Sports: MLB Asian player weekly recap

July 30, 2015 4:50 PM (UTC+8)

 

Here’s how Asian players in Major League Baseball performed in the last week

Wei-Yin Chen

Baltimore pitcher Wei-Yin Chen won against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 26 in Tampa after losing two consecutive starts, and he can thank the Orioles offense for finally scoring enough runs for him. Chen went 5.1 innings and gave up only two runs on six hits and one walk, and the Orioles were able to provide him with five runs of support to get him the win.

Wei-Yin Chen
Wei-Yin Chen

In his 19 overall starts, this was only the fifth game in which the team has scored at least five runs in which he has pitched. The consequences of their inability to score for Chen were clearly seen in two of his last four starts in which he went seven innings against the Minnesota Twins and eight against the Washington Nationals but lost both. He only gave up two runs to the Twins and three to the Nats (two earned), but the Orioles offense was shutdown both times.

This was actually Chen’s shortest outing since June 10, but it was enough to get the job done. The Orioles got him the run support early, scoring three runs in the top of the first, and so they had the lead the entire game. Chen cruised through the first three innings on 36 pitches, and when he got to the fourth he already had a five-run lead. After two quick outs he gave up back-to-back home runs to designated hitter Evan Longoria and second baseman Logan Forsythe, but that would be all the runs for the game.

In the fifth, he almost allowed a few more runs but was able to escape trouble. He gave up a leadoff double and then a single, but fortunately shortstop Tim Beckham was not able to score on the hit and stopped at third. After a fly ball that was too shallow for Beckham to tag up, Chen hit center fielder Brandon Guyer to load the bases. He then got out of the jam with a strikeout and a groundout.

He did not get the opportunity to escape another jam in the sixth inning after walking Forsythe and then giving up a single to first baseman James Loney with one out. Manager Buck Showalter pulled Chen from the game at 86 pitches, which was actually his lowest pitch total this season. Chen was frustrated about not getting the chance to stay in the game.

“I was taken out of the game because I allowed a couple of runners to get on base. Anybody would be angry in that situation,” he said through a translator after the game, according to The News and Observer.

Chen now sits at 5-6 with a 2.88 ERA, which ranks eighth in the American League.

Jung Ho Kang

Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jung Ho Kang has been on a tear in the month of July. He is hitting .370 with a 1.032 OPS in the month, both of which rank seventh in the National League among players with at least 50 plate appearances in July.

Kang
Kang

The highlight of his hot streak came on Tuesday against the Twins in Minnesota when he hit the game-winning home run in the top of the ninth to give the Pirates an 8-7 lead and thus the win.

“He continues to grow, he’s doing things here he’s probably done in some sequence or context, just a different place now,” Manager Clint Hurdle said, according to ESPN. “Sometimes it’s closers he’s facing, but that’s a dynamic swing off one of the best closers [Glen Perkins] in the game.”

Kang had a streak of six consecutive multi-hit games from July 19 to 24, and overall has 11 multi-hit games out of the 23 he’s played in in July. Wednesday night he went 3-5, including a solo shot he hit in the top of the second inning.

His production has come at a much-needed time for the Pirates. They have lost primary third baseman Josh Harrison and shortstop Jordy Mercer to injuries. Since Harrison was put on the disabled list on July 6, Kang has been hitting .400 with a 1.132 OPS.

Overall, Kang is hitting .295 with seven homers, 33 RBI, a .371 OBP and a .440 slugging percentage on the season. Although the NL is filled with many talented rookies this season, such as the Cubs’ Kris Bryant or the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson, Kang’s play has put him into conversation for Rookie of the Year.

Nori Aoki

San Francisco Giants left fielder Nori Aoki returned from the disabled list on Monday against his former team the Milwaukee Brewers. Aoki went on the disabled list June 24 after he was found to have a small fracture in his right fibula. He suffered the fracture after being hit by a pitch in the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 20.

Prior to going on the disabled list, Aoki was playing at a level that was likely to land him on the All-Star team. He was hitting .317 with a .383 OBP and .385 slugging percentage along with two home runs and 19 RBI.

In his first game back he was slotted in at the eighth spot in the lineup. Prior to going on the disabled list Aoki was the leadoff hitter, but after losing seven in a row from June 30 to July 6, the Giants were 12-2 before Aoki returned, and manager Bruce Bochy did not want to mess up the lineup.

