Tag Archives: Zelous Wheeler

NPB 2020 7-14 games and news

Senga makes do with less as Buffaloes stumble

A week after SoftBank Hawks ace Kodai Senga made his belated season debut, his splitter remains a work in progress. But even without any obvious feel for it, Senga was still able to locate his high-velocity fastball, cutter and slider often enough to overcome an Orix Buffaloes team that booted its early opportunities in a 10-3 Hawks win at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Buffaloes lefty Andrew Albers was unable to locate his slider in the first and worked too carefully for his own good and was fortunate not to allow more than two runs. After walking Yuki Yanagita on four pitches to put two on with one out, Wladimir Balentien hit a good two-seam fastball on the outside edge and singled to center fielder Yuma Mune.

The Buffaloes outfielder misplayed the ball, allowing Yanagita to score and Balentien to take second. A walk and a bunt single loaded the bases but Albers struck out Nobuhiro Matsuda with a beauty of a changeup and jammed Kenji Akashi with a fastball inside to end the inning.

The Buffaloes evened it up in the bottom of the inning, thanks to four good two-out at-bats after leadoff man Kojji Oshiro led off with a walk. Singles by Adam Jones and Takahiro Okada, made it 2-1, and walks by Aderlin Rodriguez and Kenya Wakatsuki tied it. Ryoichi Adachi saw some mistakes up in the zone but was unable to do anything with them as Senga got out of the inning with the game tied.

Albers challenged Takuya Kai to open the second and the Hawks’ catcher doubled. Albers then did a poor job covering the bag on Ryoya Kurihara’s grounder to first, slowing as he neared the bag and letting the batter beat him to the base. Albers jammed Kenta Imamiya, but the ball fell in shallow center. It would have been a tough play but neither shortstop Adachi nor center fielder Mune committed to it, and that was, in short, the story of this game.

The Buffaloes looked more confident in their execution against another team that too often failed to execute routine plays, but against the Hawks, they looked just a little tight.

The Hawks batters succeeded in running up Albers’ pitch count, and it seemed that both he and Senga really only got warmed up after they hit the 50-pitch mark. He retired eight-straight hitters after Imamiya’s flare before giving up back-to-back triples in the fourth. Mune got to a ball off Imamiya’s bat and it would have been a heck of a catch, but it hit his glove and bounced away.

Yanagita then hit a ball too high off the left field wall for Okada to have a play on. By the time he got the ball back, Yanagita was on third and Albers was out of the game.

Albers (1-2) allowed four runs, three earned, on two walks and eight hits while striking out six. He doesn’t throw particularly hard, but he commanded his four-seam fastball, his two-seamer and change. The slider was effective after the first inning. It was more a case of lots of little things going wrong.

Once Albers was out of the way, the game was a piece of cake for the Hawks. Balentien singled off his replacement, Kazumasa Yoshida, and the Hawks took Orix’s bullpen to the bank.

Senga (2-0) did throw some good splitters, but more often than not, he could neither locate them or get them to tumble properly. But because Senga throws so hard and was able to locate his fastball and cutter better than he usually does, the absence of a reliable splitter was more an annoyance than a deal-breaker.

Seiji Uebayashi, who came on as a late substitute once the game was out of hand, and Kai, each belted a two-run home run for the Hawks.

Mima fans 7 as Marines beat Fighters

Manabu Mima (2-0) allowed two runs on six hits over seven innings while striking out seven, while Leonys Martin homered and had an RBI single in the Lotte Marines’ 5-2 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.

Leadoff man Takashi Ogino reached base three times, stole two bases and scored two runs, while relievers Frank Herrmann and Naoya Masuda each supplied a scoreless inning to close it out.

The Fighters’ difficulties with execution returned home with them after an ugly week in Osaka as catcher Yushi Shimizu hit his pitcher while throwing to second on one steal attempt and missed third base on another.

Lefty Naoyuki Uwasawa (0-1) gave up five runs, three earned, on six hits and two walks over five innings.

Akiyama, Kinami push Tigers past Swallows

Takumi Akiyama (1-1) allowed three runs over six innings, while Seiya Kinami drove in three runs with a sac fly and a home run as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Yakult Swallows 6-3 at Koshien Stadium.

Akiyama paid the price for a pair of one-out walks in the first as both runners came around to score on a Munetaka Murakami single and a grounder to third.

The Tigers got to 40-year-old Swallows lefty for three runs in the fourth. Yoshio Itoi doubled, Justin Bour singled with one out and Jerry Sands walked. Catcher Ryutaro Umeno doubled in two, and Kinami’s sac fly made it 3-2.

The Swallows, who are without their top two catchers, Yuhei Nakamura and Motohiro Shima, got a game-tying home run from reserve catcher Akihisa Nishida in the top of the fifth, but Itoi singled home Koji Chikamoto with the tie-breaking run in the home half.

