Tag Archives: Zach Neal

NPB Wrap 6-13-21

Interleague Day 18: CL on brink of success

The regularly scheduled interleague games ended on Sunday, with the leagues splitting the six games, leaving the Central League with a 42-40 lead with 11 ties, while trailing in runs 461-431. There are three games remaining, all in Hiroshima, so this could go either way, although the PL will most likely lead in runs for the 15th time in 16 seasons.

On the final day — not counting the three make-ups — the Hanshin Tigers completed a three-game sweep of the Rakuten Eagles, while the Yakult Swallows, long the CL’s doormats, finished a three-game sweep of the four-time defending Japan Series champion SoftBank Hawks IN Fukuoka. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Tigers 6, Eagles 5

At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, Hanshin’s Joe Gunkel returned to the mound for the first time in over a month and was lights out. He retired nine straight with ease, gave up two infield singles and a double in the fourth, and then retired nine straight for two runs over six innings.

The Tigers battled against Rakuten rookie lefty Takahisa Hayakawa, who, like his teammates couldn’t buy an easy third out. Takumu Nakano opened the scoring in the third. He singled with two outs, stole his CL-best 13th base, and scored on a Jefry Marte single. Ryutaro Umeno then triggered three run-scoring innings with two-out walks. Trailing 2-1 in the fifth, Koji Chikamoto hit his fifth homer to plate Umeno and put Hanshin in front.

Umeno walked and Chikamoto singled in the seventh and scored on a Nakano single.

The Eagles came behind on two runs against Kosuke Baba in the seventh, and Daichi Suzuki led off the eighth with his fourth homer against Shintaro Fujinami (3-1), who earned the win after Chikamoto tripled home Umeno off Yuki Matsui (0-2) in the ninth. Robert Suarez notched his Japan-best 21st save.

Swallows 6, Hawks 4

At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, as one of the announcers said, “There are times when Tsuyoshi Wada (4-4) has it and times when he doesn’t.” This was one of those latter times. Tetsuto Yamada singled in a run in the first for Yakult, singled and scored on Munetaka Murakami’s Japan-best 20th home run in the third and hit his 17th home run, with a man on, in the fifth to chase Wada.

Yakult lefty Keiji Takahashi (1-0), who has gone from a windup worthy of the ministry of silly walks, to something approaching non-descript, gave up two runs in 6-1/3 innings. The Hawks’ first hit came on Wladimir Balentien’s 1,000th career hit and 300th home run against his former teammate. Balentien homered off new pitcher Taichi Ishiyama in the seventh to make it a 6-3 game.

And since it was officially “former Swallows hitting home runs off Yakult Day” in Fukuoka, Keizo Kawashima went deep for the second time this season in the eighth. Yuki Yanagita came up with a man on and one out in the eighth with a chance to tie it up, but hit into a double play.

Scott McGough worked the ninth for his 11th save.

Buffaloes 9, Carp 8

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Takahiro Okada singled in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth as Orix blew a late four-run lead. With the game tied 8-8 after Kaito Kozono singled in his third run of the game in the ninth, Hiroshima rookie Ryoji Kuribayashi (0-1) walked the bases loaded before giving up Okada’s two-out single, allowing his first run in his 23rd career game.

Marines 5, Giants 4

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Lotte’s Brandon Laird went 2-for-2 with two sac flies and a solo homer, his 15th, while Leonys Martin bunted against the shift for a base hit, walked twice, scored twice and made an excellent catch on a sinking line drive in the ninth to secure the win and closer Naoya Masuda’s 17th save.

Katsuya Kakunaka doubled in the first of four runs against Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano (2-4), who was yanked after 2-2/3 innings. The Giants scored four runs in the seventh, all charged to Kazuya Ojima (3-2). After allowing two hits and three walks through six scoreless innings, the lefty allowed two no-out singles, and with two outs, walked a batter, hit a batter to put the Giants on the board. Reliever Fumiya Ono allowed two of the three on base to score.

