Tag Archives: Yudai Ono

NPB 2020 8-7 games and news

Ch-ch-changes

The iconic David Bowie song should have been Kensuke Kondo’s walk-up music against Zach Neal. The Nippon Ham Fighters on-base machine blasted a low changeup for a solo homer and one high and away for a two-run double in a 3-0 win over the Seibu Lions at Sapporo Dome.

Kondo broke up the scoreless game in the fourth with his second home run of the season. With wo on and one out in the sixth, his double made it 3-0 against Neal (2-2), who worked six.

Right-hander Toshihiro Sugiura (4-1) walked four batters but struck out six and allowed just one hit over seven scoreless innings. The moment of truth came in the seventh. After walking the bases loaded, he fell behind Ernesto Mejia before striking him out on a 3-2 splitter.

Side-arm closer Ryo Akiyoshi and left-hander Mizuki Hori nearly blew the game up in the ninth. Hori entered with two on and two outs in a one-run game. He walked two straight batters before getting Cory Spangenberg to strike out swinging at a 3-2 pitch to earn the save.

Romero powers Eagles past Hawks

Stefen Romero hit his 12th and 13th home runs of the season for the Rakuten Eagles and drove in five runs in a 7-4 come-from-behind win over the SoftBank Hawks at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Eagles ace Takahiro Norimoto was all about the fastball in the first inning, and Seiji Uebayashi and Yuki Yanagita treated them like the batting-practice variety with long solo homers to open the game for the visitors. Akira Nakamura made it 3-0 in the third with a double to the warning track that scored Yanagita from first. Norimoto, however, pitched out of tight spots in the fifth and sixth to keep his team in the game.

Romero homered in the sixth after a Daichi Suzuki leadoff single to make it a 3-2 game against the Hawks’ Opening Day starter, Nao Higashihama (2-1). The right-hander issued a pair of walks in the seventh before rookie Hiroto Kobukata put the Eagles in front with a triple and drove Higashihama from the mound. Shinya Kayama hit Suzuki and submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi served up Romero’s 13th homer.

Ishikawa scrapes by for 2nd win

Ayumu Ishikawa scattered 12 hits over seven innings to earn his second win as the Lotte Marines made the most of their early chances in a 6-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Ishikawa (2-2) struck out two, walked none and struck out two while getting two double plays en route to allowing just one run. Buffaloes starter Tsubasa Sakakibara (1-2) gave up four runs over three innings on three walks and six hits.

Seiya Inoue homered to open the scoring for the Marines in the second, when Yudai Fujioka tripled with one out and scored on a Tatsuhiro Tamura single. Two more runs scored in the third after two were down starting with singles by Inoue and Tsuyoshi Sugano, a walk and a two-run Tamura single.

Marines closer Naoya Masuda entered in the ninth with no outs, the bases loaded and a 6-1 lead. He issued a walk and surrendered an RBI single before getting out of the inning. He became the 32nd pitcher to earn 100 saves in Japan.

“Not-very-good” Ono too good for Giants

Lefty Yudai Ono threw his second-straight 10-strikeout complete game victory, and drove in the winning run with his first hit of the season in a 7-1 Chunichi Dragons win over the Yomiuri Giants at Nagoya Dome.

Ono (2-3) had better than usual velocity on his fastball, which looked straight but gave the Giants fits in combination with his two-seamer and slider. He gave up five hits and walked one.

“I’m not a very good pitcher,” he told the fans at Nagoya Dome in the postgame hero interview. “I have to just stick with those things I can do and execute my pitches.”

With two outs and two on in the second, he singled up the middle to open the scoring and went to second on a throwing error.

“I was looking for a slider, but I recognized it was a fastball,” he said.

When asked if he was able to react to the fastball, Ono said, “No. I don’t really have that much ability. It just worked out well.”

Yota Kyoda tripled in two, and Yohei Oshima, who also doubled, walked and scored two runs, followed with another triple off lefty Kazuto Taguchi (2-1) to make it 4-0.

Yoshida shines as Swallows beat Kamichatani

Daiki Yoshida, the Yakult Swallows’ second pick in last Autumn’s draft, produced his third-straight solid start en route to an 8-2 win over the DeNA BayStars at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Yoshida (1-1) allowed two runs over six innings, while the Swallows tagged Taiga Kamichatani (0-1) for four runs, three earned, over three innings. Kamichatani went 7-6 games as a rookie last year but was 3-6 against teams not named the Yakult Swallows.