After Sands singled to open the sixth, Kinami then homered off right-hander Tomoya Hoshi, and three Tigers relievers, Yusuke Baba, lefty Suguru Iwazaki and Robert Suarez kept Yakult off the board the rest of the way. Suarez earned his second save.

Tiger pitchers ask fans for quiet

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, teams are only allowed to admit up to 5,000 fans and those have been instructed not to shout or engage in organized cheering. One hears lots of clapping, and when Tigers batters come to the plate at Koshien Stadium, one can distinctly hear thousands of fans chanting together softly.

But Koshien being Koshien and Tigers fans being enthusiastic, the hecklers, who are normally hard to hear above the constant white noise background produced by the cheering groups, were too audible for pitcher Iwazaki’s comfort according to a Daily Sports story.

During the eighth inning, the pitcher called time and informed the umpire, who politely reminded the crowd that shouting is currently forbidden, before play resumed.

Sugano, Okamoto lead Giants win over Carp

Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano (3-0) tossed five shutout innings, and Kazuma Okamoto hit his sixth home run, a three-run, third-inning shot in Yomiuri’s 7-2 win over the Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Tomoyuki Sugano

Carp right-hander Allen Kuri (1-1) escaped a one-out bases-loaded jam in the second, but issued a four-pitch leadoff walk to Sugano to open the third. A one-out walk and a Yoshihiro Maru double at his old home park put the Giants up by a run. Okamoto followed with a homer.

Gerardo Parra singled in a run for the Giants against new Carp D.J. Johnson in a two-error, three-run sixth.


Hara surpasses Nagashima’s win total

The win was the 1,035th of Giants manager Tatsunori Hara’s career. It moved him out of a tie with his mentor, Shigeo Nagashima, and into sole possession of second place in franchise history behind Tetsuharu Kawakami, who managed the “V-9” Giants — winners of nine-straight Japan Series championships from 1965 to 1973.

Hara, who barely failed to win election to the Hall of Fame for his playing career, sprinted in once voters were allowed to consider his other accomplishments during his three-year hiatus as Giants skipper from 2016 to 2018.

BayStars’ Onuki shuts down Dragons

Shinichi Onuki (1-2) allowed two runs over eight innings, while his teammates sent 10 men to the plate in a five-run fourth inning as the DeNA BayStars beat the Chunichi Dragons 5-3 at Nagoya Dome.

Onuki struck out six without a walk. He allowed an unearned run in the first, and surrendered 24-year-old Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez’s first home run for the top team. Martinez also singled in a run in the ninth to keep his average at .500.

Dragons right-hander Takumi Yamamoto (1-2) gave up five runs, three earned, over 3-2/3 innings on six hits and three walks. The Dragons had a golden opportunity to get out of the inning on a double play. Unfortunately with the in-the-neighborhood double play a thing of the past, second baseman Shun Ishikawa’s failure to touch second on the pivot allowed a run to score and the bleeding to continue.

Lots of little ups and downs

With the win, the BayStars have now become the first NPB team to have alternated wins and losses over a 15-game stretch, according to the Nikkan Sports.

Giants, Eagles swap pitchers

The Central League’s Yomiuri Giants and the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles announced a trade on Tuesday, with the Giants acquiring 28-year-old lefty Yuhei Takanashi in exchange for 22-year-old right-hander Hosei Takata.

It’s the second trade between the two clubs after the Eagles sent infielder Zelous Wheeler to Yomiuri in June for lefty Shun Ikeda.

The Daily Sports reported that Eagles general manager Kazuhisa Ishii is high on Takata’s potential, while noting Takanashi, a side-armer, will have an opportunity for more playing time with the Giants, who since their last trade have lost closer Rubby De La Rosa.

Takata led the Eastern league in wins and ERA in 2018.

Tigers’ Gunkel deactivated

The Hanshin Tigers deactivated right-hander Joe Gunkel on Tuesday after he felt lower back stiffness during pregame practice, Sponichi reported. A first-year-import, the 28-year-old Gunkel is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA after his only start for the Tigers.

Active roster moves 7/14/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 7/24

Central League

Activated

BayStarsIF38Kouki Yamashita
TigersP36Masumi Hamachi

Dectivated

TigersP49Joe Gunkel
DragonsIF3Shuhei Takahashi

Pacific League

Activated

MarinesP27Daiki Yamamoto
FightersP15Naoyuki Uwasawa
BuffaloesC33Masato Matsui

Dectivated

None

NPB 2020 7-1 GAMES AND NEWS

Thursday’s announced starting pitchers in NPB

Suzuki has career night against Lions

For most of the first five years of his pro baseball career, Yu Suzuki has been a reliever. But going 6-3 as a starter in the Western League last season with a 2.81 ERA must have caught someone’s attention.

