HIROSHIMA – Yusuke Matsui started strong but saved the best for last on Tuesday, belting a two-run, 10th-inning home run to lift the Chunichi Dragons to a 3-1 victory over the Hiroshima Carp.
Matsui broke the ice with an RBI single and homered with one on and one out in the 10th off right-hander Ren Nakata (7-4). Lefty Hitoki Iwase retired one of the final two batters he faced in the 10th to record his 19th save of the season as the fourth-place Dragons moved to within 4½ games of first place and 1½ games behind the third-place Carp.
Anderson Hernandez, who like Matsui had two of Chunichi’s six hits, got things started in the 10th with a one-out double. Matsui followed by slamming a 1-0 slider into Mazda Stadium’s inviting left-field stands.
“Our opponent is Hiroshima and we are now playing one game after another that we can’t afford to lose. That we could win this kind of close game is great,” Matsui said.
“We had a runner on second, so the idea was to keep it going for the next batter, but I did have a desire to get it done myself. So I’m glad I hit a home run.
“It was just chance that I was in position (to drive in runs), but I am prepared for any situation, and ready to do those things I’m capable of as well as possible.”
The Dragons opened the scoring in the second on a leadoff double, a bunt single and an RBI single by Matsui. Carp right fielder Shota Dobayashi, normally a third baseman, had trouble with Masahiko Morino’s long drive in the sunshine and it glanced off his glove for a double.
Hernandez beat out a wicked bunt that tickled the third-base line before rolling to a halt in fair territory. Matsui then lined a 2-0 fastball from Carp starter Yusuke Nomura to center to give the Dragons the lead. The visitors wouldn’t get another hit until Hernandez’s double in the 10th, but much of that was due to some superb catches by Carp shortstop Shogo Kimura, center fielder Yoshihiro Maru and second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi.
The Carp left the bases loaded in the second, when Nomura flied out to end the inning, and ran out of a promising opportunity in the third when Kikuchi and Maru ran into outs on the bases.
Kikuchi singled with one out and stole second. After a walk put Maru on first, Dragons catcher Masato Matsui failed to handle a bounced forkball from starter Kenta Asakura. Kikuchi lit off for second in a delayed steal attempt but was gunned down.
With two outs and two on, another missed catch by Matsui lured Maru into thinking he could take third only to be proven wrong by the Dragons catcher.
Maru made up for his gaffe in the sixth, when he tied the game with his 14th home run of the season.
BayStars 9, Giants 1
At Kyocera Dome, Sho Aranami scored the game’s first run on a wild pitch and drove in four as Yokohama clubbed league-leading Yomiuri and won for the fourth straight time.
Swallows 4, Tigers 0
At Koshien Stadium, lefty Ryosuke Yagi (5-4) worked eight-plus innings and Tony Barnette retired three of the four batters he faced to preserve the shutout win over Hanshin. Tokyo Yakult first baseman Kazuhiro Hatakeyama, playing for the first time since July 13, singled in the game’s first run.
Hawks 10, Eagles 4
At Koriyama Stadium, Toru Hosokawa broke a 4-4 tie with a sixth-inning RBI double and every member of Fukuoka Softbank’s starting lineup had at least one of the league leaders’ 19 hits against Tohoku Rakuten. Jason Standridge (8-4) went seven innings to pick up the win.
Buffaloes 5, Lions 2
At Hotto Motto Field, Takahiro Okada hit a two-run double in the seventh inning, and Wily Mo Pena followed with a two-run homer as Orix came from behind after Seibu’s Ernesto Mejia put the visitors in front with a sacrifice fly and a solo homer. Right-hander Takahiro Matsuba (6-1) allowed two runs in seven innings to earn the win.