Neither Yuki Koyama nor Tokyo Dome existed in 1981, the year the Giants are currently celebrating with their throwback uniforms.
That didn’t stop the 23-year-old from giving the home crowd a show even the most old-school baseball fan could appreciate.
Koyama earned the first win of his career by outdueling fellow young hurler Yuki Kuniyoshi over seven shutout innings as the Giants defeated the Yokohama BayStars 2-1 on Friday night at the Big Egg — which opened in 1988, by the way.
“I was determined to make the most of this chance after I got promoted to the top team,” Koyama said. “I felt good and am looking forward to my next start.”
Koyama (1-1) allowed three hits, struck out four and walked one.
“Koyama did great tonight,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “I know I can count on him to perform well again next time.”
Koyama said he was satisfied with the way he was able to mix his pitches, and was especially pleased with his curveball.
“I was able to use it no matter what the count was, so I was happy with that,” Koyama said.
Still, he had to sweat a little for win No. 1.
With Koyama’s night over, reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi gave up three straight singles, the last of which was an RBI hit by Kensuke Uchimura, to begin the eighth.
With the tying run on third and no outs, pinch hitter Hichori Morimoto attempted a squeeze bunt, but Giants catcher Shinnosuke Abe scooped up the ball and tagged the lead runner. However, it was ruled that Morimoto ran into the ball coming out of the box, meaning he was out while the runner remained at third.
Tatsuhiko Kinjo then hit a liner to the mound that Yamaguchi caught for the second out, and Alex Ramirez flied out to right to end the inning.
“I was a little nervous when the tying run was on third with no outs, but Yamaguchi did a great job and I was relieved when the inning was over and we still had the lead,” Koyama said.
The first-place Giants needed a good performance from Koyama, because the only runs they managed against Kuniyoshi came on a pair of sacrifice flies by Abe (in the first) and Hayato Sakamoto (in the seventh). Hisayoshi Chono had the only multi-hit night for Yomiuri, finishing 3-for-5.
Kuniyoshi (2-10) pitched seven strong innings, striking out five and walking three in one of his better outings of the season.
Chono began the game with a single that struck Kuniyoshi in the leg. He later stole second and went to third on a single by Sakamoto before scoring on Abe’s sacrifice fly.
The Giants had a chance to put the game away in the fifth after loading the bases to start the inning. The opportunity fizzled when Kuniyoshi retired Sakamoto on an infield fly and got the next two batters to ground out.
Koyama had a close call in the seventh, issuing a two-out walk to Yoshitomo Tsutsugo before giving up a double to Taketoshi Goto to put runners on second and third. Koyama struck out Takayuki Kajitani to preserve Yomiuri’s one-run advantage.
“I was able to stay focused and got out of trouble,” Koyama said.
Yoshihito Ishii pinch-hit for Koyama to begin the seventh and drew a walk before being replaced by pinch runner Takahiro Suzuki. Chono followed with a single and Tetsuya Matsumoto laid down a sacrifice bunt to leave runners on second and third.
Sakamoto drove in an insurance run with his sacrifice fly to left, but Kuniyoshi kept the BayStars within reach by retiring the next two batters.
Kentaro Nishimura closed the door on the BayStars in the ninth for his 22nd save of the year.
The Giants entered the night with a six-game lead in the Central League and a magic number of 24. Their latest victory was a good way to prepare for the stretch run.
“Right now we’re just taking it one game at a time,” Hara said. “It was good to end the month with a victory as we go into the pennant stretch.”
Tigers beat Carp
Nishinomiya Hyogo Pref. KYODO
Atsushi Nomi threw eight scoreless innings and combined in a four-hit shutout with closer Kyuji Fujikawa as the Hanshin Tigers downed the Hiroshima Carp 3-0 on Friday.
Bryan Bullington (6-11) took the loss.
Nomi (7-9) scattered three hits — all singles — and did not allow a runner to reach third base. Takashi Toritani opened the scoring with an RBI single in the first, Keiichi Hirano stole home in the sixth, and Keisuke Kano added a solo drive in the eighth.
Swallows 4, Dragons 4 (9)
Lions 5, Marines 3
At Seibu Dome, Takeya Nakamura hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the fifth inning, lifting Seibu past Chiba Lotte, and Hideto Asamura added an insurance blast with a solo drive in the seventh.
Reliever Ken Togame (4-0) won in relief and Hideaki Wakui picked up his 19th save. Yoshihisa Naruse (11-8) took the loss for the Marines, who saw their undefeated streak end at five games.
Eagles 3, Buffaloes 2
At Sendai’s Kleenex Stadium, Shintaro Masuda hit a game-tying RBI single in the third inning, and Jose Fernandez broke the tie with a leadoff blast in the fourth as Tohoku Rakuten edged Orix to snap a three-game skid.
Wataru Karashima (5-5) limited the damage to two runs, despite allowing seven hits in seven innings of work. The Buffaloes’ Kei Igawa (2-6) took the loss.
Hawks 1, Fighters 1 (10)