Japan’s Central League had a new front-runner on Saturday, after the Hanshin Tigers came from behind for the second straight day against the Yomiuri Giants.
We also had a new member of Japan’s 2,000 hit club.
Takumi Kuriyama became the 54th player with 2,000 career hits in Japanese pro baseball, one day after his 38th birthday. He’s the first Lion to do it since Hiroyuki Yamazaki in 1983, and the first player to do it after spending his entire career in a Seibu uniform. His lone hit came in the ninth inning of a losing cause.
Kuriyama has never been flashy, without the extreme skills needed to dominate any statistical category or stand out on an all-star ballot. He may be the only player to win three Best Nine Awards and a Golden Glove before he was ever voted to or selected for an all-star team.
His speed went and then his arm went, but he’s kept plugging along, contributing, grinding.
Tigers 4, Giants 3
At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin’s Yusuke Oyama terrorized Yomiuri for the second straight night. A day after he drove in three runs and scored two in a come-from-behind win, he scored two and drove in two – on a ninth-inning sayonara home run off closer Thyago Vieira (0-1).
The Giants took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on Naoki Yoshikawa single, a stolen base and a Takumi Oshiro RBI single, but Hanshin took the lead in the fifth against Yuki Takahashi. Oyama singled and came home on catcher Ryutaro Umeno’s third home run.
Kazuma Okamoto brought Yomiuri from a run down in the sixth with a two-run home run, his Japan-best 34th, off Joe Gunkel. Gunkel left with one out in the seventh and a man on, and Masaki Oyokawa got out of the inning with the bases jammed.
Takahashi lasted six innings, and Rubby De La Rosa struck out two in a perfect seventh. Kota Nakagawa escaped a bases-loaded eighth-inning jam when Jefry Marte grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Tigers rookie Ippei Ogawa worked a scoreless eighth, and Yuta Iwasada (4-0) did the same in the ninth to earn the win in relief.
Carp 4, Swallows 2
At Tokyo Dome, Hiroshima’s Koya Takahashi (3-4, 5.25) kept the Swallows off the board for six innings, largely by retiring MVP candidate Munetaka Murakami with runners in scoring position in the first and third and striking him out to start the sixth.
Cy Sneed (2-2, 4.50) went six for the Swallows, but Seiya Suzuki broke the ice leading off the second with his 21st home run and his eighth this season in 16 games at Tokyo Dome. Ryosuke Kikuchi made it 2-0 in the fifth inning with his 12th. Shogo Sakakura made it 4-0 in the sixth with his ninth homer – and his third at the dome.
Jose Osuna batting second in the Swallows order – sure to trigger some old fart hyperventilation – cashed in Yakult’s first run of the game with a two-out seventh-inning RBI single off Hiroshima’s second pitcher, lefty Atsuya Horie. Sotaro Shimauchi came on, walked Tetsuto Yamada before retiring Murakami for the final out.
Five Carp pitchers bridged the gap between Takahashi and rookie closer Ryoji Kuribayashi, who walked Tetsuto Yamada and Murakami to open the ninth before recording his 23rd save.
BayStars 3, Dragons 1
At Vantelin Dome Nagoya, Fernando Romero (1-2, 4.55) dueled Chunichi’s Yuya Yanagi to a 1-1 deadlock and Keita Sano untied the game with a two-run homer, his 11th as Romero won his first game in Japan and the BayStars remained tied with Hiroshima in fifth place.
Chunichi took the lead in the first when Yota Kyoda tripled on Romero’s third pitch and scored on a wild pitch. Despite allowing two-out singles to Dayan Viciedo and Kosuke Fukudome, Romero escaped further damage and his teammates scored in the sixth.
Yanagi got out of a second-inning jam by striking out Romero, who has demonstrated his ability to put the bat on the ball, but otherwise had little trouble with the BayStars until two were gone in the sixth. Tyler Austin walked and tied it on a Toshiro Miyazaki double. Yanagi lucked out of further damage after two walks, one intentional and one not, loaded the bases.
The right-hander, who struck out eight, was yanked after 89 pitches in the bottom of the sixth only for Romero to make his escape against pinch-hitter Nobumasa Fukuda. This gave DeNA a crack at Chunichi’s bullpen. Shinji Tajima (2-1) gave up a pinch-hit single, and Hiroto Fuku surrendered Sano’s homer.
