Tatsunori Hara’s first game back at home since his scandal broke was uneventful.
On the field, his Yomiuri Giants gave their fans plenty to talk about.
Ryuichi Kajimae drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning and reliever Scott Mathieson picked up his second career win in Japan as the Giants beat the Swallows 7-4 on Saturday at Tokyo Dome.
The win was the team’s first since becoming the first Central League team to claim the interleague title.
“Our team’s power is still not the best, but it was good to get our first win against an intraleague opponent after the interleague championship,” Kajimae said.
Kajimae and Chono each drove in a pair of runs for the Giants, who also got RBIs from Shinnosuke Abe, Yoshinobu Takahashi and Hayato Sakamoto. Abe had a particularly nice night at the plate, finishing 2-for-4 with a double and a triple, while Chono led all batters with a three-hit night.
Mathieson (2-0) earned the win after working two scoreless innings and laid down a successful sacrifice bunt that helped set up the go-ahead RBI single by Kajimae in the sixth.
“I felt real good, had a lot of rest and was excited to be out there tonight,” Mathieson said.
On Wednesday the news broke that Hara had paid ¥100 million to two men blackmailing him over an extramarital affair he had in 1988. Weekly Shukan Bunshun reported the two men were yakuza, which the team and Hara denied, with Yomiuri threatening legal action.
There was nothing out of the ordinary before the game, and Hara went about his usual routine during batting practice.
Yakult’s Wladimir Balentien, who homered twice in a win over the Giants on Friday in Nagano, hit a towering two-run homer in his first at-bat and finished 1-for-4.
“I knew it was out,” Balentien said. “I was praying that it would hit Ichiro,” he joked, referring to an advertisement above the stands in left field.
Shingo Kawabata was 1-for-4 with an RBI and Hiroyasu Tanaka also drove in a run with a safety squeeze.
Swallows starter Kyohei Muranaka had a rough outing, giving up four runs on four hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Hirokazu Sawamura toed the rubber for the Giants but finished outside of the decision, leaving him winless in his last five starts. Sawamura allowed three runs on three hits in four innings. He entered the game having lost his last four starts and hasn’t won since May 20.
Sawamura was in trouble almost from the start. The second-year hurler walked Lastings Milledge to begin the game and later gave up an RBI single to Kawabata. Balentien drove in two more runs with his homer to left.
Shuichi Murata got the Giants going with a one-out single in the fourth and came home on an RBI double by Abe. Muranaka walked the next two batters to load the bases, then struck out Yoshitomo Tani. Muranaka hurt his own cause by walking Kajimae before Chono’s two-run single knocked him out of the game.
“We started that rally after one out and batted around during that inning, not stopping until we had the lead,” Hara said.
Tanaka tied the score with his bunt in the top of the fifth, but Kajimae’s RBI single in the sixth put Yomiuri back on top.
The Giants added insurance runs on a sacrifice fly by Takahashi in the seventh and Sakamoto’s RBI single in the eighth.
“We took it pitch-by-pitch and we were able to come through with the timely hit to put the game away,” Hara said.
The crosstown rivals meet for the final game of their three-game series on Sunday afternoon at Tokyo Dome. Masanori Ishikawa (5-6) will get the start for the Swallows, with Toshiya Sugiuchi (8-2) on the hill for the Giants.
Kanemoto slugs 474th home run
Tomoaki Kanemoto moved into a tie for 10th on Japan’s all-time home run list on Saturday with a three-run homer that helped boost the Hanshin Tigers to a 7-3 victory over the Yokohama BayStars at Koshien Stadium.
Kanemoto’s 474th moved him into a tie with legendary Tigers catcher Koichi Tabuchi. The 44-year-old outfielder’s three RBIs also pushed him into eighth place on the career list with 1,508, surpassing by one the total of Katsuo Osugi.
Osugi, whose career started in 1965 with the Toei Flyers, the predecessors of today’s Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, also played nine seasons for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. The right-handed hitter is ninth on the career home run list with 486.
Kanemoto began his pro career out of Tohoku Fukushi University in 1992. He was drafted by the Hiroshima Carp in the fourth round of the 1991 draft — the same round as Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and slugging BayStars infielder Norihiro Nakamura.
After the 2002 season, Kanemoto left Hiroshima as a free agent and signed with the Hanshin Tigers, who in 2003 won their first Central League pennant since 1985.
“I want to pass him (Tabuchi) as soon as I can,” Kanemoto said of the man who was a Tigers batting coach back in 2003. “Personally, it doesn’t matter where I am in the rankings, though. My focus is on the team being No. 1.”
Kanemoto’s two hits moved him to within five of 2,500 in his career. His 1,346 career walks tie him for third with Kazuhiro Kiyohara. Sadaharu Oh leads that category with the amazing total of 2,390, with Hall of Famer Hiromitsu Ochiai’s 1,475 a distant second.
Carp 3, Dragons 1
At Toyama Alpen Stadium, Kenta Maeda threw one-run ball over seven effective innings to set the pace as Hiroshima held off Chunichi.
Takahiro Iwamoto opened the scoring with a run-scoring single in the third and Shota Dobayashi homered in his third straight game, hitting a solo blast in the fourth. Kenichi Nakata (3-6) took the loss.
Lions 5, Buffaloes 2
At Seibu Dome, Fumiya Nishiguchi pitched six innings of two-run ball, and Esteban German contributed with a two-run single as Seibu beat Orix to win its first game following the restart of league play.
Tatsuyuki Uemoto drew a game-tying, bases-loaded walk and German’s one-out single keyed a five-run first.
Hideaki Wakui had a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his third save — his first since May 16. Orix is winless in its last four games.
Hawks 7, Fighters 6
At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Kenji Akashi hit a game-tying two-run single with two outs in the eighth inning and Yuichi Honda followed with a run-scoring double as Fukuoka Softbank rallied past Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
South Korean right-hander Kim Mu Young (1-1) pitched a scoreless eighth to notch his first career win. Hirotoshi Masui (2-2) was roughed up for four runs in one inning of relief.
Eagles 2, Marines 1
At Sendai’s Kleenex Stadium, Kelvin Jimenez (3-7) limited the damage to one run despite allowing eight hits in 5 1/3 innings and five Tohoku Rakuten relievers staved off league-leading Chiba Lotte.
Toshiya Nakashima and Jose Fernandez had back-to-back RBI singles with two outs in the first. The Eagles won two in a row for the first time in June. Rookie lefty Takahiro Fujioka (4-4) took the loss.