As expected, there was a lot of offense on display on Opening Night at Jingu Stadium. Most of it, however, came from an unexpected source.
Starter Masanori Ishikawa held the mighty Yomiuri Giants to two runs and Hiroyasu Tanaka led a 10-hit attack at the plate as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows defeated the Giants 6-2 in front of 27,045 fans on a windy Friday night.
“This was special because it was the season opener and it was against the Giants,” Ishikawa said after the game.
In their first game without celebrated slugger Alex Ramirez, the Swallows stormed back from a one-run deficit with four runs in the second inning to give manager Shigeru Takada a win in his Yakult debut.
“Our team’s slogan this year is ‘Dynamic and Dramatic,’ ” Tanaka said. “I think we lived up to that tonight.”
Tanaka led the way with a 3-for-4 performance that included a pair of RBIs. Yasushi Iihara also drove in a pair of runs and Ishikawa helped his cause with an RBI in the second.
“We were doing pretty good there for a while,” said Swallows outfielder Aaron Guiel. “We kind of slowed down later in the game, but we were pretty good.”
Ishikawa (1-0) recovered from Ramirez’s early home run to keep the star-studded Giants off balance for most of the night. The Yakult hurler went 6 2/3 innings, allowing both runs on six hits and striking out five.
“He changed speeds and he kept them guessing,” Guiel said of Ishikawa. “You could tell he was making them uncomfortable.”
His Giants counterpart, Hisanori Takahashi, didn’t fare nearly as well.
Takahashi (0-1), one of the CL’s top pitchers last season, was touched up early and left the game after yielding five runs on eight hits and walking two over four innings.
Ramirez quickly endeared himself to Yomiuri supporters with the home run in his first regular-season at-bat with the Giants. He was, however, booed by the Yakult fans. He played seven years for the Swallows before leaving for a lucrative contract with Yomiuri.
It was one of the lone bright spots for a lineup that has been touted as the best in the game, yet fizzled out in Jingu’s swirling winds.
Ramirez’s shot put Yomiuri ahead 1-0 in the second, but the Swallows responded with four runs in the bottom half of the inning. Yakult extended its lead to 5-1 on an RBI double by Tanaka in the fourth before Iihara’s RBI single in the fifth gave the home team an insurance run.
Giants right fielder Yoshinobu Takahashi singled in a run off reliever Masato Hanada, with the run charged to Ishikawa, in the seventh to account for the game’s final run.
Tigers win opener
OSAKA (Kyodo) Yuya Ando pitched two-run ball over five innings against the Yokohama BayStars and recently rehabilitated outfielder Tomoaki Kanemoto had a two-run triple as the Hanshin Tigers won their first season opener in four years, picking up a 4-2 victory on Friday at Kyocera Dome.
Ando (1-0) scattered seven singles, walked two and struck out four and Tomoyuki Kubota, Jeff Williams and Kyuji Fujikawa pitched the final three shutout innings.
Yokohama starter Hayato Terahara (0-1) took the loss.
Kanemoto, who spent the spring recovering from surgery on his left knee, tripled to right-center to tie the game at 2-all in the fourth followed by Makoto Imaoka’s go-ahead RBI single and a Keiichi Hirano sacrifice fly in the fifth.
Dragons 2, Carp 2 (12) At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi played Hiroshima to a tie in the season opener after neither team could score the decisive run in 12 innings.
The Dragons almost ended it in the bottom of the ninth when Norihiro Nakamura hit a two-out, game-tying double, but Hiroshima catcher Yoshiyuki Ishihara tagged out Tyrone Woods, who tried to score all the way from first on the play, for the third out.
Chunichi, the defending Japan Series champion, also squandered a bases-loaded opportunity with none out in the 10th.
Ishihara hit a tiebreaking double off Chunichi starter Kenshin Kawakami in the top of the ninth before Nakamura’s double in the bottom half forced extra innings.
Kan Otake, making his first season-opening start, allowed a solo drive by Kawakami over eight strong innings. Kawakami gave up two runs on nine hits in nine innings.
Hawks 3, Lions 2
At Seibu Dome, Munenori Kawasaki hit a go-ahead RBI single in the seventh inning and Toshiya Sugiuchi pitched eight solid innings as Softbank got back into the winning column by edging Seibu.
Kawasaki gave the Hawks the lead for good with his two-out hit off reliever Chikara Onodera (0-1) after Craig Brazell tied the game in the sixth with a solo shot — his third homer of the season.
Sugiuchi (1-0) allowed two runs on six hits, struck out eight and walked one before Christopher Nitkowski worked the ninth for his first save in Japan.
Michael Restovich and Hitoshi Tamura also had RBI singles for Softbank.
Marines 9, Buffaloes 6
At Chiba Marine Stadium, Shoitsu Omatsu and Tasuku Hashimoto both homered and combined for six RBIs to lead Chiba Lotte’s 14-hit attack on Orix.
Omatsu also hit a run-scoring infield single on a 2-for-4 night and Hashimoto went 3-for-3 with four RBIs.