The Yokohama BayStars put up a good fight, but it wasn’t enough to stop Shinnosuke Abe and the Yomiuri Giants from breaking out the brooms.
Abe hit a go-ahead homer in the fifth inning and the Yomiuri bullpen held off the pesky Central League cellar dwellers to help the Giants earn a series sweep with a 4-3 victory in front of 43,140 fans on Thursday at Tokyo Dome.
The game was a back-and-forth affair through five before Abe put the Giants on top with his 17th home run of the season.
“Our team took advantage of the chance to turn around the game in the fifth and we had a good relay with the relief pitchers,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “These were the keys to tonight’s victory.”
Trailing 3-2 in the fifth, Hayato Sakamoto got things moving with a leadoff triple and scored on a sacrifice fly by Takuya Kimura. Abe stepped up to the plate next and gave the Giants the lead with his timely home run to right field.
“After Kimura hit his sac fly, I thought a home run would be appropriate,” Abe joked after the game.
Kimura finished 3-for-3 with an RBI for the Giants, and Sakamoto kept his average above .300 with a 2-for-4 night. Sakamoto, once batting in the .360s, is currently hitting .305.
“Sakamoto got everyone excited with his triple in the fifth,” Hara said. “We rode that excitement for the remainder of the game.”
The win gives the Kyojin five straight victories over the BayStars, against whom they are 14-4 this season. Only two teams, the Chunichi Dragons and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, have as many or more victories against a single opponent this season.
The Dragons, 13-2 against Yokohama themselves, are 14-3 against the Hiroshima Carp (through Wednesday) this year while the Fighters are 15-2 in games against the Chiba Lotte Marines.
Looking ahead to a three-game set against the third-place Tokyo Yakult Swallows which begins Friday night, the Giants handed the ball to seldom-used pitcher Yuya Kubo to start the game.
Kubo was making his first start of the season and his first appearance since May 27. The rust showed during an erratic 4 2/3-inning performance, during which he allowed three runs on eight hits.
Reliever Soichi Fujita (1-0) took over with two outs in the fifth and threw 1 1/3 innings of relief to pick up the win, his first in the Yomiuri uniform.
Closer Marc Kroon finished things off in the ninth to earn his 15th save of the season. Kroon also claimed sole possession of eighth place on the NPB’s all-time saves list by earning the 140th save of his career, breaking a tie with former Kintetsu Buffaloes closer Motoyuki Akahori.
Among active pitchers, only Chunichi’s Hitoki Iwase (229), former Seibu Lion and current Giant Kiyoshi Toyoda (154) and current Carp closer Katsuhiro Nagakawa (151 through Wednesday) have more.
BayStars starter Les Walrond was in search of his first win since July 20 but couldn’t hang onto the leads his teammates kept providing. He lasted six innings, giving up four runs — three earned — to fall to 5-9 on the season.
Yokohama’s Dan Johnson opened the scoring with a solo homer, that just snuck over the right-field wall, to give the BayStars a 1-0 lead in the second.
Reigning CL batting champion Seiichi Uchikawa doubled the advantage in the next inning with a two-out single to left.
Sakamoto tried to start a rally in the third with a single and a stolen base with one out. He went to third after Kimura hit a comebacker that touched the tip of Walrond’s glove before bouncing past diving shortstop Takehiro Ishikawa and into center field.
The hit was fielded by Tatsuya Shimozono who would’ve held the runner at third had he not bobbled the ball and allowed Sakamoto to trot home.
The Giants loaded the bases to start the fourth and tied the game when Takahiro Suzuki hit into a run-scoring double play.
Uchikawa broke the tie with his second RBI single of the night, a hard hit ball to right, making the score 3-2 in the fifth.
The Giants can now look ahead to an 11-game road trip that includes their upcoming series against the third-place Swallows, a visit to the second-place Dragons and another three-game set against the Hanshin Tigers. Yomiuri then plays a pair of “home” games against Yokohama at Kyocera Dome in Osaka.
The Giants make the short trip to Jingu Stadium Friday for their series against the Swallows, who are eight games back in the standings. That game will be the first game of an 11-game road trip.
“We’ll be gone from Tokyo Dome for awhile, but we hope our fans will at least come to Jingu Stadium,” Abe said.
Carp blank Dragons
HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) Andy Phillips delivered a two-run homer to break a scoreless deadlock and Hiroshima Carp starter Yuki Saito combined with three relievers on a five-hit, 4-0 shutout win over the Chunichi Dragons on Thursday.
Phillips went deep over the fence in left-center in the sixth inning and Scott McClain added insurance with his own two-run drive with two outs in the eighth.
Saito (7-8) allowed four hits, all singles, struck out five and walked two in six innings. Yudai Kawai (11-2) took the loss for Chunichi, which had its winning streak against Hiroshima snapped at 13 games.
Tigers 10, Swalows 2
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Takashi Toritani, Tomoaki Kanemoto and Ryo Asai each homered in a six-run third for Hanshin.
Eagles 4, Fighters 1
At Sapporo Dome, Teppei Tsuchiya homered twice and Satoshi Nagai threw seven effective innings as Tohoku Rakuten beat Hokkaido Nippon Ham to extend its winning streak to five games.
Hawks 4, Lions 2
At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Hiroki Kokubo and Hidenori Tanoue homered in a three-run fourth inning, leading Fukuoka Softbank over Saitama Seibu.
Marines 2, Buffaloes 1
At Chiba Marine Stadium, Benny Agbayani delivered a go-ahead single and Yoshihisa Naruse pitched eight-plus innings of one-run ball as Chiba Lotte edged Orix to snap a five-game losing streak.