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Kaneko capitalizes in clutch as Lions edge Carp

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

The Seibu Lions were late to the party, but they finally did what the other five Pacific League clubs had already accomplished.

They beat the Hiroshima Carp.

Yuji Kaneko connected on a tiebreaking RBI double in the bottom of the eighth, and the Lions overcame a spirited Carp rally to earn a 5-4 victory on Thursday night at Seibu Dome.

“We had created a chance, and it feels good that I was able to do something to help get the run in,” Kaneko said about his run-scoring double. “I didn’t swing and struck out looking in my previous at-bat, so I wanted to do something.”

After the Carp rallied from three runs down to tie the score in the top of the eighth, the Lions’ Ernesto Mejia began the bottom half of the inning with a single. Seibu inserted Koji Yamasaki as a pinch runner, and Fumikazu Kimura moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt. Kaneko followed with a double to left that landed just inside the foul line and brought Yamasaki home.

“Everyone did their job,” Lions interim manager Norio Tanabe said when asked about the bottom of the eighth. “I think we were able to put everything together well.”

Tanabe got a win in his first home game since taking over for manager Haruki Ihara, who took an indefinite leave of absence earlier in the month. It was also the second straight victory for the Lions, who were coming off a road win over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows at Jingu Stadium on Monday night.

“Today was one game,” Tanabe said. “Tomorrow is one game. We’ll just keep taking it one game at a time.”

The free-falling Carp meanwhile have dropped seven straight and haven’t won since June 1. Hiroshima entered the interleague portion of the schedule 27-15 and riding high atop the Central League standings, but has gone just 4-13 against PL teams.

Lions captain Takumi Kuriyama continued his solid play against the CL, finishing 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. Kuriyama is hitting .338 in 17 interleague games and is tied with Takeya Nakamura for the team lead with 15 RBIs over that span. Mejia went 2-for-3 including a solo home run, and Naoto Watanabe pitched in with an RBI single.

Lions reliever Tatsushi Masuda (2-1) backed into the win after allowing three runs in the eighth, which knocked starter Kazuhisa Makita out of the decision. Makita limited the Carp to one run over seven innings. He allowed four hits, struck out five and walked three.

Hiroshima reliever Ren Nakata (3-1) was charged with the loss after giving up the tiebreaking run in the bottom of the eighth.

The Carp’s Brad Eldred hit his NPB-leading 20th home run of the year, and Ryuhei Matsuyama also homered. Ryosuke Kikuchi and Yoshihiro Maru also recorded RBIs for Hiroshima.

Rookie starter Aren Kuri allowed two runs on four hits in three innings on the mound. Kuri finished outside of the decision and still is looking for his first win since beating the Yokohama BayStars on April 19.

Kuri fell behind early after giving up Mejia’s solo shot, which gave the Lions a 1-0 lead in the second inning.

Kuriyama made the score 2-0 in the third with an RBI single to right.

Eldred pulled a run back for the Carp with his homer in the fourth.

Seibu went ahead 3-1 on a two-out RBI single by Watanabe in the seventh, and Kuriyama added to the lead with a run-scoring double.

Rainel Rosario led off the top of the eighth for Hiroshima with an infield single and was driven home by Kikuchi, who tripled. Kikuchi then scored on a groundout by Maru, and Matsuyama tied the score with a home run that landed in the throng of Carp fans beyond the wall in right field.

The tie didn’t hold up for long, as Kaneko put the Lions back in front with his RBI double in the eighth.

“I was really happy when I saw it drop in,” he said.

The teams will meet for the final time in the regular season on Friday night at Seibu Dome.

Giants pound Fighters

Sapporo KYODO

The Yomiuri Giants rolled to their fourth straight win in an 11-2 rout of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in an interleague game on Thursday night in Sapporo.

Takahiro Aoki (1-1) got two outs in relief for the win, and Hayato Sakamoto and Yasuyuki Kamei had three hits apiece in the 16-hit onslaught at Sapporo Dome. The central League-leading Giants moved a season-high nine games above .500.

Kamei broke a 1-1 tie with an RBI double in the two-run fourth.

“I was just looking for pitch to drive high over the plate. I am glad I could get a run back for us,” Kamei said. “I am hitting in good situations. I want to keep riding this wave.”

Tigers 8, Marines 7

At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Ryota Arai rallied his team with a bases-loaded, three-run double in the eighth inning as Hanshin prevailed in a see-saw interleague game over Chiba Lotte.

Hawks 4, Dragons 3

At Yafuoku Dome, Akira Nakamura had a two-out bases-loaded two-run double to bring Fukuoka Softbank within one run and Kenta Imamiya followed with a two-run double off Dragons closer Hitoki Iwase (0-2) for a walk-off win in the ninth inning over Chunichi.

Buffaloes 9, BayStars 5

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Orix took advantage of a five-run second that featured Esteban German’s two-run single, en route to winning its sixth straight in a victory over Yokohama to move 18 games above .500 for the first time in 18 seasons.

Yuki Kuniyoshi (1-1) took the loss.

Swallows at Eagles — ppd.