Edwin Escobar, Yasuaki Yamasaki and Kazuki Mishima each faced three batters to close it out, with Mishima getting his 19th save.
Eagles 8, Lions 5
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Takayuki Kishi (7-7, 3.49) allowed three runs over six innings against his former team, while Seibu’s Tatsuya Imai (6-5, 3.72) served up seven runs on seven hits, four walks and a hit batsman over 3-1/3 innings.
The Lions small-balled a run in the first against their former ace on two singles and a sacrifice, but wouldn’t get another scoring opportunity until the Eagles had taken a commanding lead with five runs in the fifth and two more in the fourth.
The Eagles entered the third trailing 1-0 despite having putting their leadoff man on in every inning. Imai hit Luis Okoye to open the third, and gave up the tying run on a sacrifice and a double by minor leaguer Tsuyoshi Yamasaki, who’s filling in for Hideto Asamura at second base due to the captain’s poor form.
Ryosuke Tatsumi singled in the go-ahead run before the roof collapsed on Imai with two outs on three singles back-to-back walks, with Okoye forcing in the fifth run. Daichi Suzuki, batting cleanup, singled in one run in third and another in the fourth after Imai had left the building.
Trailing by five in the ninth, Seibu rallied against former Lion and Padre Kazuhisa Makita, who allowed Takumi Kuriyama’s one-out single and Hotaka Yamakawa’s two-run home run, his 17th. Makita left with a man on, and Tomohito Sakai allowed Seibu to load the bases before getting the final out and his first career save.
Marines 3, Fighters 3
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Lotte rookie Shota Suzuki worked four-plus innings, and fellow lefty Takayuki Kato five innings for Nippon Ham with both allowing three runs and both bullpens maintained the equilibrium that saw Lotte move to within one game of the PL lead, while third-place Rakuten crept to within 2-1/2 games of second.
Suzuki struck his way out of a two-on, one-out jam in the first, a feat Kato failed to manage. With two outs and on one, he hit Leonys Martin and surrendered back-to-back RBI doubles to Brandon Laird and Hisanori Yasuda. Kato retired both those guys to end the third and strand two runners as the Fighters worked their way back into the game.
Recently acquired Fumikazu Kimura homered to open the second, Haruki Nishikawa, who reached his first three times up, singled and scored in the third and fifth. Nishikawa led off the fifth and Yuki James Nomura’s third hit of the game put two on for Kensuke Kondo’s game-tying RBI single.
With two on and no out and the game in the balance, Yusuke Azuma got the Marines out of the inning.
Hawks 11, Buffaloes 4
At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, Takuya Kai’s two-run single overturned a 2-1 deficit in an eight-run fifth-inning knockout blow. Shuta Ishikawa (5-8, 3.02) struck out eight but surrendered four runs over six innings and still got the win. Orix’s Glenn Sparkman (0-1, 6.92) allowed six runs. He surrendered Yuki Yanagita’s PL-leading 25th home run in the first and didn’t retire any of the five batters he faced in the fifth.
An infield single loaded the bases after walks to Akira Nakamura and Richard Sunagawa, and Kai lashed a single to center with Sunagawa flashing some good base running to score on the play. Taisei Makihara chased Sparkman with an RBI single. Koki Saito got two outs but left the bases loaded for Chang Yi, who allowed Alfredo Despaigne to clear the bases with a double, and surrendered Nakamura’s fourth home run to cap the rally.
The Buffaloes fought back on sixth-inning solo homers by Shunta Goto, his first, and Yutaro Sugimoto, his 23rd. Orix, without Masataka Yoshida after he left Friday’s game hurt, loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth but failed to score.
Sunagawa, who worked his way up to the big club after being taken by the Hawks in the fourth round of the 2017 developmental draft, or the 104th player selected and the 22nd of those to a non-roster developmental contract, joined Makihara and Kai on the postgame hero podium after getting his first career hit.
Sunday’s starting pitchers
Eagles vs Lions: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 3 pm, 2 am EDT
Marines vs Fighters: Zozo Marine Stadium 5 pm, 4 am EDT
Hawks vs Buffaloes: PayPay Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT
Swallows vs Carp: Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Dragons vs BayStars: Vantelin Dome (Nagoya) 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Tigers vs Giants: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 9/4/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/14