On Wednesday, the 23-year-old right-hander who was Orix’s ninth draft pick in 2014, was handed the ball for his first top-team start and threw five hitless innings, nearly doubling his career output with the Pacific League club. The result was his first career win as Orix snapped a seven-game losing streak in a 6-0 win over the Seibu Lions.

For five innings, he and Lions starter Tatsuya Imai (0-2) traded hitless innings, until in the sixth, the jig was up for the Seibu starter. After issuing a leadoff walk, Imai left a slider up a little too much to diminutive power hitter Masataka Yoshida, and the left-handed-hitter launched it over MetLife Dome’s right field fence.

An Adam Jones double and an Aderlin Rodriguez RBI single made it 3-0, when Seibu self-destructed. An error and three-straight bases-loaded walks completed the six-run sixth inning.

Four Orix relievers came in, and the Lions, who haven’t been no-hit in 20 years, didn’t get a hit until veteran slugger Takeya Nakamura’s hard grounder found a hole to lead off the eighth off new import Tyler Higgins.

Asamura punishes Marines some more

Hideto Asamura homered for the second-straight night in Sendai, while Hideaki Wakui (2-0) allowed two runs over five innings as the Rakuten Eagles beat the Lotte Marines 5-3 to pull into a tie for first place in the Pacific League.

Pitching against the club that sold him over the winter, Wakui sturck out seven, while allowing five hits and a walk.

Leonys Martin homered for the Marines, while JT Chargois and Alan Busenitz each worked an inning of relief for the Eagles. Busenitz allowed a run on three hits.

Ishikawa strikes out 10 in Sapporo

Shuta Ishikawa (1-0) of the SoftBank Hawks struck out 10, while walking one and allowing five hits in a 4-0 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.

Nick Martinez (0-2) started for the Fighters. He gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits and two walks while striking out five.

Austin, Patton turn on power against Giants

Tyler Austin’s three-run eighth-inning double off the wall at Tokyo Dome helped lift the DeNA BayStars to a 5-3 win over the Yomiuri Giants.

Reliever Spencer Patton (2-0), who entered in the seventh to face Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto and struck him out, got the win in relief. He provided an encore in the eighth by striking out the side, starting with cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto and finishing with Gerardo Parra.

Giants starter Cristopher Mercedes allowed a run over 5-2/3 innings but it could have been worse without a good catch from newly acquired utility man Zelous Wheeler, who denied the BayStars a leadoff single in the sixth with a sliding catch in left.

Escobar treats Swallows to ice cream cone

Naomichi Nishiura hit his second game-changing home run of the week with a fourth-inning two-run shot that put the Yakult Swallows in front in a 4-3 win over the Hiroshima Carp at at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

On Thursday, Nishiura hit a pinch-hit, three-run sayonara shot off Tigers closer Kyuji Fujikawa. On Wednesday, he went deep off Sawamura Award-winning lefty Kris Johnson (0-2).

Right-hander Albert Suarez (2-0) started for Yakult and allowed three runs, one earned, over five innings, while Scott McGough worked a scoreless eighth. The Carp mounted a rally against closer Taishi Ikeyama, and the lead looked blown on a two-out liner, only for new Swallow Alcides Escobar to save the game.

Yamamoto stops Tigers

Twenty-year-old Takumi Yamamoto (1-1) allowed two runs over five innings, while Zoilo Almonte doubled, walked and scored twice, and Dayan Viciedo singled in a couple of runs as the Chunichi Dragons beat the Hanshin Tigers 6-3.

Jerry Sands singled in a run for the Tigers, while Justin Bour hit his first home run in Japan, a ninth-inning consolation shot.

Dragons add catcher Martinez to roster

The Chunichi Dragons inked 24-year-old Cuban catcher Ariel Martinez to a standard contract on Wednesday. Martinez, signed to a non-roster developmental contract in 2018, hurt his right knee playing in Cuba’s Series Nacional prior to camp the Chunichi Sports reported.

He rejoined the Dragons for practice games from June 2 after completing his rehab.

Marines’ Futaki, Buffaloes’ Nakagawa dropped

Because Japanese baseball has no options and players can be activated or dropped from the active roster an unlimited number of times. So it’s common for a player, ostensibly on the active roster because the manager believes in him, to get sent down for a couple of bad plays.

Two heads rolled on Wednesday after poor performances the night before. The Lotte Marines deactivated right-handed starting pitcher Kota Futaki after the Rakuten Eagles teed off on too many first-pitches in Lotte’s 15-4 loss. The defeat snapped the Marines’ eight-game winning streak.

The Orix Buffaloes pulled the plug on 24-year-old utility infielder Keita Nakagawa, who finished fourth in the rookie of the year voting last year, for not hitting and for making a throwing error that led to the Seibu Lions’ third run in a 3-2 loss. The Buffaloes have lost seven straight.

