FUKUOKA – Samurai Japan’s warm-up effort on Monday came out half baked, as manager Hiroki Kokubo’s squad lost 1-0 to a team selected from the rosters of the Pacific League’s Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
Samurai Japan will open its five-game series against a team of visiting big leaguers on Wednesday in Osaka at Kyocera Dome.
Before 27,446 at Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Japan fell behind in the fourth inning, when Hanshin Tigers lefty Minoru Iwata surrendered an RBI single to cleanup hitter Tomoaki Egawa of the Hawks. The Fighters’ Takuya Nakashima singled and stole second with one out, and Egawa, a talented hitter who has spent his career in the shadow of Hawks teammate and Japan third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda, lined an RBI single to left.
Tigers right-hander Shintaro Fujinami worked the first two innings for Japan. His fastball had a little more late life than usual, but he had a little trouble locating his breaking pitches. He allowed one hit, on a fastball, while striking out three and walking none in a 31-pitch effort.
“First of all, I was able to throw strikes, so that was good,” Fujinami said. “The ball is a little slippery, but it felt OK. Because there’s a pitch limit, I want to be more economical with my pitches.”
Japan’s third pitcher, Orix Buffaloes right-hander Yuki Nishi, walked the first man he faced in the fifth inning, but pitched out of trouble as Kokubo’s bullpen put up a series of scoreless innings.
Nishi was followed by teammate Takahiro Matsuba, Hawks right-hander Shota Takeda, and Seibu Lions closer Tomomi Takahashi, a strong candidate for the Pacific League’s Rookie of the Year Award.
The Lions lefty, however, dodged a bullet after allowing a leadoff single, a walk and a hard-hit single by Egawa to load the bases with one out. Takahashi got out of the inning with a shallow fly and a sinking liner that Golden Glove center fielder Yoshihiro Maru of the Hiroshima Carp snagged easily for the third out.
Japan got its leadoff man to third with one out in the ninth with a chance to tie it after Hawks’ star Yuki Yanagita’s leadoff double. But Fighters rookie Hiroshi Urano got out of the jam to end it.