In his 21st season, Tomonori Maeda doesn’t have too many more chances to play the hero. Kenta Maeda on the other hand is just getting started.
The elder Maeda hit a three-run double in the seventh inning that put the game out of reach, ace Kenta Maeda tossed a complete game, and the Hiroshima Carp blew past the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 9-2 on Thursday at Jingu Stadium.
“I just followed (catcher Yoshiyuki) Ishihara-san’s lead,” Kenta Maeda said. “My fastball felt good and I had good location on my curve.”
The win was the 13th of the season for Kenta Maeda (13-6), who now leads the Central League in that category. He gave up two runs — one earned — on five hits and struck out nine.
“I felt good about my pitching tonight,” the Carp hurler said.
The Swallows didn’t do their slim playoff hopes any favors with the loss. Yakult entered the night trailing the third-place Yomiuri Giants by 4 1/2 games in the standings.
“You can’t get too down on yourself when you get beat by a guy with 13 wins,” Swallows first baseman Josh Whitesell said.
The Giants lost at Yokohama, meaning the Swallows cost themselves a chance to gain ground in the race to reach the climax series.
“That’s good for us,” Whitesell said of Yomiuri’s result. “We’ve got an important series against Hanshin coming up. We really need to try and win that series.”
The Carp entered the seventh with a 4-2 lead. Ishihara led off the frame with a hit and Hiroshima eventually loaded the bases against Yakult starter Yoshinori Sato with two outs.
Slugger Kenta Kurihara was due up, but manager Kenjiro Nomura sent Tomonori Maeda to the plate, to the delight of the sizable Carp contingent in the stands.
Facing a pitcher born during the same year he was drafted (1989), the Carp star hit a ball deep to right that cleared the bases and all but decided the game.
Hiroshima’s Shogo Kimura added insult to injury with his first home run of the season, a two-run drive to right, in the ninth. Shigenobu Shima, Jun Hirose and Takahiro Iwamoto also drove in runs.
Sato didn’t make it out of the seventh, falling to 10-8 after giving up seven runs — six earned — on eight hits with four strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings.
Norichika Aoki had a nice game in defeat for Yakult, finishing 3-for-4. Teammates Hiroyasu Tanaka and Whitesell provided the offense with an RBI apiece.
Yakult begins a crucial road series against the Hanshin Tigers on Friday at Koshien before a three-game set against the Giants starting Sept. 14.
“There’s always pressure,” Whitesell said of the situation prior to the game. “I think you put most of it on yourself. If you go 0-for-2 in your first at-bats, you’re like ‘God, I should’ve had a hit.’
“So we just gotta play with it. Hopefully we can gain some games. We have an important series against the Tigers coming up. It would be nice if we can win at least two out of three.”
BayStars beat Giants
YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) The Yokohama BayStars chased Tetsuya Utsumi in the fourth inning and outslugged the Yomiuri Giants 10-7 on Thursday.
The BayStars erupted for five runs in the fourth that gave them the lead for good at 6-4 at Yokohama Stadium.
Dragons at Tigers — late
Fighters 5, Lions 0
At Seibu Dome, Eiichi Koyano homered twice and drove in three runs, Brian Wolfe (3-3) threw seven shutout innings and Hokkaido Nippon Ham beat Seibu for its first win in four games.
Eagles 5, Hawks 2