For nine innings Yoshihisa Naruse and Masanori Ishikawa were almost mirror images of each other.
Neither starter factored into the decision, however, and Ishikawa left the stadium in a better mood than his counterpart.
A missed foul ball in the 12th inning cost the Chiba Lotte Marines as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows escaped with a narrow 2-0 victory on Friday at Chiba Marine Stadium.
Kazuya Fukuura lost a foul fly by Kazuhiro Hatakeyama to the wind and Hatakeyama made Lotte pay with an RBI double on reliever Brian Sikorski’s next pitch.
“Our pitchers held off (the Marines) well,” Hatakeyama said. “So we did our best to score in any way. I’m really pleased to have come up with the hit.”
Yakult added a second run on an RBI by pinch hitter Ryuji Miyade later in the inning.
Lim Chang Yong (1-0) earned the win in relief for the Swallows and Takehiko Oshimoto worked the 12th to earn his first save of the season.
Lotte reliever Tomohisa Nemoto (0-2), who walked Kazuki Fukuchi to begin the 12th, was charged with the loss.
“I think Nemoto got ahead of the hitter, two strikes and no balls and then tried to be to fine,” Marines manager Bobby Valentine said, “and Fukuura has to catch the popup.”
Both starting pitchers came into the game hungry for a win, with Ishikawa’s last victory coming on April 29 and Naruse looking for his first win since April 20.
Locked in a fierce pitching duel, the two had an eerily similar night.
Naruse (3-2) was brilliant over nine innings, allowing no runs and just two hits while striking out six. He retired the final 11 batters he faced after Fukuchi bunted safely in the sixth.
“Well I was asked about fixing our pitching yesterday and the day before yesterday and I guessed we fixed out starting pitching,” Valentine said. “Naruse was exceptional. It’s a shame we couldn’t score a run.”
Ishikawa (5-4) was right with him almost pitch for pitch, giving up just three hits in nine scoreless innings and striking out five.
“He made great pitches all night,” Valentine said.
Through seven frames they had allowed two hits apiece, both in the fourth and sixth innings, and had recorded four strikeouts each.
The similarities continued in the eighth, with both nearly giving up a costly run.
Yakult shortstop Noriyuki Shiroishi almost broke the scoreless tie after jumping on a high fastball in the top of the inning. His shot down the left-field line curved foul, however, producing a sly smile out of the usually stone-faced Naruse.
Lotte center fielder Daisuke Hayakawa had his chance in the bottom half of the inning with runners on the corners with two outs.
But Ishikawa was able to escape unscathed after Hayakawa could only manage a ground ball.
The starters nearly ended up matching pitch counts as well, with Naruse throwing 125 pitches and Ishikawa clocking in at 120.
Lions rout Giants
TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. (Kyodo) Takahiko G.G. Sato and Hiroyuki Nakajima both homered twice to power the Pacific League-leading Seibu to a 10-1 rout of the Yomiuri Giants on Friday.
Eagles 7, BayStars 5
At Sendai’s Kleenex Stadium, Hisashi Iwakuma became the first seven-game winner in Japanese baseball after Rakuten held off a late-inning rally by Yokohama, which dropped its fourth straight game.
Fighters 1, Dragons 0
At Sapporo Dome, Atsunori Inaba homered in the second inning off Kenshin Kawakami and Hokkaido Nippon Ham held on to beat Chunichi for its fourth straight victory.
Carp 6, Buffaloes 3
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Akihiro Higashide hit a tiebreaking single and Alex Ochoa followed with a two-run homer in the third inning as Hiroshima ended a three-game losing streak with a win over Orix.
Hawks 7, Tigers 2
At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Nobuhiro Matsuda hit a two-run double to key a five-run sixth-inning rally as
Softbank downed Hanshin for its third win in a row.