Takeshi Miyamoto, the 25-year-old reserve infielder who is filling in while superstar second baseman Tetsuto Yamada drove in three runs for the Swallows, while Munetaka Murakami and Yasutaka Shiomi both scored twice.

Hatsuki makes most of pro debut in Carp win

Ryutaro Hatsuki went 2-for-4 with a triple and three RBIs in his first top-flight game for the Hiroshima Carp, who beat the Hanshin Tigers 11-6 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Side-armer Koyo Aoyagi, one of the Tigers’ more reliable starters this summer, allowed six runs over three innings to fall to 4-2, while Carp rookie Masato Morishita (3-2) gave up four runs, three earned, over six innings to earn the win.

Active roster moves 8/7/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/17

Central League

Activated

GiantsP45Nobutaka Imamura
CarpIF69Ryutaro Hatsuki

Dectivated

GiantsP95Hayato Horioka
TigersP29Haruto Takahashi
CarpIF6Tomohiro Abe
SwallowsP47Keiji Takahashi

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP19Hiromasa Saito

Dectivated

LionsP29Ryuya Ogawa

Starting pitchers for Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020

Pacific League

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

Kohei Arihara (1-5, 4.18) vs Wataru Matsumoto (1-3, 6.53)

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

Takahiro Shiomi (2-3, 4.37) vs Akira Niho (3-2, 4.91)

Buffaloes vs Marines: Kyocera Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Kohei “K” Suzuki (0-1, 9.82) vs Kota Futaki (0-1, 12.86)

Central League

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

Yasuhiro Ogawa (4-1, 3.71) vs Shota Imanaga (4-2, 2.86)

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

Akiyoshi Katsuno (1-2, 4.05) vs Seishu Hatake (0-0, 2.08)

Carp vs Tigers: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Daichi Osera (3-1, 2.92) vs Yuki Nishi (2-3, 2.55)

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 7-10 games and news

Hail, hail the gang’s all here

For the first time since Feb. 24, fans in Japan were able to see games between teams from Nippon Professional Baseball’s two top leagues as clubs from the Central and Pacific leagues were allowed to admit u to 5,000 fans to their games starting Friday.

One of the games, between the CL’s Yomiuri Giants and Yakult Swallows at Hotto Motto Field Kobe, was rained out, and the game at nearby Koshien Stadium was called after five innings.

The opening takes place as COVID-19 cases surge around Japan and in particularly in Tokyo. Tokyo set a record for new infections on Friday.

Japanese ball to an American-style beat

To prevent the spread of the virus, fans have been asked not to participate in organized cheering, chanting and singing, while musical instruments have been banned. But when you take the organized cheering away from Asian baseball you get a much more subdued atmosphere.

Instead of every at-bat being accompanied by its background music and rhythm section, the reduced crowds created a buzz that ebbed and flowed more in tune with action on the field.

Kuriyama brings Lions back

Veteran left-handed hitter Takumi Kuriyama belted a two-run, game-tying home run in the eighth and drew a bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning that pushed the Seibu Lions to 7-6 win over the Lotte Marines at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

Kuriyama’s second home run of the season, off reliever Taiki Tojo, took Lions starter Zach Neal off the hook for the loss and preserving his streak of 12-straight winning decisions.

“One can’t be happier than this,” said the 36-year-old Kuriyama. “How the fans see us, their critical eye as well as their sympathy and understanding is essential.”

“I felt like all eyes were on me, and I felt the tension conveyed by everyone in the stands, it helped me buckle down.”

Tojo tried to go away with a first-pitch slider, but it drifted over the inner half of the plate and Kuriyama golfed it into the right field stands.

“I went up focused on hitting my pitch and not wasting the at-bat,” Kuriyama said.

Marines starter Ayumu Ishikawa seemed to struggle in the whipping wind in the first. A leadoff single by rookie Shohei Suzuki and a one-out walk set the table for Hotaka Yamakawa, who hammered a high fastball away and just got it over the fence in right for a three-run home run.

Neal got five groundballs in Lotte’s two-run first. The first two found holes, while the third resulted in a run scoring on a botched rundown. Brandon Laird became the first Marine to elevate the ball, with a sacrifice fly to the wall in left. Two more grounders ended the inning.

The Marines took the lead in the third when Martin walked and Laird reached on yet another groundball single. With one out, Neal tried to go inside to Seiya Inoue with a two-seam fastball but it hung up over the outside half of the plate and he reached the seats.