NPB 2020 6-30 GAMES AND NEWS

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Giants knock off BayStars

The Yomiuri Giants hit three home runs in a come-from-behind 5-2 win over the DeNA BayStars on Tuesday. The win kept the Giants in first place in Japan’s Central League.

With a 2-1 lead in the sixth, BayStars skipper Alex Ramirez pulled left-handed starter Haruhiro Hamaguchi with one out and one on with three right-handed bats coming up. Hayato Sakamoto walked against hard-throwing right-hander Yuki Kuniyoshi and Kazuma Okamoto singled in the tying run.

With two outs, Gerardo Parra singled in the go-ahead run, and Yoshihiro Maru and Okamoto homered for the Giants in the eighth. Twenty-year-old Giants lefty Shosei Togo (2-0) surrendered two runs in the first but followed with five-straight scoreless innings before being pulled in the seventh.

Rubby De La Rosa allowed two runners in a scoreless ninth to earn his fourth save.

Giants activate Wheeler

Zelous Wheeler, whom the Giants acquired last week in a trade from the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles, was added to the active roster on Tuesday. He was inserted into the starting lineup, batting seventh and playing left field.

The Giants have the maximum of five imported players on their 31-man active roster, one of whom will not be eligible to play. Teams are allowed to suit up 26 players this season instead of the traditional 25 while using the additional non-playing spots on pitchers between starts.

Almonte slam lifts Dragons

Former New York Yankee Zoilo Almonte hit a game-breaking seventh-inning grand slam and starting pitcher Yuya Yanagi (1-1) overcame five walks over seven innings in a 5-0 Central League win over the Chunichi Dragons.

Moore bounces back with solid effort

Matt Moore came back from a disappointing Japan debut last week to strike out 10 over six innings, while allowing one run for the SoftBank Hawks in a 1-1, 10-inning tie with the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome. Moore allowed three hits and a walk.

Fighters starter Naoyuki Uwasawa, making his first start since a line drive shattered his kneecap on June 18, 2019, allowed a run over five innings.

Lions get past Albers, Buffaloes

Andrew Albers (0-1) allowed two unearned runs over four-plus innings to take the loss as the Seibu Lions held off the Orix Buffaloes 3-2 at MetLife Dome.

With two outs in the fourth, Albers walked two-time defending PL home run champ Hotaka Yamakawa and allowed a single to Shuta Tonosaki. An error loads the bases, and veteran left-handed-hitting grinder Takumi Kuriyama hits a flair to center for a two-run single.

The Buffaloes pulled two runs back on former Mets and Orioles farmhand Aderlin Rodriguez’s first homer in Japan.

But new Lions import Reed Garrett helped slam the door with his fourth-straight 1-2-3 inning in relief. Tatsushi Masuda worked the ninth for his fourth save.

Spangenberg day to day

Corey Spangenberg was held out of Tuesday’s game after feeling pain in his ribs in pregame practice, Seibu Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji told the Nikkan Sports, saying his new left fielder and leadoff man is now day to day.

“He goes full speed in practice and full speed in games,” Tsuji said. “And if he really gets hurt that’s going to cost us a lot.”

Carp, Swallows rained out

Tuesday’s game between the Hiroshima Carp and Yakult Swallows at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, has been postponed. It’s the first rain-out of the Nippon Professional Baseball Season, that started on June 19, nearly three months late on account of the coronavirus pandemic.

Note: A previous version of this incorrectly stated the game was in Hiroshima.

Go to NEWEST.

For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Live blog: Eagles vs Marines

The Lotte Marines have won eight-straight, the last a labor-intensive, clinical dissection of Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto on Sunday. Tonight they’re up against the Rakuten Eagles. The Eagles send big lefty Hayato Yuge (1-0) against the Marines’ Kota Futaki (0-0).

The Marines are back with a bopper in the No. 2 spot as Katsuya Kakunaka starts against the right-hander.

Since I’m typically at the office watching games, this is the first time I’ve been able to casually take in the pregame. The Eagles did away with the national anthem before the first game of the series. With no fans in the stands, DH Stefen Romero just stood up in the dugout and kind of waved to the cameras.

Top 1st

Takashi Ogino somehow gets the barrel on a splitter below the zone and flairs it into center. He cruises into second with a double when the ball kicks off the glove of center fielder Ryosuke Tatsumi.

Kakunaka, up there ostensibly because he can hit the ball hard, sacrifices.

Announcer: “Of course you try to play for one run when you are playing well.”

Ikuhiro Kiyota homers on straight 1-0 fastball over the inside part of the plate and pulls it deep into the left field stands. Marines 2, Eagles 0.

Brandon Laird tries the same thing with a sinking fastball and flies out easily to left. Leonys Martin follows with an easy grounder to first.

Bottom 1st

Futaki starts Eigoro Mogi off with two called strikes at the bottom of the zone, but can’t get him to chase one outside. A 1-2 forkball doesn’t topple until after Mogi lashes it into center for a leadoff single.

