OSAKA – Chihiro Kaneko allowed a run over eight innings to earn the win as the Orix Buffaloes defeated the Pacific League-leading Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 8-1 on Friday in the first game of their three-game showdown series.
Pitching before 31,128 at Kyocera Dome, Kaneko struck out nine, while giving up six hits without a walk to improve his record to 10-4. The right-hander hardly looked troubled, although two-time batting champion Seiichi Uchikawa went 3-for-4 against him and doubled in the Hawks’ only run in the sixth.
“You’re going to give up hits, so you just focus on the next guy and try to get him out,” said Kaneko, who said it didn’t matter to him that it was a big game against the league leaders.
“I went out there as I always do, just trying my best to help the team win.”
The victory moved second-place Orix, which has not reached the postseason since 2008 or played in the Japan Series since 1996, to within three games of Softbank.
In what was supposed to be a duel between the aces of the PL’s best two teams, Hawks right-hander Tadashi Settsu (8-5) was knocked out when his 10th pitch was lined back through the box and struck his pitching hand. He lasted one-third of an inning and allowed an infield single but was tagged with the loss when his replacement, right-hander Kim Mu-yon, allowed three hits and a walk before getting out of the inning.
With Kim on the mound, Ryoichi Adachi, whose single knocked Settsu from the game, stole second and went to third on a throwing error by catcher Toru Hosokawa. Yoshio Itoi then broke the ice with a sacrifice fly. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with two outs, and reserve outfielder Takayoshi Kawabata teed off on a hanging forkball and lined it between first and second for a two-run single.
“I wanted to get a good swing, not something tentative,” said Kawabata. “The guys in front of me had good at-bats and I just rode their momentum.”
“With Kaneko on the mound, I thought if we could get a bunch of runs early he would settle into a good rhythm.”
Wily Mo Pena, Takahiro Okada and Shunta Goto each drove in a run in a three-run fourth that essentially iced the game.
Buffaloes manager Hiroshi Moriwaki was happy to hear Settsu’s injury didn’t look serious
“It’s too bad he didn’t get to pitch more. I’ve heard it’s just a contusion, so that is a relief,” said Moriwaki, who spent much of his coaching career with the Hawks.
“We set up scoring opportunities in the second and third inning, but we stayed patient and our patience was rewarded in the fourth.”
Eagles 4, Marines 0
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium, Takahiro Norimoto (10-8) tossed a one-hitter for his sixth shutout of the season as Tohoku Rakuten defeated Chiba Lotte.
Norimoto got ahead in counts with his hard slider and finished off batters with his forkball. He struck out nine without issuing a walk.
Lions 3, Fighters 1
At Seibu Dome, right-hander Ryoma Nogami (5-7) threw six scoreless innings and Tomoya Mori, Seibu’s top draft pick last autumn, belted his second homer in two days in a win over Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
Giants 7, Carp 2
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, three homers from the heart of the order propelled Yomiuri past Hiroshima.
Carp ace Kenta Maeda (9-6), who allowed six runs in three innings, had his shortest start of the season. Giants No. 3 hitter Hayato Sakamoto homered in the first, No. 5 man Yoshinobu Takahashi went deep in the second, and cleanup hitter Shinnosuke Abe completed the barrage in the fifth.
Swallows 6, Dragons 2
At Nagoya Dome, ace lefty Masanori Ishikawa (9-7) allowed two runs in six innings and Tokyo Yakult cruised past Chunichi after Tetsuto Yamada broke the ice with a third-inning RBI single and Ryota Yachi followed with a sacrifice fly.
The Swallows’ Wladimir Balentien singled, doubled and hit a two-run homer.
Tigers 7, BayStars 4
At Yokohama Stadium, Hiroki Uemoto broke a 4-4 tie in the eighth inning with a two-run double as Hanshin beat Yokohama, which had overcome a four-run deficit to tie it in the seventh.
South Korean closer Oh Seung-hwan worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 29th save.