A three run homer in the eighth by Yokohama third baseman Shuichi Murata enabled his squad to overcome a 1-0 deficit and ultimately cadge a 3-1 victory over Yomiuri at Tokyo Dome Wednesday. Takumi Nasuno went six strong innings of one run, two hit ball in a no decision, the win being accorded to reliever Atsushi Kizuka, who was perfect in the seventh.
Norihito Kaneto started for the Giants and went seven shutout innings of four hit ball while striking out four and walking one in a no decision.
Yomiuri rightfielder Yoshinobu Takahashi kicked off the bottom of the first with a double to leftcenter and, one out later, second baseman Luis Gonzalez walked. First baseman Seung-yeop Lee singled to center to spring Takahashi in for a 1-0 lead. Following another out, leftfielder Kenji Yano walked to load the bases. Nasuno would then retire the next 16 in a row, only four of those in the outfield.
Kaneto had a baserunner on in each of the first six innings, one of them on a walk, another on an infield hit and one more on an HBP, and didn't give up any follow up hits to contain the Yokohama attack. He was flawless in the seventh and handed it off to the bullpen.
Yuya Kubo came on for the eighth for the Giants and Kazuya Fujita pinch hit for Kizuka and walked. Second baseman Toshihisa Nishi tried to lay a sacrifice bunt down, but grounded it to Kubo, who fired it to second for the force on Fujita. Catcher Ryoji Aikawa singled to left. Centerfielder Tatsuhiko Kinjo grounded into a 4-6 force. Murata cranked a shot beyond the leftcenterfield wall and it was 3-1 Bay Stars.
Matt White worked a 1-2-3 bottom half and Mark Kroon put Yomiuri away in order in the ninth to seal it.
Giants lefthander Hisanori Takahashi took over the ERA lead in the Central League after Yakult ace Seth Greisinger was tagged for two earned runs against Hanshin.
For Yomiuri, Gonzalez was 0-3 with a walk and is at .247. Lee was 1-3 and is at .274.
Hanshin rookie starter Keiji Uezono did something that has been in short supply for them, going seven shutout innings of four hit ball while striking out nine and walking three in a 3-0 victory over Yakult at Meiji Jingu Stadium. God only knows when the last time was that their starter went that deep into a ballgame.
Seth Greisinger started for the Swallows and went seven innings of three run, two earned, ball on four hits while striking out seven and walking two to cap off his season at 16-8.
Tigers third baseman Makoto Imaoka, whose bat has woken up, but way too late to be of any real help to his club's pennant aspirations, checked in during the second and blasted a Greisinger offering into the leftcenterfield seats for a 1-0 lead. Greisinger would strikeout the side in the inning.
Yakult shortstop Shinya Miyamoto doubled to left with two outs in the bottom stanza, but Uezono retired eight in a row to get into the fifth, including striking out the side in the fourth.
Hanshin then enhanced its advantage in the third when catcher Toshihiro Noguchi walked and went to second on a sacrifice. Centerfielder Kodai Sakurai doubled to left to usher Noguchi in. Shortstop Andy Sheets grounded to second baseman Hiroyasu Tanaka, who booted it for an error. Leftfielder Tomoaki Kanemoto walked to pack the sacks. Imaoka grounded to third baseman Kazuhiro Hatakeyama, who muffed it, and Sakurai scurried across to up it to 3-0. Rightfielder Lin Wei-tzu, though, struckout to foil the rally.
However, Uezono walked both Miyamoto and Hatakeyama with one out in the fifth, but he fanned the next two men to escape any damage.
He was presented with another conundrum in the sixth, as Tanaka and leftfielder Alex Ramirez got aboard on one out singles and advanced on a groundout. But first baseman Yuichi Matsumoto flied out and they would get just one more hit from that point forward.
The Tigers put two on with two outs in the eighth, but Lin grounded out to ruin it.
Manager Akinobu Okada reportedly told his lineup to not score in the ninth so that he could set closer Kyuji Fujikawa up to banish all three men he encountered in the bottom half to tie the pro yakyu record with his 46th save. Fujikawa threw all fastballs to rightfielder Aaron Guiel and Matsumoto and struck them out before bringing out the breaking stuff against Miyamoto, who grounded out.
Tomoyuki Kubota made his 90th appearance in the eighth for Hanshin and dispensed with three of the four men he had to deal with. It will be interesting to see if this workload catches up with Kubota either during the playoffs or next season.
