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Yakult’s Ishikawa ready to let his results speak for themselves

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Never, ever. Masanori Ishikawa spoke for himself and his team.

The Tokyo Yakult Swallows left-handed hurler, who racked up his third win of the season after working seven solid innings in a 2-1 triumph over the Yokohama BayStars at Jingu Stadium on Tuesday, revealed his strong will for this season with a serious expression, not even joining in the celebration of the victory.

“We experienced such a pitiful season last year,” said Ishikawa (3-1, 1.63 ERA), who had a career-worse 4-7 record last season and a 4.38 ERA, ending a streak of five straight years with at least 10 wins that started in his rookie season.

“I’ve been having 10 wins for some reason, (but I) was conceited last year.

“This year, I entered the season having spent much time for running and checked my mechanics (during the preseason training). I don’t really want to feel the way that I felt last year, and it’s been working out pretty well so far.”

It wasn’t only the 169-cm small-framed pitcher that felt ashamed last year.

Ishikawa said the whole Swallows team, which finished dead last in the Central League with a 60-84 record, was anguished by the humiliation of last season.

“Every single player felt pity,” Ishikawa said. “So that’s giving us an extra boost (this season).”

At age 28, Ishikawa still looks like a junior high school student. But as the ace pitcher for Tokyo Yakult, which lost 16-game winner Seth Greisinger to the Yomiuri Giants in free agency in the offseason, Ishikawa, the pitchers’ captain, doesn’t only carry responsibility for himself but also for an entire young pitching corps, one that features young starting pitchers Kyohei Muranaka (21), Tatsuyoshi Masubuchi (20) and rookie Mikinori Kato (23).

A native of Akita Prefecture Ishikawa, the team’s Opening Day starter, admitted he wants to set an example for the Swallows’ young hurlers with his attitude on the mound, not with his verbal guidance.

“It’s difficult to pull them with language,” he said. “We have such young players and I’d like to lead them with outcomes.”

On Tuesday, he showed the attitude that he was referring to by getting BayStars hitters to ground out and working the inside part of the plate with a variety of breaking balls.

“I don’t have a smoking fastball, and I don’t have spectacular breaking balls,” Ishikawa said. “But you have to pitch inside and that’s very important. And what I’m doing good this year is, I’m concentrating on each batter, each pitch. Sure, I give up hits sometimes, but you’ve got to have strong heart.”

Swallows new manager Shigeru Takada smilingly said after the game: “I give credit to Ishikawa for giving up just one run. You get some momentum by winning these one-run games . . . although I’d like to ask for a pardon as a manager.”

It’s only in April. But the young and eager Swallows want to finish the season in a position where they’re able to surprise fans in the fall. And Ishikawa would certainly be a catalyst.

“We have things we want to forget and things we can’t forget from last year,” the baby-faced Ishikawa said. “This year, we’ve got to have the payback. We want concrete results.”

Tigers rock Carp

NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo Pref. (Kyodo) Veteran left-hander Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi pitched his first complete game in three seasons as the Hanshin Tigers downed the Hiroshima Carp 5-1 on Wednesday.

Tomoaki Kanemoto hit a game-tying RBI single in the bottom of the first after Alex Ochoa gave Hiroshima the lead with a solo homer in the top half of the inning. Takahiro Arai had a go-ahead RBI single in the third and Kentaro Sekimoto’s two-run double keyed a three-run sixth at Koshien Stadium.

Shimoyanagi (3-0) allowed eight hits with three strikeouts and no walks in a 97-pitch outing. Michito Miyazaki (0-2) allowed five runs in five-plus innings for Hiroshima.

Dragons 6, Giants 1

At Nagoya Dome, Norihiro Nakamura drove in two runs in a 2-for-4 outing to back lefty Susumu Kawai, who picked up his first career win with six sharp innings, in Chunichi’s win over Yomiuri.

Kazuhiro Wada’s RBI double tied the game at 1-all in the bottom of the first before Nakamura hit a two-run single to cap the inning, giving Chunichi a 3-1 lead. Motonobu Tanishige extended the lead with a two-run single in a three-run sixth.

Kawai (1-0), who made his first start in three seasons, allowed one run and six hits with two strikeouts and no walks en route.

BayStars 16, Swallows 4

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Lions 4, Fighters 2

At Seibu Dome, Takahiko “G.G” Sato broke a fifth-inning tie with a two-run double and Hideaki Wakui threw seven solid innings as Seibu beat Hokkaido Nippon Ham for its first win in four games.

Sato’s clutch double off Mitsuo Yoshikawa (1-3) put Seibu ahead 3-1 before the top two teams in the PL standings scored one run each in the sixth inning.

Wakui (2-2) allowed two runs, one earned, on six hits while Alex Graman pitched the ninth for his fifth save.

Seibu cleanup hitter Craig Brazell hit his league-leading ninth homer with a solo shot in the fourth.

Buffaloes 2, Hawks 1

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Satoshi Komatsu came within one out of his first career complete-game shutout as Orix held off Softbank to snap a five-game losing streak.

Orix closer Daisuke Kato allowed Softbank to pull within a run on a Hiroshi Shibahara RBI single after relieving Komatsu (2-0) with two outs and runners on the corners in the ninth, but retired the second batter he faced to earn his sixth save.

Komatsu allowed six hits with no walks and six strikeouts, backed by Tuffy Rhodes’ solo homer in the first and a Keiji Obiki RBI single in the fifth. Kenji Otonari (2-2) took the loss.

Marines 2, Eagles 1

At Chiba Marine Stadium, Naoyuki Shimizu threw a five-hitter for his second straight complete game as Chiba Lotte edged Tohoku Rakuten for its fourth win in a row.

Shimizu (2-2) struck out six and walked three in a 115-pitch outing without giving up a hit in the final five innings.

Katsuya Kakunaka hit his first career homer in the first inning off Domingo Guzman (0-2) and Shoitsu Omatsu broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth with an RBI double.