Masahiro Tanaka escaped a first-inning jam on Sunday and cruised to his eighth victory as the Rakuten Eagles defeated the Yomiuri Giants 5-3 in interleague action at Tokyo Dome.
The right-hander worked seven scoreless innings to improve to 8-0 in 11 starts this season. Toshiya Nakashima opened the scoring for the Eagles with a solo homer off Giants ace Tetsuya Utsumi (4-3) in the second. Rakuten opened up a big lead in the fourth, when Hiroaki Shimauchi doubled in three runs, and Tanaka doubled him home to make it 5-0 Eagles.
Tanaka allowed three hits and walked two, while striking out four. He got in trouble trying to paint the corners in the first and surrendered back-to-back, one-out singles and then walked Giants captain Shinnosuke Abe to load the bases. With his back to the wall, Tanaka got Jose Lopez to ground into an inning-ending double play.
“I was in a dangerous spot in the first inning,” Tanaka said. “I was aiming too many pitches. After that I just tried to keep it low. The last pitch was in a dangerous spot, but I got away with it.”
“I need to just make my pitches, without worrying about hitting exact spots.”
Tanaka, who may be made available to major league clubs after the season through the posting system, won his 12th straight decision. His last defeat came on Aug. 19, 2012.
The Eagles infield made a couple of super plays behind him and Tanaka had extra praise for second baseman Kazuya Fujita, who helped the Eagles ace protect his one-run lead by robbing Utsumi of a two-out infield single.
“He’s bailed me out a lot of times, but that was huge,” Tanaka said. “The position players did a great job today.”
The Giants managed to make it interesting against the Eagles bullpen, however. Former big leaguer Takashi Saito inherited two runners in the eighth and Hayato Sakamoto singled in one of them.
Darryl Rasner, who has five saves for the Eagles this season, needed 30 pitches to get out of the ninth inning and end it, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks. Michihiro Ogasawara’s long drive to center with the bases loaded was good for a sacrifice fly, and Yoshiyuki Kamei singled home a run.
Tigers 4, Marines 3
At Koshien Stadium, former Chicago Cub Matt Murton hit his second walk-off home run in three games as Hanshin defeated Pacific League-leading Lotte to win its fourth straight and move into first place in the CL.
Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Takashi Toritani opened with a leadoff single against Marines closer Naoya Masuda (1-3) and Murton took the right-hander deep for his sixth home run.
Carp 5, Lions 3
At Mazda Stadium, Ryuhei Matsuyama’s three-run, seventh-inning home run overturned a 1-0 Seibu lead and put Hiroshima on the way to its third straight victory. Ryosuke Kikuchi tacked on two more runs with an eight-inning homer.
Yusuke Nomura (3-3) limited the Lions to a run in seven innings, and Kam Mickolio earned his 12th save as Seibu dropped five straight games for the first time this season.
Buffaloes 5, BayStars 3
At Yokohama Stadium, Orix overturned a two-run deficit on homers by Lee Dae Ho and Aarom Baldiris to hand DeNA its fifth straight loss. The Buffaloes tied it on a wild pitch in the seventh by reliever Teruaki Yoshikawa (2-2), who then surrendered a two-run blast to Baldiris.
Orix starter Yuki Nishi (6-2) allowed three runs on eight hits in six innings. He hit two batters and struck out five. BayStars starter Kazuki Mishima allowed two runs in six innings, including a run-scoring wild pitch.
Hawks 7, Dragons 3
At Nagoya Dome, Softbank’s Seiichi Uchikawa hit a two-run, first-inning homer and broke a 3-3 tie with an eighth-inning RBI double as the Hawks downed Chunichi.
The Dragons trailed 3-1 in the seventh, but Hector Luna tied it with a two-run double. Chunichi starter Masahiro Yamamoto allowed three runs in six innings. The southpaw’s four strikeouts moved him to 11th on Japan’s all-time list with 2,272, one more than Hall of Famer Minoru Murayama.
Fighters 10, Swallows 4
At Jingu Stadium, Yakult gave up the lead for good in the first inning on one of the Swallows’ six errors in a one-sided loss to Nippon Ham. Chris Leroux (0-1) allowed seven runs, three earned, in four innings.
Marquee Fighters rookie Shohei Otani doubled twice in five at-bats and drove in a run. Two-time CL home run king Wladimir Balentien hit his 18th and 19th homers, both solo shots for Yakult.