played, I’ve always gone to catch balls if there was ever any doubt. It wasn’t the case that I let Suzuki catch balls in the gap, but rather his being fast and getting to more balls first.”

“I think the reason my data in Hiroshima gradually shrank, was that Suzuki played more and got better.”

In 2018, Maru’s numbers took two hits, one from playing time when he missed 10 games, and another from having a good fielder in left, Takayoshi Noma, instead of the previous platoon combination of slow sluggers Brad Eldred and Ryuhei Matsuyama.

The Giants, on the other hand, put him in an outfield that frequently had Alex Guerrero (slow) in left and Yoshiyuki Kamei (old) in right, and voila! Maru’s best defensive win share season of his career.

Not my thing

One thing that took me by surprise was Maru’s opting for domestic free agency after the 2018 season instead of sticking with the Carp until he could go overseas under his own power. I always saw him as a similar player to South Korean star Choo Shin Soo.

“No that was never going to be my thing,” Maru said. “I just didn’t see myself doing that and had no interest.”