Yamakawa drew a leadoff walk in the fourth, and a nice stop by shortstop Yudai Fujioka allowed the Marines to get a force on Mori, who then stole second with one out. Kuriyama walked and a hit batsman loaded the bases. Rookie Seiji Kawagoe struck out on a borderline 3-2 pitch, but rookie Kakeru Kawanobe made amends for a bad throw that allowed the Marines’ first run to score by rifling a single to right.

With their lead cut to a run, Tatsuhiro Tamura opened the Marines fourth by working an eight-pitch walk. The Marines catcher advanced on a groundout and beat a good relay on Ogino’s single to left to make it a 6-4 game.

Right-hander Tetsu Miyagawa, Seibu’s top draft pick last autumn, worked around two walks in a scoreless seventh. New import Reed Garrett (2-0) struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth to earn the win, and Tatsushi Masuda worked a perfect ninth to collect his sixth save.

Ishikawa allowed four runs on three hits, three walks and two hit batsmen, while Neal surrendered six runs on four walks and six hits over six innings. Marines closer Naoya Masuda (0-1) walked two, hit a batter and gave up a single in the ninth and was tagged with the loss.

Rodriguez’s farewell bomb KO’s Fighters

Aderlin Rodriguez capped a two-out, ninth-inning rally with his fourth home run, a three-run shot that lifted the Orix Buffaloes to a 4-3 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

The walk-off “sayonara” home run was one of three on Friday. Fighters closer Ryo Akiyoshi retired the first two batters in the ninth before walking Adam Jones on seven pitches and rejuvenated left-handed slugger Takahiro Okada on eight.

After taking a slider for Ball 1, Rodriguez fouled off two low changeups from the side-armer but drilled the third on a line over the left field wall.

Christian Villanueva’s first home run as a Fighter, a two-run shot off right-hander Tsubasa Sakakibara, made it a 3-0 in the sixth.

Rodriguez, who saved a first-inning running with a leaping catch at first base, singled and scored in the eighth on a smash Villanueva was unable to handle at third. Lefty Naoki Miyanishi might have given the game away then, but for a diving catch in left by Kensuke Kondo, who started an inning-ending double play.

The bullpen wasted the best start of the season from Fighters ace Kohei Arihara, who surrendered two singles while striking out seven and walking one over seven scoreless innings.

‘Gita blast lifts Hawks past Eagles

Yuki Yanagita’s fourth home run in four games settled a tight pitchers’ duel when he led off the 10th inning by homering off new import J. T. Chargois (0-1) in the SoftBank Hawks’ 2-1 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Eagles starter Takahiro Norimoto had his splitter working to perfection and struck out nine. He and Hawks starter Nao Higashihama, who was able to pin-point his fastball, each allowed a run over seven innings. Other than an eighth-inning scrape that Rakuten’s Alan Busenitz barely escaped, neither bullpen looked in danger of giving up a run. That was until Yanagita crushed Chargois’ fourth pitch for his seventh home run of the season.

Submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi (2-0), who has started the season out of the bullpen after winning 12 games in the rotation as the 2019 PL rookie of the year, earned the win in relief.

Viciedo sayonara blast sinks Carp

Dayan Viciedo won it in the 10th inning with a walk-off home run to lift the Chunichi Dragons to a 3-2 home victory at Nagoya Dome over the Hiroshima Carp.

The two team’s Opening Day starters, Daichi Osera for the Carp and Yudai Ono for the Dragons, kept this game close through seven. The Carp opened the scoring on third-inning singles by Alejandro Mejia and Jose Pirela.

Journeyman Dragons outfielder Masataka Iryo drew a leadoff walk and scored the tying run in the fifth only for Carp infielder Ryosuke Kikuchi to take Ono deep in the sixth. Iryo, however, singled to open the eighth off journeyman reliever Yasunori Kikuchi and scored an unearned run to tie it on a Yohei Oshima sac fly.

The Dragons bullpen produced three-straight 1-2-3 innings, with Raidel Martinez working the 10th and earning the win when Viciedo homered off Geronimo Franzua to end it.

Tigers outlast BayStars in rain

Koji Chikamoto homered to open the Hanshin Tigers’ first and tie the game 1-1 and start a three-run inning in a 3-2 win over the DeNA BayStars in a game that was called after the top of the fourth due to rain.

Takayuki Kajitani homered to open the game, had three of DeNA’s four hits and scored both runs, but the Tigers offense in the first was enough to decide it at Koshien Stadium.

