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NPB Update, June 21 to June 27: Tiger Kings

We check in on our adopted NPB team, the Yakult Swallows.

Japan v South Korea - WBSC Premier 12: Final
Tetsuto Yamada
Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images

As regular From Complex to Queens listeners know, we’ve decided to start following a NPB team in the absence of Mets baseball for the foreseeable future. We picked a team and will post updates on how they’re doing over in Japan. Why the Yakult Swallows?

  • The Swallows play in Tokyo, the largest city in Japan.
  • The Swallows are overshadowed by the other team that plays in Tokyo, which has had much more success over the years, the Yomiuri Giants.
  • For the first decade of their existence, the Swallows did not end a single season with a winning record.
  • Meiji Jingu Stadium opened in 1964, the same year as Shea Stadium.
  • The best player in team history was a pitcher.

Sounds like the Mets to me!

June 21 (1-2)

Chunichi Dragons 3, Yakult Swallows 0 (BOX)

The Swallows lost their opening weekend series, getting shutout by Kodai Umetsu. The Dragons got on the board in the second, when shortstop Yota Kyoda hit a two-run homer, and held the lead for the rest of the game. Nobumasa Fukuda added an additional run in the sixth, but the insurance would prove unnecessary.

  • 1B Tomotaka Sakaguchi: 0-3, 2 R, BB
  • 2B Tetsuto Yamada: 0-3, BB, 2 K
  • LF Norichika Aoki: 0-4
  • 3B-1B Munetaka Murakami: 0-3, R, BB, 2 K
  • CF Yasutaka Shiomi: 0-4, K
  • RF Yuhei Takai: 1-3
  • SS Alcides Escobar: 0-2
  • PH-3B Takeshi Miyamoto: 0-0, BB
  • C Motohiro Shima: 0-2
  • PH Kotaro Yamasaki: 0-1
  • C Yūdai Koga: 0-0
  • P Hiroki Yamada: 0-2, R, K
  • PH-SS Naomichi Nishiura: 0-1
  • LHP Hiroki Yamada: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, HR, L (0-1)
  • RHP Hiroki Onishi: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
  • LHP Naruki Terashima: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

June 22 (1-2)

NO GAME (SCHEDULE)

June 23 (1-3)

Hanshin Tigers 4, Yakult Swallows 1 (BOX)

Hanshin jumped out to an early 3-0 in the third, and the Swallows never really recovered. Gabriel Ynoa stumbled but he never completely fell, allowing one more run over four more innings. A 4-0 hole is far from unsurmountable, but Hanshin starter Koyo Aoyagi made it feel that way, allowing just two baserunners over his six innings on the mound. The Swallows finally got on the board in the ninth, scoring a run off of Kyuji Fujikawa, but it was too little, too late.

  • 1B Tomotaka Sakaguchi: 0-4
  • 2B Tetsuto Yamada: 0-4, 2 K
  • LF Norichika Aoki: 1-3, HBP
  • PR Tsuyoshi Ueda: 0-0, R
  • 3B Munetaka Murakami: 1-3, RBI, BB, K
  • CF Kotaro Yamasaki: 1-3, K
  • RF Yuhei Takai: 0-3, K
  • SS Alcides Escobar: 1-3
  • C Yūdai Koga: 0-2, PB
  • PH Takahiro Araki: 0-1, K
  • C Suguru Ino: 0-0
  • P Gabriel Ynoa: 0-1
  • PH Takeshi Miyamoto: 0-1
  • PH Hirooka, Taishi Hirooka: 0-1
  • RHP Gabriel Ynoa: 5.0 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, HR, L (0-1)
  • LHP Masato Nakazawa: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
  • LHP Naruki Terashima: 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
  • LHP Hiroki Hasegawa: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

June 24 (2-3)

Yakult Swallows 6, Hanshin Tigers 1 (BOX)

The Swallows took the lead in the bottom of the first and never looked back. Hanshin scored a run in the third, but it would end up their only run, as starter Albert Suarez and the rest of the bullpen held fast. The offense continued piling on, scoring three more runs, so had the Tigers been able to plate a few more runs, they still would’ve been unlikely to keep up.