“We’re doing pretty good right now. I don’t want to break up what’s going on with the batting order,” Bochy said prior to the game Monday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

In his first game he went 0-3 but played the entire game. Then on Tuesday he was moved up to second in the batting order and still went 0-3, but was taken out of the game after the sixth inning. Wednesday night he returned to the leadoff spot and got his first hit since coming back, an infield single in the bottom of the seventh. Center fielder Angel Pagan, who had batted leadoff while Aoki was out, did not play last night, so it’s not known if Aoki will now fully take back the top spot or if Bochy will mix and match until Aoki starts hitting well again.

Hisashi Iwakuma

Seattle Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma broke his three-game streak of not allowing more than two runs and had arguably his worst start of the season against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday in Seattle in an 8-4 loss. Iwakuma was hit hard from the start of the game and ended up giving up 10 hits, which is the most he has ever given up. He also allowed six runs, which was only the fourth time he’s given up at least that many runs in a game in his career .

In the first inning, Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock singled with one out, stole second, and then scored

Iwakuma
Iwakuma

on a single to left by left fielder David Peralta. Iwakuma made it through the second after giving up a leadoff walk, but the Diamondbacks scored again in the third after first baseman Paul Goldschmidt singled with two outs and later scored on a Peralta double.

It seemed that Iwakuma might be able to settle in after those first three innings. He had a one-two-three fourth inning, and then he got two quick outs in the fifth on five pitches. However, right fielder Ender Inciarte took a fastball left up and lined it over the right field wall to give the Diamondbacks a 3-1 lead.

The sixth inning was then where it all unraveled for Iwakuma as the Diamondbacks loaded the bases with three singles on one out. Second baseman Chris Owings singled to right and drove in two runs, leaving runners at first and second. Then after a strikeout, shortstop Nick Ahmed hit a ground rule double and drove in the sixth run, knocking Iwakuma from the game. He now stands at 2-2 with a 5.10 ERA.

Ultimately it was his command that did him in: “I felt good overall,” Iwakuma said through his translator, according to The News Tribune. “When you look at all of my pitches, all of my pitches were working. It was just command. A few of my pitches, I left up, and they took advantage.”

Despite the rough start, Iwakuma’s name is still being tossed around in trade rumors, and he will have to wait to see if he gets moved before the trade deadline Friday at 4 p.m.

Masahiro Tanaka and Shin-Soo Choo

Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was unable to continue his three-game winning streak as he suffered a loss to the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night in Arlington by the margin of 5-2. His inability to locate well like in his last three starts, in which he went at least seven innings, was apparent from the first inning on, and caused him to get behind in most counts. It was only the Yankees’ sixth loss in July in 22 games.

Tanaka
Tanaka

Tanaka’s struggles with command were visible with the Rangers’ leadoff hitter, center fielder Delino DeShields, as he started the game with a 3-0 count and eventually walked him. Tanaka was able to pick off DeShields at first and then get the next two batters to groundout to end the inning, but the rest of the game would not be as easy.

A single, a walk and a single to start the second inning put the Rangers up 1-0 and left runners at first and third with no outs. After a strikeout, right fielder Shin-Soo Choo drove in the runner from third with a single, and DeShields would later drive in the last runner before the inning ended: three runs and 31 pitches in the inning for Tanaka.

The third and fourth innings were not quick for Tanaka either, but he was able to escape both without surrendering a run. It was the fifth in which the Rangers added their fourth run off him, and he would end his night after making it through the sixth with 103 pitches. Overall, he gave up nine hits, the most he’s given up since June 21 when he gave up seven runs to the Detroit Tigers, and he walked three batters, which he had only done once before this season in his second start on April 12 against the Red Sox. The only other time he has walked at least three batters in his career was April 27 of last season against the Angels. His record now stands at 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA.

For Ranger right fielder Choo, he finished with three hits in the game and one RBI; it was his first multi-hit game since he hit for the cycle on July 21 against the Colorado Rockies. In his last nine games he is hitting .387 with a .429 OBP, a .645 slugging percentage and nine RBIs. His average is now at .237, which is its highest since June 19. Hitting for the cycle might have started him to heat up. His offense will help the Rangers as they try to contend for a Wild Card spot. They currently sit four games behind the Twins for the second spot.

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