HIROSHIMA – Ace Kenta Maeda threw a five-hit shutout and Ryohei Matsuyama drove in three runs on Friday as the Hiroshima Carp beat the Hanshin Tigers 6-0 in the first game of an enticing three-game series.
The win before 31,476 at Mazda Stadium moved the third-place Carp to within a 1-1/2 games of the second-place Tigers in the Central League standings. Hiroshima remains three games back of the league-leading Yomiuri Giants.
Maeda (10-6) walked three and hit a batter, while striking out 12 in a 139-pitch effort. The right-hander didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning, by which time he held a 3-0 lead courtesy of a pair of clutch hits from Matsuyama, who returned to the Carp lineup for the first time in over two months.
“All that time, I was watching the guys playing their hearts out. I wanted to get back as soon as I could, and I’m glad I could contribute with the bat,” said Matsuyama, who was involved in a base running misadventure and looked awkward in the field. “I’m going to do my best at the plate — and practice my fielding and base running.”
Matsuyama was not the only one celebrating a return to form as the shutout was Maeda’s first since June 2013. He got a huge ovation from the home fans when he stayed in the game to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning instead of being pulled for a pinch hitter.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been on the mound in the ninth inning, and I was really happy to hear the crowd’s response,” said Maeda, who had allowed 13 runs over his previous two starts and worked just three innings his last time out.
“Tonight I felt I needed to throw a shutout for this game to have meaning. Last time, my pitching was unforgivable and just the worst. Tonight, I was able to put that behind me by staying on the mound to the end and not allowing a run.”
The Carp got a gift to open the first inning, when Soichiro Amaya reached on a fluke infield single. The ball popped off his bat in front of Tigers pitcher Shintaro Fujinami (8-6), who was poised to field the ball on a hop and fire to first. The ball, however, hit the infield grass and stuck there. After a sacrifice and a one-out walk, Matsuyama singled to center to make it a 1-0 game.
With two outs and two on in the third, Matsuyama lined a 2-2 fastball for a two-run double. Kila Ka’aihue doubled in a run in the fifth, catcher Tsubasa Aizawa homered in the sixth, and Tigers reliever Yutaka Tamaki balked in a run in the eighth.
Fujinami allowed four runs on six hits, three walks and a hit batsman over five innings. The big right-hander struck out four.
Giants 4, Dragons 3 (12)
At Tokyo Dome, Jose Lopez delivered a game-winning sacrifice fly in the 12th inning as Yomiuri held off Chunichi to increase its league lead to 1-1/2 games over Hanshin.
Marines 4, Hawks 3 (11)
At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Toshiaki Imae singled in the winning run from second with two outs in the bottom of the 11th as Chiba Lotte outlasted league-leading Fukuoka Softbank.
Buffaloes 7, Eagles 2
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Orix ace Chihiro Kaneko (11-4) allowed two runs in seven innings and Takahiro Okada’s sixth-inning RBI double broke a 2-2 tie in a win over last-place Tohoku Rakuten.
Lions 11, Fighters 1
At Sapporo Dome, Ryoma Nogami (6-7) allowed seven hits in his first career complete game and cleanup hitter Takeya Nakamura broke the game open with two homers, a three-run shot and a grand slam to give him 24 on the year as Seibu crushed Hokkaido Nippon Ham.