Hiroyasu Tanaka hit a game-ending sacrifice fly in the 11th inning as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows rallied to beat the Seibu Lions 6-5 on Tuesday night.
Seibu reliever Alex Graman (1-1) loaded the bases on an error and two singles before Tanaka smacked a line drive to left to push across the winning run at Jingu Stadium.
“I was trying to stay positive in each at-bat and the results followed for me tonight,” said Tanaka. “My timing had been off somewhat but I was able to stay patient at the plate. I haven’t been performing well for the team, so I wanted to do something.”
The wheels fell off for Seibu in the bottom of the ninth after having built an early 5-0 cushion in the first three frames.
Reliever Atsushi Okamoto allowed a two-out infield single to pinch hitter Ryuji Miyade and after Norichika Aoki was hit by a pitch, the right-hander threw a wild pitch, placing runners at second and third. Tanaka then singled to left to tie the ballgame at 5-5.
Josh Whitesell was then tossed by plate umpire Tomoya Ishiyama for arguing a called strike for a 2-1 count, and pinch hitter Masakazu Fukukawa grounded out to end the threat.
In the first inning, Hiroyuki Nakajima had a sacrifice fly to center to give Seibu a 1-0 lead.
The Lions struck again in the second with a leadoff double to right by Jose Fernandez, who scored one out later on Masato Kumashiro’s single down the left-field line.
Nakajima added a one-out RBI double in the third — a liner that bounced over the outstretched glove of left fielder Kazuhiro Hatakeyama — and Fernandez clobbered a 1-1 fastball off right-hander Minoru Yamagishi to the stands in left-center for a 5-0 lead.
Yakult pulled one back in the fourth after consecutive singles by Tanaka and Whitesell put runners at the corners. Tanaka, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, scored when Hatakeyama hit into a 1-4-3 double play.
Pinch hitter Yuichi Matsumoto tacked on an RBI double to right in the next inning for Yakult. Catcher Ginjiro Sumitani thought he had tagged out Atsushi Fujimoto, who scored all the way from first on the play, but Ishiyama called him safe.
Wladimir Balentien, who had flied out in his first two at-bats, came alive with a two-run shot to left in the sixth, pulling his team within one. It was his Japanese-baseball leading 16th homer of the year.
Seibu starter Takayuki Kishi gave up four runs on five hits, striking out five with two walks in six innings.
Yamagishi, who was making his first start of the season in place of Yoshinori Sato who was scratched before the game with inflammation in his left side, got the hook after allowing five runs in three innings.
Buffaloes 9, BayStars 0
At Yokohama Stadium, Hayato Terahara (6-4) pitched eight shutout innings as Orix sent Yokohama to its third loss in a row.
Tomotaka Sakaguchi went 5-for-6 with four RBIs for the Buffaloes. BayStars starter Shogo Yamamoto (2-8) took the loss.
Tigers 1, Fighters 0
At Koshien Stadium, Kentaro Sekimoto delivered a walk-off single off Hirotoshi Masui (0-2) in the ninth inning as Hanshin snapped Hokkaido Nippon Ham’s winning streak at six games.
Minoru Iwata (3-5) pitched his first shutout of the season in an 11-strikeout effort.