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Saturday, April 20 Recap: Nippon Professional Baseball

 Conor Liguori  |    Apr 21st, 2024 8:00am EDT

Nippon Professional Baseball League Logo (1000logos)

Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters starting pitcher Koki Kitayama threw the first complete game shutout of his career on Saturday, dominating the Chiba Lotte Marines hitters for nine innings.

Kitayama did not give up a run, allowing just four hits and one walk. He struck out seven and threw 115 pitches in the 2-0 win.

“The fans always give me a nice applause when I take the mound to start an inning, and in the eighth and ninth inning, that was a big boost,” Kitayama told Kyodo News after the game.

The 2-0 win helped the Fighters leapfrog the Marines for second place in the Pacific League standings.

Swallows Munetaka Murakami Heating Up at Plate

Watch out, pitchers. Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ third baseman and slugger Munetaka Murakami is starting to look like his old self at the plate.

The two-time Central League MVP (2021, 2022) was hitting .333 with three home runs and five RBI leading into Saturday’s contest after an uncharacteristic 2023 season, in which he hit 31 home runs but struck out 168 times and never found a rhythm with the bat.

“I’ve been seeing the ball well and have hit a lot of them well, but right at people, so I haven’t been thinking I was doing poorly,” Murakami told Kyodo News after hitting his first home run of the season on April 14 against the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.

The 24-year-old went 1-for-4 with an RBI in Saturday’s 7-4 loss against Yokohama.

Hanshin Tigers Dominate Chunichi Dragons 15-2

The 2023 champion Hanshin Tigers scored seven runs in the second inning and five in the seventh to cap off an all-around great night of hitting from the starting lineup.

No home runs were hit in the game, but Tigers outfielder Ukyo Maegawa went 2-for-4 with four RBI, including a two-run double to the right field wall in the seventh to score Hanshin’s 14th and 15th runs.

Additionally, first baseman Yusuke Ohyama went 3-for-3 with three RBI and one walk, and third baseman Teruaki Sato went 2-for-5 with three RBI.

Tigers starting pitcher Kotaro Otake pitched seven innings and allowed two earned runs on eight hits. He struck out three and walked none.

This Day in Japanese Baseball History

On April 20, 2006, current Saitama Seibu Lions manager Kaz Matsui hit an inside-the-park home run in his first at-bat of the Major League Baseball season for the New York Mets at Petco Park in San Diego against the Padres.

The round-tripper marked the third consecutive season in which Matsui hit a home run in his first plate appearance of the year.

As a player in Nippon Professional Baseball, Matsui led the Pacific League in stolen bases in 1997, 1998, and 1999. He played for the Saitama Seibu Lions (1994-2003, 2018), and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (2011-17).

NPB Scores from Saturday

– Hiroshima Toyo Carp Defeat Yomiuri Giants 6-2

– Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles Defeat Saitama Seibu Lions 8-2

– Hanshin Tigers Defeat Chunichi Dragons 15-2

– Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and Orix Buffaloes Tie 3-3

– Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters Defeat Chiba Lotte Marines 2-0

– Yokohama DeNA BayStars Defeat Tokyo Yakult Swallows 7-4