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BayStars stage wild comeback against Tigers

by David Hueston and Dave Hueston

Kyodo

Reality really is sometimes stranger than fiction, and the Yokohama BayStars proved it by overcoming a 7-0 deficit en route to a 9-8 victory over the Hanshin Tigers on Tuesday night.

Pinch hitter Norihiro Nakamura hit a walk-off single in the ninth inning, Takayuki Kajitani keyed a five-run fourth with a two-run homer and the BayStars banged out five hits in the big frame to complete an epic rally at home.

Things got off to a rosy start for Yokohama starter Daisuke Miura, who retired the first seven batters he faced, then all hell broke loose in the third, sending the right-hander to an early shower.

He got a strikeout for the first out of the third, only to allow a double to Akihito Fujii. After inducing Randy Messenger’s groundout to short, the wheels began to slip off as he loaded the bases on leadoff man Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s single to right and a walk to Yamato Maeda. Tigers captain Takashi Toritani then drilled a double off the wall in left to drive in the first two runs.

Matt Murton got the second free pass of the frame, and Takahiro Arai hit a three-run double to make it 5-0. Kosuke Fukudome added an RBI single and Fujii capped the seven-run onslaught with a run-scoring single.

But the BayStars struck back in the bottom half with a two-run drive by Nyjer “Tony Plush” Morgan and a solo blast by Taketoshi Goto with two outs. Morgan connected on a 2-2 curveball from Messenger that just cleared the right-center wall.

After Miura left, the Yokohama bullpen was touch-and-go. In the fourth, reliever Hiroshi Kobayashi loaded the bases on a single and two walks before getting Fukudome to fly out to left to end the threat. Kobayashi fared better in the fifth, escaping unscathed after yielding Fujii’s one-out single.

The hosts knocked out Messenger in the fourth. Rookie Hiroyuki Shirasaki, who was celebrating his 23rd birthday, reached on a fielding error by third baseman Katsuhiko Saka.

BayStars catcher Kazunari Tsuruoka hit a ball deep to left-center and Shirasaki scored from first, beating the throw from cutoff man Nishioka. Kajitani then homered to right with a runner on third, the third dinger of the night off Messenger and Kajitani’s fifth in five games.

Morgan hit a fly down the left-field line that just stayed fair to allow the tying run when left fielder Murton missed while attempting a diving catch and the rally was complete on a Tatsuhiko Kinjo single to right, giving Yokohama an 8-7 lead.

But the Tigers got even in the sixth on Arai’s one-out RBI single following back-to-back singles by Maeda and Toritani. Former Yomiuri Giant lefty Masanori Hayashi was brought in to escape a jam with runners at first and second, striking out Fukudome and getting pinch hitter Kentaro Sekimoto to ground out to third.

Giants 2, Swallows 0

At Nagano Olympic Stadium, Tetsuya Utsumi yielded seven hits over 7 2/3 shutout innings, Jose Lopez hit a two-run blast and Yomiuri downed last-place Tokyo Yakult.

Utsumi (10-5), who struck out three and walked two, notched double-digits in wins for the fourth consecutive year. The left-hander benefitted from three double plays, and Scott Mathieson and Kentaro Nishimura got the final four outs. Yakult lost its fifth in a row.

Carp 6, Dragons 0

At Gifu’s Nagaragawa Stadium, Kenta Maeda (11-5) pitched four-hit ball over seven innings as Hiroshima blanked Chunichi.

Carp catcher Yoshiyuki Ishihara homered in a 2-for-4 outing and Ryuhei Matsuyama had a two-run single among his two hits. Eishin Soyogi was 3-for-3 with an RBI single.

Kenichi Nakata (4-5) allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings to take the loss.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Marines 4, Lions 0

At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Seth Greisinger (4-2) threw six innings of three-hit ball as Lotte routed Seibu.

Tadahito Iguchi and Tomoya Satozaki had RBI singles, and Toshiaki Imae was 2-for-4 with an RBI grounder. Hideaki Wakui (5-6) was chased after walking three in 1 1/3 shaky innings for Seibu.

Fighters 9, Eagles 5

Hawks 3, Buffaloes 2