Longtime Marines captain Daichi Suzuki up to bat against his former team. A generous call on a back-door slider to the left-handed hitter and a foul put Suzuki in a hole. The announcer feels it necessary to comment on the fact that the Eagles aren’t bunting when trailing 2-0 at home, because for many in Japan, this would be normal behavior.

Another splitter from Futaki, not a great one either, but Suzuki is fooled enough that he hits into an easy 6-3 double play. Blash fouls off an inside fastball. Blash miss-hits a high straight fastball and flies out to center.

Top 2nd

Shogo Nakamura draws a four-pitch leadoff walk. Yuge hangs a 2-0 fastball to Seiya Inoue, but he miss-hits it and flies out deep to center. Tatsuhiro Tamura up.

This guy had a GREAT game on Sunday against Orix with four superb at-bats that were instrumental in Lotte’s win. But with the run and hit on, Tamura misses a low inside pitch with a kind of cricket swing and catcher Hikaru Ota guns down Nakamura to complete the double play.

Bottom 2nd

Hideto Asamura turns on a first-pitch inside fastball and it dies at the wall for a leadoff double. Hiroaki Shimauchi rips a hanging first-pitch slider up the middle for an RBI single. Marines 2, Eagles 1.

Romero takes a borderline fastball away for Ball 1, and Futaki misses in the same spot with a slider and still no swing. He offers at a high splitter and knocks it past third and hustles into second with a double.

A bad first-pitch slider in the heart of the zone, and Ginji Akaminai’s eyes light up. He misses it a little, but it drops into shallow center. Tie game. Eagles 2, Marines 2.

After a conference at the mound, Hikaru Ota misses a bunt, but Akiminai steals second. Ota then grounds to second to bring home Romero. Eagles 3, Marines 2.

With the infield in for a play at the plate, Tatsumi grounds it through the infield. Eagles 4, Marines 2.

Mogi walks and there are two on, and Futaki is done. Manager Iguchi had no patience with his offense and now has no patience with a starter who’s throwing hittable pitches in the zone. The new pitcher is lefty Toshiya Nakamura, to face the left-handed-hitting Suzuki with one out and the game slipping away.

And there it goes… Suzuki blasts the first pitch into the right field stands. Eagles 7, Marines 2.

Asamura strikes out swinging to end the inning.

Top 3rd

Two quick outs for Yuge in the third. Guessing seven early runs will help his execution a little. But a Kakunaka single and a walk to Kiyota, and the Marines have a chance to get a run or two back.

Yuge sneaks a slow pitch past Laird in the zone for Strike 1. A foul and it’s 0-2. But Laird taps one back to the mound.

Bottom 3rd

Shimauchi strikes out swinging at a high hanging splitter. Romero gets ahead in the count again before swinging and missing a low fastball. Two more misses from Nakamura and Romero walks. Akaminai, however, goes down looking at a pitch on the outside corner, and Ota also goes down looking, on three pitches.

Top 4th

Leonys Martine up to lead off the Marines’ fourth. He hits under a fastball and it floats into shallow left for a single. Shogo Nakamura flies out to right. With Inoue at the plate, Martin takes second when Yuge bounces a splitter and scores easily on a liner to left center. Eagles 7, Marines 3.

Tamura goes down swinging for the second out, and Yudai Fujioka lines out.

Bottom 4th

After an impressive third, lefty Toshiya Nakamura walks Tatsumi to open the fourth. The Eagles are piping in the sound of their fans chanting for Eigoro Mogi. Tatsumi draws a bunch of pickoff throws from the left and then steals his second base of the game easily.

The 14th pitch to Mogi is his 11th foul of the at-bat, and he walks on the 15th. Two on and no outs for Suzuki, who hit the first pitch from Nakamura for a home run. This time he’s up there to surprise the world with a bunt but pops it up. Now he’s sacrificing. Suzuki strikes out looking and now with Blash up, Nakamura, having failed to pick Tatsumi off first, tries his luck with him at second.

Blash hammers a high 1-2 fastball, pulling it into the left field corner. Tatsumi scores, but Mogi is cut down on near-perfect throw from Kakunaka in left. Eagles 8, Marines 3.

Asamura this time clears the fence. Hammering a hanging Nakamura splitter out to left for his fourth home run of the season. Eagles 10, Marines 3.

Top 5th

Kakunaka with a nice swing on a high fastball produces a one-out single, but Kiyota grounds into an easy double play.

Bottom 5th

Lotte switches out their battery. Right-hander Tsuyoshi Ishiazki and rookie catcher Toshiya Sato in for Toshiya Nakamura and Tamura. Romero will be their first test. Romero strikes out swinging after missing a slider and a cutter low and away. Akaminai flies out. Ishizaki, a 29-year-old journeyman who spent most of his fringy career with the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers, is looking very sharp. He catches Ota looking and it’s a 1-2-3 inning.