Kento Itohara followed with a triple and scored on a groundout before cleanup hitter Yusuke Oyama homered. Justin Bour walked and Jerry Sands singled off DeNA starter Shinichi Onuki (1-0). Onuki got out of the inning after one of manager Alex Ramirez’s beloved intentional walks brought Koyo Aoyagi (2-1) up to bat and the Tigers pitcher struck out.

As usual, the cast on Pro Yakyu News found fault with Ramirez’s managing because of his employing a shift against Bour, who singled through the open left side of the infield to lead off the third.

1 of Japan’s unwritten rules

Yudai Ono led Japan’s Central League in earned run average this season, passing Hiroshima’s Kris Johnson on Monday in his final start, when he was pulled after not allowing a base runner over 3-1/3 scoreless innings.

The issue

The game was a meaningless one for the Dragons, but not for their opponents, the Hanshin Tigers, who needed to win in order to advance to the playoffs at the expense of the Hiroshima Carp.

By pulling an effective starter, the Dragons reduced their ability to compete and make the Tigers earn the win, but guaranteed Ono would lead the league in ERA. The Tigers went on to win 3-0, scoring seconds after Ono left the mound.

Both the Dragons and Carp had something to gain from a situation if Ono did not allow an earned run over 3-1/3 innings and the Tigers won the game. That doesn’t mean there was an agreement, tacit or otherwise, to defraud the Carp, but such things happen in sports when teams pursue their selfish interests.

Kris Johnson weighed in on Twitter, expressing shock that gambling was going on in a casino. But it’s very typical behavior in Japanese society, where social rules give precedence to the workgroup over the law.

Japan rules

Team sports often demand an individual sacrifice individual gain for the greater good of the team. That means you don’t swing for the fences in an effort to win the home run title on a 3-2 pitch out of the strike zone if taking that pitch will force in a run and win your team a game.

I’ve written this before but in Japan, teams are also expected to generate rewards for team members in helping them pursue individual accomplishments. This is why pitcher Satoru Kanemura had a meltdown in 2006 when Nippon Ham Fighters manager Trey Hillman pulled him in the fifth inning of what would be his last start of the season, leaving him just one win shy of reaching double digits in wins.

Kanemura believed the team owed him a chance to win 10 games, and Hillman was violating that contract. He believed that because teams bend over backward to do stupid things in order to block opponents from beating their players to individual titles.

The Seibu Lions once threw intentional wild pitches with Lotte’s Makoto Kosaka on first base so he wouldn’t steal second and beat Kazuo Matsui for the Pacific League stolen base crown. Intentional walks are common. The Yomiuri Giants in 1985 and later the Daiei Hawks in 2001 and 2002 famously refused to challenge opposing hitters who were in danger of threatening the single-season home run record of their manager, managerSadaharu Oh.

Oh himself has called that sort of behavior distasteful because he was a fierce competitor and is a gentleman. But the culture here expects it.

Had Ono needed a win to lead the league in wins, there is no chance he would have come out early.

Players expect this behavior, fans expect this behavior. That’s the way it is. I don’t like it, but the regular season is 143 games long. I suppose if a few games here and there are marginally tainted because stupid stuff happens, I can live with it.

It’s not like six or seven teams here are tanking because spending less is more profitable.

NPB games, news of Sept. 30, 2019

Tigers have their cake and eat it, too

The Hanshin Tigers booked a spot in the playoffs by winning their sixth-straight game on Monday, beating the Chunichi Dragons 3-0 at Koshien Stadium in the final game of Japan’s regular season.

Not only did they win their sixth-straight elimination game, but they found room to play departing veteran Takashi Toritani two innings at shortstop and give longtime reliever Akifumi Takahashi a place in the limelight.

In his speech to the fans, first-year manager Akihiro Yano promised that the Tigers would do their best to inspire Japan the way the national rugby team had been doing in the Rugby World Cup currently taking place across Japan.

The Tigers got a boost when Dragons starter Yudai Ono was pulled with one out in the fourth inning, having lowered his ERA to 2.58 so he could lead the league in ERA.

Ono, who no-hit Hanshin on Sept. 14, saw his ERA against the Tigers this season improve to 1.35. Ono is 3-0 against the Tigers, 6-8 with a 2.94 ERA against everyone else. Ono got a big ovation from the Tigers fans, although some of them may have been cheering the fact that his exit gave their team a better chance to win.

And as if on cue, his replacement, Takuya Mitsuma (2-2), surrendered an infield single and a walk.

Yusuke Oyama put a good compact swing on a 2-2 shoot inside with good run on it that caught too much of the plate. He smashed it up the middle to break the scoreless deadlock. A two-out wild pitch made it 2-0 Tigers.