  • 1B Tomotaka Sakaguchi: 2-4, 2 R, RBI, BB
  • PR-3B Taishi Hirooka: 0-0
  • 2B Tetsuto Yamada: 2-4, 2 R, BB, K, SB (2)
  • LF Norichika Aoki: 2-2, 2 R, 2 BB
  • PR-LF Tsuyoshi Ueda: 0-0, SB (1)
  • 3B-1B Munetaka Murakami: 0-4, RBI, K, E (2)
  • RF Yuhei Takai: 0-2, RBI, HBP
  • RF Daiki Watanabe: 0-0
  • CF Kotaro Yamasaki: 3-4, 2 RBI, K, SB (1)
  • SS Alcides Escobar: 0-3, RBI, BB, K
  • C Motohiro Shima: 1-4, 2 K
  • P Albert Suarez: 0-2, 2 K
  • PH Yasutaka Shiomi: 0-1, K
  • SS Naomichi Nishiura: 0-1
  • RHP Albert Suarez: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, HBP, W (1-0)
  • RHP Noboru Shimizu: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Yugo Umeno: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Kazuki Kondoh: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

June 25 (3-3)

Yakult Swallows 3, Hanshin Tigers 1 (BOX)

Swallows starter Hirotoshi Takanashi and Tigers starter Takumi Akiyama had themselves an old-fashioned pitching duel. Hanshin scored the first run of the game in the eighth, and suddenly, with that one run, they were in the driver’s seat. Closer Kyuji Fujikawa came in to close things out in the bottom of the ninth, but the veteran walked a batter and gave up a hit, putting the tying and winning run on base. Pinch hitter Naomichi Nishiura came to the plate with the chance to be the hero and came through, launching a walk-off sayonara home run to end the game.

  • 1B Tomotaka Sakaguchi: 0-4, K
  • 2B Tetsuto Yamada: 0-4
  • LF Norichika Aoki: 1-3
  • PR-RF Daiki Watanabe: 0-0, R, BB
  • 3B Munetaka Murakami: 2-4, K
  • RF Yuhei Takai: 1-2
  • PH-LF Tsuyoshi Ueda: 1-1, R
  • CF Kotaro Yamasaki: 0-1, K
  • PH Takahiro Araki: 0-1
  • C Suguru Ino: 0-0
  • PH Naomichi Nishiura: 1-1, R, HR (1), 3 RBI
  • SS Alcides Escobar: 1-3
  • C Yūdai Koga: 0-2
  • PH Takeshi Miyamoto: 0-1, K
  • P Hirotoshi Takanashi: 0-1, K
  • CF Yasutaka Shiomi: 0-1
  • RHP Hirotoshi Takanashi: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
  • RHP Scott McGough: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
  • LHP Hiroki Hasegawa: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, W (1-0)

June 26 (3-4)

Yomiuri Giants 6, Yakult Swallows 5 (BOX)

Anytime the Giants lose, it’s a good thing; they’re the Yankees, after all. But, unfortunately, the first meeting between the Swallows and the Giants would not be one of those times, as the Giants came from behind to win. The Giants had their ace, Tomoyuki Sugano, on the mound, while the Swallows had 40-year-old ageless wonder Masanori Ishikawa. The Giants scraped out a run in the second, but the two pitchers otherwise matched each other zero for zero. In the sixth, the Swallows finally got on the board, and in a hurry, scoring five runs, highlighted by Tetsuto Yamada’s third home run of the season. Unfortunately, Ishikawa did not return to pitch the seventh and the Giants were able to beat up on the Yakult bullpen. They scored one in the seventh, two in the eighth, and walked off in the ninth when outfielder Shinnosuke Shigenobu hit a two-run walk-off sayonara home run.

  • 1B Tomotaka Sakaguchi: 1-2, R, 3 BB
  • 2B Tetsuto Yamada: 1-5, R, HR (3), RBI, 2 K
  • LF Norichika Aoki: 0-4, K
  • PR-LF Tsuyoshi Ueda: 0-0
  • 3B Munetaka Murakami: 1-4, R
  • RF Yuhei Takai: 1-3, R, BB, K
  • RF Daiki Watanabe: 0-0
  • CF Kotaro Yamasaki: 1-3, R, RBI
  • PH-CF Yasutaka Shiomi: 0-1, K
  • SS Alcides Escobar: 0-4, K
  • C Motohiro Shima: 1-2, 2 RBI, 2 K
  • P Masanori Ishikawa: 1-2
  • PH Takahiro Araki: 0-1
  • PH Naomichi Nishiura: 0-1
  • LHP Masanori Ishikawa: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, HR
  • RHP Yugo Umeno: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, WP
  • LHP Masato Nakazawa: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, H (1)
  • RHP Scott McGough: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Taichi Ishiyama: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, L (0-1), BS (1)
  • RHP Kazuki Kondoh: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