Top 6th

Yuge still in there for the Eagles. A curve and a fastball and Laird is gone. A pair of two-out singles brings the rookie Sato up to the plate. He has a good at-bat but grounds out to end the inning.

Bottom 6th

Ishizaki is locating his slider and fastball. He gets four-straight ground balls off miss-hit balls, but ground balls sometimes get through. Suzuki beats out an infield single with two outs, Blash finds a hole and Asamura walks. An inning that was in control is perched on a precipice.

The battery tumbles over the cliff. Ishizakai gets ahead against Shimauchi by working outside with his fastball land slider. Sato calls for a low-inside 1-2 slider, Ishizaki gets it up just a bit and Shimauchi doubles in two runs. Eagles 12, Marines 3.

Romero follows by barreling up a fastball away and driving it out to right for an opposite-field home run. Eagles 15, Marines 3.

Top 7th

If this were international baseball, it would have just ended on the mercy rule. But it isn’t, so right-hander Tomohito Sakai is in for Yuge, who barring a catastrophe will improve to 2-0.

Top 8th

With former high school star Tomohiro Anraku on for the Eagles, Martin hits pay dirt with one of his big swings, taking it out to right for his first homer of the season. Eagles 15, Marines 4.

Final score: Eagles 15, Marines 4

Where’s the mercy rule when you need it?

NPB 2020 6-25 games and news

Hooray for the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Rick van den Hurk and Wladimir “Coco” Balentien wreck the Seibu Lions in Pacific League action on Thursday. Van den Hurk took a no-hitter into the eighth, and Balentien, Japan’s single-season home run record holder, homered twice, his first since moving from the Central League over the winter.

“I want to thank my boy Coco for doing what he did tonight. Before the game he said ‘Let’s go, the Kingdom of the Netherlands boys, let’s put a good game together.'”

SoftBank Hawks pitcher Rick van den Hurk

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Friday’s starters are HERE.

Wheeler now a Giant

Zelous Wheeler leves the Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles on Thursday after five seasons in Sendai, where he was the first import in franchise history to reach 100 home runs. The right-handed-hitting 33-year-old moves to the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants in exchange for 27-year-old lefty Shun Ikeda, who was a junior member of the first team bullpen in 2017 and 2018.

Wheeler’s English language NPB page is HERE, while Ikeda’s is HERE.

Both clubs are off to solid starts, although as Jason Coskrey points out, that COVID-19 may have played a hand in the Giants decision. With the pipeline to overseas talent the Giants often depend on for midseason reinforcements currently severed, Yomiuri may be looking to acquire spare parts for the coming months.

The production of DH-right fielder Jabari Blash and the acquisition of free agent infielder Daichi Suzuki from the Marines has left Wheeler on the outside looking in.

Live blog: Lions vs Hawks

I had planned to go with the BayStars-Dragons game tonight, but don’t get the cable channel that covers the BayStars home games and they’ve pulled off the streaming service I subscribe to, so its back to MetLife Dome, amid the reservoirs overlooking Tokyo.

Go to NEWEST.

For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Top 1st

Keisuke Honda starting for the Lions tonight, and he’s a guy I liked quite a bit last year. An easy fly out to open the game, an easy grounder, and Yuki Yanagita skies one to the warning track for a 1-2-3 inning.

I’m due to appear on the Sports Information System podcast, on Thursday in the States I think, and the host asked me about who was good at framing pitches. Well I don’t know if Tomoya Mori is good at it, but he certainly looks like he got the first on Yanagita by yanking a ball into the zone.

Bottom 1st

Rick van den Hurk on the mound for the Hawks for another abbreviated season. Injuries in the spring and the summer limited him to two regular season starts in 2019.

He fans Corey Spangenberg with his spike curve to open the game, and then gets a fly out to left, where Wladimir Balentien is playing tonight for the second out. Mori rips a first-pitch fastball, but it goes straight to second baseman Keizo Kawashima.

Top 2nd

Honda misses in the heart of the plate with a 3-2 slider and Balentien drives it over the fence in left for his first Pacific League home run.

Yuya Hasegawa flies out on a high 1-0 fastball and beauty of a 2-strike changeup inside at the knees and Seiji Uebayashi looks at Strike 3 for the second out. Nobuhiro Matsuda grounds to short and we go to the bottom of the second. Hawks 1, Lions 0.

Bottom 2nd

Two-time PL home run king Yamakawa pops up a high fastball, and Shuta Tonosaki walks. But Takeya Nakamura hammers a low fastball to shortstop Kenta Imamiya, who was shading the slugger toward third and started an easy double play.

Top 3rd

Honda gets two quick outs to open the third, a 1-0 fly to left by Taisei Makihara, and a fly to center from Takuya Kai. Ryoya Kurihara, however, battles and draws a nine-pitch walk, and Kawashima singles up the middle to bring up Yanagita.

