On a rainy day in eastern Japan, all 12 teams were in action for the first time since interleague’s final scheduled day last Sunday. The Swallows hosted the Giants in Akita and in a holdover from the old days, when playing in remote parks often involved uncertain travel connections by train, games played more remote locations often involve an extra day for travel.
Saturday’s highlight was an inside-the-park home run. By their nature, these are fluke plays, but I doubt you’ve seen one like this and it proved to be the decisive play of the game.
Hawks 5, Fighters 4
At Sapporo Dome, Nippon Ham’s understudy closer, Naoya Ishikawa, came within one strike of nailing down his third save. But Seiji Uebayashi followed Seiichi Uchikawa’s two-out, two-strike single with a strange home run in SoftBank’s come-from-behind win.
With one out, Fighters right fielder Taishi Ota robbed Nobuhiro Matsuda of a one-out single only for Uchikawa to lob 1-2 pitch off the end of his bat into right for a single. Then a little craziness ensued as Uebayashi’s drive bounced on the top of the wall and stayed in play, forcing him to speed up as he rounded third for a half-trotting, inside-the-park homer.
Here’s a clip of Seiji Uebayashi’s game winning inside-the-parker.
“With two outs, I had to be looking for extra-bases,” Uebayashi said. “I didn’t think I could hit a home run there, but I’m happy I did.”
“I wasn’t certain it went over, but (when I got around second coach (Arihito) Muramatsu was frantically waving me in, so half-way through I had to run for real.”
Fighters starter Toshihiro Sugiura, looked sharp through four innings, and Ryo Watanabe overturned a 1-0 deficit with a three-run, fourth-inning homer after Hawks starter Kotaro Otake walked a batter and surrendered a flare single off the end of Wang Po-jung’s bat.
Remember the line in Bull Durham, where Tim Robbins said a guy hit a pitch, “like he knew I was going to throw a fastball”? That’s what Ryo Watanabe’s home run looked like. The Fighters’ 1.78-meter second baseman stayed back on a first pitch curveball on the outside part of the plate and leaned into it, driving it out to distant left center.
Manager Hideki Kuriyama pulled Sugiura after two hard-hit balls to open the fifth, but reliever Kazutomo Iguchi hit a batter and missed with a high 1-0 fastball that was smoked for a two-run, game-tying single.
The Fighters retook the lead on a leadoff double in the fifth, a drag-bunt sacrifice and a sacrifice fly by Ota. After using four pitchers to get through the fifth inning, Kuriyama, who appeared to be practicing his scowl for most of the game needed four more to get his team within one strike of a victory.
The game highlights are HERE.
Eagles 2, Marines 2, 6 innings, rain
At Rakuten Seimei Park, the Rakuten Eagles hit a pair of leadoff home runs, but stranded seven runners over five innings before their game with Lotte was called due to rain.
For the life of me, I don’t understand Japan’s aversion to suspended games. In a country that deals with high school pitching marathons in the blistering heat of summer, one would think they could suspend those games, but perhaps that would violate some unwritten rule that says if you start a game today, you have to finish it today.
For years, the high school federation’s answer has been to take games that go past a certain number of innings and, wait for it, replay them from the start — ostensibly to spare the pitchers’ arms, when so often it is the same guy who just threw 12 innings who will have to start from scratch.
The game highlights are HERE.
Lions 7, Buffaloes 0
At MetLife Dome, Lions starter Keisuke Honda located his little 140-kph fastball and his changeup well, and was spared when the Buffaloes failed to do much with his mistakes as he struck out five and walked two over six scoreless innings.
Buffaloes starter Tsubasa Sakakibara, looking to throw his 11th straight quality start, gave up two runs in the first before striking out cleanup hitter Hotaka Yamakawa with no outs and a runner on third and getting an inning-ending double play.
Chris Marrero, who had been cooling his heels on the Buffaloes’ farm team since the start of June drove a hanging changeup foul before striking out in his first at-bat and drilled a hanging slider for an out in his second, but was hitless.
The game highlights are HERE.
Giants 6, Swallows 2
At Akita’s Komachi Stadium, Shun Yamaguchi pitched seven scoreless innings i in Yomiuri’s win over Yakult, making him the 353rd pitcher to reach 1,000 innings pitched.
Yamaguchi dueled veteran Swallows lefty Masanori Ishikawa through six innings. Ishikawa left trailing 2-0, only for the bullpen to cough up three more runs in the seventh.
Dragons 6, Tigers 1
At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi lefty Yudai Ono allowed a run on eight hits over seven innings, while striking out five and walking none, while Hanshin side-armer Koyo Aoyagi gave up five runs in the second inning.
Joely Rodriguez pitched out of a one-out, two-on jam in the eighth and Raidel Martinez struck out the side in order in the ninth to close it out.
Dragons catcher Takuma Kato drilled a 2-1 fastball down the line for a one-out, second-inning, bases-loaded double that plated the first two runs in a five-run inning off Aoyagi.
BayStars 2, Carp 1, 10 innings
At Yokohama Stadium, Toshiro Miyazaki’s two-out, bases-loaded single lifted DeNA past Hiroshima to its third straight win. The loss left the Carp 2-1/2 games back of the Giants in second place.
Tigers’ Fujinami appears ready for return
In what was billed as his final tuneup before returning to the first team, Hanshin Tigers right-hander Shintaro Fujinami allowed a run over eight innings and touched 154 kph on Saturday in a Western League game against the Hiroshima Carp at Mazda Stadium. He allowed four hits, while striking out eight and walking one.
The Sankei Sports story is HERE.
Blash out of action after Japan-high 10th plunking
Jabari Blash was held out of the Eagles’ lineup on Saturday after being hit by a pitch on the right arm on Friday by Eagles closer Naoya Masuda in the ninth inning. He was removed for a pinch runner.
Blash is leading the team with 19 home runs and 57 RBIs. He has been by pitches 10 times to lead the PL in that category. Chunichi’s Dayan Viciedo leads the CL with 10.