If Brad Eldred and the Hiroshima Carp keep playing like this, the six Pacific League clubs aren’t going to enjoy facing them any more than their Central League counterparts have so far this season.
Eldred hit two home runs and finished with six RBIs, Ryosuke Kikuchi and Shogo Kimura also homered, and starter Bryan Bullington had a solid outing as the Carp wrapped up the first portion of the CL schedule by routing the Yomiuri Giants 10-3 on Sunday afternoon at Tokyo Dome.
“Everybody’s doing good,” Eldred said. “Just look at the scoreboard, you can see that a lot of the guys are swinging the bat really well, and we have some really good pitching. Hopefully we can continue with everybody doing their job, and everything should turn out good.”
Eldred hit a two-run homer in the third inning and a grand slam in the sixth to pull into a tie with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ Wladimir Balentien for the CL lead with 15 home runs. The Hiroshima slugger was 3-for-5 on the afternoon.
“After the first (at-bat), obviously I was a little anxious,” he said referring to his groundout in the first inning. “I wanted to stay really relaxed in my approach against (Yomiuri starter Chris) Seddon. So after the first one I really just had to remind myself, and Kenny (manager Kenjiro Nomura) reminded me as well. So obviously it turned out to be really good to stand back nice and relaxed, and I got some really good pitches to hit.”
Eldred raised his batting average to .356 and now has 47 RBIs, the most in Japan, in 42 games.
He and the rest of the Carp are the PL’s problem now. The CL’s first-place team begins interleague play on Tuesday against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and won’t return to CL action until June 27, when they meet the Yokohama BayStars.
“I don’t think we’re worried a whole lot,” Eldred said of next week’s date against the Hawks. “I think we have a really good team as well. Every team has got good pitchers and good hitters, and as long as we continue to do our job, I think we’ll be able to have success even in interleague.”
The Carp took two of the three games against Yomiuri to earn their first series win at Tokyo Dome in four years.
“It is important to prove we can beat the Giants, so winning the series is special for us,” Kikuchi said.
Kikuchi did his part on Sunday by going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a two-run homer. He also homered in Friday night’s 7-2 win.
“I’m relaxed at the plate and seeing the ball well,” Kikuchi said. “I hope I can keep hitting like this.”
Kimura also finished with a pair of hits including a solo homer.
The 10-run outburst was a far cry from the first time the Carp came up against Seddon on April 9, when the Giants hurler struck out 15 and didn’t allow a run until the top of the ninth.
On Sunday, the Carp had a 2-0 lead before sending their third batter to the plate in the top of the first and never looked back.
Bullington benefited from the run support, allowing three runs over eight innings to earn the win. Bullington (5-4), yielded five hits, struck out seven and walked two.
“I tried to change speeds, keep them off balance and keep the ball down,” Bullington said. “In this park, you leave stuff up, all it takes is a fly ball for a home run.”
While the Carp are riding high into the interleague schedule, the Giants are looking for answers after losing for the seventh time in 10 games.
Seddon lasted just three innings, allowing five runs on six hits.
The Giants were limited to six hits and scored all their runs on Jose Lopez’s solo homer in the seventh, and Seiji Kobayashi’s two-run double in the eighth.
Swallows beat Dragons
Nagoya — The Tokyo Yakult Swallows rallied from behind with a five-run fifth, featuring Wladimir Balentien’s two-run single off Chunichi starter Kenta Asakura (2-2), to beat the Chunichi Dragons 7-4 on Sunday for their sixth win in a row to move into a tie for fourth.
Kenichi Matsuoka (1-0) yielded three runs in eight innings to win in his first start of the season.
Tigers 4, BayStars 1
At Koshien Stadium, Mauro Gomez and Takashi Toritani both homered and Hanshin downed the BayStars to take the rubber of the three-game series. Naoto Tsuru (2-0) won in relief and Oh Seung-hwan posted his 10th save.
Buffaloes 7, Hawks 2
At Kyocera Dome, Yoshio Itoi had a two-run double to key a six-run second inning as PL leader Orix rallied in a rout of Fukuoka Softbank. Brian Wolfe (4-2) was roughed up for six runs in 1⅓ innings for the Hawks, who lost three straight for the first time this season.
Lions 12, Eagles 2
At Iwate Prefecture Stadium, Hideto Asamura hit two of his team’s three homers and Seibu banged out a season-high 17 hits in a romp of Tohoku Rakuten. Ken Togame (2-2) gave up two runs — one earned — in seven innings for the win. Rakuten lost its fourth straight.
Marines 4, Fighters 3
At Sapporo Dome, Chiba Lotte rallied from behind in the ninth inning with two runs against Hokkaido Nippon Ham, featuring a game-tying homer from Luis Cruz and Yoshifumi Okada’s go-ahead bunt single. Nippon Ham saw its winning streak snapped at five games.