CHIBA – Kazuya Fujita’s three-run double off Chiba Lotte closer Naoya Masuda on Friday lifted the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles to a 5-3 come-from-behind victory over the Marines in a battle between the Pacific League’s two hottest teams.
Protecting a one-run lead in the ninth, Masuda (0-1) got two quick outs before singles from Motohiro Shima and Teppei Tsuchiya opened the door and Kazuo Matsui walked on four pitches to load the bases. Fujita then managed to get it past super center fielder Yoshifumi Okada to clear the bases.
Rakuten right-hander Koji Aoyama retired the Marines in the bottom of the inning to snap Lotte’s eight-game win streak with his eighth save and seal the Eagles’ sixth-straight victory.
The Marines secured the first toehold on the scoreboard in the top of the third inning, when rookie right-hander Takahiro Norimoto couldn’t throw strikes out of the stretch position. After back-to-back, two-out singles by Tadahito Iguchi and Saburo Omura, Norimoto threw eight straight balls to Toshiaki Imae and Daichi Suzuki to force across the game’s first run.
The Eagles were poised for a big inning in the top of the fifth, when right-hander Yuki Karakawa looked vulnerable for the first time in the game, but only managed to tie it.
Andruw Jones doubled to open the inning, went to third on a Casey McGehee single and scored on Ginji Akaminai’s little bouncing single up the middle. A sacrifice put two men in scoring position, and a walk loaded the bases, but Karakawa got Teppei Tsuchiya to ground into his second double play of the night.
But while both offenses sputtered at the start, once the Eagles scored, runs began to trickle on to the scoreboard.
The Marines recaptured the lead in the home half of the inning when Omura doubled home Ikuhiro Kiyota from second with one out, only for the Eagles to tie it when McGehee singled home Fujita in the top of the fifth.
Marines speedster Takashi Ogino put the hosts in front again in the bottom of the fifth. Ogino singled, stole second and went to third on a sacrifice bunt. He then beat a strong throw from left fielder Hiroaki Shimauchi to score on a sacrifice fly by Yoshifumi Okada.
The Eagles mounted a threat in the top of the seventh, but with two outs and two on, lefty Yasutaka Hattori replaced Karakawa and ended the danger with a groundout. Rakuten starter Norimoto wasn’t long for the game either.
With one on and one out in the bottom of the seventh, home plate umpire Shinji Hashimoto ruled that Imae was hit by a 1-2 pitch that he swung and missed at. While Eagles skipper Senichi Hoshino was disputing the call, Marines third base coach Masaji Shimizu began to get into it with Eagles coaches in front of the third-base dugout. Both benches emptied and after the delay, Norimoto was gone.
BayStars 12, Giants 10
At Yokohama Stadium, Hitoshi Tamura belted two of Yokohama’s five homers, including a three-run sayonara blast in the ninth inning as the BayStars overcame a seven-run deficit to defeat Yomiuri.
Tony Blanco hit his Japan-best 18th home run for the BayStars in the first inning, while Nyjer Morgan went deep for the first time in Japan in a six-run seventh. In the ninth, Giants closer Kentaro Nishimura (1-2) surrendered a pair of one-out singles before Tamura took him deep to end it.
Tigers 5, Swallows 0
At Botchan Stadium, Randy Messenger (5-0) threw a five-hit shutout and drove in the winning run with a three-run, fifth-inning double as Hanshin beat host Tokyo Yakult. Messenger struck out nine and walked two in a 142-pitch effort as the Tigers won their fifth straight game.
The Tigers loaded the bases against Swallows ace Masanori Ishikawa (2-4) in the fifth on two singles and an error, and Messenger cleared them with one swing. A single by Tsuyoshi Nishioka and a two-run Yamato Maeda double completed the scoring.
Dragons 4, Carp 3
At Mazda Stadium, Masahiro Araki snapped a 3-3 tie in the top of the seventh off lefty Takeya Kawauchi as Chunichi, which got solo first-inning home runs from Masahiko Morino and Hector Luna, defeated Hiroshima.
The Carp tied it 3-3 in the fifth, but the Dragons bounced back in the seventh. Ryosuke Hirata doubled off right-hander Miguel Socolovich and scored on Araki’s single. Dragons lefty Hitoki Iwase loaded the bases in the ninth, but recorded his eighth save.