Yanagita fouls off the first two fastballs he sees, but lays off the next four pitches, the fourth being a 3-2 fastball over the inside corner for Strike 3.

Bottom 3rd

Lions veteran Takumi Kuriyama goes down looking at a fastball on the inside edge and doesn’t look any happier than Yangita did, but umpire Shoji Arizumi has been calling them there all night. Fumikazu Kimura grounds the first pitch to third, and Yuji Kaneko grounds to short.

Top 4th

Balentien goes about as deep as you can go in his second at-bat, blasting a lazy fastball up and over the plate to the walkway behind the left-field stands. Coco 2, Lions 0.

But Honda has little trouble after that. Hasegawa strikes out swinging at a high fastball. Uebayashi grounds a changeup to second, and Matsuda misses a low 0-2 curve.

Bottom 4th

Spangenberg grounds out and Sosuke Genda gets jammed on a first-pitch fastball and flies out to center. Van den Hurk overpowers Mori, who hits a come-backer and we’re going to the fifth.

Top 5th

Tonosaki at second base well positioned to scoop a hard-hit grounder from Makiharafor the first out. Two easy flies from Kai and Kurihara make it 1-2-3.

Bottom 5th

Another 1-2-3 inning for van den Hurk as the Lions cannot get the barrel on the ball as he locates with the fastball and mixes in that slider and his curve.

Top 6th

Shota Hamaya, the Lions’ second draft pick last autumn out of the corporate leagues relieves Honda, and surrenders a leadoff homer to 1.73-meter Keizo Kawashima. Hawks 3, Lions 0. Hamaya issues a two-out walk to Yuya Hasegawa, but gets out of further trouble.

Bottom 6th

A groundout and two strikeouts against the Lions tail, and van den Hurk has now faced the minimum thanks to the second-inning double play.

Top 7th

A 1-2-3 for Hamaya against the bottom of the Hawks lineup.

Bottom 7th

Van den Hurk has needed 63 pitches through six, but no matter how easy he’s making it look, this lineup isn’t easy. Spangenberg hits a high changeup in the air to short. Genda and Mori both strike out swinging, and van den Hurk has seven on the night.

Top 8th

Three up, three down for Hamaya and we’re back to the star of the show for the bottom of the eighth.

Bottom 8th

Middle of the Lions lineup, and Hotaka Yamakawa swings and misses at a high fastball for Strike 1. He can’t hold up on a slider on the outside corner and its Strike 2. Yamakawa then hammers a high pitch out of the zone. Van den Hurk deflects it as it bounces past. Kawashima grabs it but can’t throw Yamakawa out at first and the no-hitter is no more.

Tonosaki grounds into a force, giving the Lions speed on the bases, but not quite enough to score when Takeya Nakamura finds the gap in right center for a double.

Kuriyama, a grinder who always dictates his at-bats, has looked lost tonight. A 1-0 curve catches the outside for a strike. Van den Hurk misses low with a fastball and way outside with a curve. A slider in the zone fouled back and it’s 3-2. He tops a breaking ball in the heart of the zone back to the pitcher, who gets the easy out. Hawks 3, Lions 1.

And that’s all for van den Hurk. Cuban lefty Livan Moinelo is on with a runner at third and two outs.

And we have a game. Kimura smashes a breaking ball between third and short to plate Nakamura, and the tying run is on. Hawks 3, Lions 2.

No. 9 hitter Yuji Kaneko up and quickly behind 0-2. Moinlo misses with two fastballs before whiffing Kaneko with another.

Top 9th

In relief of their second-round pick last year, the Lions bring in their top pick, Tetsu Miyagawa. The right-hander strikes out Balentien, but Hasegawa tattoos a pitch in the middle of the zone for a single.

Pinch runner Daiki Mimori on and steals second, and Uebayashi grounds to first. Matsuda barely gets the barrel on a curve and Kaneko can’t make the catch as he races in from center. Hawks 4, Lions 2.

Makihara walks and the Hawks have two on and a chance to put this game out of reach, and it’s battling Keizo Kawashima. But Miyagawa keeps the pesky right-handed hitter from doing any damage and we go to the bottom of the ninth.

Bottom 9th

Closer Yuito Mori on in the ninth to face the top of the Lions order. Mori falls behind gets Spangenberg to ground out on an offspeed pitch. Genda strikes out swinging and Ukyo Shuto, in left for Balentien gloves it for the win.

Final score: Hawks 4, Lions 2

The kotatsu league: Rakuten snaps up former Buffalo Romero

The Rakuten Eagles on Monday announced they have reached an agreement on a 2020 contract with 31-year-old outfielder Stefen Romero, who spent the past three seasons with the Pacific League rival Orix Buffaloes.

The signing gives Rakuten a third hard-hitting imported position player to go with third baseman Zelous Wheeler and right fielder Jabari Blash.

