The weekend is going to tell us a lot about whether the Hiroshima Carp have any chance to reach the Central League playoffs. They entered Friday’s game against the Yakult Swallows with a magic number of 12 to reach the playoffs and knock the Giants out.
That shot will get a boost on Saturday, when they go head to head with Yomiuri at Tokyo Dome. The Giants started Friday with a magic number of four to clinch their fourth straight postseason berth.
The Swallows-Giants game was a bruiser, so I’ll leave that novella for the end of today’s reports. Just beware of bat flips, because Jose Osuna’s was a show-stopper.
The Pacific League was the only game in town, or rather Japan, on Thursday, and it was all about location, location, location: the location of one fastball to Yutaro Sugimoto and a warped part of the space-time continuum that turned PayPay Dome’s third-base line into a reasonable facsimile of the Bermuda Triangle.
Buffaloes 3, Eagles 1
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Yutaro Sugimoto scored twice and moved into the PL home run lead all by his lonesome with his 27th, a two-run tie-breaking homer in the eighth.
A day after it was learned right-hander Taisuke Yamaoka had season-ending elbow-cleaning surgery, lefty Daiki Tajima (6-7, 3.69) allowed a run on four hits and a walk while striking out six over eight innings to outduel Takahiro Norimoto.
Tsuyoshi Yamasaki singled to open the Eagles’ first and scored on a two-out Hiroaki Shimauchi double. The Eagles sacrificed with one out and two on in the second, and were punished for their sins when Tajima struck out Yamasaki for the third out like nobody’s business.
Sugimoto, who singled to lead off the second, reached on an error to open the fourth, stole his third base of the season and went to third on a throwing error by catcher Hikaru Ota and scored the tying run on a groundout.
Norimoto left the game tied 1-1 after he left the bases jammed with Buffaloes in the sixth. Sung Chia-hao worked a perfect seventh, but Tomohiro Anraku (3-2) gave up a leadoff single to Yuma Mune.
After the obligatory sac bunt, Anraku was having success challenging Sugimoto with high fastballs. On 3-2, Anraku missed down the middle with another heater and Sugimoto didn’t, driving it off the base of the batter’s eye.
Yoshihisa Hirano, pitching for the first time since he blew a one-run lead last Thursday against Lotte, worked around a leadoff single, earning his 18th save.
Hawks 1, Marines 1
At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, three SoftBank runners were tagged out between third and home as Lotte came from a run down and then held on for the tie.
SoftBank right-hander Nick Martinez remained 0-1 since pitching for the U.S. in the Olympics with a 1.42 in five starts. Livan Moinelo, pitching for the first time since July 14, and Yuito Mori, also recently returned to duty, each worked a perfect inning in relief, but after Thursday’s game, the Hawks may put up one of those yellow highway signs marking PayPay Dome’s third-base line as treacherous a stretch of road.
Yuki Yanagita, who started the day tied with Sugimoto for the PL home run lead, doubled in Taisei Makihara in the first inning off Kota Futaki, who left with two outs and two on in the sixth for righty Yuki Azuma to retire pinch-hitter Yuya Hasegawa. After allowing two hits through six innings, Martinez walked the leadoff man in the seventh and allowed the tying run on singles by Koki Yamaguchi and pinch-hitter Hisanori Yasuda.
Then the funky shit started.
Takuya Kai walked in the seventh and tried to score on a pitch that got away from catcher Tatsuya Tamura but was tagged out by reliever Frank Herrmann to end the inning with Yanagita at the plate and another runner on base.
With one out and the bases loaded in the eighth against reliever Yuki Kuniyoshi, Seiji Uebayashi tried to score on a fly to right but had zero chance and then was thrown out trying to get back to third.
Pinch-runner Go Kamamoto tried to score from second on a two-out single into the outfield off closer Naoya Masuda but was out on a superb throw from left fielder Takashi Ogino.
Fighters 3, Lions 1
At MetLife Dome, Nippon Ham’s Naoyuki Uwasawa (9-6, 3.08) allowed a run on five hits and a walk while striking out eight over eight innings to win a pitchers’ duel with Wataru Matsumoto (7-8, 3.77), who struck out 10 without a walk but also gave up seven hits over 6-2/3 innings.
Ronny Rodriguez opened the scoring in the second with his third home run. The Fighters made it 2-0 in the fifth on a two-out Kazunari Ishii single and a double by catcher Yushi Shimizu. Yuki James Nomura tripled in the sixth and scored on a Wang Po-jung sacrifice fly.
Sosuke Genda tripled in Wu Nien-ting in the sixth for the Lions’ only run. Nippon Ham closer Toshiro Sugiura recorded his 19th save.
Friday’s starting pitchers
Giants vs Swallows: Tokyo Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT