The beginning of Chunichi Dragons pitcher Edward Valdez’s first game in Japan went all wrong. Thanks to teammate Masaaki Koike, the ending was just right.
Koike hit a tie-breaking two-run homer in the sixth inning and a host of Dragons relievers made the lead hold up as the Nagoya club avoided a series sweep with a 5-2 win on Thursday at Jingu Stadium.
“I feel good,” Valdez said after the victory. “I’m happy. This was the first game I threw in Japan’s top league and I got a win.”
With the score tied 2-2 in the sixth, luck was on Chunichi’s side when Keiji Oyama got credit for a hit after the umpires ruled first baseman Jamie D’Antona came off the bag while receiving the throw from third baseman Shinya Miyamoto.
After a sacrifice bunt by the next batter, Tatsuro Iwasaki, manager Hiromitsu Ochiai brought on Koike as a pinch hitter. The move paid off when Koike launched a sinker into the Chunichi cheering section in left field.
First baseman Tony Blanco also homered for the Dragons, finishing 2-for 4 with an RBI. Rookie Yusuke Matsui (2-for-4), Hirokazu Ibata (2-for-6) and Oyama (2-for-3) were the other Chunichi hitters to finish with multiple hits while Masahiko Morino drove in a run on a 1-for-3 night.
Chunichi finished the game with 14 hits, with all eight starting position players recording at least one.
“Sometimes things happen in baseball,” Blanco said. “We have a lot of young guys on this team and us veterans, we just have to keep fighting so they will keep fighting until the end of the game.”
The Swallows were looking for a series sweep and their fifth straight victory overall. Yakult bounced back from a season-opening loss to the Yomiuri Giants with a pair of wins and had beaten the Dragons in the first two games of their series.
“We hadn’t been playing well but we got the win,” Blanco said. “We just gotta keep playing and keep it going.”
Yakult got solo homers from Kazuki Fukuchi and Norichika Aoki, but that was all the offense they could muster in support of starter Masanori Ishikawa.
Ishikawa (1-1) took the loss after giving up all five runs on 12 hits and striking out three over seven innings.
Valdez (1-0) gave up a pair of runs in the first inning, but held firm for the remainder of his outing, allowing six hits and striking out two over five innings.
Dragons closer Hitoki Iwase worked the ninth for his first save of the season.
The Swallows got off to a blazing start in the first inning, with Fukuchi homering on the second pitch he saw and Aoki following suit in the same inning.
“After I gave up the first two homers to those guys, I was just like, ‘OK, I just gotta pitch my game and keep the ball down,’ ” Valdez said. “So after those first two homers I was just working on my two-seamer.”
Dragons second baseman Dionys Cesar led off the fourth with a double and was driven home on an RBI double from Morino. Chunichi tied the score later in the inning on a run-scoring sacrifice fly by Oyama.
The score remained knotted at 2-2 until Koike’s homer in the sixth gave the Dragons a 4-2 lead.
Blanco added to the lead with a solo blast to deep center in the next inning.
Rami hits grand slam
YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Alex Ramirez hit a grand slam and Hayato Sakamoto went 5-for-5, leading the Yomiuri Giants to a 12-2 rout of the Yokohama BayStars on Thursday.
Ramirez sent a fastball from Stephen Randolph (0-2) into the left-field seats with the bases loaded and two outs, extending Yomiuri’s lead to 7-1 in the second inning at Yokohama Stadium.
Ramirez also had an RBI groundout in the first. Sakamoto had three singles, a double and a triple.
Tetsuya Utsumi (2-0) threw two-run ball over eight innings, scattering nine hits and striking out six. Michihiro Ogasawara drove in two runs with a double and a bases-loaded walk.
Tigers at Carp ppd.
Hawks 11, Lions 5
At Seibu Dome, Jose Ortiz went 4-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs as Softbank beat Seibu to snap a three-game losing streak.
Ortiz had a two-run shot in the third inning and singled in two runs in the seventh. Hiroshi Shibahara keyed a four-run second with a two-run double.
Tsuyoshi Wada (1-1) allowed four runs in five innings for the win. Fumiya Nishiguchi (0-1) lasted only three innings in his season debut.
Marines 3, Eagles 2
At Chiba Marine Stadium, Tomoya Satozaki doubled in the go-ahead run in a three-run fourth inning, leading Chiba Lotte past Tohoku Rakuten.
Saburo Omura hit an RBI single and Kazuya Fukuura followed with a sacrifice fly before Satozaki’s two-out double off Darrell Rasner (0-1).
Hidetaka Kawagoe (1-0) allowed two runs in five innings. New closer Hiroyuki Kobayashi picked up his second save.
Fighters deal Ejiri
The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and the Yokohama BayStars said Thursday they have agreed to trade middle relievers, right-hander Shintaro Ejiri and left-hander Yuya Ishii.
Ejiri had a 2-1 record with a 3.20 ERA in 45 appearances last season, helping Nippon Ham to its third Pacific League title in four years. But the 32-year-old has had two shaky outings in 2010.