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Fighters show moxie in comeback victory

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters may be in last place in the Pacific League, but, as their nickname implies, there is a lot of fight in the team from Japan’s northern island.

Atsunori Inaba capped a three-run eighth inning with a tie-breaking two-run single, and the Fighters rallied to beat the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 4-2 on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome.

“Somehow everyone was able to come through and we were able to get a good result,” Inaba said.

Fighters catcher Shota Ono got the eighth going with a single, and pinch runner Kazuya Murata stole second before Daikan Yoh grounded out. Keiji Obiki drew a walk, and a bad throw by Hawks second baseman Yuichi Honda, on a ball off the bat of Michel Abreu, allowed the Fighters to push a run across and make the score 2-2.

Hawks reliever Brian Falkenborg walked Sho Nakata, only to yield an infield hit to the next batter, pinch hitter Shinya Tsuruoka. That brought Inaba to the plate, and the veteran came through with his two-run single to left.

“I was trying to do what I normally do,” Inaba said when asked how he felt during the at-bat in the eighth. “I was thinking about what he would throw and that sort of thing.”

Abreu finished 2-for-4 with an RBI for the Fighters in the win, while Inaba’s go-ahead single was his only hit.

Inaba’s heroics took starting pitcher Brian Wolfe, who left in the seventh with Nippon Ham trailing 2-1, off the hook. Wolfe had a solid outing, with the exception of one bad inning, and kept his team in the game. Wolfe allowed two runs — both in the third — on six hits and struck out six over 6 1/3 innings.

“If feels good,” Wolfe said of giving his team a chance to win. “I don’t feel like we’re out of any game the way we’ve been playing. Putting up those extra zeros helped out a lot.”

Nippon Ham’s Keisuke Tanimoto (3-3) threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings to earn the win in relief. Fighters closer Hisashi Takeda gave up a hit in the ninth, but kept the Hawks off the scoreboard in order to nail down his 11th save of the season.

Hawks outfielder Seiichi Uchikawa drove in both of Softbank’s run on a single in the third. Uchikawa ended the game 2-for-4. Akira Nakamura and Yuki Yanagita also had two-hit nights.

Hiroki Yamada got the start for Softbank and threw five innings of one-run ball. Yamada allowed four hits, struck out two and walked one. Falkenborg (0-3) was charged with the loss after allowed three runs — two earned — in two-third of an inning.

Yoh led off the bottom of the first with a single up the middle then proceeded to steal second and third with Obiki at the plate. Obiki eventually struck out, but Abreu got the job done with an RBI double to center to make the score 1-0.

Hawks catcher Ayatsugu Yamashita and Nakamura recorded consecutive one-out singles in the third, and Uchikawa drove them in with a hard-hit ball that got past first baseman Micah Hoffpauir and rolled into right field.

The teams will meet in the final game of a two-game series on Wednesday night at the Big Egg. Two-way rookie Shohei Otani, who was recently voted onto the Pacific League All-Star team as an outfielder, gets the start for Nippon Ham against Softbank’s Nagisa Arakaki.

Buffaloes prevail over Marines

OSAKA
KYODO

Buffaloes catcher Hikaru Ito had a tying RBI single in the fifth inning and Lee Dae-ho went deep with a two-run blast, his 12th homer of the year, to key a three-run sixth as Orix came from behind to beat the Chiba Lotte Marines 4-1 in Pacific League action on Tuesday night.

Orix starter Chihiro Kaneko (5-5) won the decision, despite scattering 10 hits over the distance. Ito went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Yuki Karakawa (4-5) took the loss after yielding four runs in seven innings.

Eagles 11, Lions 0

At Seibu Dome, Tohoku Rakuten right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (10-0) threw seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball with no walks en route to winning his 10th consecutive decision since the start of the season in the Eagles’ blowout of Seibu.

Casey McGehee went 2-for-5 with his 15th homer, a solo blast off Kazuhisa Makita (4-5) in the fourth. Kazuya Fujita and Ginji Akaminai had nine hits between them in the 22-hit onslaught. Rakuten catcher Motohiro Shima hit a three-run double in the six-run fifth.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Tigers 2, Dragons 1

At Toyama Alpen Stadium, Ryota Arai broke a 1-1 tie with a leadoff homer off Kenichi Nakata (3-2) in the ninth inning, lifting Hanshin over Chunichi to snap its losing skid at five games.

Atsushi Nomi (7-3) went 8 1/3 innings allowing just one run and struck out seven batters. Shinobu Fukuhara got the final two outs to pick up his first save.

Giants 6, Carp 4

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, pinch hitter Kenji Yano hit a tying two-run single with two outs in the eighth inning and Shuichi Murata followed with a two-run double to give Yomiuri the lead in a rally over Hiroshima.

Manny Acosta (1-0) pitched one scoreless inning for his first win in Japan. Kentaro Nishimura had a 1-2-3 ninth for his 17th save.

Takaya Kawauchi (1-1) was charged with the loss.

Swallows 7, BayStars 4

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Yakult broke a 2-2 tie, rallying for three runs on back-to-back hits by Ryoji Aikawa and Shinya Miyamoto and held off Yokohama, thanks to Keizo Kawashima’s one-out insurance solo blast in the eighth.

Reliever Kyohei Muranaka (4-5) won in relief. BayStars starter Kazuki Mishima (2-3) was tagged with the loss.