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NPB 2020 7-25 games and news

Professional baseball 2020: Day 105

Dragons win high school style

The Chunichi Dragons beat the Hanshin Tigers in a 1-0 pitchers’ duel on Saturday afternoon at Nagoya Dome, but the real story was not the tight pitching but the seventh-inning high school-style offense that produced the winning run.

Masataka Iryo, 30-year-old reserve outfielder, drove in the run off Yuki Nishi (2-2) who took the loss for his strong seven-inning effort.

Dragons right-hander Akiyoshi Katsuno allowed four hits, two by Jerry Sands, and two walks. After he was gone, lefty Hiroto Fuku, and right-handers Daisuke Sobue and Raidel Martinez were all lights out. But the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was that seventh inning.

Nobumasa Fukuda did the hard work with a leadoff single and was replaced by a pinch-hitter. That’s when the story really really began. Takaya Ishikawa, the Dragons’ 19-year-old slugging rookie infielder sacrificed.

“There it is, his first career sacrifice bunt,” the TV announcer crowed. Ishikawa hasn’t homered yet, and as excited as he was, it seemed like a sacrifice was the next best thing. Ishikawa admitted that he hadn’t bunted in a game since elementary school although he does practice bunting.

Dragons captain Shuhei Takahashi, who rejoined the team earlier than expected after suffering a hamstring strain two weeks earlier, hit behind the runner to advance him to third.

Iryo’s sharp grounder into the hole was grabbed by shortstop Seiya Kinami, who had no play at first, but Iryo did what Japanese players with a surplus of fighting spirit are expected to do: he went into the bag head first in a “spirited slide.”

New import Joe Gunkel, who entered the season in the Tigers starting rotation, returned to the team after suffering back stiffness and pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.

The ultimate sacrifice

Thirty years or so back, no Japanese baseball broadcast was complete without a bizarre liturgy regarding the sacrifice bunt. Whenever a bunting situation came up, the analyst and announcer would talk about how extremely difficult it is to get a bunt down, about the skill required and the challenges one needs to overcome.

This was a setup, of course, and similar to the kind of things former first baseman say whenever someone refers to their old position as less challenging.

The purpose is to heap praise on bunters. The irony is that whenever a player failed to execute a routine bunt–which seconds before had been treated as baseball’s ultimate challenge–the former player serving as an analyst would attack the hitter for his inability to execute the simplest of tasks.

It was a wonderful time to be a fan of Japanese baseball.

BayStars continue to rock

The DeNA BayStars continued to play like they are on a mission on Saturday in a 6-2 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Yokohama Stadium.

Following widespread criticism of manager Alex Ramirez for his willingness to keep Jose Lopez in the lineup and Keita Sano in the cleanup spot, the BayStars’s offense has been dynamite, scoring 21 runs over the last three games with Lopez and Sano doing much of the heavy lifting.

Sano and Lopez each had two hits and an RBI, while Tyler Austin doubled twice, walked and scored two runs for the BayStars.

Lefty Shota Imanaga (3-2) allowed two runs, one earned over six innings. Lefty Edwin Escobar struck out four over two scoreless innings and struggling closer Yasuaki Yamasaki worked a 1-2-3 ninth after not pitching the last two days.

Tomo Otosaka, batting for Imanaga in the sixth, hit a three-run pinch-hit home run.

Kawabata saves Swallows’ blushes

Shingo Kawabata, the injury-prone veteran infielder who won the Central League’s batting title in 2015, came off the bench in the ninth inning to stroke a sayonara single, lifting the Yakult Swallows to a 6-5 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Swallows right-hander Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa allowed three runs over seven innings, but rookie setup man Noboru Shimizu surrendered a run in the eighth, and closer Taishi Ishiyama blew the one-run save before stranding three Giants base runners.

Norichika Aoki hit a two-run homer in the first off former Giants closer Hirokazu Sawamura, drew three walks and doubled to open the ninth, when he was pulled for a pinch-runner.

Sawamura was an emergency starter in place of Angel Sanchez, who complained of discomfort in his right shoulder prior to the game.

Had the game ended 5-5, it would have been the Swallows third 5-5 tie in four games.

