Tetsuya Utsumi had a memorable 30th birthday by pitching seven scoreless innings to lead the Yomiuri Giants to a 2-0 win over the Hanshin Tigers on Sunday.
Utsumi (2-3) combined with two relievers on an eight-hit shutout at Tokyo Dome as the once-struggling Giants won their third straight game. The left-hander scattered seven hits while walking one and striking out three in a 99-pitch outing.
Hanshin put runners in scoring position four times against Utsumi, with the biggest threat a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the sixth.
But Utsumi got former Seattle Mariner Kenji Johjima to hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
“I’m glad I got a win on my birthday,” Utsumi said. “In the sixth inning, I tried to ease my mind by telling myself I could allow a sacrifice fly and one run would be inevitable.
“When I’m off, I leave my fastball in the middle of the zone in a situation like that. But today was different.
“I’ve started to throw a two-seam fastball only recently. Before the game, (catcher Shinnosuke) Abe-san told me we were going to use it a lot today. It worked very well.”
Backup outfielder Ryuichi Kajimae opened the scoring in the second when he drove in captain Abe from second with a two-out single up the middle off Minoru Iwata (1-4).
“I wanted to get a hit for Utsumi-san in that situation,” Kajimae said. “I was determined to go aggressive and swung at the first pitch. The manager put me in the starting lineup yesterday, but I didn’t do well.
“Today I was finally able to contribute to the team’s win.”
Shuichi Murata hit a sacrifice fly to give Yomiuri a much-needed insurance run in the eighth off Daiki Enokida.
Kentaro Nishimura pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his fifth save after Tetsuya Yamaguchi worked the eighth.
Johjima, back in Hanshin’s starting lineup for the first time in five games, went hitless in four at-bats, striking out once and hitting into two double plays. Hanshin outhit Yomiuri 8-7.
Carp 3, Swallows 0
At Mazda Stadium, rookie Yusuke Nomura (2-1) allowed just one hit over eight innings and Nick Stavinoha hit a two-run homer in the sixth as Hiroshima beat Tokyo Yakult to snap a three-game losing streak.
Jun Hirose delivered an RBI single in the first innng among his three hits. Orlando Roman gave up three runs in six innings for Yakult, whose unbeaten streak ended at seven games.
Dragons 3, BayStars 0
At Nagoya Dome, Shinji Iwata (2-0) struck out 12 and allowed just two hits in seven innings as Chunichi handed Yokohama its fourth consecutive loss.
Hirokazu Ibata and Naomichi Donoue hit RBI singles in the fifth off Yuki Kuniyoshi (0-3) to push Chunichi’s lead to 3-0. Hitoki Iwase picked up his 10th save.
Fighters 4, Eagles 0
At Kleenex Stadium, Terrmel Sledge homered and drove in three runs, Masaru Takeda pitched his second shutout of the season and PL leader Hokkaido Nippon Ham beat Tohoku Rakuten.
Sledge gave Nippon Ham a 1-0 lead in the fourth with a two-out RBI double and added a two-run shot in the sixth off Kenji Tomura (2-1). Takeda (4-0) allowed just two hits and two walks in a 96-pitch outing.
Atsunori Inaba, who recorded his 2,000th career hit on Saturday, went 2-for-4 for Nippon Ham.
Marines 2, Hawks 1
At QVC Marine Field, Yuki Karakawa (4-1) threw his second complete game of the season as Chiba Lotte edged Fukuoka Softbank to snap a three-game losing streak.
Saburo Omura hit a sac fly in the first and Katsuya Kakunaka added a solo homer in the fourth off Sho Iwasaki (2-3). Softbank moved within a run in the ninth, but Katsuki Yamazaki grounded out for the final out with two men on base.
Lions 3, Buffaloes 1
At Kyocera Dome, Shogo Akiyama went 3-for-3 with an RBI, leading Seibu over Orix for its fourth straight victory.
Seibu right-hander Ryoma Nogami (1-1) gave up nine hits but limited the damage to one run in 5⅓ innings for the win. Hiroshi Kisanuki (2-2) took the loss.