The Yomiuri Giants thrust the Swallows away by taking the final game of the first three-game series after the interleague behind two of the unexpected heroes that had gone through distress earlier in the season.
Starting pitcher Tetsuya Utsumi tossed a one-run complete game and Lee Seung Yeop drove in game-insuring runs on a three-run homer as the Giants stomped Tokyo Yakult 7-1 at Tokyo Dome on Sunday.
Southpaw Utsumi was perfect in the first three innings and ended up allowing just four hits, including a solo dinger to catcher Ryoji Aikawa in the eighth, over the distance.
Utsumi (3-5) struck out a season-high 10 batters while walking none, notching his first victory against a Central League club.
His previous two wins both came during the interleague — against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, in which he outpitched World Baseball Classic teammates Hisashi Iwakuma and Yu Darvish.
“I was able to make my pitches within the strike zone with any kind of pitches, and it worked out for me,” Utsumi said after the game.
“I was thinking this kind of day would come one day. But I’ve only won three, so I want to make it at least into double digits in the end.”
With great expectations for him, manager Tatsunori Hara has always been severe on Utsumi. At one point Hara called him a “fake samurai,” referring to the fact that Utsumi was on the “Samurai Japan” for the WBC this spring.
But this day, all the skipper said about Utsumi, who was demoted to the farm in May, was favorable.
“He could go with any kind of pitch, and that gave the opposing team trouble on what pitch it should go for,” Hara said of Utsumi. “He was very stable today.”
The win didn’t necessarily come easily for Utsumi. The Giants quickly got off to a 2-0 start with just seven pitches from Swallows starter Masanori Ishikawa in the first inning. But they were blanked afterward despite constantly getting on bases.
Yet the Kyojin finally put more runs on the scoreboard in the sixth. Following Yoshitomo Tani’s RBI triple, Lee smacked Ishikawa’s inside fastball into the right field bleachers for a three-run homer — his 15th of the season — to make it 6-0.
Lee was No.5 hitter on opening day, but has eventually been demoted to lower spots or even left out of the starting lineup.
However, it seems Lee has finally escaped from the painful days. Sunday’s blast was his fourth homer in five games. It was also the first time for him to hit homers in three straight games since June 2006.
“We have an ideal plan to use him at fifth,” Hara said. “I believe that day is coming back if the situation continues like this.”
Meanwhile, the Swallows missed a chance to move one game behind the Giants by winning the game.
Dragons 2, Carp 1
At Mazda Stadium, Tony Blanco and Kazuhiro Wada hit back-to-back homers in the fourth inning as Chunichi completed a three-game sweep of Hiroshima.
Tigers 3, BayStars 2
At Koshien Stadium, Kentaro Sekimoto tripled in two runs to cap a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Hawks 7, Lions 5
At Seibu Dome, Jose Ortiz had a tiebreaking RBI double in the ninth inning and finished a triple shy of the cycle as Softbank beat Seibu to reclaim a share of first place with Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
Marines 3, Fighters 2 (7)
At Chiba Marine Stadium, Toshiaki Imae had a tiebreaking squeeze bunt in a game that was called in the top of the seventh inning due to rain.
Eagles 4, Buffaloes 3
At Kyocera Dome, rookie right-hander Ryohei Isaka limited the damage to one run in five-plus innings and got backup with homers by Masato Nakamura and Takeshi Yamasaki.