clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NPB Update, July 05 to July 11: Dragon slayers

New, 1 comment

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

Japan v Puerto Rico - Send Off Friendly Game For WBSC Premier 12
Yasuhiro Ogawa
Photo by Sports Nippon/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!

July 05 (7-7)

Yokohama DeNA Baystars 8, Yakult Swallows 1 (BOX)

Initially, we had ourselves a little something of a pitching duel, but the scoreless streak finally snapped in the fifth, when the Baystars scored four runs. Once they got to the Yakult bullpen, they continued piling on even more, scoring four more runs in the eighth and ninth innings. Down 8-0 in the bottom of the ninth, the Swallows at least got on the board and avoided the shutout.

  • 1B Tomotaka Sakaguchi: 0-4, K
  • 2B Tetsuto Yamada: 1-3, R, 1 BB, 2 K
  • LF Norichika Aoki: 1-4
  • 3B Munetaka Murakami: 2-4, RBI
  • SS Naomichi Nishiura: 0-4, 4 K
  • CF Kotaro Yamasaki: 1-3
  • RF Yuhei Takai: 0-2
  • PH Takahiro Araki: 0-1
  • C Motohiro Shima: 0-1
  • C Suguru Ino: 0-0
  • PH-C Akihisa Nishida: 0-1, K
  • P Hirotoshi Takanashi: 0-1, K
  • PH Taishi Hirooka: 0-1, K
  • PH-RF Daiki Watanabe: 0-1, K
  • RHP Hirotoshi Takanashi: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, HR
  • LHP Naruki Terashima: 1.0 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
  • RHP Tomoya Hoshi: 1.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
  • LHP Hiroki Hasegawa: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Kazuki Kondoh: 1.0, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, HR

July 06 (7-7)

NO GAME (SCHEDULE)

July 07 (8-7)

Yakult Swallows 2, Chunichi Dragons 1 / 10 (BOX)

Closer Taichi Ishiyama made it nerve-wracking in the bottom of the tenth, allowing two hits and a walk to load up the bases, but he was able to navigate the tight rope for his second save and the Swallows’ eighth win. Starter Albert Suarez somehow pitched six scoreless innings despite walking seven batters and having traffic on the basepaths all night. Scott McGough allowed the Dragons to score in the bottom of the eighth, tying the game at 1-1 apiece, but Yakult was able to score in the tenth and win it.

  • CF Tomotaka Sakaguchi: 3-5, K
  • 2B Tetsuto Yamada: 0-5, 2 K
  • LF Norichika Aoki: 1-4, BB, K
  • PR-LF Tsuyoshi Ueda: 0-0, R, SB (2)
  • 1B Munetaka Murakami: 1-5, R, 2 K
  • 3B-SS Naomichi Nishiura: 2-3, RBI, BB, HBP
  • RF Kotaro Yamasaki: 0-4, 2 K
  • C Akihisa Nishida: 0-3, 2 K
  • PH Takeshi Miyamoto: 0-1
  • 3B Taishi Hirooka: 0-0, BB
  • SS Alcides Escobar: 0-1, 2 BB, SB (2)
  • PH Shingo Kawabata: 0-1
  • C Suguru Ino: 0-0, RBI, BB
  • P Albert Suarez: 0-3
  • PH Yuhei Takai: 0-0, BB
  • PR-CF Daiki Watanabe: 0-1, K
  • RHP Albert Suarez: 6.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 BB, 3 K
  • RHP Noboru Shimizu: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, H (4)
  • RHP Scott McGough: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, BS (1)
  • LHP Hiroki Hasegawa: 0.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
  • RHP Yugo Umeno: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, H (3)
  • LHP Naruki Terashima: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, W (1-0)
  • RHP Taichi Ishiyama: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, S (2)

July 08 (8-7-1)

Yakult Swallows 5, Chunichi Dragons 5 / 10 (BOX)

Alright! Our first tie!

  • CF-1B Tomotaka Sakaguchi: 1-5, K
  • 2B Tetsuto Yamada: 1-4, 2 RBI, BB, K, SB (5)
  • LF Norichika Aoki: 0-4, BB, 2 K
  • RF Yuhei Takai: 0-0
  • 1B Munetaka Murakami: 1-4, R, BB, K
  • PR-CF Daiki Watanabe: 0-0, SB (1)
  • 3B Naomichi Nishiura: 1-4, R, BB, 2 K
  • RF Kotaro Yamasaki: 0-1, R, 3 BB, K
  • PH Taishi Hirooka: 0-1, K
  • SS Alcides Escobar: 4-5, RBI
  • C Motohiro Shima: 0-1, R, RBI, 2 BB
  • PH-C Akihisa Nishida: 0-2, K
  • P Gabriel Ynoa: 0-0, RBI
  • PH Shingo Kawabata: 0-1, R
  • PH Takahiro Araki: 0-1
  • PH Takeshi Miyamoto: 0-1
  • RF-LF Tsuyoshi Ueda: 0-1
  • RHP Gabriel Ynoa: 3.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
  • LHP Masato Nakazawa: 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, H (2)
  • LHP Hiroki Hasegawa: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, H (1)
  • RHP Yugo Umeno: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, H (4)
  • RHP Noboru Shimizu: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, H (5)
  • LHP Naruki Terashima: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, H (1)
  • RHP Taichi Ishiyama: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

July 09 (9-7-1)

Yakult Swallows 8, Chunichi Dragons 6 (BOX)