BayStars 4, Fighters 1

At Sapporo Dome, DeNA ace Shota Imanaga (1-1) earned his first win since having his left shoulder cleaned out last season, allowing a run on minor league home run leader Chusei Mannami’s first career homer at the top level.

Manami’s homer tied it 1-1 in the second, but RBI singles in the top of the third by Hikaru Ito and Neftali Soto put the visitors up for good against Drew VerHagen (1-5) who gave up four runs, three earned, in five innings.

Imanga allowed four hits, a walk and hit a batter while striking out six. Leadoff man Masayuki Kuwahara singled and scored three times. Edwin Escobar worked the eighth, setting a speed record for a lefty in Japan with a 163 kph fastball against his old team, while Kazuki Mishima saved his 11th game.

Lions 4, Dragons 3

At MetLife Dome, Seibu rookie Junichiro Kishi hit a first-inning home run and singled and scored a tie-breaking run in the eighth on a Wu Nien-ting single after the Chunichi Dragons overcame a three-run deficit to tie it in the seventh on Naomichi Donoue’s two-run double.

Zach Neal allowed a run over six innings for Seibu, while Chunichi’s Koji Fukutani (3-6) allowed three through seven but went out for the eighth and took the loss, allowing four runs over 7-2/3 innings, leaving two on for lefty Hiroto Fuku to face Wu.

Reed Garrett (1-2) worked the eighth to get the win, and Kaima Taira earned his sixth save, while setting a record by opening a season with 32 straight scoreless pitching appearances.

Starting pitchers


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

Kazuki Yabuta (-) vs Kaito Yoza (0-1, 4.26)

Active roster moves 6/13/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 6/23

Central League


TigersP49Joe Gunkel
SwallowsP47Keiji Takahashi


TigersOF97Dan Onodera
DragonsP70Ren Kondo

Pacific League


LionsP54Zach Neal
FightersP36Drew VerHagen


MarinesP15Manabu Mima
FightersP52Takahide Ikeda
BuffaloesP29Daiki Tajima

NPB wrap 5-27-21


Thursday was Japan’s coronavirus seasons in microcosm. A day that was supposed to be about 19-year-old rookie pitchers going against the big boys, about baseball, became about infections.

Zach Neal was supposed to start for the Seibu Lions against the Hiroshima Carp, but after Sosuke Genda tested positive, the Lions dressed only 19 players, with only a reserve outfielder and catcher on the bench and eight relievers, six of whom got into the game.

Eagles 2, Giants 0

At Tokyo Dome, Ryota Takinaka (3-2) may be Rakuten’s sixth starter, but between his Yu Darvish pitching arsenal starter set (fastball, slider, changeup, splitter, two-seamer, sinker) and perhaps the best curveball Japan’s seen this season, the 26-year-old right-hander just tortured the Yomiuri Giants through six innings.

Eigoro Mogi opened the scoring against Kai Yokogawa (0-1) with his eighth home run in the fourth. Yokogawa’s two-out error in the fifth opened the door for another Eagles run to score on a Hideto Asamura single.

Takinaka, took big bites of the strike zone with that curve, and the lasting image is of Yoshihiro Maru looking for one and coming out of socks as he swung and missed. Takinaka allowed three singles and a walk, while striking out eight. He left after a flare single gave the Giants a leadoff runner in the seventh. Three relievers retired nine of the 10 batters they faced with Yuki Matsui earning his 14th save.

Giants-Eagles highlights.

Swallows 5, Fighters 2

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Yakult’s Yasunobu Okugawa (2-1) leads this week’s 2019 first-round rookie strikeout challenge with nine after allowing two runs over six innings against Nippon Ham. For the second straight day, Tetsuto Yamada put the Swallows in front, this time with a two-out two-run fifth inning single off Takahide Ikeda (2-5), who allowed three runs, one earned, over six innings.

Swallows leadoff man Yasutaka Shiomi went 4-for-4 with a solo homer, his sixth, and two runs, while Scott McGough closed it out with his fourth save.