Yoshihiro Maru homered twice for the Giants

Nakata blast completes Fighters comeback

Sho Nakata’s three-run home run broke a 6-6 seventh-inning tie as the Nippon Ham Fighters came back from an early 6-0 deficit to beat the SoftBank Hawks at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Ryoya Kurihara belted a first-inning grand slam off former Cleveland Indians farmhand Toru Murata, and Hawks starter Shuta Ishikawa allowed three runs over six innings, but the Hawks bullpen proved uncharacteristically vulnerable.

Taneichi blanks Lions for 1st career shutout

Lotte Marines right-hander Atsuki Taneichi (3-1) struck out 10, while walking four in a four-hit shutout in a 5-0 win over the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome that was a scoreless game through six innings.

Lions starter Keisuke Honda (0-2) allowed a run in six-plus innings to take the loss. A walk and a stolen base by pinch-runner Hiromi Oka set up Lotte’s Hisanori Yasuda to drive in the opening run.

Yasuda, a 21-year-old left-handed-hitting corner infielder, was the Marines’ top draft pick in 2018. The rookie seems to hit one or two rockets every game. The Marines broke the game open in a four-run eighth off right-hander Tetsu Miyagawa, the Lions’ top draft pick last autumn.

Mune’s inside the parker sparks Buffs in 9th

Yuma Mune’s ninth-inning drive to the fence in right went for an inside-the-park home run, snapping a 3-3 tie for the Orix Buffaloes, who finished the night with a 6-3 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Eagles right fielder Jabari Blash leaped to try and catch Mune’s drive off Eagles closer Kohei Morihara, but hit the wall awkwardly and was unable to give chase immediately while the speedy Buffalo circled the bases.

Buffaloes lefty Daiki Tajima allowed three runs over seven innings, while Eagles southpaw Takahiro Shiomi held the Buffaloes to a run over six innings.

The visitors took a 3-2 lead in the seventh against former Lion and Padre submariner Kazuhisa Makita. Aderlin Rodriguez opened with a home run to tie it.

With two outs and runners on the corners, the Buffaloes finally executed a play that has backfired on them twice over the past few games, the delayed double steal, with Mune scoring the go-ahead run on what might have been the biggest home plate collision in Japanese baseball since they were outlawed in 2016.

Catcher Yuichi Adachi crossed into Mune’s path to catch the ball, which struck the runner. Mune was ruled safe, and would have been ruled safe even if a tag had been made since NPB prohibits players from obstructing the baseline even with the ball in hand.

Tajima, however, surrendered the tying run in the bottom of the inning, setting up the thrilling finish. Brandon Dickson worked the ninth for Orix, earning his fifth save.

Dragons recall Takahashi, Carp drop Osera

The Chunichi Dragons activated their captain, Shuhei Takahashi on Saturday, while the Hiroshima Carp have deactivated ace right-hander Daichi Osera.

Takahashi suffered a mild left hamstring strain on July 11.

The 29-year-old was pulled after two innings from the Carp’s game on Friday in Yokohama due to an “accident” a catch-all phrase that could include any kind of incident or injury.

The Carp said later only that his “condition was not good.”

Osera threw a 116-pitch complete game on Opening Day and a 132-pitch complete game seven days later in a lop-sided win. Since then, he has surrendered 10 runs on 24 hits and six walks over 19 innings.

Meanwhile, the Seibu Lions have activated Venezuelan slugger Ernesto Mejia for the first time this season.

Active roster moves 7/25/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 8/4

Central League

Activated

GiantsOF59Seiya Matsubara
TigersOF53Kairi Shimada
CarpP26Ren Nakata
CarpC22Shosei Nakamura
DragonsIF3Shuhei Takahashi

Dectivated

GiantsP45Nobutaka Imamura
TigersP67Suguru Iwazaki
CarpP14Daichi Osera
CarpIF4Tetsuya Kokubo

Pacific League

Activated

LionsP45Keisuke Honda
LionsIF99Ernesto Mejia

Dectivated

LionsIF39Wu Nien-ting
LionsOF68Junichiro Kishi

NPB 2020 7-11 games and news

Buffaloes exploit reliever’s mistakes

The Orix Buffaloes won for the fifth time in seven games with a 5-3 win on Saturday over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome on Saturday.

With both teams giving away opportunities and then throwing away their chances, the Buffaloes finally broke up the 1-1 tie that had existed since the first inning.

