A bad week left the Hiroshima Carp on the outskirts of the Central League pennant race. On Friday, they set about giving their slim chances a shot in the arm.
Kenta Kurihara hit the 150th home run of his career and Yoshiyuki Ishihara also went deep as the Carp defeated the Yomiuri Giants 6-3 at Tokyo Dome.
“I did not hit many home runs during the first half of the season, so it’s good I’m hitting them now,” Kurihara said. “I’m happy I got the 150th in a game we won.”
Hiroshima entered the series having lost five of its last six games and sitting fifth in the standings. They shook out of their recent funk in a big way in front of 38,921 at the Big Egg.
“We were able to break a losing streak,” Carp manager Kenjiro Nomura said. “We’ll take it one game at a time.”
Yoshihiro Maru was the ringleader of the Carp attack at the plate, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs. Kurihara, the reigning CL monthly MVP, hit a two-run homer, his 15th of the year, in the third and finished 1-for-5. Ishihara was 2-for-4 with a solo homer in the sixth and a stolen base in the eighth.
“My job as the cleanup hitter is to do my best and drive in runs for the team,” Kurihara said. “The MVP prize is nice, but it means nothing if I don’t help the team win.”
Hiroshima starter Gio Alvarado allowed two runs on seven hits and struck out four over 6⅔ innings to improve to 3-5. Dennis Sarfate nailed down the win in the ninth for his 34th save of the season.
Sarfate is one save away from matching the most by a first-year foreign pitcher. Former Chunichi reliever Eddie Gaillard currently holds that distinction, having saved 35 games for the Dragons in 2000.
The Carp remain seven games behind the first-place Tokyo Yakult Swallows in a crowded race for the CL pennant. The Giants dropped into fourth place with the loss, 5½ games back.
Pitcher Shun Tono got the start for Yomiuri, but he wouldn’t toe the rubber for long. Tono loaded the bases in the top of the first, then yielded a one-out, three-run double to Maru. He got out of the inning with no further damage, but his night was over.
Tono (6-10) allowed three runs on three hits with a strikeout and a walk in one inning of work. Shugo Fujii took the mound in the second, making his season debut. He didn’t fare any better, giving up three runs on six hits with a walk and a strikeout.
Giants star Alex Ramirez extended his hitting streak to nine games with a single in the fifth, and Yoshinobu Takahashi got the team on the board with a two-run home run, his 12th of the season, in the next at-bat.
Yomiuri shortstop Hayato Sakamoto added a solo shot, his 13th of the year, in the eighth.