NISHINOMIYA, HYOGO PREF. – Takahiro Arai hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the fourth inning, Atsushi Nomi went the distance on one-run ball, and the Hanshin Tigers held on for a 3-1 win over the Pacific League-leading Chiba Lotte Marines in interleague play on Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers won their third straight and improved to a season-high 11 games above .500. Nomi (6-2) won his fifth consecutive decision to pull even with teammate Randy Messenger and Yomiuri Giants rookie Tomoyuki Sugano for the league lead in wins. The lefty, who was the Central League’s pitcher of the month for May, scattered three hits, struck out four and walked two in a 103-pitch outing.
Arai’s eighth home run of the season — a blast to center off lefty Yoshihisa Naruse (6-2) — made the 36-year-old the 39th player in Japanese baseball with 1,000 career RBIs. Arai had gone eight games without an RBI. For two weeks, the team had a bouquet of flowers ready to celebrate the milestone.
“Those flowers were playing on my mind, because I could see them,” Arai said. “I didn’t feel I was hitting poorly or anything like that.”
Arai grounded out in his first at-bat, and that, too, entered his thinking as he came to bat in the fourth with former Chicago Cub Matt Murton on first base and no outs.
“If I tried to pull it like I did in my first at-bat, I feared I might hit into a double play,” Arai said. “So I was aiming to take it up the middle.”
Hanshin added an insurance on an Akihito Fujii RBI grounder in the sixth at Koshien Stadium. Lotte went up 1-0 on Shunichi Nemoto’s two-out solo drive off Nomi in the third.
Carp 1, Lions 0
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Shota Nakazaki threw seven scoreless innings on the way to his first career win as a starter, Brad Eldred homered and Hiroshima blanked Seibu.
Nakazaki (2-3) allowed just two hits and struck out seven — retiring 12 in a row in one stretch. Eldred led off the fourth with a blast off Takayuki Kishi (2-5). Kam Mickolio pitched a perfect ninth for his 11th save.
The Lions dropped their fourth game in a row.
Buffaloes 9, BayStars 8
At Yokohama Stadium, Lee Dae-ho connected for a go-ahead two-run homer with one out in the seventh inning as Orix prevailed against Yokohama in a game that saw three lead changes.
Tatsuya Sato (2-0), the Buffaloes’ third reliever, pitched a scoreless eighth for the win, and Yoshihisa Hirano picked up his 13th save. The BayStars dropped their fourth in a row.
For Yokohama, Tony Blanco hit his Japan-best 23rd home run.
Fighters 8, Swallows 4
At Jingu Stadium, Takahiro Imanami’s two-run double highlighted a six-run third as Hokkaido Nippon Ham rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat Tokyo Yakult in a game between the leagues’ cellar dwellers.
Brian Wolfe (3-3) limited the damage to two runs in six innings for his first win since April 27. Yasuhiro Ogawa (5-2) took the loss for the Swallows, who dropped 12 games below .500 and will finish with a majority of defeats in interleague for the fourth year in row.
Giants 5, Eagles 3
At Tokyo Dome, CL-leading Yomiuri won its fourth straight, with captain Shinnosuke Abe breaking up a 3-3 tie with his 17th home run of the season, a one-out solo shot in the sixth against Tohoku Rakuten
It was Abe’s second home run in two games.
John Bowker’s two-run homer in the fourth made it 3-0 Giants before the Eagles tied it against Tomoyuki Sugano (6-2) on Ryo Hijirisawa’s two-out, bases-loaded bloop double. Michihiro Ogasawara delivered an insurance run with an eighth-inning pinch-hit double.
Hawks 6, Dragons 6 (12)