Uezono, who got the game ball even with the Fujikawa record tying save, is 8-5 and could be a top candidate for Rookie of the Year.
Swallows catcher/manager Atsuya Furuta singled to right in the seventh for his first hit of the year at Jingu. His team has lost 80 games this season, the most defeats they have incurred in 37 years.
Even after the postseason, Okada is going to have his entire roster participate in the Phoenix Instructional League in an attempt to light a fire under them for next season. Dumb idea? You bet!
For Yakult, Ramirez was 1-4 with three strikeouts and is at .349. Guiel was 0-4 with two strikeouts and is at .242. Greisinger was 0-2 and is at .104.
For Hanshin, Sheets was 1-4 and is at .243. Lin was 0-4 with three strikeouts and is at .292.
Kosuke Fukudome's career in Japan appears to be over, as he said it is
"nearly impossible" that he will be ready to take part in the final round
of playoff games or the Japan Series. He will begin playing catch sometime
in the next week.
The Dragons had to content themselves after losing out int he lottery drawing for Yoshinori Sato and Sho Iwasaki with Urawa Gakuin pitcher Kazuyuki Akasaka. They then picked pitcher Ken Higuchi on the third round from Onomichi Shogyo High. Higuchi was born in London, England and he tops out at 92mph. They are hoping he can be another Yu Darvish.
Akasaka, like Higuchi, is a righthander. He has been in two Koshien Tournaments and has been clocked as high as 89mph. He also slugged 58 homers and it might behoove the Dragons to give him a look as an infielder since he played there in youth league ball. He is 6'1" and 182 pounds.
Hanshin The Tigers went to Yokohama High for 6'0" 173 pound shortstop Takuya Takahama, a fast infielder they think can be another Takashi Toritani, though they also believe that he is farther along developmentally at this stage than Toritani was before the latter entered Waseda University. Manager Akinobu Okada won a lottery drawing for Takahama with Yokohama to get his negotiating rights. Takahama hopes to hit .300 with 30 homers and 30 steals someday. He was part of a spring Koshien Tourmanent winner and is said to have a cannon. Like Toritani, he throws right and bats left.
The caveat with him is that he has a checkered injury history, so that could hinder his career.
They then brought Kansai High infielder Kazunari Morita on board in the third round and pitcher Hirotaka Kiyohara from Joso Gakuin High in the fourth. Kiyohara has reportedly been clocked at 89mph.
Hanshin has used 624 pitchers this season, a new pro yakyu record. None of his hurlers threw enough innings to qualify for the ERA title and they managed just three complete games between them.
On the offensive side, the Tigers hit .255, worst of all 12 pro teams and they were outscored by 43 runs. Okada also used a 2007 CL most 338 pinch hitters, indicative of being behind a lot.
Hiroshima In losing out in the lottery drawing for Narita High pitcher Yuki Karakawa, the Carp took Fukuoka Kogyodai Joto High pitcher Tomohiro Abe. Manager Marty Brown called Abe a good athlete who is aggressive on the mound and believes that he will have a long career. "When he makes it to the big club is up to him," Brown told the press.
On the third round, the fish cast their net for Chiba Geijutsudai Fuzoku High outfielder Yoshihiro Maru, a 5'10" 160 lefthand hitter. As his high school team's pitching ace, he was clocked at 89mph and clubbed 49 homers. He has average-ish speed.
They captured Kyoto Subaru hurler Ken Nakamura on the fourth round as well.
In the fourth round, they went to Funabashi Municipal High pitcher Masataka Yamazaki, who stands 6'0" and weighs 165 pounds while throwing righty. He is extremely green as a hurler and has been clocked as high as 91mph. So he is going to be probably three years or more away. They say he can hit, but that's high school.
Yakult Manager Atsuya Furuta has the hand of God, in a manner of speaking, as he not only won the race for Tatsuyoshi Masubuchi last season, but he drew the winning lottery ticket for fireballer Yoshinori Sato. Sato had hoped to pitch for Rakuten, but nonetheless thanked his parents publically for helping to make this moment possible. His goal? To outgun Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya's 103mph reading on the gun. Sato has thus far been clocked at 97mph. Nonetheless, to succeed in the pros, he will have to refine the command of his slider and come up with a viable third pitch, probably a changeup and a cutter might also be effective for him.
