It’s been a decade since Michihiro Ogasawara last hit in the leadoff spot and nearly four years since Norihito Kaneto started and won a game at home.
Fittingly, the end of those droughts helped the Yomiuri Giants snap an early-season skid.
Hayato Sakamoto and Hisayoshi Chono each drove in a run and Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara squeezed just enough out of Kaneto and four relief pitchers for a 2-1 victory over the Yokohama BayStars in front of a crowd of 36,472 on Thursday at Tokyo Dome.
“We have a seven-game road trip coming up,” Hara said. “So it was good we won tonight. We hope to return to Tokyo Dome playing as I know we can.”
With Yomiuri entering the game having lost three straight and in unfamiliar territory at the bottom of the Central League standings, Hara decided it was time for a change at the top of the order.
So he moved the slumping Ogasawara, who usually hits out of the 3-hole, into the leadoff spot for the first time as a Giant, and moved Sakamoto to third in the order.
The move paid off as Ogasawara finished with a pair of hits, including a leadoff double in the first. Sakamoto drove in Ogasawara later in the opening frame with a run-scoring two-bagger.
“It’s the first time in 10 years I’d led off,” Ogasawara said. “So I felt kind of nostalgic and was determined to get a hit.”
Chono also had an RBI single in the first, his only hit of the night.
It took a team effort from the Yomiuri pitching staff to nail down the win. Kaneto (1-0) started and threw 5? scoreless innings for the victory, his first of the year and first as a starter at Tokyo Dome since Sept. 4, 2008, against the Hiroshima Carp.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Kaneto said.
Kaneto, who struck out three and walked two, was followed by Kentaro Nishimura, who wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, and Daisuke Ochi, with the two relievers combining to throw 1? scoreless frames.
Asked what was on his mind during his outing, Kaneto said, “I didn’t think about anything special, but when I came out, I was rooting for Nishimura and the following relievers to hold the fort since we had such a slim lead.”
Yuya Kubo followed Ochi on the mound and gave up a run in two-thirds of an inning. Levi Romero threw 1? innings to close things out. Nishimura, Ochi and Kubo each earned holds while Romero recorded his sixth save of the season.
“Romero is our closer and he hadn’t pitched in five days,” Hara said. “So I thought he could get the four-out save. Our pitchers did well today, but we have to score more runs.”
BayStars starter Shogo Yamamoto pitched well, but came up on the short end of the lefty matchup. Yamamoto (2-3) allowed two runs on six hits, struck out nine and walked two over six innings.
The loss snapped Yokohama’s five-game winning streak.
The BayStars sputtered at the plate early and wasted a number of chances late in the contest, including coming up empty-handed with the bases loaded in the sixth.
Still, they were in position to tie things up in the eighth after putting runners on first and second to start the inning. Brett Harper, the hero in Wednesday’s 4-3 win over the Giants, drove in a run with a single to right that made the score 2-1.
Kubo and Romero then recorded three straight outs to end the threat.
Tigers trounce Carp
Takashi Toritani went 3-for-5 with two RBIs as the Hanshin Tigers scored three runs in each of the first three innings in an 11-4 rout of the Hiroshima Carp on Thursday.
Buffaloes 2, Hawks 1
At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Hiroki Kokubo hit his 400th career home run in the fourth inning, but Softbank was unable to celebrate it with a win, allowing Orix to rally for a victory
Fighters at Eagles — ppd. Lions at Marines — ppd.