June 27 (4-4)

Yakult Swallows 9, Yomiuri Giants 6 (BOX)

The Swallows scored two runs in the bottom of the first and the runs held for most of the game until the sixth, when Yasuhiro Ogawa gave up four runs, putting the Swallows behind the eight ball. They responded by punishing the Yomiuri bullpen, scoring seven runs combined off of Kyosuke Takagi, Ryosuke Miyaguni, and Takahiro Fujioka. Southpaw Hiroki Hasegawa allowed the Giants to score two more runs, but he only stumbled and did not fall, closing out the game without allowing further damage.

  • LF Tomotaka Sakaguchi: 1-4, 2 R, BB
  • 2B Tetsuto Yamada: 3-4, 2 R, HR (4), 5 RBI, K
  • 3B Taishi Hirooka: 1-1
  • 3B-SS Naomichi Nishiura: 1-5, RBI
  • 1B Munetaka Murakami: 3-4, R, HR (2), RBI
  • CF Yasutaka Shiomi: 0-3, 2 K, HBP
  • RF Yuhei Takai: 1-4, R
  • LF Tsuyoshi Ueda: 0-0
  • SS Alcides Escobar: 1-4, R, E (1)
  • 2B Takeshi Miyamoto: 0-0
  • C Yūdai Koga: 0-2
  • PH Takahiro Araki: 0-0, R, BB
  • C Suguru Ino: 0-1
  • P Yasuhiro Ogawa: 1-2
  • PH Norichika Aoki: 1-1, 2 RBI
  • PR-RF Daiki Watanabe: 0-1, R
  • RHP Yasuhiro Ogawa: 5.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 2 HR
  • LHP Masato Nakazawa: 0.2 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, W (1-0)
  • RHP Noboru Shimizu: 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
  • LHP Hiroki Hasegawa: 1.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, BLK

HITTER OF THE WEEK

Tetsuto Yamada

6-24, 0 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1 BB, 8 K, 1/1 SB

PITCHER OF THE WEEK

Hirotoshi Takanashi

7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

Born June 5, 1991 in Mobara, a city in Japan’s Chiba Prefecture, Hirotoshi Takanashi attended Toke High School in Chiba City. Initially, he was going to play soccer there with a friend, but he ended up playing baseball instead. Initially, he was a third baseman, but at the end of his first year, he was turned into a pitcher. After graduating high school, he attended Yamanashi Gakuin University. He had a solid collegiate career, though an elbow injury in his final season there may have hurt his stock. He was selected by the Nippon Ham Fighters with their fourth-round pick in the 2013 NPB Draft.

He spent his first year in the organization in the Fighters’ minor league system. He began the 2015 season on the ni-gun team as well, but was promoted in early May, making his professional debut. He was sent back down quickly thereafter, spending the rest of the season in the minors. He finally was able to make the team and stick on it in 2016, and the 25-year-old made his presence known. In 109.2 innings as a starter and reliever, he posted a 2.38 ERA, allowing 79 hits, walking 36, and striking out 86, winning the Pacific League Rookie of the Year Award. He was not able to keep up that level of production, eventually falling out of favor with the Fighters. In December 2018, he and Kengo Ohta were traded to the Yakult Swallows in exchange for Ryo Akiyoshi and Ryota Taniuchi. Tanahashi’s time with the Swallows has been very similar, with him bouncing up and down between the ichi-gun and ni-gun teams, pitching as both a starter and reliever.

Takanashi throws from a high-three-quarters armslot, dropping low and driving off the mound. His fastball hovers around 90 MPH, topping out at roughly 93 MPH. He complements it with a 12-6 curveball, forkball, and slider.

HITTER OF THE WEEK

June 14 to June 20: Tetsuto Yamada (3-8, 0 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 0 K, 1/1 SB)

June 21 to June 27: Tetsuto Yamada (6-24, 0 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1 BB, 8 K, 1/1 SB)

PITCHER OF THE WEEK

June 14 to June 20: Yasuhiro Ogawa (6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K)

June 21 to June 27: Hirotoshi Takanashi (7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K)