Southpaw Katsuhiko Kumon (0-1), the sixth pitcher on a bullpen day for Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama, made two momentary lapses in the field and that was enough to turn the game Orix’s way. The lefty came in throwing strikes and executing his pitches for the most part.

With a runner on second after a leadoff single and a sacrifice, Yuma Mune hit a grounder to first. Kumon went to cover first, and though he’d been able to locate his pitches, he was unable to locate the bag. Only after taking the throw from first baseman Sho Nakata did he realize that he had stopped more than a stride from the bag as Mune sped past and reached safely with an “infield single.”

Mune stole second on the first pitch to left-handed slugger Masataka Yoshida, who after a steady diet of pitches targeting the low-away corner of the zone, chopped one back to Kumon. The southpaw hesitated for a split second to see the runner coming home, but then couldn’t find the ball in his glove. His delayed throw home gave his catcher no chance for a play as the Buffaloes took their first lead.

With lefty Takahiro Okada on deck, Kumon worked extra carefully to Adam Jones and walked him. It was at that point that the game got out of control. Kumon missed with a 1-0 slider in the heart of the zone to Okada. Although he’s having a tremendous start to the season, the Buffaloes slugger missed and popped it up.

But Kumon’s early ability to execute was now gone. He tried to go inside with a first-pitch fastball to Aderlin Rodriguez but missed high and over the plate. Rodriguez, who had demolished the Fighters the day before, put a beautiful swing on it and lined it over second for a two-run single.

The game marked an end to Kumon’s record-setting streak of 182 career games without a loss, and rather than sympathy, one suspects he is going to receive a heaping helping of pitchers fielding practice.

Kumon’s replacement walked the next to batters to make it 5-1, and Buffaloes right-hander Keisuke Sawada coughed up two runs in the ninth on Kotaro Kiyomiya’s second home run of the season before Brandon Dickson came in to face one batter, tough left-handed leadoff man Haruki Nishikawa. Dickson retired him on three pitches to earn his third save.

Buffaloes lefty Daiki Tajima allowed a run over five innings on three hits and three walks. Nakata singled home Nishikawa, after Tajima walked the first two batters he faced in the first.

Chihiro Kaneko, who won a Sawamura Award as Japan’s most impressive starting pitcher during his days as Buffaloes ace, led off the Fighters’ bullpen relay. He surrendered a leadoff single to Koji Oshiro, who scored from third on a wild pitch.

After Tajima left the game, Hirotoshi Masui and Nobuyoshi Yamada each worked a scoreless inning, as did new import Tyler Higgins (1-0) who earned the win in relief. Higgins located a good fastball with an effective change to more or less dictate things from the mound.

Marines power past Lions

The Lotte Marines took a bat to Seibu Lions starter Wataru Matsumoto (0-2) in a 6-4 victory at Chiba’s breezy Zozo Marine Stadium.

After an error put the leadoff man on, Marines No. 3 hitter Tsuyoshi Sugano fouled off three two-strike pitches before finding a straight fastball in the heart of the zone to his liking and pulling it well back into the right field stands.

Brandon Laird drew an eight-pitch walk after he popped up the seventh near first base. There, the wind prevented a catch in foul territory. Seiya Inoue followed homering for the second-straight game to make it 4-0 Lotte, hitting the first strike he saw, a low 2-0 fastball and powering it into the left field seats.

Marines starter Atsuki Taneichi (1-1) brought a lively fastball and was able to survive a third-inning scrape with just two runs scored off him. Over six innings, he gave up three runs on seven hits, two walks and two hit batsmen while striking out 10.

Frank Herrmann, Tsuyoshi Ishizaki and Naoya Masuda finished up for Lotte, with Masuda earning his fifth save.

Niho outlasts Kishi as Hawks slam Eagles

Journeyman right-hander, who somehow got a spot in the SoftBank Hawks starting rotation, showed why he deserved that chance as he outpitched veteran Takayuki Kishi in an 8-4 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

Niho (1-2) entered the game with eight career wins. He allowed four runs on four hits, a walk and a hit batsman over seven innings while striking out three. In a game that seemed like a hopeless mismatch, Niho executed his pitches, while the Hawks ran the bases better and fielded better than the Hawks.

Yasuhito Uchida blasted a three-run second-inning homer in an inning led off by good at-bats from Hiroaki Shimauchi, who walked, and Stefen Romero, who singled.