  • LF Tomotaka Sakaguchi: 2-3, 2 R, 2 BB, K, SB (1)
  • PR-LF Tsuyoshi Ueda: 0-0, R
  • 2B Tetsuto Yamada: 1-2, 3 R, 3 BB, K
  • 1B Munetaka Murakami: 1-4, 4 RBI, BB, SB (2)
  • 3B Naomichi Nishiura: 0-2, K, HBP
  • 3B Taishi Hirooka: 0-3, 2 K
  • RF Yuhei Takai: 2-4, 2 K, SB (1)
  • PH Shingo Kawabata: 0-0, BB
  • SS Alcides Escobar: 0-5, K
  • C Akihisa Nishida: 0-3
  • P Hirotoshi Takanashi: 0-2, K
  • PH Takahiro Araki: 0-1
  • PH Norichika Aoki: 1-1
  • PR-RF Daiki Watanabe: 0-0, R
  • RHP Hirotoshi Takanashi: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K
  • RHP Tomoya Hoshi: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, HR, H (1)
  • RHP Kazuki Kondoh: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, H (2)
  • RHP Scott McGough:1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, W (1-0), BS (2)
  • RHP Taichi Ishiyama: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, S (3)

July 10 (9-7-1)

POSTPONED (RAIN)

July 11 (10-7-1)

Yakult Swallows 9, Yomiuri 4 (BOX)

In front of 4,503 fans in the stands, the Tokyo Swallows beat the Tokyo Giants to even their 2020 meetings to an even 2-2 apiece. The Giants tagged Yakult starter Yasuhiro Ogawa for two runs in the bottom of the first inning, but he would recover and would put up goose eggs for the rest of his time on the mound. The Swallows took the lead in the fourth, and then really feasted on the Yomiuri bullpen once starter Angel Sanchez was pulled, scoring a run in the sixth, two in the seventh, one in the eighth, and two in the ninth. Swallows reliever Kazuki Kondoh gave up a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth, but the blip did not threaten their lead, and the right-hander settled down to end the inning without further damage.

  • 1B Tomotaka Sakaguchi: 1-4, 2 R, BB, 2 K
  • 2B Tetsuto Yamada: 1-3, R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K, E (1)
  • PR-2B Takahiro Araki: 0-0
  • LF Norichika Aoki: 2-4, 2 R, HR (3), 3 RBI
  • PR-LF Tsuyoshi Ueda: 0-0, BB
  • 3B-1B Munetaka Murakami: 2-5, R, 2 K
  • CF Kotaro Yamasaki: 2-5, 2 R, RBI, K
  • RF Yuhei Takai: 1-3, 2 R
  • PR-RF Daiki Watanabe: 0-1, CS (2)
  • SS Alcides Escobar: 0-3, BB, K
  • C Motohiro Shima: 0-4, RBI, 3 K
  • P Yasuhiro Ogawa: 0-2, K
  • PH Takeshi Miyamoto: 0-1, K
  • PH Shingo Kawabata: 1-1
  • PH-3B Taishi Hirooka: 0-0, R
  • RHP Yasuhiro Ogawa: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, W (3-0)
  • RHP Yugo Umeno: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Noboru Shimizu: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
  • RHP Kazuki Kondoh: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, HR

HITTER OF THE WEEK

Tomotaka Sakaguchi

7-21, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 3 BB, 6 K, 1/1 SB

Tomotaka Sakaguchi was born on July 7, 1984 in Akashi, a city in Japan’s Hyōgo Prefecture. He attended Kobe University Secondary School for high school and though he did not like pitching, owing to his restless and impatient nature, he quickly established himself as one of the best pitchers on the team, becoming the ace pitcher of the team in his second year. In his third year, he played primarily as a position player, and when he graduated, he was drafted by the now-defunct Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes in 2003 as an outfielder.

His time with the Buffaloes was short, as they merged with the Orix BlueWave in 2005 to form the Orix Buffaloes, just two years into his professional career. Sakaguchi would be a role-player for a few years, eventually becoming a regular starter in 2008, when he hit .278/.310/.339 in 142 games. His ability with the bat began shining through with regular playing time, and over the next few years, he would be a near lock for 150+ hits and nearly a .300 batting average or better. In 2012, he dislocated his shoulder after catching a ball and slamming into the outfield wall and was limited to just 40 games. He was slow to recover from the injury, and when he was able to get back on the field, he just wasn’t the same player. After struggling with the Buffaloes for the next few years, he rejected their contract offer at the end of the 2015 season, refusing to take a cut in his salary. He was granted free agency and signed with the Yakult Swallows shortly thereafter.

In his first season with Yakult, the 31-year-old veteran found the fountain of youth, hitting .295/.375/.340 in 141 games. He followed that up by hitting .290/.364/.350 in 136 games in 2017 and .317/.406/.394 in 139 games in 2018. That winter, he agreed to a three-year contract with the Swallows. The new contract did not start off auspiciously, as he was hit by a pitch in the hand in early April and seemingly broke his hamate bone, causing him to miss about two months of the season and struggle when he finally did return. Things have been good for the 35-year-old veteran in 2020, as he is hitting .317/.449/.397 through the first few weeks of the season.

Sakaguchi’s best attribute as a player is his hit tool; some coaches have said that in his prime, his bat speed was comparable to that of Ichiro. Given the fact that he was a pitcher earlier in his career, he has a strong arm as well.

PITCHER OF THE WEEK

Yasuhiro Ogawa

6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K

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)

June 28 to July 04: Naomichi Nishiura (5-15, 1 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K, 0/0 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)

June 28 to July 04: Taichi Ishiyama (3.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, HR)