YAMAGATA – Fukuoka Softbank lefty Yuya Iida won a rookie pitchers’ duel with Tohoku Rakuten’s top draft pick, Yuki Matsui, on Wednesday as the Pacific League-leading Hawks defeated the Eagles 3-0.
Iida (1-2), who was taken in the third round of the 2012 developmental draft, allowed three hits and two walks over six scoreless innings, while striking out four to earn his first career victory and the Hawks’ sixth straight. The win at Nisshin Seiyaku Stadium kept the Hawks 1½ games ahead of the second-place Orix Buffaloes.
“I benefitted from our being on a roll after five straight wins,” said the 23-year-old lefty who was starting his fifth time for the big club after going 8-0 with a 1.88 earned run average in the minors.
“I tried to stay on it and hang in there, and I think that was the big thing.”
Matsui (1-5), the most sought-after player in last autumn’s amateur draft, allowed two unearned runs in seven innings. The lefty allowed three hits and three walks, while striking out six. But the Hawks broke a scoreless deadlock in the sixth on a two-run double by Seiichi Uchikawa.
The Hawks did not get a hit until Kenta Imamiya led off the fourth with a single, but cashed in their first slim scoring opportunity of the game after Akira Nakamura drew a two-out walk. Imamiya hit a squibber to third that Kazuo Matsui charged and made a tough throw across his body. The throw was in time, but pulled first baseman Ginji Akaminai off the bag and Matsui was charged with an error.
Behind in the count 2-1, Eagles catcher Shota Koseki called for a fastball in the heart of the plate. Matsui hit the target but his 140-kph pitch was straight as can be, and Uchikawa, a two-time batting champion, lined it to right center.
“Frankly, that was a relief,” Iida said. “I was incredibly happy.”
The outing was easily the best of the 18-year-old Matsui’s brief career, but the two-out walk spoiled everything.
“There’s no excuse for not being able to get Uchikawa out in a critical situation,” Matsui said. “I threw some good fastballs and breaking balls during the game. I had innings where both my pitches and tempo were good. That two-out walk threw me off my rhythm.”
Matsui, who was demoted early in the season for frequently issuing walks, took some criticism from Eagles skipper Senichi Hoshino.
“When you walk one batter, you can’t be careless,” Hoshino said.
Uchikawa made it a 3-0 game in the top of the ninth against former National League all-star Takashi Saito with his 12th home run of the season.
Dennis Sarfate, Softbank’s fourth pitcher, worked around a hit and a walk to preserve the four-hit shutout and record his 26th save.
Buffaloes 8, Lions 1
At Hotto Motto Field, Orix’s top draft pick Kazumasa Yoshida (4-1) worked 5⅓ scoreless innings, Yuki Tsutsumi broke a scoreless tie with a second-inning RBI single and Takahiro Okada drove in three runs in a win over Seibu.
Fighters 6, Marines 2
At QVC Marine Field, Sho Nakata broke a 1-1 tie in the third inning with a two-run home run, and rookie Naoyuki Uwasawa (7-5) allowed two runs in seven innings to get his first win since June 8 as Hokkaido Nippon Ham beat Chiba Lotte.
Giants 3, BayStars 2 (11)
At Kyocera Dome, Yoshiyuki Kamei led off the bottom of the 11th with a sayonara home run as league-leading Yomiuri avoided being swept in its two-game series with Yokohama. The BayStars tied the game in the top of the ninth on a throwing error.
Tigers 5, Swallows 4
At Koshien Stadium, Yuta Imanari’s two-run double and Takashi Toritani’s two-run single overturned a 3-1 deficit in the fourth inning as second-place Hanshin beat Tokyo Yakult to snap a three-game losing streak.
Carp 9, Dragons 2
At Mazda Stadium, Ryosuke Kikuchi hit a three-run home run and put on a fielding clinic at second base to back starting Bryan Bullington (8-7) as third-place Hiroshima came from behind to beat fourth-place Chunichi on the strength of a seven-run third inning.