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Saturday Recap: Nippon Professional Baseball

 Conor Liguori  |    Apr 14th, 2024 1:00pm EDT

Hideki Matsui of Yomiuri Giants watches the ball as he blasts a score-tying hit, calling in a runner in the sixth inning of the Central League’s game against Chunichi Dragons in Nagoya, 01 September 2000. The Giants beat the Dragons 14-6. AFP PHOTO (Photo by STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP) / Japan OUT (Photo credit should read STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Livan Moinelo Thriving as Starting Pitcher  

Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks left-handed pitcher Livan Moinleo has had a stellar first three appearances as a starting pitcher after coming out of the bullpen for Fukuoka since 2017.  

The Cuban-born eight-year NPB veteran has thrown 22 innings in his first three starts, allowing just two earned runs and seven hits. He has struck out 17.   

On March 30, Moinelo’s first start of the season, he allowed two earned runs and three hits and struck out four in eight innings in a 2-0 loss to the Orix Buffaloes.  

Moinleo held the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles scoreless and hitless for six innings, striking out six, in a 5-4 win on April 6. On Saturday, Moinleo continued his excellent start to the season, striking out seven and not allowing a run in eight innings in an 11-2 win against the Saitama Seibu Lions.  


Hotaka Yamakawa Hits Two Grand Slams

On Saturday, Moinelo’s teammate Hotaka Yamakawa became the second player in NPB history to hit grand slams in consecutive plate appearances.  

Yamakawa hit his first grand slam at the top of the sixth and his second in the eighth. Playing the Saitama Seibu Lions on the road, Yamakawa was booed heavily by fans of his former team.  

 In May 2023, he was removed from the Lions active roster after the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department investigated him for sexual assault. Despite the allegations, Yamakawa did not face charges.  He was the 2018 Pacific League MVP and is a four-time NPB All-Star.  


Gregory Polanco Smashes First Home Run of 2024

On Friday, Polanco, who finished in a three-way tie with Kensuke Kondoh and Hideto Asamura for Pacific League home runs in 2023 with 26, hit his first bomb of the season.  

 He deposited a solo home run to right field in the fifth inning of the Chiba Lotte Marines’ 5-2 loss against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, tying the game at one.  

Polanco has become a fan favorite in Chiba City after playing eight Major League Baseball seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2014 to 21.  


On This Day in Japanese Baseball History 

On April 13, 2010, former Yomiuri Giant and three-time Central League MVP Hideki Matsui received his 2009 World Series ring from the New York Yankees as a Los Angeles Angels player.  

Matsui won 2009 World Series MVP honors for his performance against the Philadelphia Phillies, hitting .615 with three home runs and eight RBI.  


NPB Scores from Saturday  

– Tokyo Yakult Swallows Defeat Yokohama DeNA BayStars 5-2  

– Orix Buffaloes Defeat Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters 5-1  

– Yomiuri Giants Defeat Hiroshima Toyo Carp 3-2  

– Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks Defeat Saitama Seibu Lions 11-2  

– Chunichi Dragons Defeat Hanshin Tigers 5-2  

– Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and Chiba Lotte Marines tie 2-2