Amaya’s sensational defense, clutch bat carry Carp past Swallows


Soichiro Amaya made a pair of diving plays in center field to prevent the Tokyo Yakult Swallows from driving in a go-ahead run.

That was an honor he reserved for himself.

Amaya put on a clinic in center field early, then came up with the tie-breaking hit late to help lead the Hiroshima Carp earn a 3-2 win on Tuesday night at Jingu Stadium.

“It was good to win but I want to see us get more hits,” Carp manager Kenjiro Nomura said. “I want my guys to play aggressively and show more heart.”

Amaya finished 2-for-4 with an RBI, while teammate Justin Huber hit his first homer of the season to drive in a run on a 1-for-4 night.

The win snaps a seven-game losing streak for the Carp, whose last win was on Opening Day against the Chunichi Dragons.

“We’ve been in every game except for maybe one,” Huber said. “Luck just hasn’t really gone our way. So tonight was good for us.

“We just have to try and build on it and give it another run tomorrow. The guys have been awesome even though we’ve been on a bad run. Nobody has given up, everybody’s working real hard and everybody’s leaving everything out on the field.”

The Carp entered the top of the eighth inning against the Swallows with the score tied 2-2. Eishin Soyogi drew a leadoff walk and stole second to put himself in scoring position.

Amaya followed with a line drive to center that was fielded by Norichika Aoki. As Soyogi was being waved around third, Aoki hit cutoff man Atsushi Fujimoto, who fired the ball home.

The throw was on target, but an error was charged to catcher Ryohei Kawamoto after he dropped the ball and allowed the run to score, giving the Carp a 3-2 advantage.

“I was just focusing on swinging the bat as hard as I could,” Amaya said.

“I was relieved that he scored, because it wasn’t the type of hit the runner would (normally) be able to come home on.”

Amaya helped the Carp win the game with his bat, after keeping them in it with his glove.

The score was tied 1-1, when the Carp outfielder stole a hit from Kawamoto with a diving play on a ball to center to end the second inning.

Not to be outdone in front of the home fans, Aoki helped keep a run off the board in the third with a leaping catch on an Amaya-hit ball at the wall in center field.

Amaya was at it again in the fourth, getting plenty of air and going parallel to the ground to make a spectacular diving grab to rob Aaron Guiel of a hit and keep the speedy Aoki stuck at second base.

Carp starter Takahiro Aoki didn’t factor into the decision but pitched well enough to give his squad a shot at victory. Aoki allowed a run in the first inning but shut out the Swallows over the next five, finishing with three strikeouts.

“I just tried to throw harder than I did in my previous outing and it worked out,” Aoki said.

Swallows rookie Masato Nakazawa was denied the second win of his career after allowing a pair of runs — one earned — on five hits in 4 2/3 innings.

Hiroshima reliever Katsuhiro Nagakawa (1-1) gave up a home run to Guiel, but picked up the win in one inning of relief. Yakult’s Takehiko Oshimoto (0-1) was charged with the loss.

Carp closer Mike Schultz was perfect in the ninth to earn his first save of the year.

Yakult’s Jamie D’Antona drove in a run on a 1-for-4 night, with Guiel’s homer, his fifth of the year, representing the team’s only other run.

Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.