The Hawks scored twice in the second thanks to some opportunistic base running that the Eagles failed to counter. With two outs and a man on in the third, Nobuhiro Matsuda tied it when he appeared to be looking for a first-pitch changeup from Kishi and drilled it for his second home run of the season and second in two games.

Yuki Yanagita, who doubled in the first and walked three times, walked to open the seventh and broke the 4-4 tie on a double by Kenji Akashi, who had scored in both the second and third innings.

Akashi’s first run was simple theft. After he singled and went to second when Matsuda walked, Takuya Kai singled to center. The Eagles appeared to have Matsuda hung up between second and third, but while they focused on him Akashi sprinted home. The throw went home late and both runners advanced. Matsuda then scored on a squibber down the line. Catcher Hikaru Ota went to field it but could not tag Matsuda as he ran past to score.

Big fish inning defeats Dragons

Shogo Itakura, a 22-year-old catching prospect had a pair of RBI singles in the third inning and went 4-for-5 with a walk and a double in the Hiroshima Carp’s 19-4 demolition of the Chunichi Dragons at Nagoya Dome.

The Carp broke a 1-1 tie with nine runs in the third, five off right-handed starter Akiyoshi Katsuno (0-1), while Hiroshima lefty Hiroki Tokoda (1-1) allowed three runs over six innings to earn the win.

Hiroshima’s Jose Pirela went 2-for-5 with a walk and a home run on the game’s first pitch, while the new Dragons new, 24-year-old Cuban Ariel Martinez batted third and went 2-for-4 with an RBI double and two strikeouts to keep his average at .500.

New Carp import D. J. Johnson made his debut and allowed one run in the ninth.

Takahashi out again, rookie Ishikawa to get call

Dragons captain Shuhei Takahashi injured his left hamstring as he was striding to first base in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game and is expected to be out between three weeks and a month according to a report in the Nikkan Sports.

Takahashi posted a career-high .345 on-base percentage last season when he missed 26 games, largely due to a leg injury. He will be deactivated on Sunday

According to the report, Takahashi will be replaced on the roster by slugging rookie Takaya Ishikawa, whom Chunichi won the rights to in a draft-day lottery after he was picked first by three clubs.

The 19-year-old who starred for Japan’s U-18 team last summer, suffered from inflammation in his right shoulder during camp. He has played in all nine of the Dragons’ farm club’s Western League games, batting fourth and playing third.

Ogawa pitches Swallows past Giants

Right-hander Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa” (3-0) allowed two runs over six innings while striking out six to earn the win as the Yakult Swallows beat their Tokyo rivals, the Yomiuri Giants, 9-2 at Hotto Motto Field Kobe.

Swallows shortstop Alcides Escobar had his 1.85-meter frame to thank for being able to reach up and snag a flyball in a run-saving first-inning catch. Munetaka Murakami doubled off Angel Sanchez (2-2) to open the Swallows fourth and scored the tie-breaking run on a Yuhei Takai sac fly.

Norichika Aoki homered, doubled, scored twice and drove in three for the Swallows.

Sanchez allowed four runs, three earned, on four hits and two walks in 5-1/3 innings. He struck out eight.

Soto finishes dramatic DeNA comeback

Neftali Soto capped a three-run ninth-inning rally with a two-run homer off Kyuji Fujikawa (0-2) in the DeNA BayStars’ 4-2 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium.

Soto walked and scored in the eighth to make it a 2-1 game. With one out in the ninth, Takayuki Kajitani walked. Substitute outfielder Kai Ueda, who had entered in the bottom of the eighth as a pinch runner, let Masayuki Kuwahara’s single get past him, allowing Kajitani to score from first. Soto then blasted a 2-1 fastball for his fifth home run.

The Tigers had led since the second inning, when Justin Bour hit his fourth home run of the season, off BayStars southpaw Shota Imanaga, who left after six innings.

Four relievers finished up for the BayStars, with lefty Kenta Ishida (1-0) working the eighth to earn the win, and Yasuaki Yamasaki stranding two in the ninth to earn his fifth save.

The ninth-inning comeback spoiled a solid start by Hanshin right-hander Yuki Nishi, who struck tout seven over 6-1/3 scoreless innnings.