Hayato Sakamoto and the Yomiuri Giants might be finally hitting their stride. Which might be bad news for the Pacific League.
Sakamoto hit a game-tying homer in the sixth inning, Ryuchi Kajimae drove in the go-ahead run during the same frame, and Toshiya Sugiuchi won his first interleague start against the PL as the Giants edged the Orix Buffaloes 4-2 in front of a crowd of 45,997 on Thursday at Tokyo Dome.
“Sugiuchi-san was pitching well and we wanted to make sure he would not be the loser tonight,” Sakamoto said.
Sakamoto’s game-tying shot to left to lead off the sixth was his third home run of the season and first at Tokyo Dome this year.
“It always feels good to hit a home run in front of the home crowd,” Sakamoto said. “I’m sorry it took so long to hit the first one here this season.”
Yomiuri managed to load the bases later in the inning and Kajimae hit a sacrifice fly to center that was deep enough to bring the tiebreaking run home from third.
“I went up just thinking to put us ahead, knowing I did not need to get a hit,” Kajimae said.
The Giants won for the third consecutive game and extended their current unbeaten streak to eight.
Sugiuchi came away a winner in his first interleague start for a Central League team, after spending 10 years in the PL.
The former PL MVP, who helped the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks win interleague titles in 2008, ’09 and ’11, allowed a pair of runs and struck out eight over six innings. He improved to a team-best 5-1 and won his fourth straight decision.
“His change-up was good, and he was throwing his fastball really well,” said Orix third baseman Aarom Baldiris. “He’s a good pitcher.”
Tetsuya Yamaguchi worked two innings of scoreless relief and Kentaro Nishimura retired the side in the ninth for his eighth save.
“Our team really has a good bullpen now with Yamaguchi, (Scott) Mathieson, and Nishimura, and I feel confident I can count on any of them to close out games and secure a victory,” said Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara.
The slumping Buffaloes dropped their fifth straight game. Adding insult to injury, center fielder Tomotaka Sakaguchi was hurt making a diving catch during the first inning. Sakaguchi was taken off the field on a stretcher and did not return.
Shinya Nakayama got the start for Orix and left with a decision for the first time in three outings. Unfortunately it turned out to be his first loss since April 7. Nakayama (1-2) allowed three runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
The Buffaloes got on the board in the opening frame after Hisayoshi Chono misplayed Lee Dae Ho’s fly ball to center, resulting in an RBI triple.
Chono doubled to lead off the bottom half of the first and moved to third on a bunt by Takayuki Terauchi. Sakamoto then hit a fly ball to shallow center, but Sakaguchi was injured making the catch, giving Chono just enough time to tag up and score the tying run.
Baldiris put the Buffaloes ahead with an RBI double in the top of the sixth, but the Giants battled back in the bottom half on Sakamoto’s homer and Kajimae’s sacrifice fly.
Yomiuri tacked on an insurance run in the eighth on Yoshiyuki Kamei’s RBI groundout.
Lions blank BayStars
Takayuki Kishi tossed his first shutout in two years as the Seibu Lions beat the Yokohama BayStars 3-0 Thursday to win their fourth straight.
Kishi limited the BayStars to four hits and struck out nine while walking two in a 109-pitch outing en route to his fourth win of the season. A throwing error by Yokohama catcher Toshiki Kurobane let in the first run. Esteban German’s run-scoring single followed an RBI triple from Shogo Akiyama to complete the scoring.
Marines 3, Dragons 3 (10)
At Nagoya Dome, Chiba Lotte’s Saburo Omura drove in three runs and twice evened the game as the Marines came from behind to tie Chunichi.
Omura’s two-run homer tied it 2-2 in the fourth. After Kazuhiro Wada gave the Dragons a one-run lead in the fifth, Omura delivered a ninth-inning sacrifice fly off lefty closer Hitoki Iwase.
Hawks 9, Swallows 1
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, slugging third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda celebrated his 29th birthday with a three-run home run as Fukuoka Softbank, interleague champion in three of the past four seasons, got off the mark with a win over Yakult.
Hitoshi Tamura and Wily Mo Pena also homered for the Hawks, who dropped their interleague opener the night before. The Swallows’ Lastings Milledge homered for the second straight game.
Fighters 4, Tigers 1
At Koshien Stadium, Brian Wolfe (3-3) worked 5 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and four walks and Terrmel Sledge delivered a two-run, sixth-inning triple as Hokkaido Nippon Ham swept Hanshin.
The Fighters broke the game open in the sixth after Craig Brazell’s throwing error let in a run and allowed Sledge to bat with two outs.
Carp 4, Eagles 1
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima’s offense came untracked with some help from Tohoku Rakuten starter Kelvin Jimenez (2-4), who walked five batters and was ejected in the second for hitting Shota Dobayashi in the head.
Carp starter Yuki Saito (1-1), on the other hand, allowed a run in 5 2/3 innings to get the win.