Wladimir Balentien took hero’s honors for the second night in a row, redeeming himself after a fatal fielding miscue with a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning to lead the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in a three-game sweep of the Central-League leading Yomiuri Giants.
Just when all seemed lost after his blunder in the seventh, Balentien connected on a first-pitch fastball from reliever Scott Mathieson (0-1) in the following frame, lifting the Swallows to a 2-1 victory over the 2012 Japan Series champion on Sunday night.
The Swallows won five straight for the first time this season, while the Giants were condemned to their first three-game loss.
Lastings Milledge had singled with one out to put a runner aboard at first and Balentien, who hit a three-run go-ahead home run in Saturday’s win, hit an opposite-field line drive over the right-field wall into a sea of jubilant Swallows fans.
In wasn’t quite over yet as Tetsuya Yamamoto had to escape a jam with runners at second and third with two outs in the ninth, but the right-hander got pinch hitter Ryota Wakiya to fly out to left to end it for his fourth save in front of a crowd of 32,582 spectators.
Giants catcher Ken Kato broke a scoreless deadlock with a two-out RBI double in the seventh. Balentien attempted a running over-the-shoulder catch but his timing was slightly off as the ball sailed over his glove and bounced once off the right-field wall before he could retrieve it as Yomiuri went up 1-0.
Tetsuya Utsumi and Ryosuke Yagi settled down in a pitching duel of lefties. Utsumi yielded four hits in six innings of work. He struck out six and walked two. Yagi scattered eight hits with three strikeouts and no walks over seven innings. Orlando Roman (1-1) pitched a scoreless eighth for the win.
Swallows left-fielder Milledge made a picture-perfect relay throw at the plate on Jose Lopez’s single to stop birthday boy Itaru Hashimoto, who had taken off from second on the play, from scoring for the final out in the sixth.
Giants’ leadoff man Hisayoshi Chono went 1-for-4 to snap an 0-for-17 slump.
Carp 7, Dragons 1
At Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima third-year lefty Kyohei Nakamura stymied Chunichi batters with an effective fastball over seven strong innings en route to earning his first career win.
Nakamura (1-0) yielded just three hits — all singles — while walking four and striking out two. Fred Lewis had a leadoff shot and Ryuhei Matsuyama added a two-run drive, both off Soma Yamauchi (2-2), in a three-run first.
Tigers 5, BayStars 3
At Yokohama Stadium, Akihito Fujii had a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the sixth inning and Yamato Maeda added insurance with an RBI single in the ninth as Hanshin held off Yokohama.
Hanshin rookie Shintaro Fujinami (3-1) gave up three runs and five hits in a six innings of work. He struck out six and walked two. Yasutomo Kubo worked the ninth for his fourth save. Daisuke Miura (1-2) took the loss.
Lions 15, Eagles 1
At Seibu Dome, eight of Seibu’s starting nine drove in at least one run in a 19-hit onslaught, lefty Yusei Kikuchi (3-1) went seven innings on one-run ball, and PL-leader Seibu demolished Tohoku Rakuten, featuring four RBIs from Takumi Kuriyama in a 4-for-5 outing.
Kuriyama broke a 1-1 tie with a one-out RBI double off Brandon Duckworth (1-3) in the third, added a two-run single in an eight-run fifth and capped his afternoon with a run-scoring single in the seventh. Shogo Akiyama and Ryo Sakata both hit two-run homers.
Fighters 4, Buffaloes 3
At Sapporo Dome, Michel Abreu cracked a three run homer in a four-run third, Masaru Takeda (1-0) pitched six scoreless frames for his first win of the season, and Hokkaido Nippon Ham eked out a win over Orix for the second straight day and its fourth win in a row.
Sho Nakata had a run-scoring double to open the scoring and Abreu followed with his ninth homer of the season for a 4-0 lead against Yuki Nishi (2-1). Lee Dae Ho’s seventh-inning two-run single was too little, too late for Orix, which lost its fifth straight.
Hawks 3, Marines 0
At QVC Marine Field, right-hander Shota Takeda (2-1) threw 7⅓ scoreless innings, catcher Toru Hosokawa broke a scoreless tie with a two-run single in a three-run seventh, and Fukuoka Softbank blanked Chiba Lotte.
Takeda (2-1) scattered five hits, struck out three and walked one. Brain Falkenborg closed out the ninth for his fourth save of the year. Lotte starter Yuta Omine (0-1) took the loss, despite limiting the damage to just two runs in six-plus innings.