The Sato family expressed hope that Furuta would stay with Yakult and were somewhat frustrated that they won't know who they are supposed to make the formal introductory visit with until Furuta's successor is decided. In Japan, it is considered rude to leave people hanging and so I'm sure that the Swallows new boss will make some kind of conciliatory gesture to heal that wound.
With their next pick, the Swallows snagged righthander Hitoshi Yamamoto of Sakada Minami High. He tops out at 90mph and is rather a typical Japanese pitcher, depending on his breaking stuff, especialy his cutter, to get hitters out. He is a long term development project.
Yokohama Pitcher Kimiyasu Kudoh will be 45 next season, as he announced that he will play at least one more year with the Bay Stars. Kudoh pitched pretty well the last two months of the season, but the last three years or so he has spent a lot of time on the shelf with leg issues and some inconsistency. "I don't feel as if I've quite paid my debt of gratitude to the team yet," he told reporters.
The team has had horrible luck drafting pitchers in the first round and they were part of the drawing for Sato, but they ended up going with Joba Gakuen Kikukawa High pitcher Kenjiro Tanaka, who had earlier been linked to the Giants. The 5'11" 173 pounder is a southpaw who throws in the mid-80's whose main virtue is that he hides the ball well. They expect him to contribute fairly early on.
They did luck out by being able to get their hands on Atori Ota of Teikyo High. Some major league team should have tried to sign this kid for his raw tools and raw is a good word. He is absolutely nasty when he is right, but he had command problems last year and lost his ace role to Yuki Karakawa. Considering the job they have done with Hayato Terahara (though Takumi Nasuno still remains a huge disappointment), it will be interesting to watch what manager Akihiko Oya and his staff does with him. This kid could be a hall of famer if they can straighten him out in the next couple of years and if he stays healthy. Playing in the launching pad that is Yokohama Stadium may hurt his confidence, though. He tops out at around 92mph and is 6'2", 200 pounds. For me, he and Sato are the two biggest missed opportunities of major league teams of the schoolboy draft.
They did get a Sato, though, Bunsei Geidai Fuzuoku pitcher Shoma Sato, on the fourth round and then grabbed Takuya Sakamoto, an outfielder from Kashiwa Municipal High. He smacked 55 homers and has good speed and is projected as a future slugger for them and boy, do they need it. He is 5'10" and 176 pounds. .
Yomiuri With the Giants failing to win the lottery drawing for Sendai Ikuei ace Yoshinori Sato (manager Tatsunori Hara, in fact, is 0-3 when he has taken part), they took speedy 5'8" 143 pound Kumamoto Kogyo High infiielder Daisuke Fujimura with their first round pick in the high school draft Wednesday. Fujimura said that he couldn't believe that he was made Yomiuri's primary pick and didn't even think he would be drafted at all. Team scouts say that he reminds them of former Giants outfielder Koichi Ogata (not to be confused with a man of the same name at Hiroshima).
With their third round selection, the opted for outfielder Daisuke Nakai of Ujiyamada Shogyo High School and then picked pitcher Hirotaka Takeshima in the fourth round. Nakai pitched in high school and was clocked at 91mph, but wants to solely be a flychaser in the pros. He cracked 24 homers during his schoolboy career. Takeshima has been clocked around 90mph.
Yomiuri has decided to forego sending its top team players to the Phoenix Instructional League as preparation for the playoffs. Instead, they will hold intrasquad games until they see who moves on from the series between Hanshin and Chunichi.
The game ball from Tuesday night's pennant clincher was apparently lost. After Yakult shortstop Shinya Miyamoto threw it away and the winning run scored, nobody from the Giants bothered to pick it up. Instead, Swallows first baseman Kazuhiro Hatakeyama retrieved it and flipped it to the Tokyo Dome ball boy, who may have put it in a ball bag with other baseballs.
Manager Tatsunori Hara has made a cameo appearance in an upcoming tv drama series for NTV called Dream Again. It airs beginning ont he 13th at 9 p.m. The story reportedly revolved around a onetime professional baseball player attempting to make it back to the bigtime.
Miscellaneous The first round of the division playoffs began Wednesday and Colorado took a 4-2 victory from Philadelphia. Rockies second baseman Kazuo Matsui was 0-4 with a walk and two strikeouts and Phillies infielder Tadahito Iguchi walked in an eighth inning pinch hit appearance.
Boston righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka will start Friday against Anaheim and threw 79 pitches in the bullpen Wednesday as preparation.
What was behind Walt Jocketty leaving St. Louis? Weird.