SENDAI – Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles ace Masahiro Tanaka surrendered a leadoff homer in the first inning but did little wrong after that as he went the distance in a 2-1 interleague victory over the Japan Series champion Yomiuri Giants on Wednesday.
Tanaka, who may be headed to the big leagues as early as this winter, won his fifth consecutive start. He is 7-0 in eight starts this season, although this was the right-hander’s first complete game.
“It’s a good thing to win,” said Tanaka, who was Japan’s ace in the recent World Baseball Classic.
Tanaka has now won 11 straight decisions in a streak that started last season.
Former Milwaukee Brewer Casey McGehee plated Kazuo Matsui in the bottom of the first with a game-tying sacrifice fly. McGehee repeated the feat in the fifth to break the 1-1 tie.
Tanaka allowed a leadoff homer to Japan teammate Hisayoshi Chono on the third pitch of the game but needed just 113 pitches to finish off the Central League leaders, allowing seven hits and a walk, while striking out eight.
Giants right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura (2-3), who also pitched for Japan in the WBC, allowed two runs on six hits, three walks and a hit batsman, while striking out four in 5⅓ innings.
“When you fall behind in the count, it’s hard to turn things your way,” said Sawamura, the CL’s rookie of the year in 2011.
“I felt that (control) is the difference between myself and Masahiro.”
Although Tanaka will not be eligible for free agency this fall, Rakuten indicated last winter that it may be willing to make him available to major league clubs through the posting system this fall.
Fighters 6, Swallows 1
At Sapporo Dome, Nippon Ham’s Atsunori Inaba turned a superb pitchers’ duel into a rout with one swing. Haruki Nishikawa got the game’s first hit to lead off the bottom of the sixth, and moments later Inaba belted his second homer of the season on the second pitch thrown by Orlando Roman.
Fighters lefty Mitsuo Yoshikawa (4-4) did not allow a hit through the first six innings. Tokyo Yakult rookie Takeaki Tokuyama was relieved after four hitless innings in which he walked five batters. Inaba added an RBI double in the seventh against his former team.
Hawks 7, BayStars 1
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Softbank’s Nobuhiro Matsuda belted a first-inning grand slam off Cheng Kai-wen (0-2), and Hayato Terahara (2-3) allowed a run on three hits in seven innings to beat his former team.
Matsuda’s two-out homer was the first hit of the game, coming after Cheng walked the bases loaded with one out.
Orix 6, Dragons 3
At Kobe’s Hotto Motto Field, Yoshio Itoi tied the game 1-1 with a second-inning solo homer and added a two-run shot in the sixth as Orix scored five runs to build a decisive lead against Chunichi.
Buffaloes rookie Takahiro Matsuba (3-0), the team’s first draft pick last fall, allowed three runs on four hits in six-plus innings. The lefty struck out six without issuing a walk.
Carp 1, Lions 0
At Seibu Dome, Hiroshima’s Naoki Nakahigashi drove in the game’s only run with a two-out RBI single in the seventh inning in a win over Seibu.
Carp right-hander Kan Otake (5-1) allowed six hits, walked two and hit a batter, while striking out two. Lions starter Kazuhisa Makita was taken out of the game after the first inning, when he was struck by a batted ball.
Tigers at Marines — late