Romero, who played in only 81 games in 2019, dealt all season with a neck issue that he said would require a month of rest. On April 19, he suffered a right oblique tendon injury in Sendai that kept him out for nearly a month. He was again deactivated for a month from June 23 due to inflammation in a right oblique tendon. On Sept. 3, he hurt his right knee running the bases, but returned 10 days later.

Despite all those troubles, he posted a .305 batting average leading to a .363 OBP. Those numbers were likely skewed by good luck. After a .282 average when not homering or striking out from 2017-2018, Romero’s figure in 2019 was .385 in 295 at-bats last season.

Romero, who said he now makes use of a Rapsodo device in his offseason workouts, has become an extreme flyball hitter compared to how he was when he arrived with Orix in 2017 according to Delta Graphs.

His English language NPB page is HERE.

Romero is the sixth veteran the Eagles have acquired this winter, having brought in a trio of Lotte Marines (infielder Daichi Suzuki and right-handers Hideaki Wakui and Tomohito Sakai, former San Diego Padre and Seibu Lions submariner Kazuhisa Makita, and former Los Angeles Dodgers reliever J. T. Chargois.

The Sendai-based Eagles finished third in the Pacific League last season behind the two-time defending PL champion Seibu Lions and the three-time defending Japan Series champion SoftBank Hawks. They ranked seventh among NPB’s 12 teams in both pitching and fielding according to Bill James‘ Win Shares, but dead last in offense.

The Eagles have never reached the postseason in an even-numbered year, finishing sixth, fifth, sixth, fourth, sixth, fifth and sixth.

NPB games, news of Sept. 24, 2019

And then there were 2 (undecided playoff spots)

Tuesday started with five playoff spots still undecided, but with two games featuring all four Pacific League playoff and pennant aspirants, things got settled in a hurry as the Seibu Lions knocked the Lotte Marines out of the postseason, while clinching the pennant after the Rakuten Eagles locked up third place by knocking the SoftBank Hawks out of pennant contention.

“A lot was said about our pitching,” Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji said after his team clinched with a league-worst 4.31 ERA. “But the closer we got to the finish line, the better it got.”

The Lions have now won back-to-back pennants while finishing last in ERA. The only other team to do so was the 2001 Kintetsu Buffaloes.

Pacific League

Lions 12, Marines 4

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Lotte’s Kota Futaki (7-10) threw a string of poor pitches up in the zone and got hammered, while Zach Neal (12-1) allowed three runs, one earned, while not issuing a walk for the fourth-straight game.

Shogo Akiyama, who’s said he’s bound for the major leagues after the season ends, broke the game open with a three-run, second-inning triple.

The Lions will wrap up their season on Thursday in a now meaningless game in Sendai against the Eagles, who locked up third place and the final playoff spot. The Lions will host the final stage of the PL Climax Series at MetLife Dome on Oct. 9. They will play the winners of the best-of-three first stage in Fukuoka between the Hawks and Eagles starting on Oct. 5.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 4, Hawks 2

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Zelous Wheeler’s 19th home run, a two-run shot, overcame a 1-0 deficit against Kodai Senga (13-9) and Rakuten overcame a tense ninth before closer Yuki Matsui got the final out against SoftBank.

Wheeler gave a typically laconic hero interview HERE.

With both Senga and Eagles starter Manabu Mima proved adept at pitching out of jams, with Mima making a couple of big fielding plays to hold the Hawks to a run over five innings on Alfredo Despaigne’s 34th home run.

Matsui came close to blowing a three-run lead in the ninth but held on for his 38th save.

Game highlights are HERE.

Fighters 3, Buffaloes 1

At Kyocera Dome, Chihiro Kaneko, who left Orix in a contract dispute improved to 5-0 against his former team with five scoreless innings lowering the Buffaloes’ former ace’s ERA against them this season to 0.49 over 37 innings.

Tyler Eppler worked two innings of relief for the Buffaloes, striking out five. Here’s the video of his 1-2-3 fifth against the heart of the Fighters order.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Tigers 5, Giants 0

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin stayed alive in the hunt for a playoff spot as five pitchers combined on a six-hit shutout of league champion Yomiuri. The Tigers trail the third-place Carp by 1-1/2 games. Hanshin has three games remaining, Hiroshima one, but none against each other.

Game highlights are HERE.

BayStars 7, Dragons 1

At Nagoya Dome, Toshiro Miyazaki hit a three-run first-inning home run as DeNA came close to locking up second place while eliminating Chunichi from playoff contention.

With the exception of the 2004 to 2006 PL seasons and those seasons in the 1970s and 80s when the PL had a first-half/second-half championship playoff, Japan’s regular season has decided the league pennants. Since the Central League appropriated the PL playoff system in 2007, the playoffs have only served to select which team from each league plays in the Japan Series.