NAGOYA – Ryosuke Hirata hit a two-run homer, Daisuke Yamai pitched seven scoreless innings and the Chunichi Dragons beat the Yakult Swallows 3-0 in a heated match-up between the Central League leader and second-place team on Monday.
With the victory, the CL-leading Dragons took a 1-1/2 game advantage over Yakult and took the opener of a four-game set.
Hirata went deep off Masanori Ishikawa (9-9) with a runner on first and two outs for a 2-0 lead the second inning and Hirokazu Ibata added a run-scoring double in the fifth, following Yamai’s two-out double and a single by Masahiro Araki at Nagoya Dome.
“I was just hoping to drive in the opening run and I just wanted to get on base like the batter before me (Motonobu Tanishige). I thought that it was gone once I hit it,” said Hirata.
Yamai (3-2) yielded seven hits, struck out five and walked one and reliever Takuya Asao picked up his ninth save. Yakult had nine hits but stranded eight runners.
“Honestly, I didn’t pitch well in my previous two outings and I was a little nervous but I had a strong feeling that I wanted to win no matter what,” Yamai said. “My pitching wasn’t really that good today either but every pitch I threw I challenged them as to say hit off me if you can.”
Tigers 6, Giants 3
At Tokyo Dome, Takahiro Arai had a tiebreaking RBI single in the sixth inning and Hanshin extended the lead with two runs each in the seventh and eighth innings en route to beating third-place Yomiuri to move within two games of its archrival.
Atsushi Nomi (10-9) pitched one-run ball over six innings. Kentaro Nishimura (7-5) took the loss. Hanshin closer Kyuji Fujikawa retired three in the ninth for his 38th save.
BayStars 3, Carp 0
At Mazda Stadium, Futoshi Kobayashi (4-3) went seven shutout innings, Keijiro Matsumoto had a two-run double off Keisuke Imai (1-1) in the first and Yokohama blanked Hiroshima, which has lost six of its last seven games. Shun Yamaguchi got his 32nd save.
Hawks 9, Buffaloes 2
At Yahoo Dome, D.J. Houlton matched the league high with his 18th win of the season, Yuya Hasegawa drove in four runs Pacific Champion Softbank over Orix to win its eighth game in a row.
Houlton (18-6) scattered seven hits and one run, struck out six and walked none in six innings, winning the decision to follow in the footsteps of 18-game winner Masahiro Tanaka of the Rakuten Eagles. Hayato Terahara (12-10) was tagged with the loss.
Orix took a 1-0 lead on Aarom Baldiris’ RBI single in the first before Softbank’s five-run second, featuring Shohei Fukuda’s two-run single. Hasegawa had an RBI single in the second and a bases-clearing triple in a four-run third. Orix lost its fifth in a row.
Lions 12, Fighters 0
At Sapporo Dome, Takeya Nakamura and Jose Fernandez drove in four runs apiece in a 15-hit onslaught, Hideaki Wakui (9-12) threw seven shutout innings and Seibu routed Nippon Ham to move within one game of third-place Orix.
Fernandez had a two-run double against Masaru Takeda (11-12) in the first and added a two-run homer that made it 5-0 in the third. Nakamura had a run-scoring double and a three-run blast — his baseball-leading 46th home run — among his three hits.
Eagles 6, Marines 1
At Kleenex Stadium, Takahiro Shiomi limited the damage to one run despite allowing nine hits in seven innings, Kazuo Matsui drove in three runs and Rakuten beat last-place Lotte to win its third in a row.
Shiomi (8-9) struck out seven and walked one. Hayden Penn (2-2) took the loss.