BayStars 11, Buffaloes 8

At Yokohama Stadium, we had Chapter 3 of BayStars and Buffaloes beating the hell of each other, closing a series that saw 51 runs scored. Neftali Soto, who homered twice on Tuesday, hit two more, and between an RBI single and a sac fly scored three runs and drove in six. Tyler Austin doubled twice, walked and scored twice for the BayStars.

Fernando Romero, who pretended he was a PL pitcher and surrendered two hits, including a two-run home run, to Masataka Yoshida, let Orix back in the game in a four-run fourth, when the first five batters reached.

Buffaloes right-hander Yang Chi (0-1) allowed seven runs over 2-1/3 innings in his season debut.

Dragons 3, Hawks 3

At Nagoya‘s Vantelin Dome, Chunichi’s Akiyoshi Katsuno allowed three two-out first-inning RBI singles but then cruised until he was pulled in the sixth with two outs. SoftBank’s Shunsuke Kasaya pitched out of trouble for three innings, but walked two batters to open the fourth before surrendering Takuya Kinoshita’s fifth home run.

Keisuke Tanimoto got the Dragons out of the sixth on three pitches and three other relievers each retired all three batters they faced to end it.

Marines 6, Tigers 4

At Koshien Stadium, Katsuya Kakunaka’s second double, when Lotte put two on after two were out in the sixth, tied the game 4-4. Kakunaka then scored the go-ahead run on an infield single and a Jefry Marte throwing error. Leonys Martin hit his Japan-best 16th home run in the eighth.

Hanshin’s Raul Alcantara (1-0, 7.50) surrendered a home run to Takashi Ogino on the game’s first pitch before Jerry Sands pounded out three hits, scoring once and driving in two as the Tigers took a 4-2 lead into the sixth.

Alcantara allowed five runs, four earned, on five hits and a walk over 5-2/3 innings, while striking out eight, and singled in Hanshin’s second run with two outs in the second. Lotte rookie Roki Sasaki (0-0, 3.60) allowed four runs, three earned over five innings in his second first-team start. He allowed seven hits and three walks while striking out five. Chihaya Sasaki, Frank Herrmann, Yuki Karakawa and Naoya Masuda allowed one hit between them to close it out with Masuda earning his 13th save.

Carp 4, Lions 4

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Ryoma Nishikawa and Shogo Sakakura combined to score three runs and drive in two for the Hiroshima Carp, who playing their first game in over a week due to coronavirus within the club, overturned a 4-0 deficit to tie Seibu in the first game between two teams dealing with the virus.

Starting pitchers


Fighters vs Dragons: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hiromi Ito (1-4, 3.67) vs Yudai Ono (2-2, 2.70)

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

Hideaki Wakui (5-2, 3.34) vs Yuya Sakamoto (1-1, 3.00)

Lions vs Tigers: MetLife Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Kona Takahashi (5-0, 2.45) vs Koyo Aoyagi (3-2, 2.00)

Marines vs Carp: Zozo Marine Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Shota Suzuki (1-2, 2.95) vs Takuya Yasaki (-)

Buffaloes vs Swallows: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yoshinobu Yamamoto (3-5, 2.37) vs Rick van den Hurk (0-0, 6.75)

Hawks vs Giants: PayPay Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shuta Ishikawa (2-3, 2.90) vs Seishu Hatake (2-2, 3.23)


Orix Buffaloes: P Brandon Dickson

Active roster moves 5/27/2021

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 6/6

Central League


GiantsP62Kai Yokogawa
CarpP21Shota Nakazaki
CarpC40Yoshitaka Isomura
CarpOF55Ryuhei Matsuyama
CarpOF63Ryoma Nishikawa
SwallowsP11Yasunobu Okugawa
SwallowsP44Hiroki Onishi


BayStarsP16Shinichi Onuki
CarpIF61Masaya Yano
SwallowsP52Hiroki Kondo

Pacific League


MarinesP17Roki Sasaki
FightersP47Kenya Suzuki
BuffaloesP98Chang Yi


FightersC60Takuya Khri