KORIYAMA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – Shuichi Murata and John Bowker homered, lefty Tetsuya Utsumi went seven shutout innings, and the Central League-leading Yomiuri Giants blanked the Yokohama BayStars 6-0 to open a three-game series on Tuesday night.
Yomiuri center fielder Hisayoshi Chono went 3-for-4, delivering a two-run single to put the game out of reach in the eighth. Murata also had three hits, featuring an RBI single after a two-out triple by Itaru Hashimoto in pouring rain in the ninth.
The runaway Giants, who improved to 10-2 this season against the BayStars, can clinch a magic number in their bid for their second consecutive pennant with a win on Wednesday.
Utsumi (9-4) yielded six hits, struck out four and walked two, while Yokohama starter Daisuke Miura (7-9) gave up two runs — both home runs — and seven hits in seven innings of the loss for the BayStars, who lost a season-worst six in a row.
“I wasn’t really pitching that well tonight but I kept us in the game,” said Utsumi. “My style is getting runners out once I’ve let them on base. That’s what I was able to do tonight. My curveball is the pitch I rely on most and it was really working for me,” he said.
Yokohama had few chances for a rally, putting runners at first and second with two outs in the fourth before Kenjiro Tsuruoka flied out to right.
Later, Giants third baseman Murata made a fine leaping grab on Toshiro Miyazaki’s liner for the second out in the seventh. Runners reached first and second, but Tsuruoka missed the sign from third base coach Toshifumi Baba to hold up and was tagged out at home on Takehiro Ishikawa’s single to right.
There was a sudden heavy downpour at Kaiseizan Stadium after the eighth inning got under way, but the weather let up within minutes before another shower in the final frame.
In the eighth, Murata was issued a free pass with one out, and former Seattle Mariner Jose Lopez had a two-out single before pinch-hitter Kenji Yano drew a walk to load the bases. Chono then knocked in two on a high-and-in fastball from Shigeru Kaga.
After Murata’s single made it 5-0 in the final inning, Lopez added an RBI double as puddles began to form in different parts of the field.
Carp 1, Tigers 0
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Yoshihiro Maru delivered a game-winning sacrifice fly off right-handed starter Randy Messenger (10-5) with one out in the ninth inning, lifting Hiroshima over Hanshin.
The Tigers faced off against nemesis Kenta Maeda, who was 3-1 with a 0.31 ERA in four starts against them entering Tuesday’s game. Maeda threw seven shutout innings of five-hit ball before Katsuhiro Nagakawa (2-0) got the win in relief.
Swallows 1, Dragons 0
At Hamamatsu Municipal Stadium, Ryosuke Morioka had a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the sixth inning, helping to make a winner of Tokyo Yakult right-hander Masato Furuno, who yielded four hits, all singles, in six scoreless innings against Chunichi.
Furuno (1-0) got his first career win and Kenichi Nakata (4-4) took the loss. Four relievers finished the shutout with Tony Barnette working the ninth for his sixth save — his first since April 16 for last-place Yakult.
Chunichi saw its winning streak end at five.
Hawks 6, Marines 1
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Hayato Terahara threw a complete game, allowing one run and six hits, to post his first win since May 1 as Fukuoka Softbank routed Chiba Lotte in the series opener.
The fourth-place Hawks have won their last three series.
Kenta Imamiya and Seiichi Uchikawa had back-to-back homers off Tomohisa Otani (0-2) to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead in the fourth. Imamiya added an RBI single in a two-run fifth before a Toru Hosokawa two-run double capped the scoring in the sixth.
Fighters 13, Lions 1
At Seibu Dome, Michel Abreu went 4-for-5 with three RBIs and Shogo Akada also had four hits in a season-high 21-hit onslaught for last-place Hokkaido Nippon Ham, which snapped a three-game skid in a romp against lefty Yusei Kikuchi (9-4) and Seibu.
Sho Nakata hit a two-run homer to key a seven-run sixth for the Fighters. Hiroshi Kisanuki (7-5) gave up one unearned run and three hits in eight innings.
Buffaloes at Eagles — ppd.