Marc Kroon felt like he owed everyone something after blowing a save in his last outing.
He made up for it by helping deliver a win when the Yomiuri Giants needed it most.
Kroon (3-2) threw two innings of scoreless relief late in the game, and a throwing error by Tokyo Yakult Swallows reliever Tatsuyoshi Masubuchi in the 10th allowed the winning run to score as Yomiuri escaped with a 4-3 win on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome.
“It was a tough game after Yokohama,” Kroon said, referring to the sayonara grand slam he gave up to the BayStars on Sunday. “I want to apologize to the fans for my performance there, but that’s baseball.”
The win keeps the Giants in first place in the Central League, a half-game ahead of the Hanshin Tigers. The Tigers edged the Hiroshima Carp 5-4 at Koshien Stadium around the time the Giants were heading into the 10th, putting the pressure on Yomiuri to come through.
“It’s an exciting race,” Kroon said. “We’re going to do our best to win another championship.”
Kroon entered a tie game in the ninth and got out of it after facing four hitters. He struck out the first two batters of the 10th before walking Norichika Aoki. He then retired Hiroyasu Tanaka to end the inning.
Ryota Wakiya began the Yomiuri half of the 10th with a double, immediately giving the Giants a runner in scoring position. The Swallows intentionally walked the next batter, pinch hitter Yoshinobu Takahashi, which put runners at first and second, but placed Yakult in a better position to turn a double play.
That brought Hayato Sakamoto to the plate, and he laid down a bunt with the intention of advancing the runners.
Masubuchi fielded the ball cleanly then tried to nail the lead runner at third. His throw was errant, which allowed Wakiya to score the winning run.
“Today our pitchers did well and it would have been a shame to lose this game,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “We’ll do our best to complete the sweep and go into the All-Star break on a three-game winning streak.”
Michihiro Ogasawara led the way for the Giants at the plate, finishing 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs.
Aoki went 2-for-4 and hit a home run for the Swallows. Yasushi Ihara also went deep for Yakult, hitting his sixth of the year.
Giants starter Shun Tono had a decent night on the mound before Aoki’s game-tying homer in the eighth inning ended his shot at earning his 12th win of the season. Tono (11-2) allowed three runs and struck out five over 7 2/3 innings. He didn’t factor into the decision.
His counterpart Kyohei Muranaka (6-7) had a similar night, allowing three runs and striking out seven over seven innings. Muranaka also did not factor into the decision.
Masubuchi took the loss, falling to 1-3 on the year.
Sugiuchi wins 12th
FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Toshiya Sugiuchi threw his third shutout of the season as the Softbank Hawks beat the Seibu Lions 2-0 on Tuesday night.
The Hawks won a season-high sixth straight game and moved within 1 1/2 games of the Pacific League-leading Lions.
Sugiuchi (12-4) scattered four hits, all singles, struck out 10 and walked none at Yahoo Dome. The left-hander tied teammate Tsuyoshi Wada for the most wins in Japanese baseball.
Hidenori Tanoue went 3-for-3 with an RBI single in the fifth inning and Nobuhiro Matsuda hit a solo homer in the seventh.
Ryoma Nogami (1-1) took the loss after throwing two-run ball over 6 1/3 innings.
Kimiyasu Kudo, 47, made his season debut with two-thirds of an inning in relief, extending his Japanese baseball record for the longest career to 29 years.
Fighters 12, Marines 6
At Sapporo Dome, Atsunori Inaba and Eiichi Koyano combined for seven RBIs as Hokkaido Nippon Ham snapped its three-game losing streak with a win over Chiba Lotte.
The Fighters went up 7-1 with a seven-run second inning, highlighted by Inaba’s two-run single and Koyano’s three-run homer, both off Yuta Omine (3-6). Inaba added a two-run double, his third hit of the night, in the eighth.
Sho Nakata hit his first career homer with a solo shot in the fifth.
Buffaloes 11, Eagles 7
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Takahiro Okada drove in four runs with a pair of homers and Mitsutaka Goto went 3-for-5 with three RBIs as Orix beat Tohoku Rakuten.
Okada took the PL lead in home runs with 22.
Tigers 5, Carp 4 (10)
At Koshien Stadium, Takashi Toritani hit a walk-off two-run homer as Hanshin scored three runs in the bottom of the 10th inning to beat Hiroshima.
Dragons 1, BayStars 0 (11)