FUKUOKA – Kenta Imamiya made the most of a pair of bunt situations to help the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks past the Pacific League-leading Orix Buffaloes 5-2 on Friday.
With the Hawks leading 2-1 in the fifth, the Hawks light-hitting shortstop came up with no outs and a runner on first, pulled back a fake bunt and swung away and drove a fat first-pitch fastball from All-Star right-hander Yuki Nishi into the gap in right-center to make it a 3-1 game.
The win lifted the second-place Hawks to within a half-game of first place.
“I thought I was going up there to bunt, but when I saw the sign for a slash bunt, I just tried to get the ball in play. I was fortunate it went where it did,” said Imamiya, whose trickery also helped undo the Buffaloes in the Hawks’ two-run seventh.
Nishi (11-5) allowed three runs — two earned — in five innings. He gave up four hits and three walks, while striking out five. But the Hawks only needed one hit to score twice in the second inning due to some sloppy fielding.
After issuing a leadoff walk, Nishi threw a high 1-2 fastball that Yuichi Honda grounded hard at first baseman Takahiro Okada. But Okada barely moved and it zipped past him down the right-field line for a double. With one out, Nishi bounced a 2-2 curveball to Kenji Akashi that ricocheted off catcher Hikaru Ito’s chest protector and allowed the game’s first run on a wild pitch.
Akashi then grounded a comebacker to the pitcher, who checked the runner at third and fired to first, where Okada once more failed to catch a ball right at him and was finally charged with an error as the second run scored.
The Buffalos scored single runs in the fourth and sixth off Softbank ace Tadashi Settsu (7-3) on two-out RBI singles by reserve infielder Takuya Hara, while the Hawks added a run in the fifth and two more in the seventh — with the help of another faked bunt by Imamiya.
With no outs and runners on first and second, Imamiya twice fouled off attempted sacrifice bunts. With two strikes, he drew Okada in by squaring to bunt and chopped it past him to second. Okada was late getting back to first and Hara’s throw glanced off his glove. Imamiya was credited with an infield single, and Hara with an error for allowing the run to score.
Veteran outfielder Seiichi Uchikawa delivered a sacrifice fly to make it a 5-2 game.
Fighters 8, Eagles 1
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium, Sho Nakata spoiled Tohoku Rakuten manager Senichi Hoshino’s return to duty with a sixth-inning grand slam to lift Hokkaido Nippon Ham to a come-from-behind victory.
Hoshino was back on the bench after a two-month leave of absence necessitated by back trouble.
Marines 3, Lions 2
At Seibu Dome, Chiba Lotte scored three second-inning runs on a solo homer by Toshiaki Imae, an RBI double by Shohei Kato and a wild pitch as the Marines overcame a two-run homer by Seibu’s Ernesto Mejia to leapfrog past the Lions into fourth place.
Dragons 10, Giants 0
At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi’s Yudai Ono (6-4) scattered five hits en route to pitching his first career shutout, while Yomiuri’s Tomoyuki Sugano (9-5) allowed a career-worst eight runs.
Tigers 4, Carp 3
At Mazda Stadium, Hanshin tied it on Hiroki Uemoto’s seventh-inning two-run homer and took the lead on Ryota Imanari’s RBI double in the eighth to beat Hiroshima.
BayStars 3, Swallows 2
At Jingu Stadium, Shoichi Ino (10-5) allowed a run on seven hits over six innings to become the first CL pitcher to reach 10 wins, and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo powered Yokohama’s win over Tokyo Yakult with a single, double and home run and two RBIs.