The Yomiuri Giants gave former greats Hideki Matsui and Shigeo Nagashima a hero’s welcome before Sunday’s game against the Hiroshima Carp.
The Carp didn’t get nearly the same treatment.
With Matsui and Nagashima watching for most of the game, Jose Lopez broke a scoreless tie with a solo homer in the seventh, and Tetsuya Utsumi threw eight shutout innings in the Giants’ 1-0 victory over the Carp in front of 46,707 fans at Tokyo Dome.
“I pitched today to make sure we would not lose this game after that nice ceremony for Nagashima-san and Matsui-san,” Utsumi said.
The Giants pushed their winning streak to five and improved to 16-1-1 at home this season. The Kyojin are 14-0-1 against the Carp in the teams’ last 15 meetings at the Big Egg.
Yomiuri held a retirement ceremony for Matsui, who ended his 20-year career, 10 in Japan and 10 in MLB, following the 2012 season. There was also a ceremony held to present Matsui and Nagashima with the People’s Honor Award, which they received from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The game belonged to starting pitchers Utsumi and Bryan Bullington, of the Carp, once the action got under way.
Neither hurler gave up much ground, until Lopez took Bullington deep to lead off the seventh. The home run was the eighth of the season for Lopez.
“It’s a special win for Matsui,” Lopez said. “We played together in the (MLB’s) American League. He is a great person and was a great player.”
Utsumi nursed the lead in the eighth, and closer Kentaro Nishimura came on in relief.
Hiroshima’s Eishin Soyogi reached on an error by Lopez at first to lead off the ninth. Jun Hirose singled and Yoshihiro Maru drew a one-out walk to load the bases later in the inning.
Carp slugger Kenta Kurihara hit a grounder to third that was fielded by Shuichi Murata, who threw home for the forceout. Tetsuya Yamaguchi relieved Nishimura and recorded the final out of the game.
“It got a little tense at the end, but our bullpen came through and saved the game for me,” Utsumi said. “I appreciate that.”
Utsumi improved to 3-0 on the year. He struck out three, walked two and allowed four hits.
“I feel so good for Utsumi,” Lopez said.
Bullington had a solid outing that was marred by one bad pitch to Lopez in the seventh. Bullington threw seven frames and allowed a run on five hits. He struck out five and walked one.
Nakamura gets 2,000th hit
Yokohama’s Norihiro Nakamura celebrated his 2,000th career hit in a 2-for-4 outing and drove in three runs as his team came from behind, beating the Chunichi Dragons 9-4 on Sunday to take the rubber game of their three-game Central League series.
The 39-year-old Nakamura, who had his first career hit with the Kintetsu Buffaloes on June 18, 1992, doubled to left-center off Chunichi starter Kenichi Nakata (1-1) in the eighth to become the 43rd player in pro baseball to achieve the feat.
The BayStars used a six-run eighth inning to earn the win.
Swallows 7, Tigers 5
At Koshien Stadium, Masayoshi Miwa and Tsuyoshi Ueda had back-to-back RBI singles to break a 5-5 tie in the ninth inning, and Tokyo Yakult prevailed in a see-saw battle over Hanshin to snap a four-game losing skid.
Swallows catcher Yuhei Nakamura went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer. Brothers Takahiro and Ryota Arai hit a three-run and two-run blast in the seventh and eighth, respectively, to combine for all of the Tigers’ runs.
Eagles 3, Buffaloes 2
At Sendai’s Kleenex Stadium, Ryo Hijirisawa hit a two-run drive in the third inning and another run scored on an error in the seventh as Tohoku Rakuten held off Orix to gift manager Senichi Hoshino with his 1,066th career win for a tie for 10th on the all-time list.
Eagles starter Brandon Duckworth (2-3) limited the damage to one run and four hits in seven innings, snapping his personal losing streak at three. Aarom Baldiris hit a pair of solo blasts, but the Buffaloes dropped their fifth game in a row.
Lions 2, Fighters 0
At Tokorozawa’s Seibu Dome, lefty Yusei Kikuchi threw a five-hitter in his second shutout of the season, Ryo Sakata homered and PL leader Seibu beat Hokkaido Nippon Ham for the second day in a row.
Kikuchi (4-1), who struck out seven and walked three, matched a league high with his fourth win of the season. Sakata had a leadoff shot in the second off Fighters starter Masaru Takeda (1-1) and another run scored on an error in the same frame.
Marines 2, Hawks 1
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Yoshifumi Okada had a game-tying RBI single in the fifth inning and Ikuhiro Kiyota drew a bases-loaded walk for the go-ahead in the next inning as Chiba Lotte rallied over Fukuoka Softbank to win its fifth straight game.
Yuta Omine (1-1) pitched one-run ball over 5 1/3 effective innings before the bullpen took over. Naoya Masuda had a perfect ninth for his 10th save.