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Fighters repel Giants to chalk up another shutout win

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters have discovered the one undeniable constant in all of sports.

You can’t lose if you don’t let the other team score.

Brian Wolfe threw six strong innings, Daikan Yoh recorded the game’s only RBI, and the Fighters pitched another shutout, beating the Yomiuri Giants 2-0 on Monday night in front of a crowd of 45,507 at Tokyo Dome.

“Right now our team has a good balance of hitting and pitching,” reliever Hirotoshi Masui said. “Our pitchers are holding opponents to few or no runs per game and the hitters have gotten the runs we needed.”

The Fighters, who had their record-tying 52-inning scoreless innings streak snapped on Saturday, kept the Giants off the scoreboard for the second straight night.

Nippon Ham has now recorded shutout victories in eight of its last 10 games.

Wolfe helped silence Yomiuri’s bats to earn his second victory over that span.

He allowed five hits, struck out two and walked three to improve to 6-1 and lower his ERA to 2.44.

“I felt good,” Wolfe said. “It seemed like whenever they had runners on, we were one pitch away from getting out of it, which was nice.”

Relievers Naoki Miyanishi, Ryo Sakakibara and Masui guided the team through the seventh and eight innings.

Closer Hisashi Takeda gave up one-out hits to Takahiro Suzuki and Yoshitomo Tani in the ninth, but recovered in time to retire Tetsuya Matsumoto and Hayato Sakamoto to end the game.

“It was a little scary in the ninth,” Fighters manager Masataka Nashida said. “If Sakamoto had hit one out, we would’ve lost by a walk-off to the Giants. But Takeda shut them down.”

The save was Takeda’s 13th of the season.

“Our pitchers did great tonight,” Nashida said. “Wolfe set the pace, Sakakibara was superb, Masui did his job and Takeda got the save.”

The Fighters got all of their offense in the fourth inning, scoring on a bases-loaded wild pitch and an RBI double by Yoh in the same at-bat.

Yoh finished 2-for-4 with a pair of two-baggers. Atsunori Inaba was the only other Nippon Ham player to collect more than one hit, finishing 2-for-4.

Giants rookie Hirokazu Sawamura took the loss after allowing two runs — one earned — in five innings, his shortest outing of the season. Sawamura allowed three hits and struck out three.

Giants slugger Alex Ramirez had the team’s best night at the plate, going 2-for-4 in the loss.

Swallows keep run going

Kyodo

Kazuhiro Hatakeyama homered twice, Shohei Tateyama pitched one-run ball over eight innings and the Yakult Swallows defeated the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 5-4 to win their third in a row on Monday night.

Hatakeyama belted an opposite field two-run shot over the right-center wall after Josh Whitesell was issued a walk with two outs in the first inning at Jingu Stadium.

“I got a real good swing on that pitch,” said Hatakeyama, who has three homers in his last three games. “The pitch was on the outside of the plate and I’m really satisfied that I could go the opposite way with a big blast like that,” he said.

Hawks 17, Carp 2

At Mazda Stadium, Nobuhiro Matsuda hit a two-run homer off Yuya Fukui (2-2) and had five RBIs, Hiroki Kokubo hit a three-run blast on a four-hit night and Softbank trounced Hiroshima, which lost its 10th in a row.

Dragons 4, Marines 1

At Nagoya Dome, Takahiro Saeki went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in support of Maximo Nelson (4-3), who limited the damage to one run over seven strong innings as Chunichi downed Chiba Lotte to win its third in a row.

Buffaloes 6, Tigers 1

BayStars 3, Lions 1