Craig Brazell and Jason Standridge know each other very well. They’re good friends, former teammates and their children even get along well.
They also both hail from the state of Alabama, from hometowns about an hour or so apart. They haven’t faced each other too many times in Japan, but after their latest meeting, any friendly bragging rights are firmly in Brazell’s corner.
Brazell homered off Standridge in the top of the ninth inning to help give the Chiba Lotte Marines a 1-0 win over the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in what had been a pitcher’s duel between Standridge and Lotte right-hander Yuki Karakawa on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome. The Hawks were serving as the home team in the contest, despite being a long way away from Fukuoka.
“Jason threw a great game, no ifs ands or buts about that,” Brazell said. “I think if Jason was to give up a hit or a home run that game, I think he doesn’t mind it being to me. We played together for so long, been good friends, and you can’t take anything away from what he did. He just made one mistake and left it up in the zone a little bit.”
Karakawa (1-5) was just as good as he bounced back from a poor start to the year to notch his first win of 2014.
“Getting the win tonight is important as far as the season is concerned,” Karakawa said. “So I’m happy about that.”
The victory was the Marines’ second in a row. The team trails the third-place Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters by two games in the Pacific League standings.
“To win this way is the best feeling,” Lotte manager Tsutomu Ito said.
Tuesday’s game was just the second time Brazell and Standridge had met in Japan. The last was back in 2008, when Brazell was with the Seibu Lions and Standridge was in his first stint with Softbank. Brazell was 1-for-2 with a homer and a strikeout against Standridge that season. The two were later teammates with the Hanshin Tigers from 2010-2012.
When they reunited Tuesday, Brazell grounded out in his first at-bat and flied out in the next two. He came through his last time up to help his team get the win.
“In that type of pitching duel, you always feel like it’s going to end up with one run,” Brazell said. “Luckily enough we got it, and got Karakawa the win because he’s had a little rough go here and there, but he did great tonight.”
Karakawa was pitching for the first time since being knocked around by the Hawks in a loss on May 15, when he allowed five runs — four earned — in three innings. He was taken off the active roster after that game.
He was strong in his return, striking out four over eight scoreless innings. Karakawa allowed five hits and hit a batter. He said he was confident going into the game and tried to keep his emotions in check.
“I was just trying to use my inner strength and stay relaxed,” Karakawa said. “I was just aiming for the catcher’s mitt. That was the main thing. I was just trying to keep things simple.”
Karakawa was able to pitch his game and didn’t let a crowd of 46,701, most of whom were clad in the red jerseys the Hawks handed out to their fans at the gate, get to him.
“I’ve been in a lot of games against the Hawks and it’s always an amazing atmosphere,” he said. “So I’m used to it by now.”
Chad Huffman doubled in the eighth inning, to give the Marines their only other extra-base hit, with four other players contributing singles.
Softbank’s Akira Nakamura had the only multi-hit night for the home team, finishing 2-for-3. Nobuhiro Matsuda’s double in the bottom of the eighth was the Hawks’ only extra-base hit.
Standridge (6-3) threw a 138-pitch complete game in the loss, allowing a single run on six hits. Standridge struck out four and walked two.
“He was moving the ball around a lot,” Brazell said. “He was sinking it, cutting it, sliding it, and throwing a good change-up. He threw well today. There’s not doubt about that.”
Fighters double up Lions
Tokorozawa Saitama Pref. KYODO
Hokkaido Nippon Fighters lefty Masaru Takeda (2-3) took the mound for the first time in over a month and allowed two runs in five innings for his first win in two months as the Fighters defeated the Seibu Lions 4-2 on Tuesday.
Seibu ace Takayuki Kishi (7-3) allowed four runs in six innings to take the loss.
Buffaloes 8, Eagles 5
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, league-leading Orix overturned a four-run lead to improve to 9-0 against Tohoku Rakuten.
Hikaru Ito’s two-run RBI single put the Buffaloes in front in the fifth inning and allowed Yuki Nishi (10-3) to pick up the win despite allowing four runs in five innings.
Giants 8, Carp 7
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Hayato Sakamoto hit two home runs, including a game-reversing three-run shot in the eighth inning as Yomiuri Giants pulled out a wild victory over the Carp.
Before a crowd of 25,369, Hiroshima overturned a two-run deficit off tough right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano in the seventh inning, but the bullpen could not close it out as the Giants took the first of a three-game set between the Central League’s top two clubs.
Leslie Anderson, who had three of the Giants’ 15 hits, and Tetsuya Matsumoto each singled off Hiroshima’s third pitcher, right-hander Ren Nakata (4-3), who threw three fastballs to Sakamoto and got two of them back.
The Carp got a run in the bottom of the eighth off lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi (3-2), who earned the win after surrendering Tetsuya Kokubo’s go-ahead RBI single in the seventh. Giants right-hander Scott Mathieson came on with two outs and the tying run at the plate but put out the fire to record his 12th save and push the second-place Carp 3-1/2 games back in the CL standings.
The Giants jumped in front on Shuichi Murata’s 10th homer of the season, a two-run shot in the first off rookie right-hander Daichi Osera. Japan home run leader Brad Eldred made it a 2-1 game in the second, when he led off with his 26th home run.
Sakamoto hit a solo shot for Yomiuri in the third, but the Carp tied it in the bottom of the fourth on Rainel Rosario’s two-run RBI single.
A poor play by Soichiro Amaya in right field opened the door for the Giants to take a two-run lead in the fifth. Amaya, normally as reliable as they come, raced back to snare a line drive off the bat of Anderson, but the ball hit off the heel of his glove and
Anderson was credited with a leadoff double. A poor safety-squeeze bunt by Sugano saw Anderson cut down at the plate. After Sakamoto struck out looking at a fastball down the pipe, it seemed the Giants were done for. But Osera hung a slider up in the zone with his first pitch to Yasuyuki Kataoka, who lined it into center to put Yomiuri in front. Yoshiyuki Kamei followed with another line single to make it a 5-3 game.
The Carp took the lead in the eighth, when Amaya made amends with a leadoff double and Yoshihiro Maru blasted his 10th home run to tie it. A single by Rosario and a two-out walk put two on and brought Yamaguchi into the game. Kokubo lined a 1-0 pitch to right, and pinch runner Masato Akamatsu scored ahead of the tag after a strong throw from Kamei in right.
Tigers 12, Swallows 6
At Kurashiki’s Muscat Stadium, Hanshin came from two runs down in the first inning to snap a six-game winless streak as rookie catcher Ryutaro Umeno belted two homers in a win over Tokyo Yakult in Okayama Prefecture.
Former Boston Red Sox slugger Mauro Gomez hit his 13th homer for the Tigers.
Dragons 12, BayStars 4
At Kanazawa’s Ishikawa Prefectural Stadium, Kazuhiro Wada hit a two-run, tie-breaking home run in the sixth as Chunichi went on to wallop Yokohama.