Yomiuri Giants first baseman Lee Seung Yeop took one for the team early on Saturday night.
Like a good captain, Shinnosuke Abe made sure the sacrifice wasn’t in vain.
With Lee on first after being hit by a pitch, Abe launched a home run into the right-field seats and Dicky Gonzalez threw seven scoreless innings to help carry the Yomiuri Giants to a 3-1 win over the Chunichi Dragons in front of 42,047 fans at Tokyo Dome.
Abe broke a scoreless tie with his second-inning shot off starter Chen Wei Yin and the Giants held off a late Chunichi rally to earn the win.
“We know Chen is a good pitcher,” Abe said. “So I feel good to hit a home run off him, especially a game-winner.”
The win was the fourth straight for the Kyojin, who were playing for the eighth consecutive day. Yomiuri is 6-2 over that span.
“Gonzalez really did a good job today,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “He let some runners on but then closed the door and the home runs by Abe and (Alex) Ramirez were all we needed.”
Ramirez took Chen deep in the sixth for his fourth homer of the season and first in two weeks.
Lee, who doubled off the Tokyo Dome roof in the fourth, finished 2-for-2. The Korean slugger has played a big role in the Giants’ recent success, batting .450 over the past eight days with three home runs and seven RBIs.
Dragons second baseman Masahiro Araki was the star of the night for the losing side, finishing 3-for-4 with a double and a pair of stolen bases.
Gonzalez (2-0) was effective in his second start of the season, keeping the Dragons off the scoreboard.
“I feel pretty good,” Gonzalez said. “When you have a good team playing good defense and a catcher like Abe, it makes it easier. Abe is one of the best catchers I’ve worked with.”
He allowed six hits, struck out three and walked none in the win. He pitched himself into a few tight spots but was able to escape unscathed each time.
“Gonzalez pitched a great game and he even got a hit,” Abe said. “So it was really a complete win for him.”
Gonzalez has yet to allow a run or given up a walk in 14 innings pitched this season.
“Throwing strikes is the most important thing for a pitcher,” Gonzalez said. “I’ll keep trying to hit the corners and keep pitching well.”
Chen was saddled with the loss after giving up all three Yomiuri runs. He allowed seven hits and struck out five over eight innings.
Chen (2-2) has had a run of bad luck against the Giants, going deep into each of his starts against Yomiuri only to come away empty handed. He’s 0-2 in three games against the Giants.
“Chen is one of the best starters in Japan now,” Hara said. “The home runs by Abe and Ramirez were very effective.”
Chen retired Yoshitomo Tani to lead off the second before hitting Lee in the arm with his next pitch. Abe followed with his shot to right to make the score 2-0.
Ramirez’s homer to left center made the lead 3-0 in the sixth.
Chunichi first baseman Tony Blanco drove in a run with a single in the eighth to cut the lead to two. Kazuhiro Wada then drew a two-out walk to bring the potential go-ahead run, pinch hitter Kazuyoshi Tatsunami, to the plate to against reliever Daisuke Ochi.
Tatsunami walked to load the bases, setting the table for Atsushi Fujii. Ochi recovered, however, striking out Fujii to end the threat.
Ochi, filling in for injured closer Marc Kroon, finished the game in the ninth to earn his third save.
“He was too cautious in the eighth inning,” Hara said. “He is not used to being a closer and I understand that. But still he should’ve been bolder.”
BayStars tame Tigers
Ryan Glynn combined with two relievers on a four-hit shutout to help the Yokohama BayStars beat the Hanshin Tigers 4-0 on Saturday, sending Hanshin to its third loss in a row.
Glynn (2-4) allowed three hits, all singles, walked one and struck out five in seven innings at Yokohama Stadium. Hanshin has now been held scoreless for 25 straight innings.
Pinch hitter Tatsuhiko Kinjo broke a scoreless deadlock with a bases-clearing double to deep left off Atsushi Nomi (2-3) with two outs in the seventh and Hiroaki Onishi chipped in with a run-scoring double in the eighth.
Carp 4, Swallows 1
Eagles 6, Marines 2
At Chiba Marine Stadium, Hisashi Iwakuma uncharacteristically struggled with wildness over seven innings, but had just enough juice as the Pacific League-leading Golden Eagles rallied to beat the Marines.
Iwakuma (4-1) walked three, including a bases-loaded free pass to Benny Agbayani in the second, and hit a batter but limited the damage to one run. He yielded five hits and struck out six.
Fighters 3, Buffaloes 2
At Sapporo Dome, Shugo Fujii threw seven shutout innings as Hokkaido Nippon Ham edged out Orix.
Fujii (2-1) scattered five hits, struck out three and walked two. Satoshi Komatsu (0-4) took the loss for the Buffaloes, who dropped their third in a row.
Lions 9, Hawks
At Yahoo Dome, Takeya Nakamura keyed a five-run third inning with a two-run homer and Kazuyuki Hoashi took a shutout into the ninth as Seibu routed Softbank.
Yasuyuki Kataoka tripled in the opening run, Hiroyuki Nakajima added an RBI double and Nakamura’s PL-leading 13th home run made it 4-0 in the third.