Kosuke Tanaka hit his first career home run and fellow rookie Daichi Osera (2-1) allowed two runs in eight innings on Thursday as the Central League-leading Hiroshima Carp defeated the injury-plagued Tokyo Yakult Swallows 9-2.
Tanaka, Hiroshima’s third-round draft pick last autumn, overturned a 1-0 Swallows lead in the second, when the Carp shortstop blasted a three-run homer at Jingu Stadium off Swallows right-hander Masato Furuno (0-2).
“I fell behind early in the count but I found a way,” Tanaka said of his drive that landed just fair in the right-field stands. “The way it left the bat it was unclear whether it would make it, but I’m glad it did. I think the wind helped it a bit.”
With their third straight win, the Carp moved 10 games over .500 and two games clear at the top of the CL standings ahead of a weekend series with the defending champion Yomiuri Giants.
“I’m still new, and I don’t know how long we can push this,” Tanaka said. “But I’m glad we won.”
Osera, the Carp’s top pick in the last draft, scattered eight hits, while striking out six and walking none.
Yakult, who entered the season without two of their best pitchers, Shohei Tateyama and Yoshinori Sato, saw last year’s CL rookie of the year, Yasuhiro Ogawa, go down with an injury this past week.
Swallows leadoff man and second baseman Tetsuto Yamada had four of Yakult’s eight hits and scored both of the hosts’ runs. He opened the bottom of the first with a double and scored the go-ahead run. Trailing 4-1 in the fifth, he went deep off Osera, but it was all Yakult could muster.
Yoshihiro Maru and Osera each delivered RBI singles. Jun Hirose hit a seventh-inning sacrifice fly and Tetsuya Kokubo, who pinch-hit for Tanaka, capped the four-run inning with his first homer of the season. All nine Hiroshima starters had at least one of the team’s 12 hits.
Furuno allowed four runs in five innings before leaving the mound. The loss was Yakult’s eighth straight.
Tigers 3, Dragons 0
At Nagoya Dome, Hanshin rookie Suguru Iwazaki (2-1) allowed five hits in seven innings in a win over Chunichi and two relievers completed the six-hit shutout with Oh Seung-hwan earning his sixth save.
Matt Murton broke up a scoreless tie in the sixth inning with an RBI single, and Takashi Toritani and Ryota Arai each singled home a run in the eighth for the Tigers.
Eagles 6, Lions 1
At Tokyo Dome, rookie lefty Yudai Mori, Rakuten’s top draft pick in 2012, allowed a run in 5⅔ innings to earn his first career win. Takero Okajima opened the bottom of the first inning with a leadoff homer to give the Eagles the lead and Shintaro Masuda went deep with a two-run shot in the third.