Here’s Oyama’s RBI single.

Tigers side-armer Koyo Aoyagi (9-9) struck out five over five scoreless innings. He was pulled for pinch-hitter Hiroki Uemoto in the bottom of the fifth and Uemoto singled in an insurance run.

With a three-run lead, the Tigers began honoring their players. A day after Randy Messenger faced one batter in the final career game of his 10-year Tigers career, reliever Akifumi Takahashi faced one batter in his final regular season game. He received flowers from Ono and teammate Kosuke Fukudome, who had been his teammate with Chunichi as well.

Takashi Toritani, who will leave the Tigers at the end of the season, pinch-hit in the seventh and played the last two innings at his old position.

Here’s Toritani’s reception as pinch-hitter.

Kyuji Fujikawa, who at season’s start appeared like he was on that same road for disappearing veterans, continued his remarkable turnaround as closer. The 39-year-old converted his 16th-straight save opportunity since the club began using him in that role on July 26.

The Tigers’ win eliminated the Hiroshima Carp from the postseason for the first time since 2015. Hanshin’s next job will be the first stage of the CL Climax Series. The best-of-three series begins on Saturday at Yokohama.

By winning six-straight elimination games to reach the playoffs, the Tigers surpassed the feat of the 2010 Lotte Marines, who had to win their final three regular season games. They went on to become the first NPB team to win the Japan Series after finishing third in their league. Hanshin’s path was considerably more difficult, however, since they would not even have gotten to the elimination games had they not won their three games before it became do or die. Those wins, coupled with Hiroshima’s loss

The game highlights are HERE.

NPB games, news of Sept. 14, 2019

The Ono NoNO

Eight days after Japan had its first no-hitter in 13 months, it had another, as Yudai Ono allowed a runner to reach on an error and a walk in a 3-0 win over the Hanshin Tigers on Saturday.

When Kodai Senga no-hit the Lotte Marines a week ago last Friday, it was the Hawks’ first no-hitter since before Donald Trump was born. The Dragons, on the other hand, have thrown six of NPB’s last 18 no-hitters.

Ono, the Dragons’ first draft pick in the 2010 draft, improved to 9-8 on the season. He has a 58-61 record.

Pacific League

Lions 4, Marines 3

At MetLife Dome, Seibu closer Tatsushi Masuda, who pitched with the maximum allowable lead in two of Seibu’s previous three games, couldn’t hold a two-run, ninth-inning lead against Lotte.

The Lions, however, won the game with one out in the 10th. With portly slugger Takeya Nakamura on first, Marines center fielder Hiromi Oka misplayed Ernesto Mejia’s one-out, medium-deep fly. When he fell trying to make the catch the ball rolled and rolled and Nakamura chugged home from first.

Here’s the post-game hero interview with winning pitcher Tsubasa Kokuba (1-0) and Mejia.

Game highlights are HERE.

Hawks 3, Fighters 1

At Sapporo Dome, Yurisbel Gracial singled in the tie-breaking run in the fifth, and Yuito Mori recorded his 32nd save by stranding two runners in the ninth, as SoftBank beat Nippon Ham to maintain a tiny winning-percentage-point lead over Seibu.

The loss eliminated the Fighters from pennant contention.

Game highlights are HERE.

Buffaloes 3, Eagles 2

At Kyocera Dome, Yuma Mune drove in all three Orix runs, while starter Taisuke Yamaoka (11-4) lost his shutout bid in a two-run Rakuten eighth inning. Brandon Dickson stranded two runners in the ninth to earn his 19th save.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Carp 6, Giants 5, 10 innings

At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara was unhappy after his team wasted a one-out, bases-loaded chance to break a 5-5 tie in the ninth inning in a 10-inning loss to Hiroshima. The Carp then scored the winning run in the 10th on a passed ball by catcher Takumi Oshiro.

“You could see who was clutch and who wasn’t,” said Hara after Alex Guerrero and Oshiro popped up one after the other to end the ninth.

Game highlights are HERE.

Dragons 3, Tigers 0

At Nagoya Dome, Dayan Viciedo reached base four times, and he and Nobumasa Fukuda each scored one run and drove in another to back Yudai Ono’s no-hitter.

BayStars 7, Swallows 4

At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA hammered lefty Masanori Ishikawa (7-6) for five runs over five innings in a win over Yakult, in which Swallows second baseman Tetsuto Yamada was caught stealing for the first time since Aug. 22, 2018, ending his record streak of 38 successful stolen base attempts.