OSAKA – On a day when the Pacific League-leading Buffaloes needed a boost, rookie right-hander Kazumasa Yoshida provided it as Orix completed a three-game sweep of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters with a 1-0 victory on Wednesday.
Having deactivated ace right-hander Chihiro Kaneko due to fatigue and veteran second baseman Keiichi Hirano due to tightness in his left calf earlier in the day, Yoshida, the club’s top draft pick last autumn, got the job done.
Yoshida (3-1) allowed only a seventh-inning single while striking out 11 to come out on top against unlucky loser Naoyuki Uwasawa (6-5).
The 191-cm Yoshida got a one-run lead in the bottom of the first to work with and retired 19 straight batters before the Fighters got a one-out single in the seventh.
“I was thinking about it (a perfect game) a little bit, but what matters is that we won,” Yoshida said.
After a visit to the mound from pitching coach Ikuo Takayama, Matsuba responded by striking out Nippon Ham’s two most dangerous batters, No. 3 man Yang Dai-kang and cleanup hitter Sho Nakata.
“The question was whether I could get over it and move forward,” Yoshida said. “I wanted to challenge those guys with my best. I was really focused on that.”
The Buffaloes did all their damage in the first inning on a double by Tomotaka Sakaguchi and a bloop single by former Fighter Yoshio Itoi.
After two quick outs, Uwasawa got ahead in the count 1-2, but served up a 143-kph fastball low and inside. Sakaguchi dropped the bat head and golfed it off the wall in right-center. The 20-year-old rookie then missed with a slider up and over the plate to Itoi. The PL’s leading hitter mishit it, but got a break as his little flair fell in for an RBI single in left.
That was all the offense the hosts could manage against Uwasawa, who allowed five hits, four walks and hit a batter in eight effective innings, while striking out five.
“That guy (Uwasawa) is one heck of a pitcher,” Buffaloes skipper Hiroshi Moriwaki said. “Getting consecutive hits off a guy like that is not easy. We had one shot and were fortunate.”
Orix closer Yoshihisa Hirano entered in the ninth and the first batter he faced was pinch hitter Shohei Otani. The double-duty man, who is Nippon Ham’s most successful pitcher this season, had doubled in two runs as a pinch hitter the night before. This time he beat out an infield single to put the tying run aboard.
But the Fighters wasted that chance and the game ended on a fluke play. With one out and a runner at first, Haruki Nishikawa struck out swinging with the runner going. Nishikawa inadvertently got in the way of catcher Hikaru Ito’s throw to second, the umpires ruled the runner out due to the batter’s interference and Hirano nailed down his 29th save.
Hawks 5, Marines 4
At Yafuoku Dome, Kenji Akashi’s lucky sixth-inning single completed Fukuoka Softbank’s comeback from a 4-0 deficit to beat Chiba Lotte. A comebacker took a strange spin, deflected off pitcher Yuhei Nakaushiro’s glove, wrong-footed second baseman Luis Cruz and rolled into the outfield for a two-run single.
Lions 2, Eagles 1 (10)
At Seibu Dome, Tohoku Rakuten’s top draft pick Yuki Matsui gave his team five-plus scoreless innings, but an RBI single by Seibu’s Shogo Saito tied it in the ninth and another by Hideto Asamura won it in the 10th.
Giants 3, Tigers 2
At Koshien Stadium, Yomiuri overcame an early two-run deficit after Mauro Gomez homered in the first for Hanshin. A Jose Lopez solo homer and an Itaru Hashimoto RBI single tied it and the Giants plated the winning run in the ninth on a wild pitch to avoid being swept in three games.
Dragons 6, BayStars 3
At Yokohama Stadium, Chunichi came from a run down in the seventh inning on an RBI infield single by Anderson Hernandez and a bases-loaded walk to beat Yokohama and return to .500
Carp 4, Swallows 2