Lefty Masanori Ishikawa held the Hiroshima Carp to five hits over the distance on Wednesday night as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows beat the Central League leaders 6-0.
Ishikawa (1-3) had enough command of his various pitches to keep Carp batters from making too much solid contact. The veteran, who has made a career out of getting ground outs, worked effectively up in the zone in the early innings and got an uncharacteristic number of easy fly outs. But when needed, Ishikawa was able to go back to basics and get big ground outs.
“Ishikawa wanted to vary things a bit tonight,” Yakult catcher Yuhei Nakamura said. “It wasn’t so much a plan to get fly outs but just to mix things up and put hitters off balance.”
The win at Jingu Stadium was the third in a row for the fifth-place Swallows.
Ishikawa walked two batters, hit another and struck out four in his first complete game of the year and his first shutout since 2012.
“My pitching has been pretty bad, but it is getting better because the manager and coaches have showed a lot of patience, sticking with me all this time,” Ishikawa said. “Nakamura called a great game. Batters had been sitting on my sinker, so we wanted to do things a little differently. But in the end, I’m a groundball pitcher.”
Carp starter Yuya Fukui (0-1) looked rusty in his season debut and the Swallows put a lot of good swings on his fastball in a three-run first inning. Two sharp singles brought Wladimir Balentien to the plate with one out and a chance to do some damage.
Fukui bounced the first pitch to Balentien, who was starting for the first time in three days due to a slight groin injury, and the wild pitch advanced the runners to second to third. The right-hander jammed the Swallows cleanup hitter on an inside fastball, but Balentien looped it into center to score leadoff man Tetsuto Yamada.
Shingo Kawabata went to third on Balentien’s single and scored when Yuhei Takai poked a hanging forkball away to the opposite field. Balentien took third on a deep fly and scored when Takahiro Araki rifled a 2-0 fastball to center.
Fukui walked the No. 8 hitter and left the bases loaded by striking out the pitcher, but the Carp went three and out in the top of the second and the Swallows came back for another run in the home half of the inning.
Wataru Hiyane singled with one out, stole second and scored on Kawabata’s second single of the game to make it 4-0 in the second. The duo performed an encore in the fourth, when Hiyane was hit by a pitch with one out, stole second and scored on Kawabata’s third straight single.
Takai scored Yakult’s sixth run leading off the fifth with his fifth home run of the season. It was the third in three games for the former pitcher.
The Carp managed their first scoring threat in the top of the sixth. Catcher Yoshiyuki Ishihara was hit with a pitch to open the inning, and with two outs Ryosuke Kikuchi doubled. His ball hit off the wall and right fielder Takai and was originally ruled a home run. After it was ruled a double on review, Ishikawa got out of the inning on a ground out.
“The ball came off the wall and hit off the side of my face,” Takai said. “I was going, ‘Where is it? Where is it?’ When I saw the umpire signal home run I said, ‘No, that’s not right!’ ”
Fukui, Hiroshima’s first-round draft pick in 2010, surrendered six runs on nine hits. He struck out three batters, while walking two and hitting one.
Dragons 7, Tigers 0
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Giants 10, BayStars 2
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Hawks 5, Fighters 3
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Marines 4, Buffaloes 2
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Saburo Omura tied it with a fifth-inning RBI double, and put Chiba Lotte in the lead for good with a seventh-inning single in a win over Orix.