Tanaka’s 2nd start

On Saturday, Masahiro Tanaka pitched in Sendai, and Carter Stewart Jr. made his second relief outing, so I figured I’d write about their games a bit.

Tanaka returned to Sendai, pitching there for the first time since he saved Game 7 of the 2013 Japan Series one night after he suffered a complete-game loss in Game 6. Tanaka’s second regular-season start, against the Seibu Lions, was a mirror image of his debut a week earlier against the Nippon Ham Fighters.

In that game, he couldn’t locate his fastball, and the Fighters hitters basically waited for him to miss with it in the zone, and hit a pair of home runs off him. He responded by not throwing the fastball, and threw only three of them in his 13-pitch first inning on Saturday in Sendai.

It looked, however, like he’d solved his fastball control issues, but had trouble locating his splitter and slider. The Lions’ hitters were apparently looking for the splitter and hit a couple of good ones. From the fourth inning, he began using his slider and cutter to set up his fastball, and it was essentially game over.

Before the game, there was talk of him throwing around 100 pitches, but Tanaka left the mound after throwing just 68 in six innings. Although he started throwing few fastballs, in the end, Tanaka threw his four-seamer 34 percent of the time — the same as he had a week earlier.

Manager Kazuhisa Ishii was asked about Tanaka’s outing.

“I didn’t think he looked that good at the start, but as he showed more variation halfway through. That got him going, and allowed him to establish a rhythm,” he said.

“You’d have to ask him about how he felt coming back, but as for pressure, his mission here is to meet expectations, and I’m sure he’s happy about meeting them in such a diligent fashion.”

“He’s got his 100th win (in Japan), but that’s sort of expected. He’ll do more, reach higher numbers in Japan and in the majors. He’s such an extraordinary athlete.”

“As for his pitch count, he worked well and he did go six innings, and we decided that was a good place to cut him off today and hand it over to the bullpen.”

Tanaka pitching log

Key: f-fastball, s-slider, k-split, v-curve, c-cutter, hanging pitches marked with an asterisk.

1st inning
  1. Wakabayashi s,s,s,f,k,s* —hangs and lined to center good catch by CF Tatsumi
  2. Genda f,s,f,s —swinging K
  3. Mori v,k,k — weak grounder 4-3

2nd inning

  1. Nakamura v,f,k* — hangs splitter lined into LF corner, single
  2. Kuriyama s* — hanging slider lined to 1st $mart play by Dixon 3DP
  3. Takeda f,f,s — swinging K

3rd inning

  1. Spangenberg f,k,s,s — backfoot slider hits back foot on bounce after video request.
  2. Wu k*,f,k,s,s,k — Spangenberg steals on 0-1 pitch, good swing on split RBI single
  3. Yamada f — sacrifice 1-3, 1 out
  4. Wakabayashi k,f,f,fs — good swing on slider away line to RF, 2 outs
  5. Genda f,f,f,k — another good swing on a splitter, infield single, R13, 2 outs
  6. Mori k – Mori grounds splitter to second, 4-3g

4th inning

  1. Nakamura c,c,f — 3 foul fly
  2. Kuriyama k*,f — 7F
  3. Takeda s,f,k — Swinging K out of zone

5th inning

  1. Spangenberg s,s,s,f,c,k — 6-3g
  2. Wu k,s,s,k — 9F
  3. Yamada c,c,s,k — Swinging K

6th inning

  1. Wakabayashi f — 3 Foul fly
  2. Genda k*,s — 4-3g
  3. Okada s,s — 1-3g

Carter Stewart Jr.

Stewart, who made his debut in the final inning of a 7-1 Hawks win against the Seibu Lions a week earlier, got some meaningful mound experience in the fifth inning on Saturday with the Hawks holding a 6-5 lead against the Marines in Chiba.

He allowed two runs on four walks and a double, and struck out one, but it was hardly a disaster. This inning could easily have gone the other way, and when the broadcast crew crowed about Stewart’s potential, they weren’t talking out of their butts.

The leadoff hitter, Hisanori Yasuda, hit a flare that bounced over left fielder Yurisbel Gracial for a fluke double. With one out, he missed badly on four pitches to Koki Yamaguchi. He threw some good pitches to the next batter, particularly his change before walking him, too, to load the bases.

Stewart struck out pinch-hitter Tsuyoshi Sugano, then the weird stuff really began.

Catcher Takuya Kai began calling for fastballs on the outside corner that Kengo Iwashita, umpiring in his 113th top-flight game, had called earlier in the inning. Stewart hit the glove twice, and hopped a bit on the mound when Iwashita saw these pitches as balls.

Kai moved his glove over the plate and Stewart missed it, 3-0. Another target over the plate and Stewart caught the outside corner, a better pitch than the first two and a strike, 3-1. Another target over the plate, and Stewart was over the inner half, but Iwashita didn’t call it and the tying run scored.

At that point, it looked like Stewart lost confidence in his mechanics as he went from missing ever so little to a lot. Five more pitches to veteran leadoff hitter Takashi Ogino and the Marines had the lead and Stewart was gone.

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